I have to admit, Olinda isn't anywhere near the top of my list of "Favorite Places in Brazil". I'd made plans to stay in the historic neighborhood the night before USA v Germany, as it was much closer to the stadium than Porto de Galinhas. While this was an excellent decision, given the deluge that flooded roads and prevented people from making it to the game, I had difficulty really getting into the beautiful town.
The bus ride up from Porto de Galinhas seemed to take forever, as we passed the airport and headed into Recife proper. Driving through, I was thankful I hadn't managed to book lodging here - the streets were cramped and narrow, and it even kinda smelled.
At the bus terminal, I was glad I'd read up on Olinda the previous night and knew to look for the local bus to "Rio Doce". While the area around the bus station wasn't too pretty, we did pass more scenic vistas on our way north. I amused myself by reading the poster on shark attacks, pasted to the driver's partition. Surprisingly, I was able to understand the entire thing.
Arriving in Olinda, I dropped my stuff off at the hostel and immediately set out to do the walking tour I'd found on Google Maps.
Convento de São Francisco
My walk started out nicely enough. The first two churches I visited were gorgeous, with amazing views, and the sun was still holding out. I popped into a souvenir shop and bought a plaque of the colorful city streets for 10 Reais.
Igreja da Sé and view
At the top of the city
The upper area of the city was beautiful and the number of churches located in this postage stamp-sized town center was ridiculous.
Down to Rua Amparo
As I headed back down from the highest point of the city, clouds started to roll in. This part of town was a bit less touristy. I checked out the lunch menu at the highly-rated Oficina do Sabor, but was reluctant to splurge again so quickly after my expensive meal in Porto de Galinhas had proved a bust.
Graffiti and colorful houses
While the houses and street art were a delight to photograph, the clouds had turned to a light drizzle. The streets were empty. I passed a little too close to an older, mentally-ill guy (even at the time, I was thinking, "Cross the street - you know better.") and got screamed at repeatedly ("Filha da Puta! Filha da Puta!") as I scurried on to the safety of a church. When people ask me if I felt safe in Brazil, this is the only incident that comes to mind, and it literally could have happened anywhere in the world.
Inside Igreja e Mosteiro de São Bento
At São Bento ("Sanctuary!"), I was hit up for change by a begging mother and child team, but I also enjoyed the frescoed ceiling. It was a great reminder that most of these churches are as old, if not older than, ones I've visited in Europe.
Almost passed this subtle bit of graffiti - near a downed power line.
Given the weather and the fact a game was about to start, it was going to be difficult to find a cheap place to eat with a TV. A creperie turned me away - not even a "You can come back in X minutes," or a "Sorry," just "We're full." (As an American, the service in Brazil was perhaps the biggest cultural shock.) I had almost given up, just a block from my hostel, when I spotted a little hole in the wall restaurant. The surrounding area wasn't the cleanest - I prayed I wouldn't get food poisoning as I went inside.
It turned out to be one of my favorite meals in Brazil. I'm pretty sure the two women running the restaurant were a mother and daughter. As I waited to order, Nigeria v Argentina played on the big screen TV, which sat on one of the restaurant's freezers. I finally ordered Feijoada and it was great. I also went for a fruit juice - learning where the accent goes in abacaxi in the bargain (abock-ah-SHI, not aba-KAW-shi as I'd been saying). When it became clear I didn't understand the second ingredient the daughter was asking me about, she brought it out on a plate for me to see. Mint! I agreed. When the drink came, it was one of the best things - if not the best thing - I put in my mouth in all of Brazil. As I was finishing my meal, the mother came over with several tourist pamphlets and maps for Olinda and Recife, giving them to me to keep. So in the end, my fondest memory of Olinda won't be the gorgeous churches or colorful buildings, but a few friendly people at a tiny restaurant on Rua do Sol.