Party in Pelhourinho! (and USA-Belgium)

Atop the Largo do Pelourinho, the square that once housed the infamous whipping post for runaway slaves that gave the neighborhood its name
Atop the Largo do Pelourinho, the square that once housed the infamous whipping post for runaway slaves that gave the neighborhood its name

Given that today was our first and only real day in Salvador, we wanted to make the most of the situation by checking out the Pelourinho, the old pedestrian neighborhood now known for being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Before we headed out, we had to check out the spread of freshly baked goods available to us for breakfast. I remember that returning back to our room the previous night, we smelled a sweet, dulce de leche smell wafting from the kitchen; this must’ve been all the prep work done for our breakfast spread each morning. I didn’t recognize too many of the dishes, but they were a mix of both sweet and savory across about 15 different platters. We also had some of the most delicious, freshest guava juice I’ve ever had.

These breakfast spreads redefined the meaning of "all you can eat!"
These breakfast spreads redefined the meaning of “all you can eat!”  Cheese, meat, condensed milk, cinnamon, coconut, fruit, you name it, they had it.

Feeling adventurous, we walked around in search of the “ônibus,” or public bus, that would take us across town to the Pelourinho district. After many failed attempts to hop onto the wrong bus (using clear signs was not a priority in Brazil), we finally found the right one that took us right outside of Pelourinho. Off the bat, the area was unique in that there was an upper level and lower level of the town that was connected by a giant elevator.  Lower Pelourinho (Cidade Baixa) consisted of the port for the Bay of All Saints, which provided connections to neighboring ports and islands. It was also here where we could walk through the very busy Mercado Modelo, an indoor artisan market that housed stall after stall of every type of homemade good imaginable – although admittedly catered more towards tourists.

Lower Pelourinho (Cidade Baixa) overlooked the Bay of All Saints, which welcomed boats and ferries from neighboring towns
Lower Pelourinho overlooked the Bay of All Saints, which welcomed boats and ferries from neighboring towns
Elevator Lacerda, the elevator that connected Upper Pelourinho to Lower Pelourinho
Elevator Lacerda, the elevator that connected Upper Pelourinho to Lower Pelourinho
Although the elevator itself was pretty old and boring, at least the view outside to the bay was pretty
Although the elevator itself was pretty old and boring and offered zero views, at least the view waiting for the elevator was a nice one
Inside the Mercado Modelo, an indoor market full of food and crafts
Inside the Mercado Modelo, an indoor market full of food and crafts
Some really cool artwork inside the market
Some really cool artwork for sale inside the market

Upper Pelourinho (Cidade Alta) was the more historic heart of the city, with pastel buildings and the greatest number of baroque churches per capita in Brazil. Translated into “whipping post” in Portuguese, the Pelourinho was known for being the center of town where slaves had traditionally been beaten.  Despite its violent past, it was here where we could see the proud Afro-Brazilian culture of Bahia really come to life.  While I didn’t exactly know what “Afro-Brazilian culture” even was prior to our trip (or the fact that many Africans even lived in Brazil), I soon learned that the Africans that initially came by way of slave trade contributed to the development of capoeira (a dance-like martial arts) and a unique type of steel drum music.  Both were in full display during our trip to the Pelourinho in a number of public areas. It wasn’t just the culture that was fascinating in this area; the architecture and narrow cobblestone streets that one could easily get lost among just added to the overall charm.

Bonecos gigantes (giant puppetheads) also in full effect, welcoming us to the lovely neighborhood of Pelourinho
Bonecos gigantes (giant puppets) also in full effect, welcoming us to the lovely neighborhood of Pelourinho
Some locals trying to teach a tourist the art of capoeira, a local style of martial arts
In the main square (Praca da Se), some locals taking time out of their performance to teach a tourist the art of capoeira, a local style of martial arts
A local Bahian woman preparing acaraje, a well-known local street food
A local Bahian woman preparing acaraje, a well-known local street food hailing its origins from Nigeria.  Peeled chickpeas are rolled together and fried in dende (palm oil that is native to Bahia), split in half like a bun and filled with a mix of tomatoes, shrimp paste, fried shrimp, onions, and peppers.
Doug didn't dare, but I did try an order of this peculiar acaraje dish
Finished product.  Doug was discouraged by the shell-on shrimp, but of course I adopted the “when in Rome” mentality.  It was interesting…pretty heavy and greasy but not bad!
Taking some good notes on how to make a good tapioca (also known as beiju in this part of the country)!
Taking some good notes on how to make a good tapioca (also known as beiju in this part of the country)!  First, tapioca flour is poured onto a buttered griddle, then the filling (cheese/meat or sweet spreads) is added before folding the whole thing over into a nice handheld treat.
In the heart of Cidade Alta (Upper Pelourinho).  I loved the multicolored pastel buildings built on hills...kind of reminded me of San Francisco!
In the heart of Cidade Alta (Upper Pelourinho) and of course enjoying some street caipirinhas. The multicolored pastel colonial-style buildings built on hills made Salvador a truly unique and picturesque city to visit.

We spent the morning and early afternoon taking it all in, wandering in and out of old historic churches and little shops. Given its proximity to the arena, it was also a great area to pregame. I’m not sure if this was a regular occurrence, but there were scores of people selling beers on the cheap (as in $0.30 apiece) that one could drink publicly while enjoying the endless TV’s set up in the streets with the World Cup games. This was how we spent the good part of the afternoon – watching the Argentina-Switzerland nailbiter with fans from all over the world on the street, eating yummy street food.

Constructed in 1723, the Igreja do Sao Francisco is one of many of Salvador's churches but by far the richest with its gold-plated interior
Constructed in 1723, the Igreja do Sao Francisco is one of many of Salvador’s churches but by far the richest with its gold-plated interior
Panoramic inside the Igreja do Sao Francisco shows just how much gold was used inside
Panoramic inside the Igreja do Sao Francisco shows the amount of gold and detail used in the interior paneling
Makeshift outdoor space that doubles as a restaurant extension during the Argentina-Switzerland game
Restaurant seats were at a premium during the Argentina-Switzerland game…
One of the many makeshift outdoor spaces on the streets of Pelourinho where we could order cheap beers from street vendors and sit outside to watch games
…so instead, the town created many makeshift outdoor spaces on the streets where we could order cheap beers from street vendors while catching every game

By 3:30pm, people were making a move to the arena, including the official US supporters march led by the American Outlaws. We heard the drums and cheering and planned to join, but missed the boat. Good thing we gave ourselves so much time to get to the stadium, because while it was technically a 10-minute walk, there was no signage so we got lost with the other fans en route to the stadium, hitting every dead end possible.

Since we bought these tickets outside of the US supporters club (which would’ve been contingent only on the US advancing), we were placed in a neutral section which consisted of mainly Brazilians, who strangely seemed to all be pro-Belgium. Even though we met (and heard) a ton of Americans en route to the game, we were majorly outnumbered during the game. Our defense played a solid 90 minutes shutting out Belgium, but our offense let us down with few chances on the attack. After a scoreless 90 minutes, it was onto overtime…again. 2 quick Belgian goals dampened our spirits (and chances), but with still 13 minutes left in the game, Julian Green scored and gave us hope! Unfortunately, that second goal never came – we came close though with a Dempsey chance – and just like that, our last World Cup game also happened to be Team USA’s last game. On the bright side, we witnessed history with Tim Howard’s 17 saves – a record for the World Cup!

The march to the stadium
The march to the stadium
USA!  USA!
USA! USA!
National anthems
National anthems
Pano inside the Arena Fonte Nova
Pano inside the Arena Fonte Nova.  The only stadium we visited that existed pre-World Cup as the arena was built for the 2013 Confederations Cup and later used for its local Bahia soccer team.

Though we weren’t in a celebratory mood, we couldn’t help but take part in the fun as the city really came alive back in the Pelourinho at night. Everyone was out and about – making what normally was a very unsafe neighborhood completely safe – and we sat outside people watching over capirinhas and food.  The band of steel drums that Salvador was famous for came to life at night as well, originating with 40 or 50 kids and adults and multiplying by the step with every tourist that jumped right in to dance as well!

Also known for a major Carnival site, the night was still young here after the game ended
Also known for being a major Carnival site, the night was still young here after the game ended
Nightly street performance
Nightly street performance that quickly snowballed into a massive parade down the narrow pedestrian streets of the Pelourinho.  Probably one of the coolest, most unexpected moments during our stay here!
Outside the restaurant Dona Chika Ka where we ate, you'll see a window on the 2nd floor with a basket that was used to deliver our food outside
Outside the restaurant Dona Chika Ka where we ate, you’ll see a window on the 2nd floor with a basket that was used to deliver our food outside
Moqueca with fish, another traditional dish of Bahia.  Basically a Brazilian stewlike curry (non-spicy) also using dende (palm oil), tomatoes, coconut milk, and spices
Moqueca with fish, another traditional dish of Bahia. Basically a Brazilian stewlike curry (non-spicy) also using dende (palm oil), tomatoes, coconut milk, and spices

HOW WE DID IT:
Stayed at Pousada Papaya Verde which we booked through Booking.com
Ate at Dona Chika-Ka in Cidade Alta which we found just walking around

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