Our ship's captain gets an A+ for punctuality. After steaming along for three days we arrived in the New World at 7am just as promised. The Recife harbor is very shallow and we will not be able to leave again until high tide at 11pm.
If you've never heard of this city of 1.5 million, well neither had we. Although tourism is a major money maker, you can't take a plane from the US directly here. Instead, sun seekers from northern Europe, primarily Finland and Portugal, come here to enjoy the lovely beaches and soak up the sun ten degrees south of the Equator. The city sits on a collection of islands and is called the Venice of Brazil (We always marvel at how many "Venices" we have seen.) Recife is named for the reefs that line its coast, making a natural swimming pool about thirty yards from the shore when the tide is low.
As we toured the city and Olinda, a historic town a few miles away designated as a UNESCO protected site, we saw old crumbling buildings making us feel as if we got here 300 years too late, as well as extremely modern ones. Brazil seemed to have skipped the first part of the 20th century architecturally speaking. Because Recife is the capital of the state of Pernambuco, it also boasted attractive government buildings.
In an extremely Catholic country we were lead from one church to another. They were full of gross paintings of saints getting shot through with arrows and hung from trees and we had had enough, long before our cheery tour guide had. We enjoyed being outside in the park, admiring the tropical plant life and pretending to ignore the vendors. The most fortunate vendors had secured a spot in an old jail which now is the House of Culture. Each vendor has their own what used-to-be jail cell where they can market their handicrafts under a roof.
Compared to our stops in Africa, we have definitely moved from a third world country to at least a second world one. However, next to the glamorous residences along the beach it was easy to spot crippled beggars and squatter's villages. Our guide frequently mentioned the prices of things which seemed similar to what we would pay at home, but the average monthly wage is only about $300.