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Belem, Brazil (2019)

     Founded by the Portuguese in 1616 as a village by a fort built to protect the Amazon from incursions by other European nations, Belem (Portuguese for Bethlehem) enjoyed a golden age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the financial center for the rubber boom at a time when the Amazon was the only rubber source in the world.  Today it is a vibrant and interesting city of 1.5 million (2.5 million in the metro region).  The city sits on Guajara Bay, about 60 miles up the Para River, which is one of the ocean outlets of the Amazon.  We spent March 5 here.

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     When we visited Belem in 2012 we anchored at a village downriver and had a fairly long shuttle bus ride to reach the city, where we were dropped off at Estacao das Docas, a set of old warehouses that has been renovated into a restaurant and shopping complex.

But this time we anchored in the bay near the old city and tendered directly to the Estacao das Docas.  It was a much nicer day this visit as we headed out to see this part of the old city.

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     Not far away is Visconde do Rio Branco Square.  The main attraction here is the Igreja Nossa Senhora Das Merces (Church of Our Lady of Mercy).  Originally built of mud in 1640, the current stone structure was erected on the same spot in 1753.  It fell into disuse during the 19th century, then was restored and reopened in 1913.  It is badly in need of restoration again.  A service was in progress when we visited so we did not go inside.

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     Jules Verne published a book in 1881 called Eight Hundred Leagues On The Amazon.  It is about a raft trip from Iquitos down the river to Belem, a distance of about 1300 miles.  We came upon a plaque about Verne, although it was in Portuguese so we couldn’t read it (if you can read Portuguese, it would be nice to leave a translation in the comments).  It turns out that Verne never visited Brazil, but in the book he did describe the sighting of this church from the river:

“At length there appeared on the left Santa Maria de Belem do Para—the ‘town’ as they call it in that country—with its picturesque lines of white houses at many different levels, its convents nestled among the palm-trees, the steeples of its cathedral and of Nostra Senora de Merced, and the flotilla of its brigantines, brigs, and barks, which form its commercial communications with the old world.”

You can, indeed, see the steeples of this church from the river, even today.  In the center of this square there is a statue, but not of Jules Verne.  It is of José da Gama Malcher, a local doctor and politician.  It was erected in 1890, a few years after his death.  In front of the plinth is a figure of a person designed to be writing the inscription on the statue, but someone has helpfully added some ugly graffiti that now looks like what the figure is writing.

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     Our next objective was the Ver-o-peso market, the largest open air market in Latin America.  Its name, which means “see the weight,” comes from its original function, beginning in 1688, as the Portuguese station for collecting taxes, charged by weight, on all flora and fauna brought out of the Amazon.  The market is expansive, with some 2,000 vendor kiosks stretching along the waterfront and a bit inland.  It is centered by the Mercado de Ferro, an iron building prefabricated in the England and erected here at the end of the 19th century.  The stalls in the building are all devoted to selling fish, brought here each morning by Amazon fishermen.  But you have to be there early to see it; we were there in late morning and the building was completely closed.

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     The stalls that were still open when we visited were full of colorful fruits and vegetables, many of which are unavailable anywhere outside the Amazon, as well as handicrafts and even birds and animals (for eating, we suppose).

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     We mentioned before that the market opens early and we were there when it was beginning to close.  Some vendors clearly had already had a long day.

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     We walked over to the old port where the boats unload fish every morning.  A lot of boats were tied up there and a lot of Black Vultures were congregating on the pier, probably hanging around for any bits thrown away when fish are dressed.  Up close they look a little like English judges wearing their wigs.

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     Next we walked over to see the Catedral Nossa Senhora das Gracas (Our Lady of Grace Cathedral).  On the way we passed the cast iron clock tower imported from England in 1930 and what looked like an amazingly ornate iron telephone pole.

     A few years after the original fort was built the church was moved from there to the current location.  It became a cathedral, seat of the Dioceses of Para, in 1719.  The current building was completed in 1782 after almost 35 years of construction.  It is an imposing white structure, visible from the bay, with a nice park in front of it.  It is supposed to be quite nice on the inside but it was closed when we were there.  In the park were several vendors selling coconuts, a popular refreshment in Brazil.

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     We walked back past the fort.  Popularly referred to as the Castle Fort or Forte do Presepio, the actual name of the fort is apparently Castle Fort of the Bethlehem Nativity Scene.  Belem being Portuguese for Bethlehem, this is where the city’s name comes from.  The original fort was built on this spot in 1616 but it has been revised, rebuilt and renovated many times over the centuries.  Today it houses a museum, but since everything inside is in Portuguese and there is an admission charge we decided not to go in.  The fort is surrounded by a moat and the stone walls where we walked by it were covered with strikingly green lichen or algae.

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     After passing the Estacao das Docas again we walked to the Theatro da Paz.  We passed some more of the old buildings painted in a variety of colors, many of which date to the 17th and 18th centuries.  We chose to walk up a wide thoroughfare to be on the safe side.  We were there during Carnaval and there seemed to be a lot of police everywhere, a contrast from the quiet Sunday of our first visit.  As we were consulting our map a police car stopped and, although he didn’t speak much English, cautioned us to stay on the major street (which we had no intention of leaving).  We walked past a long mosaic sidewalk on our way.

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     Financed by rubber riches, Theatro da Paz (Peace Theater) was completed in 1874 and opened for business in 1878.  After the rubber boom ended the theater deteriorated with disuse but was restored in the 1960s.

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     We had a guided tour of the theater.  The main entrance hall is quite grand, with large chandeliers, statuary, mosaic floors and a stairway with red carpet leading up to the theater itself.

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     Seats in the main theater are in a horseshoe arrangement around the stage.  Large paintings cover the ceiling along with a chandelier.

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     Upstairs is a great hall that looks like a ballroom.  The ceilings are covered with paintings, the walls are patterned in yellow, there is a balcony and the floors are inlaid wood.

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     We went out onto the terrace attached to the grand hall, which is the same one overlooking the park that we saw before entering the building. Each corner of the balustrade had a large sculpture holding up a light.  Below was the mosaic plaza with initials that we had seen from the ground before.

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     Back inside, we walked down some stairs and went out on another terrace or patio.  This one had a row of columns on one side and a row of doors on the other, which were decorated with panels of what looked like reddish orange marble (but was probably faux).

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     After leaving the theater we walked back through the park in the Praca da Republica.  In the center of the park is a tall monument to the republic, completed in 1897.  You can see the theater behind it.

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     We returned to the Estacao das Docas, where the tender dock was located.   This facility has close to 200,000 square feet of restaurants, stores, and even a brewery.  The structures were originally metal warehouses prefabricated in England and set up here near the end of the 19th century.  The yellow cranes lining the dock outside were imported from the United States.  The restored complex opened in 2000.  We sat down and had an Amazon Beer, apparently brewed on the premises.

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     The beer was very refreshing as it was pretty hot out (Belem is near the equator).  It was Carnaval time and we had heard there was to be some sort of event at the Estacio focused on children.  We didn’t see it (this is a very big place) but we did see a number of people with Carnaval attire.  Nothing as elaborate as what we saw in Rio, but festive.

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     Refreshed we went outside on the pier and down to the tender dock, passing Wonder Woman (or maybe Captain America) as we went.  We tendered back to the ship and took some pictures of the city before we sailed away (some of which you have seen above). Belem was a very good stop, with much of interest to see and do.  Really, it is a nice place just to walk around the streets and enjoy the ambiance (although it can be unsafe to wander too far into some of the neighborhoods).  Leaving Belem behind we headed into the Amazon.

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Fortaleza, Brazil (2019)

     We pulled into the dock at Fortaleza at 8:00 AM on March 3 for a short stay, leaving at 2:00 PM.  Fortaleza is a major city of 2.5 million (4 million in the metro area) that is known for its miles and miles of beaches.  But when we looked out all we could see were high rise buildings stretching as far as the eye could see.  78a. Fortaleza, Brazil (RX10)_stitch82a. Fortaleza, Brazil (RX10)_stitch 

     The city dates back to 1603, when the Portuguese built a fort and started a settlement.  The Dutch took over in 1637 and built a five pointed fortress called Fort Schoonenborch in 1649.  In 1654 it was handed over to the Portuguese who renamed it Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora de Assuncao, the first word of which gave the city its name. 

     We have wondered why this stop is included on this voyage, since there is little of interest to see, particularly in 6 hours.  We think it may be a resupply stop before entering the Amazon, but we really don’t know.  Last time we were here we took a shuttle into town and visited the few sites of interest there.

They say the beaches are the big attraction here for tourists, but we aren’t really beach people and in any event the water here is said to be pretty polluted.  So mostly to avoid spending the whole day on the ship we decided to take the ship’s shuttle bus into town.  It was going to an exotic sounding place called Centro de Turismo (Center for Tourism).  On the way we passed some of the skyscrapers and also the Metropolitan Cathedral (a large gothic building completed in 1978) and the Mercado Central (a round white marketplace with some 500 vendors on several open stories).  We visited these last two places on our previous visit in 2012.

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     The Centro de Turismo is a handicraft market in a 19th century jail (déjà vu from Recife).  Vendors set up shop in the old jail cells.  Clothes and textiles seem to predominate, but there are also a lot of souvenirs, local foods (particularly nuts) and other crafts. 

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     Several large wooden sculptures were on display in the entrance corridor.  They might have looked nice in our house but weren’t for sale and wouldn’t have fit in our luggage anyway.

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     We walked down the aisles window shopping at the vendors’ shops in the old jail cells.  Very colorful and quite a variety of stuff, but the hall was quite crowded even with only a few shoppers.

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     If you have been to a beach community you have probably seen little bottles with designs or pictures inside made of colored sand.  This art form originated in this area and in one shop we encountered a fellow who was busy making them.  His were larger bottles than you usually see and had more elaborate pictures, including copies of some famous paintings.  It looks like difficult work that takes a lot of concentration, steady hands and good eyesight.

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     We were warned not to leave the building because the neighboring streets were very dangerous.  This struck us as odd because when we visited here in 2012 the shuttle dropped us off downtown by the Central Market and we walked all around by ourselves without incident or warning.  Maybe a lot has changed since then or maybe this is just a worse part of town.  Or maybe they just wanted to have a large group of captive shoppers.  Be that as it may, we didn’t walk around but we did go to the back door to see what the street looked like.  Across the street was a long yellow building with arched windows and lots of graffiti.  The entrance to the Centro de Turismo on this side, also yellow, was similarly defaced with graffiti.  So maybe its not a nice area after all.

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     Having seen pretty much all of the Centro de Turismo and having been warned against wandering anywhere else, there was nothing left for us to do but board the shuttle bus for the trip back to the ship.  We passed the Central Market and the cathedral again, some of the high rise neighborhoods and some less dense areas.  The bus windows weren’t very clean and there wasn’t a lot of light so the pictures aren’t what one might have hoped.

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     Mucuripe is a neighborhood and beach near the current port.  It was, as we understand it, the site of the original settlement here and its cove was the original port.  We passed a sign on a stone wall for Mucuripe then on our way to the ship we passed the Mucuripe lighthouse and some beaches on the other (left) side of the port where people were swimming. 

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     It was early afternoon when we sailed away.  Plenty of people were out on the beaches enjoying themselves.  As we sailed away we got a final look at the long beachfront lined with skyscrapers.

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     So much for Fortaleza.  We will leave you with an orchid from the Lido where we had lunch as we left Fortaleza and a towel animal that was on our bed that night.

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Recife (and Olinda), Brazil (2019)

     The first day of March found us in Recife, a city of 1.5 million (4 million in the metro area) that is the capital of the state of Pernambuco.  We were out on our balcony as we sailed into the port, which we have read was the first slave port in the Americas.  Recife is named for a rocky reef that protects its long beaches.  What we saw looked like a sea wall rather than a reef, but it might be a sea wall built on top of the reef (or maybe we just didn’t see it).

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    The last time we were here, in 2012, we had two days because of a missed port previously.  It was Carnaval time and we spent time among the costumed crowds in both Olinda and Recife.  We also had a nighttime tour of the canals of Recife with all the Carnaval decorations on the buildings lighted.  Quite an experience (except for Rick’s camera being stolen through the window of a bus).

     This time we only had one day and Carnaval hadn’t really reached the frenzy stage, although a lot of decorations were up.  It was also a gray & rainy day, in contrast to the sunny weather on our first visit.  Nonetheless, we boarded a bus in the morning for a visit to Olinda.  As we walked through the terminal we were greeted by a band with a couple of dancers. As we sat on the bus waiting to leave we saw an elderly passenger walking with a cane fall down.  They took him to the hospital but he must have been all  right because we saw him back on the ship later.   It was a bad way to start the tour and It rained for much of the drive to Olinda, but fortunately it stopped when we reached the point of disembarkation.

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     Olinda was founded by the Portuguese in 1535 and was the capital of the region, with what is now Recife housing Olinda’s port and some fishing villages.  The Dutch conquered this area in 1630.  They burned down most of Olinda and established their capital of Mauritsstad on the islands where the port was located, which they connected with bridges and canals.  In 1664 to Portuguese returned and renamed Mauritsstad Recife.  After the fire Olinda declined as Recife grew in importance because it was the main port for the export of sugarcane.  Olinda was restored in the late 20th century and was named a UNESCO world heritage site because of its well preserved 18th century heritage.

     Unlike our last visit, when we walked up and down the steep and colorful streets of Olinda, we spent our entire visit this time in an area called Alto da Se at the top of the hill.  On one end of this plaza is the Igreja da Se, a church that started out in 1540 as a chapel built of mud, was replaced by a masonry church in 1567, was used as a stable then burned by the Dutch in 1631, then was rebuilt after the return of the Portuguese and elevated to the status of a cathedral in 1676.  It was restored to its original appearance in the 1970’s.  The temporary wood fence you can see surrounding the church is there to protect it from damage during the Carnaval festivities.  On our last visit we saw such fences surrounding a number of buildings in Recife as well.

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     Just up from the Igreja da Se is a plaza with quite a few vendors’ stands (including one with a sleepy dog).  Most had not yet set up for the day when we were there, but a few had wares on display.

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     Just below the plaza behind a retaining wall was a row of brightly colored houses, shops and restaurants.  Many were decorated for Carnaval.  As mentioned above, the day was quite drab and that affected how the city looked, but don’t be fooled: Olinda is a very bright and colorful town.

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     Because this plaza was on top of the hill on which Olinda is built there are stunning views, but down the hill toward the water and across the water to the skyline of Recife.  Here are more examples than you probably need (or want).  You can see why the Portuguese captain standing on this hill in 1535 exclaimed “Oh,  a beautiful spot to build a village!”  In Portuguese, “Oh beautiful” is “O linda.”

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     Olinda’s carnaval is famous for its Gigantes, giant dolls that are sometimes stationary and sometimes worn by people parading through the streets.  We didn’t see any of them in action, as we did on our first visit.  But we walked down from the plaza to a souvenir and handicrafts store that had several of them on display in a separate room and we also saw one that was being moved on top of a car to the museum of the gigantic dolls.  One of the shop’s courtyards was covered with brightly colored umbrellas like those used in Frevo, the area’s signature music and dance.

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     We walked further down the street and came to our final walking stop, a very eclectic store called Artes do Imaginario Brasileiro.  Painted a hot pink with a larger than life scantily clad woman sitting on the roof, it was all ready for Carnaval.

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     We boarded the bus and drove down the steep streets from the hilltop.  We passed a number of colorful buildings typical of Olinda as well as the Igreja da Miseracordia (church of mercy), built in 1540.  The church was surrounded by a protective wood wall and many of the buildings were decorated for Carnaval, but the streets were eerily empty, unlike the crowds that filled them last time we were here.

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     At the bottom of the hill we switched to another bus for the ride back to Recife.  On the way we passed several intersections that give an idea what the non-tourist part of town is like and several walls with paintings.

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     We drove back to Recife, where we saw the Galo da Madrugada (Rooster of Dawn), the symbol of Recife’s Carnaval, standing over a bridge in the middle of the river. The streets and bridges were decorated too.

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     Back in Recife we went to visit the Convent & Church of Santo Antonio (St Anthony), which dates to 1606 when there was little in this area other than a port.  During the Dutch occupation it was used as a fort, then returned to the Franciscans after the Dutch left in 1654.  The church is small and rather modest by Catholic standards.  We were not allowed to enter it, but had a glimpse through a doorway.  On the walls were elaborate religious pictures made of old Portuguese blue and white tiles.

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     But the real reason to visit here is the Capela Dourada (Golden Chapel) that is on the other side of the open door from the church.  This is a dazzling room, with every square inch covered in oil paintings, Delft style tile and carved jacaranda and cedarwood covered with gold leaf.  It was built between 1696 and 1724.  Even the ceiling is covered with paintings and gilded carved wood.  It was our understanding that this church was closed to the public on the day we visited (perhaps for Carnaval) and the Holland America tours were the only ones allowed inside.  Imagine how crowded this might have been on a regular public access day.

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     We left the chapel through another room with a large carved stucco ceiling.

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     Our last stop on this excursion was the Casa da Cultura (Culture House).  On the way we passed buildings by the river, some interesting wall paintings and even what looked like a crowd heading for the evening’s carnaval festivities.

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     Built in the 1850’s as a prison the Casa was converted to an art and handicrafts market in the 1970’s.  It is built in the shape of a cross, with one short and three long wings.  This enabled guards in the central area to keep watch down all four wings at once.  There were interesting handicraft and souvenir shops in the old jail cells throughout the building and some unusual solo entertainers in the center space.

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     We drove through a high rise neighborhood that we think was Boa Viagem.  It is a fairly wealthy neighborhood that borders one of the most visited beaches in this part of Brazil, although its hard to understand why since it has suffered numerous tiger shark attacks over the last 30 years.  We were sitting on the side of the bus looking at the city and didn’t really see the beach at all, just the tall buildings.

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     We drove across a couple of bridges, one next to a bridge with wall art on each of its supports and the other decorated for Carnaval.  Across the river could be seen both the old and newer buildings of Recife.

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     We drove back to the port through the streets of Recife Antigo (Old Recife), the area of the original Portuguese and Dutch settlements.  We passed a number of areas that were decorated for Carnaval.  On our last visit here we had walked around this area, enjoying the architecture, the Carnaval stages and the general atmosphere.  Among other things we saw the reconstruction of the oldest synagogue in the Americas, built during the tolerant Dutch period but abandoned when the Portuguese returned with many of the congregants moving with the Dutch to New Amsterdam where they founded New York’s Jewish community.  But driving through this area today we were disappointed to see many of the old buildings that looked so nice on our last visit were now defaced with graffiti.  Not wall art but just scribbles.  We had seen this development in Rio as well and in our view it greatly detracts from the city’s beauty.

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     We arrived back at the port where we were greeted by a sculptural lion.  As we were preparing to depart we had a nice view of Olinda across the water.

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     That’s all for our short and busy visit to Recife and Olinda.  A lot of interest to see and do, but not up to the standard of our overnight visit during the height of Carnaval in 2012.  We will leave you, as we sail away, with some fruit and vegetable art in the Lido buffet.

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Ilheus, Brazil (2019)

   We spent February 27 in Ilheus, a city of about 225,000 with many beaches lining beautiful blue waters. The city was founded in 1534.  In the early 20th century this area was known as the Cocoa Coast & Ilheus was one of the wealthiest cities in Brazil.  But the area’s cocoa plantations were devastated by a parasite in 1989 and today tourism is their economic mainstay.  Many Brazilians in the area come here for the beaches.  But cocoa is still grown here in less abundance than before and a lot of chocolate is sold by tourism vendors in town.

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     No one who has read this blog will be surprised that we did not go to the beach for the day.  Instead, never having been here before, we boarded the HAL shuttle that took us into the city and dropped us off in front of the Catedral Sao Sebastiao (Cathedral of St Sebastian), seat of the Roman Catholic diocese that was begun in 1931 and dedicated in 1967.  An imposing edifice with four pointed towers and two domes, it could be seen from the ship as well as around the downtown area.

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     In front of the cathedral was a guy wearing an outsize straw sombrero; we aren’t sure what he was selling, if anything, but it was pretty amusing.  We walked up the street to the house of Jorge Amado, built in 1926, now a museum.  Amado was Brazil’s top novelist, publishing 21 of them that were translated into 49 languages.  Several became popular films, notably Dona FLor and her Two Husbands and Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon.  The latter is set in Ilheus, where one of the principal characters owns the Bar Vesuvio (Vesuvius Bar), built in the 1920’s, which we passed on the way to Amado’s house.  Amado died in 2001.

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     The Ilheus Municipal Theater was built in 1932 and was a venue for a variety of performances, musical as well as theatrical.  It was once called the “Cine Teatro Ilheus,” which suggests that movies were also shown here.  Inside the entrance is an interesting mural and we were able to go up the stairs to see the performance space.

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     The Palacio Paranagua was opened in 1907 to serve as the city hall, which it still does.  It is the leading example of the opulent architecture of the days of the Cocoa barons. The building was built on the site of the ruins of a Jesuit school, but when the town was originally founded this hill was used by the indigenous people as a cemetery.  We were able to go inside but there wasn’t much to see.  The windows on the upper floor, however, gave a nice view of the city looking back along the way we had come, all the way to the cathedral.

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    We walked on, passing among other things a long stone wall covered in wall art & a telephone pole with a bewildering tangle of wire.  It took a while to find it, but we were finally able to visit the Igreja Matriz de Sao Jorge dos Ilheus.  This small church is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built either in the 16th or 17th century, depending on your source.  When we visited there was no going inside as it appeared that the entire interior of the church was being completely renovated.  Piles of sand and rock were outside and the inside was filled with construction wood.

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     Our next objective was, as usual, the public library.  The building was completed in 1915 and originally served as a school.  The school’s log is built into the top of the building over the main entrance.  In 2002 it was converted into a library and archive.  We have read that it also briefly housed the municipal government while the Palacio Paranagua was being renovated.  It is a nice building and we went inside where there was a two story courtyard, but we didn’t get to see where they keep the books.

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     After this we walked back into town toward the shuttle bus stop by the cathedral.  On the way we stopped at the Mercado de Artesanato (Artisan Market), but we were disappointed at the high prices and lack of anything we really wanted.  At an intersection on the way we saw a neighborhood of colorful houses on the side of a hill and there were several mosaic sidewalks. We also repassed several things we had seen earlier.  As we waited for the shuttle we saw the wide and inviting beach nearby and some flowers and a colorful bird.  Finally, as we walked to the ship we passed some bushes with striking pink flowers.  That was the end for this small city, pleasant enough to stroll around but nothing really show stopping to see.

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Rio de Janeiro (Day 2) (2019)

     We spent our second day in Rio, February 25, exploring the city on foot along with our friends Robert and Bill.  Because our ship was docked much further down to pier than last time we were here our GPS app took us down some streets with which we were not previously familiar.  We crossed some tram tracks and also a mosaic sidewalk with a pattern similar to the one at Ipanema beach.  This probably wasn’t the safest route (although we had no trouble).  At one point we were waiting to cross the street and Robert was consulting a map with his small camera hanging from his wrist when a local woman who spoke no English approached and indicated urgently with gestures that he should keep his camera in his pocket or in his hand at all times.

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     Walking down a street we think is Rua dos Passos we happened upon a church set right up to the sidewalk called Igreja do Santissimo Sacramento da Antiga Se (Church of the Blessed Sacrament of the Old See).  This congregation has its roots in the 16th century and the current church was built from 1819 to 1859, when it was consecrated.  The interior is a very large and airy space with walls covered in carving and other art.  We stepped inside but couldn’t explore the church because the floors had just been mopped.  The outside, however, was very sad because the walls and even the sculptures set into the facade were covered with very ugly graffiti.  Very little respect for what would otherwise be a beautiful landmark on an otherwise nondescript street.  The sidewalk in front of the church was covered in black, white & red mosaic.

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     Another example of what you may see walking off the beaten path, we came upon the Catedral Presbiteriana do Rio (Presbyterian Cathedral of Rio).  This is somewhat unusual in what is a mostly Catholic country and the building was unlike most of the large churches we saw in Brazil in that it was built in a gothic style and the interior is relatively plain and all white.  The oldest Presbyterian church in Brazil, it was opened in 1874 and has been renovated several times since, most extensively in 1925.  There is a large garden in front that has a sculptural depiction of a pastor preaching to his flock.

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     Our first objective today was the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro.  Opened in 1979, it is in a very modern style inspired by the Mayan pyramids in Mexico and does not look like any other church you may have seen.  It is quite massive – almost 350 feet in diameter and 250 feet tall – and the inside is all one huge room.  The interior is lighted by a skylight in the shape of a cross and four gigantic stained glass windows that stretch from floor to ceiling.  There is a pipe organ behind the pulpit and a gold cross hanging over it that looks like it is floating in the air.  Nearby, but not actually attached to the cathedral, is a large tower topped by a cross that we think has either bells or speakers on each level.  When looking at it from the right direction you can see Cristo Redentor far behind it on its hill.

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     On our last visit in 2012 many of the downtown buildings were being renovated for the upcoming World Cup and Olympics to be held in Rio, and could not be entered.  That included the national library and Mary was particularly interested in seeing the reputedly impressive interior.  So we walked over to Cinelandia quare to visit it, along with the other important buildings there.  We walked through a tunnel under a highway that had some intriguing wall art and another that had some homeless people asleep under the graffiti.  At one point we decided we were headed in the wrong direction & had to turn around, but Bill is a fast walker and he was almost a block ahead of us and never noticed that we were not with him.  Robert had to run all that way, in suffocating heat and humidity, just to let him know we were going a different way.  He was not happy.

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     We arrived eventually at Cinelandia square to visit the Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil.  While the library’s roots date back to 1810 when the Portuguese national library was transferred to Rio, the current building opened in 1910.  This is the largest library in South America and the seventh largest in the world with some 9 million items in its collection.  It supposed to be quite a sight inside, but we have no pictures of the library, inside or out, to show you.  Why, you ask?  Because I just found out, as I was writing this paragraph, that the building we thought was the library was actually the Camara Municipal do Rio de Janeiro!  It currently houses the city council and the National Library is about a block away.  The Camara building was closed when we were there because of the construction of tents for Carnaval celebrations and we felt bad because we thought we had been denied entry to the library on two visits seven years apart.  But who knows whether we could have visited inside the library if we had actually found it?  Anyway the Camara Municipal was itself a beautiful building.

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     Across the street is the striking Teatro Municipal with its partially gilded roof.  Opened in 1909, this is largely a venue for ballet and classical music, although in the past it has presented opera as well.  Its architectural design was inspired by the Paris Opera.  Sadly, this building also was not open the day we visited, so we were unable to see the reputedly beautiful interior.

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     This plaza had mosaic sidewalks in several different patterns

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     Well, by this time we had done quite a bit of walking on what we may have mentioned was a particularly hot and humid day (big contrast to Antarctica just a few weeks earlier).  If we had known the library was just down the street we surely would have gone there.  But we didn’t know, so we hailed a cab back to the port and reboarded the ship.  When we reached the port Bill & Rick went back to the ship while Mary & Robert perused the many vendor kiosks set up outside the entry to the pier.  While looking at a vendor’s wares Robert spotted a guy in the process of stealing jewelry from the vendor’s table.  He called out & the guy dropped what he had taken and ran.  There were no police around so he got away but Robert was a hero to the vendors nonetheless.

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     Before we left there was a sail away party by the pool on the lido deck.  The band that usually played in the Ocean bar – easily the best Ocean bar band we have seen – played on deck for the party.  And of course the ship penguins participated, wearing their Carnaval beads.

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     We saw in the last episode how beautiful the sunrise sail in to Rio was.  We were sailing away just before sunset, retracing pretty much the same route, so this gives a different perspective on the scene.  It was gray & a little foggy when we sailed away and birds were again circling overhead.

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As we sailed out into the bay we passed the long bridge across the bay, in front of which is an island with a marina, then a group of four tugboats (perhaps standing ready in case we needed help?).  We had a last look at the favela by the port and we passed the old customs house.

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     We passed the small airport again and saw a plane just passing Corcovado mountain after takeoff.  We also passed what looked like an offshore oil derrick as we sailed toward Sugar Loaf mountain.

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     We approached Sugar Loaf as the sun was setting, and could see Cristo Redentor all lit up to stand out in the dark.

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     We sailed around Sugar Loaf and headed out into the Atlantic.  We had a view of the back of Cristo Redentor with Copacabana and Atlantic Avenue stretching out beneath it.  And there was one last gasp from the setting sun.  Goodbye to Rio!

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