|View from the sailboat in which we traveled|
With the sails stretched out above the boat, the wind picked up. The motor was running to give us an extra push. The sea was calm and the water at the desired level... Tania and I were sailing towards the tiny town that would place us, in typical Brazilian fashion, at once in the 17th and the 21st centuries.
As the boat began to get closer to Alcântara, small deserted islands started to come into view. They were little dots of land keeping Alcântara's shores company, causing the boat's course to sway and curve towards our destination.
As we passed by these islands, brilliantly pink-- almost neon pink-- birds took flight. Tania and I thought they were flamingos at first but we later were told they were guará. The pink of their feathers in front of the emerald green tropical forest offered the same shock to the senses as the cold water spraying our faces from the side of the boat.
After about an hour on the sea, we reached Alcântara's shore, wide awake and taking in the cheerful sounds of a coastal morning: water lapping against the wooden sides of boats, birds calling in the distance, dishes clinking together. We hadn't eaten yet that day, so we immediately sought out a small place near the shore that sold pão de queijo (a bread baked with Minas cheese). This golden little taste of heaven has just the right amount of crisp on the outside, giving way to a tender, savory center. After finishing one, we both went back for seconds right away. In fact, Tania woke up early and walked to this shop so that she could be there by 7AM and get the first batch of pão de queijo every morning.
|Pão de queijo and a cup of coffee within earshot of ocean waves|
On the walk to the house, I noticed that the streets were paved with beautiful old grey stones that had been ground in to the red dirt of the roads. Rain water fed the bright green tufts of grass that outlined the stones. As we approached the house, we passed laundry lines strung between houses, several goats grazing in a yard, and a man leading a white cow down the road. We arrived at the green house with a blue door and used the giant skeleton key (this key must've weighed about 5 pounds) to go inside.
|The green house with a blue door - can you spot the goat reclining nearby?|
|First nap of the day?|
|From inside the house, looking out the window, into the courtyard|
|Streets of Alcântara|
|Steep hills allowed for ocean vistas (although, the sun was so bright my camera couldn't really handle it)|
|Chapel, and a napping dog|
|View from the chapel|
|Upon the instructions of a local, we each rang these bells three times and made a wish (my wish ended up coming true!)|
This tall, ornate pillar is called a pelourinho and was the site in which the Portuguese settlers sold and publicly castigated African slaves. It is one of the only remaining pelourinhos preserved in Brazil and the top of the pillar retains its detailed original decoration. Towards the bottom of the pillar, there are marks of use, imaginably where chains rubbed against the marble. It is a grim monument to the horror of slavery, stuck directly between what was once a church (symbol of morality) and the ocean (symbol of freedom). Perhaps the most disturbing thing about seeing the pelourinho, however, was the fact that I witnessed both Brazilian and American tourists having their picture taken in front of it, as if it were any other architectural feature: leaning against it, smiling, thumbs-upping, even kissing.
|Detail of Portuguese tile|
|Tile - Marble - Wood|
|Ruins of church in central plaza|
|The ornate design on the pelourinho|
|Marks of wear on the pelourinho, the ocean in the background|
Here are some more photos from our initial explorations of the town...
|Window detail on a house|
|Window-doors open to balconies overlooking the main plaza|
|These houses were constructed to last - the have been continuously occupied since the 18th century|
|Flag commemorating the town's celebration of the feast of the Holy Spirit|
|Ruins of a never-completed house, intended for King Pedro (18th century)|
|The hammock where I spent some quality moments with my eyes closed...|
|Goats, clean laundry, breeze|
TO BE CONTINUED!
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of my adventure in Alcântara...