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There are some places on Earth we do not do well in. Some cities, regions or countries seem to bring us bad luck. You should not necessarily see superstition in that, but the facts are there.
That is what happened to me in Recife, and also to the acquaintance mentioned in the introduction of the «Our articles – Brazil» section who came with me. She does not want us to call her by her real name, so let us call her Madalena. First, we did not like the city itself, except the Historic Center (photo). The day after our arrival, we took a bus from the Boa Viagem district where we stayed just to reach the center. We did not know that it followed a large loop to go back to the starting point. We realized it when we found ourselves back to Boa Viagem. In the meantime, we went through ugly, dirty and sleazy areas. Unbearable smells were coming up sometimes. In the markets district, many people got in the bus which was finally crowded. Many of them were also dirty and smelled bad. Close to us, a fat woman opened the window to clear her throat and spit outside, getting the glass dirty in passing, and without caring if there was no one just below. That was really disgusting. The only thing we wanted was to get off that bus as soon as possible.
We finally succeeded in reaching the city center, so much for getting stuck in a shopping mall a whole afternoon because torrential rains prevented us from getting out. When a relative calm finally came, we got out with our umbrellas. The streets were flooded and unbearable smells were coming up. Then we met in amusement a biker who rode casually down the avenue: he wore a helmet, a leather suit and... yellow Havaianas thongs! Brazilians seem to praise them so much that they never go anywhere without them whatever the conditions!
In the evening, we went to eat near Marco Zero Square. We tasted local specialties featuring seafood. We really enjoyed it, which unfortunately did not prevent me from coming down with turista the day after for two days. I will never forget it!..
Fortunately, the last day was far better: the sun finally bothered to come out, and we visited the nice Olinda, nearby. We have a very good memory of it. A ray of hope in the dullness of that stay.
When the latter came up to its end, it was almost a relief. We were in the airport, thinking of our next step in Natal, and above all persuaded that troubles where finally over. But we still had not taken off of Recife, cursed city for us which clearly decided to dog us until the last minute.
We had half an hour left before the departure. The check-in went well, until I heard Madalena shout in front of the security guards: there was a pair of scissors in her cabin baggage. Obviously, she was ordered to throw it. The problem was that those scissors were not ordinary. They were made of carved metal, but above it all they had a sentimental value: it was a present from her father. Actually, she had put them in accidentally, moving hastily things from her too heavy hold baggage to her cabin baggage, so that she did not have to pay a supplement for an overweight baggage. She used to do that every time at the check-in desk, making me look a little bad and above all making people waiting in line behind us lose some time. I will not lie to you: she is the messiest and the most disorganized person I have ever met.
So, she explained the situation to the security guards, who advised her to put it in a left-luggage locker for a few days. Indeed, we had to make a 24 hours stop in Recife three days later, and then take off to Rio de Janeiro where we had to meet J.R. There were no direct flights from Natal. A blessing in disguise, finally… She was ordered to hurry up so that she didn’t miss the take-off.
I still can see her turn back and storm out. She stresses out a lot, most of the time over nothing, so can you imagine?.. I thought she would make a spontaneous combustion… With her glasses crooked and bushy hair, she bulldozed everything in sight: prospectuses, guide posts, an advertising board and its support that fell on some passengers… She shoved some people to fight her way in the middle of the huge crowd. Finally, given that the left-luggage lockers were way too expensive, she decided to wrap her scissors in a plastic bag to hide them close to the entrance of the hall, in a place where nobody could find them. Obviously, she did that discreetly so that no one could see her.
After three days in Natal, we were back to Recife early in the morning. We chose that time a hotel very close to the airport (about 1.2 kilometer according to the website Hotels.com). Indeed, we had to take off to Rio very early, so we might as well stay nearby. We decided to reach it on foot, keeping a cart from the airport to carry our luggage, with intention of bringing it back. We looked like those poor tramps who stroll in the streets with their caddies. Inevitably, we were arrested 200 meters further by a security guard who ordered us to bring it back immediately.
So, we had to persist in pulling our luggage in the streets of Recife. It was all the most hard as pavements were in a terrible state: with countless holes and big concrete fragments, it was almost impossible to make anything wheel on. As a result, we pulled them on the road when there were no cars, and when it was not as damaged as pavements. Moreover, most people to whom we asked for directions gave us completely contradictory information, so that we combed through that sleazy area contrary to our wishes, traveling along a tortuous path instead of walking straight forward. What was supposed to be a walk in the park turned out to be a major pain in the ass.
Then Ezequiel intervened, a local we met on the way: with an extending kindness, he helped us lug our suitcases until the end when we finally found the hotel. We were completely exhausted after that burst of efforts, the more as we had pulled an all-nighter before: our plane took off at 5:00 AM, so we decided not to book a hotel room and to enjoy our night in Natal. As it was too soon for checking in, we bought Ezequiel a drink and got to know him.
After we got the rooms at last and had a nice nap, we decided to go to town. The problem was that there was a bus strike exactly on that day. Naturally. When a day is crappy, it is crappy all the way!.. After a relatively long wait, we could reach the center of Recife. Madalena had to go to the bank to make a deposit. I took advantage of it to make a withdrawal with my credit card. We thought it would take us a few minutes, but once again it’s been hard. Indeed, everything is often complicated in Brazil, both for civil service and private service. We had to use the help from an employee who did much for us. As for me, I was unable to withdraw, because I had maxed out my credit card according to the ATM. Yet, I hadn’t used it for two weeks. I started to worry: was I a victim of a fraud?.. Fortunately, I wasn’t. The employee explained to me that withdrawals were very limited in Brazilian banks whatever our withdrawals limit. As a result, it makes us withdraw more often, and thus pay a commission every time.
At one moment, the ATM asked me to confirm the printing of the ticket. As I don’t speak Portuguese, Madalena wanted to do that in my place. But in her haste, she made a too sudden move, so much so that she dropped her credit card. The latter found a way to fit into the one centimeter slot between two ATM!.. Something surreal!.. How many chances on one billion are there so that a magnetic card describes a totally vertical path and furthermore finds its way into such a narrow slot?.. That kind of detail makes you tell it is definitely a real s*** day. Fortunately, we managed to extract it not without difficulties, thanks once again to the employee who had to go in the room just behind the ATM to push the card out using a long object. They communicated by shouting through the wall, in front of a long queue including people either discouraged or amused. Anyway, it was a big relief.
At night, we had difficulty finding our way to the hotel once again, for people still gave us contradictory information. We went to our rooms, completely exhausted, but happy to see that extremely long day finally coming to its end, and above all happy to leave forever that cursed city the early morning after to reach Rio de Janeiro and meet J.R. there!!!
Just for the record, be aware that when we arrived that very morning, Madalena got her scissors back in the airport on the very spot where she hid them three days later... Finally, all is well that ends well!..
We were satisfied with most of our hotels, but there are two of them we will not recommend you: the Pelourinho Hotel in Salvador de Bahía (photo), and the Villa Santana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro.
Certainly, the Pelourinho Hotel was very authentic and full of an old-fashioned charm which reminded us the Colonial period, with its nice colors and its high ceilings to which fans in varnish wood providing fresh air were hung. From the breakfast room, we had a unique view of the Historic Center rooftops, and its beautiful patio tempted to dreamlike.
However, it left much to be desired according to facilities and logistics. First, the elevator was out of order the day we arrived and we had to carry our luggage going upstairs. As far as electricity was concerned, it was disastrous: one of the switches made a disturbing short-circuit noise almost permanently. Sockets damaged some of our adapters, batteries and chargers. From now on, they are less powerful than they were before. But the height of it all was the exposed wires over the shower head, which goes completely against the most basic safety standards. Besides, we communicated it to the reception, which finally sent us a technician. He was not surprised at all by that terrible electric installation, to say the least, and did not seem to understand why we brought him «for nothing».
Finally, there was not always hot water. Not in every room, anyway. It changed every day. The receptionist with whom we sympathized told us that a guest of the hotel came to meet him every morning to ask him in which free room there was hot water, so that he can have his shower in it... what he did almost every day in a different room!..
The Villa Santana hotel in Rio was not better. Breakfast there was low-quality. The breakfast chef was surely one of the most awkward in the country: the first day, he knocked a tray full of glasses over. Many glass shards laid on the floor, but it did not especially upset him. He carried on doing what he had to do, and only came to pick it all up minutes later, while singing out loud.
The morning after, as we were making our way to the breakfast room, we saw a big shard of glass on the floor just in front of the doorstep. Then we understood it was him again on duty that day. We came in and saw him passing by with another tray full of glasses. Once again, he knocked everything over. Fortunately, it fell on a table and there was nothing broken. Just after, he dropped his rag on the floor. But he did not lose his composure for that and carried on doing his job... all that while singing of course!..
On the last day, he only dropped paper napkins. We told ourselves he had made some progress and he was on the right track… until Madalena points out to him the presence of ants in the bread baskets. Generally, there were many kinds of insects all over that hotel, certainly little and harmless but it looked bad... He came to take a look at that, but once again, it did not seem to upset him that much. Then, a few moments later, we heard him improvising a song which chorus was: «Formigas ! Formigas !» («ants» in Portuguese). We would rather laugh about it. And in the meantime, the little insects carried on making the most of it in the bread baskets...
Just before the check-out, we went upstairs to take our luggage. We saw with amazement the housekeepers washing the corridors and the stairs throwing buckets of water all around. Mini-waterfalls were flowing down the stairs, creating rapids in the corridors, in which countless bits of fluff caught in the flow were trying to float. We were completely astounded. In the beginning, we even thought it was a flood and were this close to warning the reception. Moreover, carrying our luggage downstairs was rather dangerous, given that the establishment had no elevator. We watched every step we took.
Finally, we were sad to leave Rio, but not the hotel!
Published on April 27th 2016