For our first free day in Salvador, a group of us explored the old part of the city. We started by visiting a famous market called the Mercado Modelo. Inside were vendors selling jewelry, paintings, clothes, shoes, and unique souvenirs. I have a bit of a shoe addiction, and I always end up buying shoes when I am traveling. Brazil was no exception. I snagged a beautiful pair of leather sandals for a great price, and then I hightailed it out of the market before I could be sucked into spending more money.
Next, we rode the Elevador Lacerda to the upper part of the city. We found a setup for the upcoming Summer Olympics and an area filled with beautiful architecture.
We were in for a surprise. We had not realized that a pop up market was being held that day in the old city, and we were lucky enough to happen upon it. There was live music, dancing, food vendors, desserts, artisans, and more. I even found my favorite dessert, Pasteis de Nata.
After that, we headed over to a jazz concert with some of our other friends. The jazz was impressive, but it was more fun just being in the atmosphere. I loved the fact that many locals would regularly visit this jazz series. Later that night, a group of us went out to a few bars and clubs. The nightlife Salvador was very different than what I had experienced in the past. We stayed in Rio Vermelho at their one main bar, then branched off into a few clubs. The nightlife was much more casual, as everyone was in simple clothes. However, it was still a blast, and I appreciated the casual vibes and cheap-ish drinks.
Praia do Forte is a small, cozy beach town about two hours north of Salvador. Our first stop was Casa da Torre, a beautiful set of ruins close to Praia do Forte. The premises included a house, a chapel, a fortress, and beautiful greenery. A powerful, rich family used to live in the house and the rest of the complex served as defense for war.
The town of Praia do Forte was a stark contrast from Salvador. The small buildings ranged in vibrant colors and the cobblestone streets gave an amusement park vibe. There were store vendors dressed in traditional Bahiana clothing, and automobiles were prohibited on the main streets. In a way, I felt transported in time, but I almost felt like this town had been created solely for tourists. Nonetheless, the town was beautiful, and the people were lovely.
I found the most charming part about the town to be the colorful houses scattered between restaurants and clothing stores. Each house had its own unique personality adding to the overall charm of the town. Residents lounged in front of their houses, immune to the constant flow of tourists surrounding them. The pace of life in this tiny village was slow as the locals biked around, played dominoes and futvolley, and sold their goods. Each store had a unique flavor, and I loved the effort that each store-owner put into their storefront aesthetic.
My favorite part of the town was the Turtle Conservancy. This little town is one of the leaders in sea turtle conservation efforts. They had a great exhibit and rehabilitation center for rescued turtles, and they even had baby turtles for visitors to watch. It was amazing seeing these animals up close, and I appreciate the work they are doing for these animals.
Because we were studying African culture and race within Brazil, I was hyper aware to the discrimination within this supposed perfect town. The outskirts of the town were dotted with run down houses filled with colored residents. Most of the store owners were dark-skinned, while most of the visitors and customers were lighter-skinned. Most of the tourists who visited Praia do Forte were Brazilians from other parts of Brazil, so it was fascinating to see the internal racism within Brazil.