Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 8 - Sunday in Bethlehem

Belem is Portuguese for Bethlehem. You're never very far from Catholic symbols in Latin America, it seems, so I thought I'd go to church today for the first time in years. After all it is sabado domingo - sunday.

Woke up late after a heavy night catching up with the blogging. It's quite a commitment, a bit like having homework to do every day, but it's good to get one's experiences written down somewhere. I'm sure some of the details would all blur otherwise. And there are plenty opportunities when at an airport or anywhere really, when you're on your own, to do a bit of writing.

The brekkie was almost incidental today. Downstairs, at the table was Jan from Maastricht. Again he's here for the world cup. He's a doctor but was so keen to see the World Cup he decided to take a posting in Dutch Guyana for six months so that he'd be in the perfect spot to come into Brazil - hence Belem first. He's resigned from his post and so has a few weeks spare. What a coincidence, whilst the world cup is on, before going back to Holland. His girlfriend's here with him for the first part but when the footy gets going, she's going back. That's not the first time I've heard that kind of thing. What is it with girls?

Anyway after a great chat about football, we went our separate ways and set off into the equatorial heat at about 10:30am. Again, it's weird that I'd already virtually "walked" some of the routes via Google Earth so it all seemed strangely familiar. I must say the streets were especially dirty and the buildings especially grimy and for the first time really it felt a little uncomfortable for a bit.

Not for long though. I found the Sunday market place - buzzing with life and managed to buy a Palmeiras shirt and some Brazil shorts for R$90. Then on to church.

As expected, it is magnificent and it was nice to cool down for a while and listen to all the mumbo jumbo. (I'm sure it was mumbo jumbo no matter what the language). Then onto the fort by the river which was quite impressive and then back to the market, by the river this time, where I stopped for a nice proper Brazilian snack of fish and acai, a weird kind of cold soup made from berries.

Belem from the fort

The Fort

Vultures everywhere

Ver o peso (see the weight) market place

Fish and Acai

Sunday Market

Travessa Frutuoso Guimares

Time for a pint and so it was back to the Amazon brewery and another bottle of their very distinctive IPA. After that I had their stout (also with acai) at 7.1% it finished off the lunch nicely.

Amazon's Distinctive IPA with "Cumaru"

You've got to love a brewery that makes different beers

At one point a musician came up to me trying to sell me his CD. Now I like to think I'm quite a generous sort but I couldn't really justify buying a CD of music I had no idea about. When he said it included lots of hits from the Beatles etc it didn't really encourage me, so I shrugged and said "Desculpe" (sorry) a lot and "Nao, obrigado" (no thank you).

It's a bit awkward these situations. I am absolutely 100% committed to doing my bit to help the Brazilian economy but I have a budget as to how much I can spend a day and so I have to say "No" 20x more than I say "Yes". The good news is I have free "Portuguese Language Support" available in the form of Simon Evans in Rio, so I called him and had another great chat about Brasil etc.

He told me one thing to say in this situation is "Valoe mais nao, obrigado" which apparently means something like "It's great but no thanks"

Anyway, next was the ice cream stand. My god Brazil has the best ice cream: about 100 different exotic flavours. Of course the problem is I have no idea what to get, so I'm going though as many of them as I can. Last night I had Maracuja (orange coloured, very nice and zingy) and Acai (dark purple, a little dull but ok). Today I had Marango (red, fruity a bit like raspberry I guess =) and another which I'll get back to you on chosen by the server (white with nutty bits in, very tasty).

One of four such displays

Almost forgot to take a pic - so delicious

Then I walked back to the poussada a different route via the republic square and an even more vibrant market with lots of music being played. A cool vibe but it was very hot. I bought another Brazil shirt (blue this time) to add to my growing collection.

Then, it was a two minute stroll back here - Résidencia Karimbo Amazonia, a great poussada if you're ever in this neck of the woods - and what was waiting but a lovely little pool! Perfect to cool off.

Outside the poussada

Great to sit in this after a hot day's walking in the sun

Of course, with the heat comes the rain and pretty much every day Belem is hit by a thunder storm in the early evening. Two minutes ago, as I was adding captions to the photos we had the most defining clap of thunder I've ever heard. The bolt was followed by the thunder within a second. It literally made me jump!

The rain stopped as suddenly as it started and so I went out into Belem, hoping to go on a boat trip. Before I left I got some expert advice.

This place is run by Patrick, a French guy, but as he's away in Paris for a few days, it's his wife Naiara and family running the show. Naiara is so lovely and helpful and always goes out of her way to give advice and write down key words. She speaks French but unfortunately no English but manages to get the info across.

Anyway, I walked to the Estacio dos docas again, feeling very safe, and went to the place to book a boat trip. They are very strict on numbers and if the minimum number of passengers don't book (in this case 10) the trip doesn't go. Fair enough. When I got there with an hour to go no-one had shown any interest so it wasn't looking good.  The guy told me to come back again in 45 minutes. So I went to the restaurant Naiara had recommended to have a degustation of food from the Para region. I wanted to confirm that they were open and would still be if I went on the boat trip. That confirmed, it was back to the brewery to wait whilst having another IPA. I made the mistake of ordering some "nibbles" - which sounded better than they tasted. There was too much and they were too fatty for an appetiser. I only ate half.

'Guiness' of Belem with Acai

'Nibbles' duck and mushroom stuffed fried dumplings with a spicy sauce. Sounds nicer than it was.

Caiprinha cocktail - like rocket fuel

Para Degustation entrée - very nice.

Main course wasn't my cup of tea

Then, it was back to the booking office where things had improved. The guy said they just needed two more and the boat would go. The traditional Brasilian dancers who entertain were getting ready to go aboard so thing were looking good, but after another shower and no more takers the trip was cancelled.

So I went back to the restaurant and ordered Naira's recommendation. The first platter was very nice, and I ordered a Caiprininha cocktail to go with it, which was like rocket fuel. The second course though wasn't so nice and I really couldn't eat much. My brain was telling "time to sleep" so I thought I knock the evening on the head and get back to my room.

Just time for another double scoop of ice cream before getting the taxi back.
Bacuri (weird) and Tapioca (weirder) this time - again on the advice of Naiara. Oh well perhaps sometimes it's not best to follow people's advice!

Belem, Para

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