We landed in Recife and the sun was shining. We took a taxi from the airport to Recife Monte Hotel located a few blocks from the Boa Viagem beach. During the drive we saw this clash of the society of many parts of Brazil more clearly. Rundown buildings were intermixed between the nicer and newer buildings throughout the city. We gained the impression that this city is a resort town for the rich and run by the poor
Once we checked-in we immediately took off toward the beach, hoping to get a few rays of sun before the rain came. The forecast was scattered rain, but we knew we were traveling during Recife’s wettest time of year, which is June and July (during these months, the region receives on average 15 inches of rain per month). As we walked the beachside path with our cameras out, we were told a few times by various locals and shop owners to put them away as the thieves may grab them and run…for the first time in Brazil we began to feel a little uneasy. We carried on taking our pictures as I looked at my shoes and thought I’d be able to catch them (luckily I never had to try).
Soon we came across the perfect area on the beach to stretch out. As soon as our feet touched the sand we were offered chairs, umbrella, and a table at no cost…the only catch was that we were expected to buy any drinks from the family that provided them. This was no big deal, so I threw my towel over the chair and sat down. I considered taking a plunge in the ocean, but the signs warning of sharks kept me on shore. It was a good 45 minutes to an hour before the rain started; we stayed dry for a while with our “free” umbrella until we finally had enough.
With the next break in the rain we packed up quickly and rushed back to the hotel (a 10minute walk in which the rain started pouring about half way back). We relaxed in our dry hotel room a while, watching the wind and rain through our windows. Later in the evening the rain stopped long enough for us to walk a few blocks to Restaurante La Fondue. It had the best of both worlds, cheese fondue and Brazilian steak, both of which we sort of cooked on our table (I especially liked the large variety of sauces for dipping).
The next morning we had no idea what to do. Again, the forecast was for rain all day limiting the exploring we would have chosen. After breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, which was excellent, we stopped by concierge to discuss any tour options on a day like today. We settled for a bus tour…this is never cancelled due to rain, so off we went. The tour began as the 2 guides introduced themselves. First we heard a short spiel in Spanish and were intrigued as to what he was saying as I was able to understand about 25% of it. Then the English version was given by the second guide. This even shorter, broken English introduction was almost comical. I can’t knock anyone for speaking a new language and especially in this scenario on an intercom with a busload of people staring at you. It was a taste of what was to come for the rest of the tour. Each time the Spanish guide would point out or explain something, there was be this long awkward pause as the second guide translated the words in her head, took a deep breath, and did her best to convey all the same information (yet she only mentioned maybe 1/3 of the same information). A couple bilingual passengers helped her along the way. I laughed to myself when she pointed out the “stone faces” and the lady in front of me taught her the term statues.
Back to the story, our first stop was Praca Barao do Rio Branco in the historic part of the port town of Recife that is a compass rose laid in bricks with roads extending outward in each direction. We heard the history of the area while looking out into the ocean at the Parque das Esculturas Francisco Brennand (a sculpture built in the year 2000 to commemorate the 500 year anniversary of the discovery of Brazil).
We walked a few blocks seeing and hearing about the other buildings such as the Caixa Cultural and later stopped at Embaixada de Pernambuco for a short tour costing a few dollars (was an interesting, but unnecessary stop). This store/mini-museum houses a variety of costumes that resemble famous people and worn in the various parades in Brazil such as during those during Carnival.
We continued on with our umbrellas high as the rain poured passing Teatro Mamulengo, the Paco de Frevo before getting back on the bus. We continued on the tour driving to Olinda whose historical downtown area was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. We eventually unloaded at the Cathedral Alto da Se. This Cathedral was built over 400 years ago and has been rebuilt a few times over the years, last restored in 1976. With a break in the clouds, we wandered through a few shops and got some great pictures overlooking Recife
We eventually loaded the bus for a very slow ride home as the driver dropped each passenger off at their respective hotels. The driver apparently misunderstood Recife Monte Hotel and tried to let us out on the wrong side of town. Needless to say, we were the last ones off the bus. Starving from the long day having not eaten since the hotel breakfast we settled for the first restaurant we come across, Chica Pittanga. It was a buffet paid for by the pound, which was a bit expensive for me. The only issue was that they were completely out of water and with the flooding, the tap water was not recommended either. It resulted in a fair amount of Caipirinhas instead (Brazail’s national drink).
We slept well after the buffet and drinks and woke up the next morning to more and more rain. Whitney had been bugging me to get us transportation to the Recife football stadium for the game, but I had yet to do this of course. As we are getting ready I see on the map that the stadium is many miles away…what I thought would be a quick easy taxi was going to require a long drive. I rush to the concierge again to inquire about a shuttle from our hotel. He says its 400 Brazilian Reals each, which turns out to be about $200 USD for the 2 of us. With no other choice I laid the cash on the counter and waited for the shuttle to arrive.
We were soon pointed toward the bus outside and began boarding…after yesterday, a bus is the last place we want to be. Whitney and I grabbed the last 2 seats together as others were still boarding behind us. The bus was overbooked by a lot…seats were filled and the aisle was crammed with additional passengers by the time we pulled away from the hotel.
The drive took about 1hour due to traffic and area flooding, but we finally made it.
The brand new stadium stands in the distance all alone. With our ponchos on, we slowly made the mile or so trek from the parking to the stadium. The people watching was as entertaining as always along the way. As we neared the entrance the crowds of Americans were growing and I began to hear our famous chant “I BELIEVE THAT WE CAN WIN!” (We were playing Germany, so it was a long shot…but we still indulged in the fun).
Kick off was at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, so we settled into our dry seats near the top of the stadium…for the first time we were thankful for having bad seats as an overhang shielded us from the rain. The excitement continued from a few days ago in a very competitive match as a stadium full of Americans jumped up from their seats cheering each opportunity to score. However, the final score was USA 0 Germany 1 when the whistle blew. A single German goal just after half time gave them the win…we were so close.
After the match, we caught the shuttle back to the hotel and were starving from the long wet day. We had dinner a couple blocks away at Ponto do Acai. It was fine aside from the restaurant being out of water and the staff trying to slip an extra entrée onto our bill (we, of course, sorted that out before paying). To finish out the night, we went to the Marrua Restaurant at our hotel to spend a little time in the bar and watch the next match on TV. There happened to be a large group of USA fans in the bar and we spent the next couple hours talking, laughing, drinking, and making the most of our final night.
From the outside, Recife appeared as a nice resort town with its beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, the shark warnings, the mention of thieves, the flooding streets, and the uneasy feelings that accompanied each of these sort of took away from it all. It’s a place to keep on the list, but only if the sun is shining.