The Recife adventure didn’t really start in Recife but in Boa Viagem. Like most Brazilian cities, Recife is huge and counts several very different bairros (neighbourhoods). Boa Viagem is where you’ll find the tall buildings, straight streets. The three islands—Recife, Santo Antônio, and Boa Vista—are where you can enjoy the markets, old churches, and colourful buildings. More picturesque, for sure, but not the most practical or safest place to stay as these bairros are packed during the day but empty at night.
I don’t mind Boa Viagem. Sure, it’s not the most exciting bairros but it’s easy to shop and it’s a good place to come back to at the end of the day—remember, sunset is at 6 p.m. in this part of Brazil. The entire population of Boa Viagem (100,000, no less) seems to hang out at Shopping Recife after dark, one of South America’s biggest shopping centres.
There are basically two main avenues in Boa Viagem—southbound Avenida Eng. Domingos Ferreira and northbound Avenida Conselheiro Aguiar—so it could also be an easy place to get around if it wasn’t for the sidewalks. Let me describe you the mess. It usually starts well, for a meter or two. Then there’s a tree in the middle of the sidewalk, then for the next ten metres you have to be careful and step over the huge roots. Then the paving company crew apparently took a break at one point because it’s no longer paved, it’s just sand. Five metres further, some other company must have been hired to finish the job because it’s paved again… kind of. Like there’s a hole with loose cobblestones. Oh, lovely Portuguese-style pavement here! For… ahem, two metres. All in the same fucking street, repeat all over the city. Bonus, watch for cockroaches at night.
But people don’t come to Boa Viagem for the city streets, they come for the lovely beach that stretches over eight kilometres. It looks perfect, but in fact, you’re just all-you-can-eat buffet food for sharks—the long beach is plagued by tiger shark attacks. There are detailed warning signs every few metres and these are not fake Canadian warnings, like “proceed with caution—daily life may lead to strong emotions like fear, happiness, excitement and disappointment.” There are shark attacks.
I walk on the beach every day. It’s a great way to witness the moody Atlantic weather. No matter what, it’s very hot and humid, but the sea is never the same colour.