At the end of one of the squares surrounded with shops, restaurants, the Post Office and a police station, there is a large and beautiful cathedral and monastery, dedicated to Saint Francis (São Francisco). The hallways and courtyards that make up the living quarters are lined with beautiful blue and white tile paintings brought from Portugal.
Inside the main portion of the cathedral the style is rococo and covered with more that a ton of 18 karat gold in the form of gold leaf. When the light hits all of the alcoves and altars, the effect is magnificent and inspiring rather than gaudy. My favorite statue is one of St. Francis helping Jesus off the cross. Apparently the artist had a vision that inspired the sculpture that he donated to the church.
The end of our tour took us into one of the restaurants on the courtyard. We were served a snack of local foods that were another example of the African influence in this region. We did not exactly know what we were eating, but it was delicious. There were hush puppy-like snacks, various sauces, a slimy okra-based dish, and my favorite, a combination of shrimp and coconut milk. Yum. We were served water (well-received after the hot tour in the city) and the Brazilian national drink, the caipirinha. We have been warned that this drink goes down easily and can deliver a big kick. My drink tasted great, but Ron thought his tasted more like rubbing alcohol with limes. We switched to beer.
As we enjoyed our food we were treated to an impressive demonstration of Capoeira which is a unique combination of dance and martial arts. Still photos do not do justice to the energy and skill these dancers demonstrated. The slaves were not allowed to practice martial arts, so they developed this “dance” to disguise the art. Drums added to the driving pace of the show.
Final thoughts. There is a traditional dish that Ron still wants to sample, called “feijoada” (fesh-wada). He learned about this from one of the visiting chefs. This is a black bean and meat stew-like dish. He plans to make it for Pot Luck when we return home. The last picture shows the square and the location of Michael Jackson’s picture and Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black Man’s church. You might also notice the police tent. We were warned about pickpockets in this city and to be very careful not to wear fancy jewelry or expensive watches. There was a significant police presence in these tourist-heavy regions which was nice. We have to be careful again in our next port of call, Fortaleza.