Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 10 - Sao Luis has many tiles

When you get into the touring mindset, every day presents a few simple challenges to drive what you do. It might simply be to make sure you get to the airport on time. Yesterday it was exactly that as well as getting some new clothes to wear. Today, I have to explore the old town, get my bag of dirty (unbelievably smelly) clothes washed and get some more cashoh and write up my blog from yesterday.

So far, two out of four. I had a frustrating time locking my door for a start which threw a spanner in the works. The lock is finicky to say the least and there’s a knack to it, that I still lack (but I'm getting better, finally). After embarrassing myself, in Mr Bean style, by going to reception with this crisis only for one of the staff to lock and open the door with ease, I settled to some pretty good brekkie. The usual fare herein Brazil, fruit, scramble egg with that medioc stuff (I’ll get back to you on that) slices of ham and cheese, bread, cake and various fruit juices.

Another Braziloian Brekkie. What's the yellow stuff called? Very nice...

Then, the laundry service wasn’t operating today, perhaps tomorrow…

I sat down at a table by reception with a couple who were tapping away on their lap top or iPad and, as so often happens when on tour, it turned out to be a good idea. The guy, an Italian called Giovanni (or something close) was married to a Brazilian woman from Sao Luis and was visiting her relatives. It turns out the place I am staying it is owned by Italians (hence the pizza place next door, or in my case, below). So I was able to get another good set of advice which I was happy to take. His wife was able to talk to the reception and organise my laundry to be done and he suggested the best way to see Sao Luis was with a guide, so we proceeded to book one. R$80 for a three hour personal guided tour. He also pointed me to a bank, and advised me to go by boat to Alcantara tomorrow but that I should go to the quayside to check the time the boat leaves as it is greatly dependent on the tides.

So I set off to look for the bank and do a bit of exploring on my own. I went down to the dock easy enough to find the tide had gone well out. The bay was just a mud bank. I couldn’t see any sign about when the boats were leaving though so I carried on walking along the shore for a bit before I realised that I had no map and really no idea where the Poussadas was. Oops! No problem, I’d use my fantastic sense of direction. I walked back into the old town past some magnificent buildings and then took a right before I realised these streets all looked the same to the uninitiated. It was like being in a maze and I did start to panic for a second before common sense kicked in and I just went back out to the dock again (you can see the coast easily from most of the town as it is on a hill) and retraced my steps back to where I had gone before.
Tides are very extreme near the equator

Botofogo shirt 'camoflage' didn't work - most people thought I was German!

Lost in the Sao Luis Maze
 I had a lunch (fried pork) at a bizarre circular market. A couple of poor souls came to the tables asking for food. I handed over one of my pork chops which felt good both in a charitable sense and one of personal health.
Needed that!

Very cheap lunch. Too much. Gave some of it away.
 After that I went to Banco do Brazil to try to draw some money out. After going through quite extraordinary security to get in, I queued to use the ATM only to find that there was some communication problem and it wasn’t recognising my card. I was advised to try another branch.

Baco do Brasil - Notice the security

The street my poussada is on looks so much nicer during the day
Finally, on the way back to the Poussadas I had another double scoop of fantastic ice cream. Yum!

Fantastic Ice Cream
After a cooling down and a bit of relaxation, I went downstairs to meet my guide for the next three hours, a very nice personable guy called Leonardo. It was just nice to walk around this old but gradually renovated town, knowing that I was with someone with excellent local knowledge who could speak excellent English. Leonardo is also a medical student in his 3rd year studying oncology so we shared a few bits of conversation about human biology too. The tiled buildings are beautiful but I think there is only so much you can take in. I’m sure my darling wife and my darling sister would have appreciated the tiles more than me, so I took some close ups, just for them!

Millions of tiles imported from Europe to protect the buildings when cotton wealth made this part of the world very rich
Portuguese Style
French Style
Arabian Style

English Style
Quite hilly,lots of steps

Old governor's building, turned into a museum

Tide's in

Assembly Building, I think

An example of a restored building

Theatre - nowhere near as grand as the one in Manaus

Public fountain bringing fresh water

Leonardo about to help some poor old woman, upset that her son had desecrated a statue of Mary (I think)

The first theatre of Sao Luis - now owned by a fashion shop but the façade kept and inside it still has the original roof (including chandeliers) and the stage arch

View from one of the Poussada's look outs as the sun starts to set

Monastery turned museum 

Dodgy area - fully of teenage druggies at night, apparently. Gradually being reclaimed too.
Leonardo suggested that tomorrow I might go to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, a national park not a million miles (but not far off, metaphorically) away from here that is rather spectacular and unique. He’s not the first person to suggest I go but, frankly, I am not so sure. I mean, its sand, right? Lots of sand, yes, beautiful white sand, I’m sure, but it’s still just sand. Worst of all it takes hours and hours to get there. The thought of getting up at 5:30am tomorrow morning to get a bus to the nearest town, and then get driven in a 4WD truck for another hour to see a lot of beautiful sand, only then to come back again, just doesn’t really appeal, sorry. We have lots of sand in WA, for Christ sake. Even I have my limits and I think I’ve reached it. Besides, even Giovanni had suggested it would be better to go to Alcantara. So when Leonardo suggested that Alcantara was not worth a whole day – a boat in the morning, a whole day there, and then a boat trip back again - but better go to Lencois I started to doubt both of them and once that had happened, I decided to knock both on the head and just chill out here tomorrow instead. It’s supposed to be a holiday, after all, and I have some serious World Cup preparation to do! I do like the idea of a boat trip but pottering around museums all day in a “ghost town” (Leonardo’s words) doesn’t appeal either.
Lencois - Beautiful but too far away for me
Right now, I really am not in the mood for much more over the top tourism, I want to sit down in front of a telly and watch football and sink a few beers like a big fat slob. Maybe Leonardo showed me one type of tile too many. Anyway the plan for tomorrow now is to get some cash, wander around Sao Luis again, maybe get a taxi to the northern beaches and then watch some Brazilian culture tomorrow night.

Boa Note!


Sao Luis

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