Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tropicalia, Sambas, and Cheese

The mosquitoes are winning. There is some breed that likes the repellent, I think, and believes it only adds to the tastiness of my mixed breed California blood. And once they are done, they leave welts the size of a quarter. My legs look like they've been polka-dotted by a happy 3 year old given free license with a brown Sharpie. Or a red Sharpie. Depends on the bites' stage of development. Regardless, in this land of Sexy People, I ain't feelin' so sexy.

Yesterday I went back to Pelourinho for the third time, to get some real pictures of the whole old town thing and buy some trinkets for friends back home. Again, I snuck in the back way (meaning I avoided Praca Da Se) and everything went fine. I guess that first day was just really bad luck? Today was beautiful.

My main stop though was Cana Brava Records, one of those places you need to stop by if you want to get some Brazilian music. There are plenty of good record stores form what I understand, but this one has a radio station on Live 365 I've tuned in to, and I knew they were used to us foreigners stumbling in. The woman working didn't speak English, and I was a little bummed, but (music geek that I am) I had my list! Although I wasn't really finding stuff... Then a Scottish dude came in and started speaking Spanish with her. He knew the owner, who was due in that evening. Regardless, my lame Spanish saved the day again, and the lady in the shop was able to guide me towards some new artists and such that I'll hopefully love forever and ever. I spent more money in that shop than I've spent the whole trip. Yep, geek.

I decided to walk back to Barra to check out the neighborhoods along the way. It's a coastal walk, and you can never have too many of those! First up, Barroquinha, which you hit as you leave the Pelhourino area. It was jam packed, seriously packed, with cars, vendors, stores, people, motorcycles, etc... It was nuts. You had to walk in the street to get anywhere, and even then, the cars were trying to get somewhere too. The stores were overflowing with people. The sidewalk vendors were selling everything from food to Christmas lights to shoes to watches to clothes (I saw a tiny girl sleeping in a pile of clothes on a pallet) to produce to flowers... It was all there, on the sidewalk.

Then, the scene calmed down as I got to Barris, which was a pretty and mellow area (especially considering the chaos I'd just walked through). There was a nice park for lounging, complete with a giant iguana in the lawn. I thought this was a regular thing, but then some locals starting pointing it out to each other, so I guess our iguana friend was just visiting. This area also has a great public library, evidently, and a nice arts and music scene. I happily stumbled upon a lady selling fresh baked pao do queijo, known in my universe as pan de queso, or cheese bread. Little buns of it. Tastiest thing ever.

Then on to Campo Grande, which was actually a big park. It had a huge, elaborate statue/fountain which I believe commemorated the early successful unions of Portuguese rulers with native royalty, and some ocean stuff. I think. There was also a really nice pond, and lotsa benches and lawn areas. I think it's just one of few big park areas like that in the neighborhood.

Next stop: Vitoria. This is a much more affluent area, from what I can tell, filled with glamorous looking high rise condominiums and apartment buildings all vying for a view of the ocean. Some beautiful old colonial style homes line the street too, and some have been converted to other uses like museums and theatres. The art fag in me was happy to see an art house which had just finished up a Fassbinder film festival. I stopped in to the Museu de Arte da Bahia, which was lovely because of the stuff in it as well as for the air conditioning. It had a really beautiful marble staircase smack in the middle of the building, illuminated by the light streaming though the window in the roof, and a porch running around the entire 2nd floor.

And then I was back in Barra to plan my evening out. I'd been told about a place in Barris called Beco de Rosalia, a cafe with live music nightly. I heard it was a musicians' hangout, meaning you never knew who was going to show up and play! Not like I'd recognize any famous Brazilian artists (except, as I've mentioned, Caetano Veloso) but it was nice to know there was a place like that were anything could happen... So off I went.

I wrote the name and address of the place down because I knew it would be too much for me to get that info to a cab driver, and sure enough, it saved my ass. My driver was a funny old guy, who talked a mile a minute even though I couldn't do much more than giggle, which probably just made him laugh more. But I got the idea of what he was saying more often than not: let's not take Ave. Sete de Setembro because traffic sucks, where the hell is this street you want to go to, are we going to be near the library, and you aren't Brazilian are you? When I said "California," he laughed and said, "Estados Unidos! Obama!" (This has happened almost every time I say I'm from the States - these Brazilians LOVE Obama!) He raised a fist into the air and I laughed. I tapped his shoulder for some reason, and he took my hand and gave it a kiss. But not in a nasty Fingerlicker way, a very carefree fun way, and that made me laugh more. Then he said I had little hands, so we had to compare, because he had little hands too. We finally got to our street (which he was very happy about finding) and he gave my hand a kiss goodbye.

Beco de Rosalia was a cute place with food and booze - not an elaborate menu, but I think it was more about the music. I'd been hoping for some lively samba, but got some mellow tropicalia instead. They were rally good, actually, and I was sitting in a courtyard, writing postcards and eating bolinhos artesanal de queijo - breaded and fried cheeseballs, basically. Yum yum yum. With a beer. What a lovely way to spend the evening.

My cab ride back was not so eventful till the very end... There are a lot of one way streets in this town, and I rarely notice signs saying so. (I've also noticed that red light means go if no one is around or it's a one way street or... well, it just seems to mean go, just like green light.) I've been able to get cab drivers to Kitaytay's place pretty easily as she lives on top of Bar Do Chico, which is well known. This cab driver was dropping me off at the top of Rua Presidente Kennedy (see? They like our cool presidents, evidently!) which is my streets. He asked if that was good or did I need to go farther, but I was fine. Didn't matter, he put the car in reverse and drove down the hill backwards to my door. I laughed the whole way down.

Then home to the den of mosquitoes to spray myself down and get some sleep! Going home is gonna be tough... but mosquito free!