Santos, Brazil (2019)
We reached Santos, our first stop in Brazil, on February 22. Santos is a city of around 450,000 built mostly on an island. Founded by the Portuguese in 1546, Santos has the largest port in South America. It is also the sea gateway to Sao Paulo, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere.
We had been told we would be docking near the old part of the city within walking distance of some of the cities more popular landmarks. But when we got there it turned out we were docked in a new cruise terminal that was on the other side of the island. HAL’s only shuttle went to a shopping mall, which didn’t do anything for us. So after breakfast we took the intra-port shuttle to the terminal, where we obtained some local currency after an unsuccessful struggle with the money machines and a long wait at the money kiosk. We ran into our friends Bill & Robert at the terminal and the four of us took a taxi to the old town.
Our first stop was at the Coffee Museum. A hundred years ago Santos was thriving on the exports of Brazilian coffee to the rest of the world. The coffee exchange where this coffee was bought & sold, which now houses the museum, was built in 1922 and operated until the 1950’s. Even today Brazil is the top producer of coffee and the second largest consumer.
The center of the building is the large Trading Room, with 81 connected walnut chairs arranged in a semi-circle for the president of the exchange, his assistants and 70 coffee traders. The floor is made of inlaid marble imported from Europe, with a star of David in the center. In the ceiling, two stories above the floor, is a stained glass window by acclaimed Brazilian artist Benedicto Calixto that represents the history of the city and the country. Along the wall behind the president’s chair is a tryptic by the same artist. On the second floor the room is ringed with balconies where those purchasing and selling coffee watched the proceedings. It is quite a space.
The rest of the museum, in some other rooms on the first floor and most on the second floor, contain artifacts of the history of coffee in Brazil, including old tools, documents, photos, baskets, etc. Unfortunately, few of these have explanations in English and we do not read Portuguese. The second floor also has a large diorama reproducing the picture in the stained glass window, some other dioramas for explanation and fun, and an Information and Document Center (aka library) with some 500 books along with other documents and publications, all about coffee and some dating back to 1889.
After leaving the museum we walked down some of the streets in the neighborhood of the somewhat restored old town.
Pele was probably the all time best soccer player and still the most famous even though he retired more than 40 years ago. He began playing for the Santos team at the age of 15 and for the Brazilian national team the next year. In 2014 the Pele Museum was opened in an 1865 building called Casaroes do Valongo, which had been damaged severely by fire and completely rebuilt in the original style. The inside is a huge open space with several levels that do not reach the walls. You start at the top and walk down as Pele’s life and career unfold in front of you. There are artifacts, but what we saw was mostly enlarged photos, videos and explanatory texts, most only in Portuguese. From one window was a nice view of the side of a small mountain, probably Monte Serrat, with a neighborhood of houses on top. It would all probably be a lot more interesting if you are a soccer fan & could read Portuguese, neither of which applies to us.
Apparently the first trams in Santos were set up in 1861 and there was an electric tram system here from 1909 until 1971 with trams built in Scotland. In 2000 a new tram line through the old town from the Valongo train station (built in 1867) was inaugurated for visitors to the city using some of the original trams. We took the approximately 40 minute ride, narrated by a guide who only spoke Portuguese so we can’t tell you much about what we saw. We did ride past the city hall, however, which is in the Jose Bonifacio Palace. The tram is noisy & very slow, an interesting but far from exciting ride.
So that was enough. While not one of the best places we visited on this voyage, we had a pleasant and interesting stay here. We all piled into a taxi for the long drive back to the ship, and after we set sail that evening we ended the day with a dramatic sunset,