Monday, July 18, 2011

Porto Alegre - Brazil

Porto Alegre is a town in Brazil that is relatively small for Brazil but home to a reported 1.4 million people which pips the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo’s 1.3 million.  The Brazilian town certainly feels a lot busier and it is more condensed and claustrophobic generally speaking.  The only time we saw some level of calm was when we arrived early in the morning after our overnight bus.  The streets became increasingly packed by the time we headed out again having secured our room at the Hotel Ritz hostel which was yet another fridge in waiting for when the temperature dropped at night. 

We made our way to the central plaza, passing by a grand church and many busy workers on the way.  There were crowds of people gathered round watching a public display of some sort in the main square so we went to see what all the fuss was about.  Some Brazilians were performing dangerous stunts including using a whip to break carrots and for the grand finale a guy jumped through a small hoop of knives.  In true plaza gathering fashion we were made the butt of all jokes as the foreigners and as now everybody spoke Portuguese we didn’t have a tiny clue what they were saying and had no opportunity to defend ourselves!  Suitably humbled we went to the public market adjacent to the central plaza which sold mostly meat, fruit and veg downstairs whilst upstairs was full of restaurants to choose from.   We sipped down a Pepsi and went outside to do some more people watching. 

Unbelievably it was impossible to find somewhere warm to eat that evening other than McDonald’s.  This was all there was in the way of indoor seating as all other smaller operations had the ‘open garage door’ format which meant you might as well be sat outside and there were no other restaurants to choose from (that’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it a little bit).  We honestly walked for at least an hour to try to find an indoors restaurant but ultimately had to concede.  Later than night it was serious work trying to stay warm in the hostel room on our return.  We had already stuffed the gaps in the windows and we used our sleeping bag liners for the first time since Asia for a bit of extra warmth and the hot water bottles were worth more than their weight in gold yet again.  Here ends the paragraph of moaning.     

A beautiful church on the way to the plaza

A street performer's knife-hoop jump

The view from upstairs in the public market

The following day we checked out and wandered around the town again.  For some reason there were a lot of pet shops that were home to cute dogs and rabbits in the most part, although one did have a sad looking toucan in the window along with lots of other birds in small cages.  The highlight of the day was handing over the equivalent of about a pound to a fruit seller where he handed over twenty five large oranges.  Lugging this bag of oranges around was proving unfavourable so we spent much of the day handing the surplus out to strangers.  It was great seeing people’s reactions, some would smile and some ignore you completely.  The latter part of the afternoon was spent relaxing in a plaza side restaurant.  The football was on the telly and we watched Brazil draw two all with Paraguay whilst doing some blog updating and nibbling on a sharer of cold meats and olives.  We enjoyed our charitable orange work so much that we ended up buying another bag purely for the joy of handing them out again on the way back to the hostel to collect our stuff before heading out on the road to the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguazu to see the famous waterfalls. 

Enjoying the nosh

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