After rainy Recife, I had expected to have to pull out my coat and travel to the southern city of Porto Alegre. Thanks to the USMNT making it through to the knock-out rounds, I rebooked my flight to follow them to sunny Salvador instead. Despite the extra cost it took to change my plane tickets, I was really excited to be heading to Salvador, a place on Brazil's tourism trail that I'd heard so many good things about. Even before landing, views of dramatic sand dunes and the azure ocean out the plane windows seemed to welcome me.
My hostel, in the Rio Vermelho neighborhood, proved difficult to find. After being dropped off by the FIFA hospitality bus (28 Reais instead of the 100+ a taxi would have cost), I did as I'd done in other places and asked people on the street if they knew which way I needed to go. In every other town this had worked. Here, not so much. I gave up and caught a cab. Even though I was pretty sure I was within blocks of my hotel, a cab was a safe and easy way to get there.
Except, my cabbie didn't know the street either. We cruised around for a bit before coming on a group of drivers, sitting in lawn chairs on the sidewalk, all watching Brazil v Cameroon on a TV they'd set up on a card table. Without taking his eyes off the screen, a gray-haired cabbie wearing a Colombia jersey told my driver where to find my hostel.
After checking in and watching the rest of the game in F Design Hostel's amazing lobby, I headed out to explore. While I never spent a day at the beach in Salvador, I enjoyed stunning views of the ocean around what seemed like every corner.
View from the hostel sundeck.
A couple days after arriving, I headed down to the Fan Fest at Farol da Barra. (Salvador's Fan Fests proved rather lame - they were only showing the games that were actually being played in the city. The rest of the time, the giant stages in front of the screens seemed to function as a place for the homeless to nap.) Even though it meant I missed the beginning of France v Nigeria, it was fun to explore the area around the lighthouse, and to be given a fita do Bonfim by a sweet-talking salesman.
Salvador is on the map for its history and culture, but its absolutely gorgeous setting, on the edge of the Atlantic, is yet another reason to visit!