Keep it simple.
And in doubt, go to the beach.
I should have remembered that.
I found Fortaleza a bit puzzling for the first two or three days. It was bigger than I thought, more city-like as well. I couldn’t figure it out—not city-city like São Paulo, not “we’re a beach with a city behind” like Rio, not cozy and friendly like other smaller Nordeste capitals.
I checked out the landmarks, opted out of faraway beaches hundreds of kilometres away, got used to the hot and humid weather… and now what?
Fuck it. May as well just stop researching places and go with the flow.
I headed to the beachfront, and for the first time maybe, I really looked at it.
Sure, these are city beaches, probably not the cleanest, the wildest or the most exotic.
But damn, they are pretty awesome.
I started walking on the beachfront promenade, a wide-open area with restaurants, a bike path, vendors, a main market, coconut trees and more that goes on for kilometres and kilometres.
Facing the sea and the main beach, Meireles, you can go right all the way to the fish market, or left all the way to Praia de Iracema.
The scenery never looks the same. Fortaleza can be very cloudy, still hot and sticky—looks like it’s going to rain but it doesn’t, or it does so conveniently at night. Then the next thing you know, the sky is blue and it’s gorgeous, and the light changes completely.
Same promenade, never the same atmosphere. It gets very quiet early afternoon but the beach is packed on weekends and every evening around 4 p.m. I fell in love with Praia de Iracema, probably the worst beach ever to swim—strong waves, questionably clean water—but the best place to observe Fortaleza’s teens and twenty-somethings since it’s apparently their corner.
I also discovered the many, many piers, “espigões” that take you far into the water, still safe from the relentless waves. Why aren’t they mentioned anywhere? It’s awesome and quite unique!
This is probably what travelling is all about. Sure, check out what the guidebooks mention, what everybody is talking about, then just go explore. Wander around, follow the crowd or just get away from it, whatever you like.
You’ll find your happy place somewhere. It doesn’t have to be complicated.