In the Brazilian Nordeste – Olinda

The poorest of all the regions, the Nordeste or Northeast Region of Brazil comprises Paraíba State and eight others, including Pernambuco with the beautiful old city of Olinda. Situated on a hill near Recifé, Olinda was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982 because of its wealth of Baroque architecture and art dating back to the 16th century.

So having decided to travel a little, together with Tom and Barbara of Gosi, this was to be our first destination with an overnight stay.   For a very reasonable fare, ‘our’ taxi driver Bernardo offered to drive us the two hours south, and we travelled in comfort passing acres and acres of sugar cane and refineries, the huge manufacturing plants of Jeep and Fiat and arriving at our accommodation by 10.30.

The Pousada dos Quatro Cantos is an attractive and quirky historical mansion conveniently located in the centre of the old city, so we set off immediately on foot to explore.   Our attempts were thwarted by a torrential downpour which had us looking at the artefacts in the museum of sacred art for longer than expected, after which we ran for cover in one of the many churches (Sao Salvador do Mundo).  On a good day, the restaurant where we had a light lunch affords marvellous views of Brazil’s oldest Carmelite church (Nossa Senhora do Carmo) below, and Recifé beyond.

Most impressive for us was the convent of Sao Francisco and the Chapel to Nossa Senhora das Neves with its splendidly ornate tiling, cloisters and frescos dating back to 1580.  Let the photos tell the story.

By the time we emerged, the rain had stopped so we wandered through the narrow cobbled streets with their brightly coloured colonial buildings, housing coffee shops, art galleries, and restaurants, some with vestiges of the Carnival just past – a big and important celebration throughout Catholic Brazil, of course, to mark the beginning of Lent.

Street scenes …

Dinner that evening with Tom and Barbara was at the Oficina do Sabor which claims to be the best restaurant in the country – or was that region?  The meal was superb and we two chose the delicious fish dish which entitled us to a commemorative plate each.  Strange but true.

With most of the following day in Olinda, we explored other parts of town on foot again, this time in sunshine, and came across the Puppet Museum or Mumulengo.  A fascinating and more sophisticated version of the well-known British Punch and Judy Show, Mumulengo is an artform in the Northeast region.  Scenes of everyday life are played out by the puppeteer hidden behind a stage and assisted by the audience.

Lunch at the Patua restaurant with its unassuming frontage and extensive menu enabled us time to sum up our short trip as very interesting and worthwhile.

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