We had a partial day in Fortaleza. That is, we got in around 9:00 and left about 4:00 – just enough time for a short sightseeing trip around the city. Fortaleza is a city of about 3 million. It is also a city where you do not want to be on your own. We took a bus tour of some of the highlights: the obligatory cathedral; a craft and food market; the beaches.
No matter where you turn, you see evidence more strongly here than anywhere else so far of Brazil’s duality: great wealth concentrated in the few and great poverty un-concentrated almost everywhere else. There is, we are told, a growing middle class, but you have to dig a little to find it. As we drove through Fortaleza, we found beautiful homes and condo towers – complete with walls and barbed wire/electric fence on top – cheek by jowl with favelas. You remember favelas. We thought they were unique to Rio, but it seems that favelas are in most of the larger Brazilian cities. As people come to the cities from the surrounding areas, they can’t afford anything but to live with the others in the favelas.
In any event, we did see the cathedral, accompanied by an armed guard. We also saw the central market, and we did see the beaches. The cathedral is a more gothic approach to churches than we have seen before (except for one in Rio). It was inspired, we were told, by Notre Dame in Paris. It has the buttresses, the columns, and the stained glass. It does not have the charm.
The central market is a great indoor structure of five stories. Each story, except the bottom which is parking, has a jumble of stalls and storelets selling everything from bagged cashews (both a local treat and one of Brazil’s largest cash crops) to cachaça (ka- CHA-sa), the Brazilian national rebuttal to tequila (except that tequila is only about ½ to 1/3 as strong) to handmade wooden accessories to lacy garments to whatever you can imagine would be in a handcraft market. Some of it is junk, but some of it is marvelous. We bought the requisite refrigerator magnet… After looking at about half a floor of these stalls, everything began to look the same to me. Not, however, to Bonnie’s discerning eye, but then we had to get back on the bus.
We also had a glimpse of an amazing mausoleum structure commemorating one of gthe city’s founders. It is a great big concrete box cantilevered over a reflecting pool. I have inserted a picture.
We also made a short stop at a restored 18th-century theater. This was modeled after the opera house in Vienna, Austria and was fully restored in 1991. Again, a few pix are included.
Finally, we drove to one of the local beaches to view the surf, the surfers, the surferettes, the gorgeous children, more surf, well, you get it. Then back to the ship.
Fortaleza was interesting, but I am in no hurry to return (as I would in a skinny minute for Rio or Buzios).
Tomorrow is a day at sea and then on to Belem.