by julia dann.
fortaleza, brasil: one week
canoa quebrada, brasil: three days
located on the almost easternmost tip of south america, fortaleza is one of the anchors of northeast brazil, and considered one of the most beautiful states in the country. the region is characterized by rainforests, small fishing towns, stunning beaches, and vibrant urban centers full of colorful re-visionings of post-colonial architecture. i was #blessed TO STUDY ABROAD THERE IN 2009, SO THIS TRIP was, FOR ME, A PRODIGAL RETURN. but for others, it's definitely a dope starting point for exploring northeast brazil. read on for some of my #lucky7 spots in fortaleza! disclaimer: i had a tough time capturing it all on film— it's still a relatively dangerous place, and whipping your phone or camera out for a quick photo is still risky biz. but i did my best to capture a fun mix of photos, mostly on disposable film, below.
1. foods! fortaleza is located in a fishing hub, and you'd be hard-pressed to find better peixe (fish) anywhere else. on my first day, i ordered a table's worth of baiao de dois, macaxeira, and carne de sol. in other words, rice and beans, fried yucca, and grilled steak. despite multiple inquiries about whether someone would be joining me to help me finish the food, i was in heaven. top it off with an ice-cold beer, and you're good to go. below: a full northeastern feast— this time, shared with friends.
2. centro. this is close by where i went to school, so i made a beeline for these cobblestoned pathways of backstreets with random odd goods. easily an afternoon's worth of strolling here. if you're in the shopping mood, head to the expansive open-air market called mercado central. hammocks, or redes, are ubiquitous in every fortaleza home— gorgeously woven and insanely comfortable. pick one up there, along with some seriously gorgeous leather goods. below: catedral de são josé, a freshly painted building dating back to the city's beginnings in 1700s, and a strip of shops full of gorgeous hammocks.
3. praia do futuro. fortaleza is right on the ocean, so you'll have your pick of beaches, but my favorite beach is praia do futuro. hop on the bus and be there in 30. the fortaleza version of a picnic is to grab a table at any barraca (or ocean-side restaurant) and sip on coconut water straight from the source— i spent a couple afternoons just lounging, reading, and writing here. can't beat it.
4. dragão do mar. a beautiful hub for both museums and nightlife, lined with colorfully-painted post-colonial buildings. i spent an afternoon watching capoeira groups dance and getting lost in old museums. don't leave before you find yourself a forró bar! samba may be the universal dance of brazil, but forró is the universal dance of the northeast.
5. beira mar. if you're looking for a place to do some strolling and window shopping along the water, beira mar is that spot. a hub for great barbeque, or churrasco. make sure you ask for extra farofa. don't worry about what it is, just do it.
6. parquelandia. i was surprised to encounter the parquelandia neighborhood this time around, as it wasn't on my radar when i was in fortaleza in 2009. in the months leading up to the most recent world cup, tons of amazing restaurants and forró bars have popped up here— i recommend getting over to that part of town you're looking to shake a leg in the evenings, without all the downtown craziness.
7. canoa quebrada. this beach town is SERIOUSLY GORGEous. A LOT of THE BEACHES ALONG THE NORTHEAST ARE CHARACTERIZED BY ORANGE SAND DUNES— AND CANOA QUEBRADA IS AMONG THE MOST BEAUTIFUL IN THE REGION. about 2 hours outside fortaleza, i made a long weekend of it, and that was the perfect amount fo time. at night, descend through the sand dunes to freedom bar, a beachside shack bumping roots reggae and slinging caipirinhas, a traditional drink made with a sugar-cane rum called cachaÇa.
tip of the iceberg here, folks. northeast brazil will need two weeks of your time at least— and fortaleza is just the beginning!