The original plan for today was to fly out from Recife at 7am and arrive in Salvador by 8:30am, with an entire day’s worth of exploration ahead of us in a new city (and maybe even a nap). Of course, given our luck on this trip, and the ongoing theme of “We have no choice,” things did not end up working out as smoothly as the first sentence suggested.
Departing Porto de Galinhas at the ripe hour of 5am, we arrived at Recife airport just under an hour later. After having spent more than an hour at the airport the previous night to confirm and essentially rebook ourselves onto this flight (just like every other leg, our reservation has seemed to have been “lost”), we figured we could just check in and board. Pretty much like how any normal flight should go. However, once we reached the front, after an inordinate wait, we were told by our airline, TAM, that they had given our seats away! Despite the fact that we reconfirmed our seats in that very airport just hours ago, they had oversold the flight and given our seats up to people who happened to check in before us. Speaking Portuguese had been relatively fun up til this point, when it’d been conversational, but I have learned that when sh&t hits the fan, I just want to negotiate and yell in my native language.
Our only other choice was to take a flight that left much later at 8:20am with a 3.5 hour layover in the opposite direction, getting us to Salvador at 3pm, over 6 hours later than our original planned arrival. Despite our insistence and general protests, we literally were left with no choice. All seats were assigned and there were no other flights available on either TAM or any competitor. Even when we demanded a refund, they would only agree to giving it to us in lieu of any flight – not in addition. So instead of having the entire day to explore Salvador, we spent the day roaming the Recife and Fortaleza airports. Sorry that I don’t have a more exciting story to tell today (trust me, I wish I did!).
By the time we arrived in Salvador and checked into our hotel, it was already 4:30pm so we decided to just wander to get our bearings straight. The neighborhood we stayed in, Barra, was surrounded by beaches on both sides and despite Salvador’s reputation for being rather dangerous, was known to be one of the safer places to stay. Unlike the last place we stayed, Salvador is a huge city and even the individual neighborhoods were difficult to navigate within themselves. We walked along the beach to catch the sunset, but got distracted by an acai shop along the way – first one we’d seen so far! – that had a TV outside. Naturally, it made the best sense to spend our waning minutes of sunlight sitting on the beach, drinking yummy acai drinks, watching the Germany-Algeria knockout game. After walking around a bit, we soon realized that we were situated right in the middle of the FIFA Fan Zone, where there was a public game viewing area with beverage carts selling beers and caipirinhas everywhere. This was also a popular area for restaurants, which all had TV’s set up outside with crowds gathering. The Germany-Algeria game went into OT, so we actually got to watch the rest of the game outside of a restaurant with super cheap drinks from the street.
Once it got late, the streets were pretty dead and since we didn’t know the area well, we decided to keep it local. Of all the places we visited in Brazil, Salvador was the only one where we actually stayed in the host city (and not in a jungle lodge or remote beach) and as a result the only place where we felt slightly unsafe. Although there weren’t any specific incidents causing us to feel that way (thankfully), the area just had this weird deserted vibe that made us feel uneasy walking around at night. We actually went back to Do Faro, the restaurant where we watched the game from earlier, as it came with good reviews. Everything else that was in a different neighborhood would’ve required a 20 minute taxi ride, and we weren’t about to try to figure that out in a new neighborhood late at night. The food was quite delicious though pretty overpriced – around $25 a dish – but since the portions were huge, we were fine sharing a giant steak on a sizzling grill and another order of grilled Brazilian cheese.
Service took forever at dinner – typical given our experience – so once we were done, the already dead streets were eerily quiet so we wanted to get the hell out of there and back safely in our hotel. It was a bit of an unnerving walk home – caused by my own paranoia more than anything else – but thankfully a short one.
HOW WE DID IT:
Stayed at Pousada Papaya Verde which we booked online on Booking.com – super cheap prices for modest but clean accommodations