*So this is Bahia.
Its reputation precedes it. I’ve heard Salvador de Bahia, Brazil is a happening place. I’ve heard there is no other city like it in the world. I’ve heard it can’t be missed.
Now that I’ve been there, only two words come to mind.
Oh, My, what a beautiful, black city! Oh, My, what a unique culture! Oh, My, aren’t the people stunning and friendly! Oh, My, the food is mouthwatering! Oh, My, why didn’t I come here sooner?
Bahia is hot in every sense of the word!
Whether you’re talking about the people, the culture, or the temperature – it all sizzles!
The city, located near the equator, is visually stunning and culturally appealing. It’s an exotic, tropical locale with a spicy disposition and a saucy persona.
Whether your mission is food, museums, music, nightlife – or just to relax, Bahia, the third largest city in Brazil, is a metropolis with plenty to do and see.
And, to get you there, American Airlines has made it as easy as one, two, three.
With an edict to increase visitors to the region, American Airlines has not only made it faster and more economical, the company also added daily, nonstop flights from Miami to Salvador de Bahia and to Recife, located in the northeast region of Brazil.
To that end, Bahia’s hospitality begins at the airport when – a “Baina do Acarage,” (one of the women who still practices “Candomble,” the ancient African religion of her enslaved ancestors) donned in a large, circular, white dress with colorful adornments, greets you with rainbow blushed ribbons of Senhor do Bonfim -signifying loyalty and belief to the inhabitants of Bahia.
If you’re not fluent in Portuguese, and you plan to take a tour of the city, you may want to hire a guide as much of the signage is in that language and not everyone speaks English. Of course, if you know some Spanish, you more than likely won’t be lost in translation.
Now, it’s time to start your tour of an amazing city that boasts everything from rain forests to deserts.
In Bahia, the culture and its significance are on view at the Afro-Brazilian Museum, located in the Central Historical section of the city.
Here are just some of the highlights: Praça Municipal, Santa Casa de Misericórdia, Cruz Caída – Charriôt, Terreiro de Jesus – (the history of benediction), Laranjeira Street, Boutique Ilê, Project Axé, Jorge Amado’s House and Church Rosário dos Pretos – Carmo’s Church and Oludum Creative School.
In Bahia, the percussive impulse of Olodum has become an internationally known musical and cultural phenomenon. Olodum is the music of the culture, the music of the streets, the music of the heart.
The Escola Olodum school for kids, launched by the Olodum Cultural Group, is a remarkable facility that caters to children.
If you’re into arts and crafts and want to get a great deal on some authentic pieces of Brazilian art, be sure to visit the Mercado Modelo, a spacious indoor/outdoor marketplace. Great deals are sure to be had!
When visiting Bahia, don’t limit yourself to only tourist attractions. You want to see and become familiar with the real Brazil. Immerse yourself into the Bahian Afro culture. Visit Acaraje da Cira, located at Largo de Itapuã as well as in Rio Vermelho on the Largo do Mariquito. It’s a restaurant where locals and visitors chow down on the acaraje, which is a deep-fried bread that’s made with mashed beans that have had the skins removed. It’s a staple in the area.
Buccaneers Restaurant is only a ferry ride away. The shrimp, pineapple and orange appetizer, fish entrée and ice cream with ginger are all too delicious to adequately describe.
Another great place for dessert is Sorveteria Da Ribeira for some of the most incredible ice cream/gelato your tastebuds have ever experienced. It truly is not to be missed.
Once your palate has been sufficed, be sure to check out the churches. Legend has it that the number of churches located in Bahia is 365 – to match each day of the year.
A local and tourist favorite is the 110-sq. meter Dique do Tororó, a lagoon decorated with 12 large “Orixas” statues, by artist Tati Moreno. Orixá is a divine figure that, in life, establishes a connection with certain natural forces such as thunder, wind, water, ocean, or the exercise of certain activities such as hunting, working with metals, the knowledge of properties of plants and its use.
WHERE TO STAY
The GRAN HOTEL STELLA MARIS RESORT, which is only seven kilometers from the International Airport of Salvador and the Convention Center of Bahia, is the first five-star all-inclusive hotel of the Sol Express Chain in Salvador.
Pelourinho is the oldest part of town and has an elevator that eliminates the precipitous climb from the sea level harbor to the buildings situated in the mountainside.
If an out of the way, exquisite, five-star hotel is your thing, THE CONVENTO DO CARMO, the first luxury historic hotel in Brazil, is sure to please. Dining is outrageously good.
For a great day trip from Salvador, experience the fascinating city of Cachoeira (which means waterfall), located near All Saints Bay.
Cachoeira is known for sugar cane, tobacco, cassavas, plantations and for The Boa Morte, or Good Death Festival, a celebration based on Brazilian faith that celebrates the end of slavery in Brazil and also pays homage to the Virgin Mary. The festival, held in August annually, is helmed by women over the age of 50 who are part of the Sisterhood of the Good Death, a charitable organization that began in Salvador at the turn of the 19th century, but moved to Cachoeira. The founding members were freed, black female slaves.
SANTA CRUZ restaurant, is nestled in the hills of Cachoeira. Actually a home, the food, which includes great steak, fish and chicken, is some good ‘ol home cookin’.
This is just a small offering of what Bahia, Pelourinho and Cachoeira have to offer.
So this is Bahia!
NEED TO KNOW BASIS:
American travelers rejoice! Brazil as of this writing is a fabulous economical meeting or vacation spot because the exchange rate hugely favors the dollar.
GETTING TO BAHIA
***American Airlines also has flights from Miami to Belo Horizonte three times a week.
Darlene Donloe is a seasoned entertainment and travel journalist whose work has appeared in People, Ebony, Essence, LA Watts Times, Los Angeles Sentinel, EMMY, The Hollywood Reporter, Rhythm & Business, Billboard, Grammy, CYH, BlackVoices.com and more. Contact her via: [email protected].