You may remember that in my previous post I revealed I had been certified, now I must reveal that yesterday I was taken to prison – I am sure some of you will be thinking ‘at last, the authorities are catching up with him’. Let me explain all…
After 3.5 days sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, around 8am yesterday morning we sailed into our first port of call in Brazil, it’s fifth largest city, Fortaleza. However things were not straightforward, there was a strong wind and a swell, even inside the harbour where we were due to dock. It took quite some time to get the ship safely moored alongside the quay, which considerably delayed all disembarkation from the ship, not least because the was still significant movement of the gangplank as the ship moved on the swell.
I was due to do by far the most popular shore tour, a 3.5 hour tour exploring the highlights of Fortaleza mostly by coach, but with three stops where we would walk to see particular landmarks. The ship’s show lounge was almost full with people waiting to be able to go ashore to start their tours, and it was around 1.5 hours late before my coach number was called for departure.
Having successfully negotiated the moving gangplank, we boarded a shuttle bus to take us to the port terminal building, and having walked through the building we were at last able to board our tour coach and set off.
It was very soon evident from both information given by our local guide, and from the sights before us, that this was a city of great contrasts. There are many very poor areas, the favelas, which contrasted hugely with the large number of tall modern office, hotel and apartment buildings, especially as quite often the ‘poor’ and the ‘rich’ areas were so intermingled.
The first sight we saw from the coach was this favela, right on the coast by a small beach:
Closeby was the Farol do Mucuripe lighthouse, no longer used and clearly in a sad state:
We then drove through the city, and passed Iracema beach:
This picture shows two very common features – the graffiti which seemed to be on almost every building and wall, and the barbed wire reflecting the huge security issues in the city:
In a few places the graffiti was replaced by street art:
I, like my fellow passengers, was then taken to our first stop, the Emcetur Tourist Centre, located in the old prison. Here the old cells now contain craft shops, a good place for some secure shopping:
I was allowed out for good behaviour, and rejoined the coach to be taken to our next stop, the Se Cathedral. This is a modern cathedral, built between 1939 and 1978. It is very light and airy inside, with lots of stunning stained glass windows:
As yesterday was a Sunday there was a service being held while we were there, which while allowing us to appreciate the wonderful acoustics, did limit our ability to walk around and take as many photographs as I would have liked. The time allocated for this stop was very short too, I would have preferred longer here and less time in prison, but the latter is where they make the money.
It was a short drive to our final stop, the Teatro José de Alencar, a stunning theatre named after the great 19th century novelist and poet, a native of Fortaleza:
We then drove back to the port terminal building, where after passing through security we were able to take the shuttle bus back to our ship for a late lunch. Later I took this picture from the deck of Balmoral looking across the harbour to Iracema beach and the modern buildings behind:
The tour provided a very good introduction to Brazil, and to the all to distinct differences in the lives of the people who live there, something likely to be even more apparent when we reach Rio de Janeiro next weekend. Between now and then we have two more ports of call, more about that in my next post.