I’ve always had a thing for grand old places that seem to be falling apart. Salvador da Bahia is one of those cities where you can’t stop taking your camera out of the bag, particularly the old part of town called the Pelourinho. It reminds me of two other cities that I love: La Havana and Napoli.
This is a very amateur photo essay from our recent family trip, together with a few tips that I collected here and there.
I wrote earlier about our vacation in Trancoso, situated in the far south of the state of Bahia. Salvador is a wonderful alternative (or addition) to Rio on the way to Trancoso. I’d suggest 2-3 nights, it’s by the sea with plenty to do to please the children.
The city hosted the world cup so it got a bit of a facelift, but its faded colors, glories of the part and colonial architecture are still there to enjoy.
Some BozAround tips:
– Stay at Villa Bahia, in the heart of the Pelourinho. It’s beautifully decorated with lots of colonial pieces and antiquities. They do not have interconnecting family rooms but we were fine squeezing in one of their largest room (book ahead as they only have a few). The restaurant is delicious albeit a bit fancy at night.
– Just across the street, there is a delicious place for lunch with lots of healthy yummy food served by the weight. It’s called Natural Roma – you need to go upstairs to find it on the first floor of the building, on Praca do Cruzeiro de San Francisco.
– Our guide Wanderley Duarte was knowledgeable, flexible, patient and very kind. In one word, perfect. He loves his city, speaks fluent French, English, Italian and Spanish ([email protected]). And if he’s not available, our friends have spoken very highly of Federico Buonsucesso ([email protected]). I’d say it’s worth hiring the services of a guide for a half day visit of the Pelourinho, or a full day of the entire city with a mini van. The city is quite vast, and many stories can be told about the churches, the afro-brazilian traditions and the fascinating history of Bahia.
– The weather was unusually crap (no other way to describe the torrential rains but they made for beautiful stormy skies). However, when the weather is hot and sunny (i.e. 99% of the year), the city is filled with Olodum drummers performing batucadas (Lior and Amalya were mesmerised!!), samba and bossa nova. Salvador is the birthplace of many famous Brazilian singers (Caetano Veloso and his sister Maria Bethania, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque etc..). If you are not familiar with Brazilian music, it’s a good starting point to get a pulse of the country. I am a fan…get me any piece of samba and I’ll get on my feet in a second…I think it’s contagious.
– We brought home many small instruments of music made with local woods and Lior drives us slightly mad playing the drums at home! I also bought a beautiful pair of earrings in the Pelourinho. They are large natural leaves carefully skeletonized and bathed in gold. The result is striking and the work so intricate. The shop is called Arte En Folha.
– You will see many women dressed in traditional Bahian costumes and sometimes selling aracaje. It’s a typical Bahian street food inherited from the region’s strong Afro-Brazilian heritage, a sort of black-eyed pea fritter topped with dried shrimps onions etc… Ps: those women are very photogenic and they know it.. have a few coins ready if you’d like to take a photo, and don’t say you didn’t know.
– For a night of culture, get tickets for the Bale Folkloric de Bahia. We went without the children and got a babysitter from the hotel. (the hotel’s babysitters are all part of their long-standing staff and super trustworthy. She did not speak English but so much can be said with smiles, don’t you think?!). It was boiling hot in the theater and rather uncomfortable seats (says the old mama..!!) but I still enjoyed it and would recommend it. It’s an hour-long show displaying the range of music and dances traditional in Bahia. The capoira demonstration is particularly amazing. (every evening except Tuesdays, at 8pm).
– Outside the Pelourinho, you will most likely visit the Basilica do Senhor do Bonfim, one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the country. It is known for the miracles that can happen after visiting. We each asked for our own (I believe in miracles!), and tied a little ribbon around our wrists. The miracle will happen when the ribbon will fall. My ribbon is still tied on my wrist, so I’m still waiting. Will let you know if and when…