Sunday, January 16, 2011
Our tour of Fortaleza began at the boardwalk along the seashore, which was right outside our hotel. Megan is our guide and told us the history of the city that began with the story of a Portuguese nobleman falling in love with an Indian maiden. There were a number of statues along the way portraying events in their lives. The beach is well used by people engaged in sports, exercise groups, a handicraft market, a fishing village and just pure enjoyment. The biggest event is New Year’s Eve when up to one million people gather to celebrate.
Our bus traveled along Dom Luis with nice shops selling locally made merchandise, the Public Square with a memorial representing the unity of the Indian and Portuguese people, the Center of Art and Culture where dance, theatre, and movies take place, and Our Lady of Assumption Fortress, the patron saint of Fortaleza where 80% of the population are Catholic.
We stopped at the Cathedral
with exquisite stained glass windows.
It was intended to be a copy of Notre Dame Cathedral, but after 40 years of construction it was modified somewhat.
Mercado Central was our next stop with a chance to purchase handmade articles, medicinal herbs and essences, fabrics, cashews, souvenirs and all sorts of things from its four floor of stalls.
Megan translated what the local guide told us about the theatre called The Garden Theatre
named because it opened up to a garden on each side of the building. This was designed before air conditioning to allow breezes to flow through the building. The ironwork from Scotland is the dominant feature and the painting on the walls using pigment from the cashew fruit is very soft. On each of the columns are names of authors, book titles, composers and artists. The ceiling was painted by an artist with a brush tied to his foot because he didn’t have a hand.
The Cultural Center called The Dragon of the Sea has paintings of people on the outside wearing masks to be scary in their celebration of Carnival, somewhat different from how Carnival is celebrated in Rio de Janeiro. One stunning painting creates an optical illusion of a bridge continuing into the painting.
Our last stop was the Englishman’s Bridge for a view of the city: high-rise buildings, barges, cargo and cruise ships, beautifully restored old buildings, waves crashing against the shore, fishermen
Lunch was something else: churrasco at Sal E Brasia (Salt and Ashes); I’ve never seen anything like it. We were seated in a large room with many other tables. There was a buffet
in another room with a huge assortment of dishes, from salads, cooked food, pasta, sushi,
very wonderful cheeses, sauces and condiments. At each table was a marker
slightly smaller than a drink coaster that was red on one side which means “meat please” or green on the other side for “no, thank you”. As you are seated, waiters walk around with skewers of different meats, stopping at places with red markers giving you an opportunity to let the waiter know you’d like some of his meat, He cuts off a piece that you take with small tongs. This can go on for as long as you care to eat, getting up to try buffet items and trying different meats. After the waiters clear the dishes from your main course, other waiters come around with carts of desserts. I chose a torte that I’ll call a Candy Bar Torte:
chocolate, caramel, layers of some ground nuts, topped with chocolate curls - out of this world! No way could I finish this big piece, but I hated to waste it.. I told Claudio, one of the managers at our table, how much I enjoyed the torte and couldn‘t possibly finish it, could I take the rest with me. “It is not our policy, but I will do it for you”, he said. He took my plate and showed me that he added more torte to it to take with me!
It was a short ride to Discovery to unpack, go to Charlie’s lecture, and skip dinner!