A Crash Tour Through Recife & Olinda

View from atop...Olinda looking upon Recife
View from atop…Olinda looking upon Recife

Having seen most of Porto de Galinhas, we thought today would be a good day to check out the neighboring bigger cities of Recife and Olinda. There was one small roadbump though – right in the middle of the day was the Brazil-Chile game. Not only was the entire country going to shut down for a solid 3 hours, but we definitely wanted to watch the game with the locals. It didn’t make sense for us to book a formal tour for this reason, but we were also warned that it may be confusing to embark on a self-led tour of the two cities, as we not only would have to navigate within each city but figure out how to get between cities. Carolina, the super sweet and super useful woman at the front desk, suggested that we hire a taxi driver from PdG for the day to take us around to every sight we wanted to see. Since she knew perfect English, we communicated everything on our agenda so she could relay it all to our driver.

Upon meeting our driver, Francisco, at our hotel, we realized that he literally did not speak nor understand a word of English, so this was going to be an interesting day. Where he lacked in providing history or knowledge (not that we were expecting it), he made up in enthusiasm as he cheerily offered to take pictures of us every chance he got. And I mean EVERY chance…

It took us about an hour to drive up to Recife, where we first started our “tour,” first stopping by Boa Viagem, the city’s main beach area. Being here cemented our feelings about our decision to stay in PdG, as the beach didn’t appear to be anything special or picturesque. We likely wouldn’t have been able to jump in the water either as there was a high risk of shark attacks specific to this beach. (we did, in due diligence, ask about PdG which was only 30 miles south – sharks are not a problem there due to the reefs offering added protection along the coast)

This sign was enough for us to go no further
This sign was enough for us to go no further
Along the boardwalk at Boa Viagem...definitely more of an urban beach feel than little PdG
Along the boardwalk at Boa Viagem…definitely more of an urban beach feel than little PdG.  Yes, I know we are matching.

Next step was to Recife Antigo, the old town area of Recife. With bright pastel buildings in every color along cobblestone streets, it was actually a very charming area to visit. Here, we learned – through piecing together limited Portuguese and general miming – that Recife and Olinda were very well known for their giant 10 foot puppets (bonecos gigantes), which are used to depict famous public figures and sports figures. We tried to stop by the museum in Recife Antigo (closed) but later saw these giant puppet heads everywhere in the crowd on TV during the Brazil pregame show.

A walk through Recife Antigo, old Recife...the historical quarter of town.  Pay no regard to the rather glaring misplacement of the period on Doug's shirt.  There is a reason why they went for $4!
A walk through Recife Antigo (old Recife)…the historical quarter of town. Pay no regard to the rather glaring misplacement of the period on Doug’s shirt. There is a reason why they went for $4!
Marco Zero, point that marks where the Portuguese first founded Recife, adjacent to the historic quarter
Marco Zero, point that marks where the Portuguese first founded Recife, adjacent to the historic quarter

After a few more stops through Recife’s landmarks, including Marco Zero and the Casa Cultura, a former prison that since had been converted into an artisan market, we stopped for lunch so that we could catch the Brazil-Chile game. It was a very random spot, but it was along the beach and had multiple big screen TV’s set up outside, so it did the trick. A few minutes into the game and any foot or car traffic outside the restaurant was completely nonexistent – everyone had already set up shop for the game. Despite an early goal by David Luiz (or a questionable own goal), Chile equalized towards the end of the game and lo and behold, we were onto overtime, and eventually PK’s. Very exciting victory for Brazil although it definitely cut into our sightseeing time!

Casa Cultura, ex prison facility that since was converted into an artisan market
Casa Cultura, ex prison facility that since was converted into an artisan market
Each prison cell now serves as an individual artisan stall
Each prison cell now serves as an individual artisan stall (this one was closed for the day – it is the World Cup after all!)
Requisite photo op
Requisite photo op.  Doug has some pretty epic hair.
Lunch for 1...probably the largest piece of fish I have ever seen!
Lunch for one…probably the largest piece of fish I have ever seen!  No I did not finish it all.
The entire restaurant took bets on the final score, but I unfortunately didn't win this one
The entire restaurant took bets on the final score, but I unfortunately didn’t win this one

With only a few hours of sunlight remaining, we scooted up to Olinda, a quick drive one town north of Recife. Here, we checked out a few of the old churches that made up Olinda’s picture-perfect landscape and stopped at the top of a hill to observe Recife and the beach below.

Basilica de Sao Bento, one of the best known churches in Olinda
Baroque church atop Olinda’s hill
View from atop Olinda
View from atop Olinda
Another one of the many pretty churches in Olinda
Another one of the many pretty churches in Olinda

By 6:30pm, we were back in PdG after a full day of sightseeing and were definitely ready for some R&R. Since it was still early enough today, we were able to catch the last game of the day – Colombia vs. Uruguay (minus the biting Suarez) – at a bar right along the beach over some capirissimas (caipirinhas with lemon instead of lime). We found a chill restaurant right on the beach with live music, where we enjoyed some steak, both in the parmigiana form as well as grilled. Since dinner was just mediocre, we were determined to end the night on a high note, and what better way than ice cream? We found the perfect setup at John’s Sorveteria – featuring a number of tropical flavors (we shared guava, tapioca, and almond) – with some really great live music right outside. The best part? Porto de Galinhas was so safe and tourist friendly that it was easy to walk the few blocks back to our hotel without ever having to worry about a thing.

Future Neymars
Future Neymars
Steak parmigiana
While the rest of the world knows chicken parmesan, Brazil has a different twist with its steak parmegiana

 

HOW WE DID IT:

Stayed at Villa Serena during our entire stay in Porto de Galinhas – Carolina at the front desk was exceptionally nice and helpful

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