Carnival and cuisine in Salvador, the old town of Bahia

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While authorities wisely suspended next month’s carnival in Salvador, Brazil, the following column anticipates the exciting event’s return in 2022.

The Brazilian city of Salvador has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for many reasons, not least because this capital of Bahia is the birthplace of much of the country’s culture, food and Afro-Brazilian roots. to music and its ultra-authentic carnival. .

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Not as internationally famous as the Rio Carnival, the Salvador Carnival is gaining more and more international adherents for its unique elements, such as electric trio which are music truck floats that follow prescribed routes. Increasingly, visitors are also discovering the noisy pleasure of the city’s official pre-carnival festivities that take place almost two weeks before Ash Wednesday. (Next year’s carnival – as the word carnival is spelled in Portuguese – will take place from February 24 to March 2, 2022.)

While it may be early to prepare for the upcoming carnival season, Salvador’s old colonial town with its famous Pelourinho section – which itself hosts much of the carnival – is a famous and vibrant place to go for it all. time of year. To boot, a handful of the city’s best restaurants are located on this side of town that faces All Saints Bay.

It may be hidden behind the Cathedral Basilica of São Salvador, but with its statue of a trio of colorful, cartoonish masked figures sitting in front, the Casa do Carnaval da Bahia cannot be missed. Opened about three years ago in a historic building, the exhibition space of this carnival museum is spread over four floors and includes some two hundred ceramic figures that represent costumes and styles that span the history of the carnival. . Visitors are also discovering these popular electric trio floats that started in the 1950s.

In a small theater, guests can practice their own dance rhythms following the guidance of musicians and dancers during video presentations, and learn local rhythms such as chopped are entirely different from samba which they associate with the Rio carnival. Those who want a detailed tour of the museum can continue to browse through many photos and historical documents and watch more video clips.

The basilica itself immediately immerses you in old Pelourinho. With its elaborate altars, the magnificent church built by the Jesuits represents one of the greatest examples of mannerism in the New World.

As is the Baroque Church and Convent of São Francisco, which sits just beyond the other end of the vast Terreiro de Jesus Square, and which is also famous for its rich gilded work and stunning murals made up of tens of thousands of beautiful blues. azulejo tiles being restored.

It only takes a few minutes to walk the stone streets of Pelourinho to be seduced by the beauty of all its houses in various colors. Popular with locals and located right in the square, the O Cravinho liquor tavern is named after a Cachaca (distilled sugar cane) infused with cloves, honey and lemon. The small barrels behind the bar bear the names of their various other infusions. Nearby, Pau Brasilis is a gallery specializing in indigenous arts and crafts.

Going down to the sloping square Largo do Pelourinho, the Museu da Gastronomia Baiana, a small gastronomy museum, still contains part of the old city wall. The exhibits there will not only educate you about the social and economic history of Bahian cuisine, but will whet your appetite for your upcoming explorations of Salvador’s vibrant food scene today.

In addition, in the square, Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos is an 18th century church with a blue facade and double belfries that was built by and for Afro-Brazilians. Despite all the beauty of Pelourinho, the reality is that the name derives from the horrific fact that the word means pillory and it is exactly here that the public whipping of the slaves took place. Salvador was, in fact, as early as the 16th century, the site of the first slave market in the Americas.

Another ascent through the hilly cityscape takes you to the Santo Antônio district, whose main street is lined with bars, cafes and small shops. Small home shops and businesses near Carmo Church include Atelier Nós where you can see through the door as elderly couple Edival and Izaura Rosas restore stunning works of religious icons and statues .

Hopefully soon visitors will be able to book in the Convento do Carmo, the enormous 16th-century convent built, as usual, around a spacious courtyard, and which was until recently a hotel.

Beyond the church, the Brechó Cabral Descobertas is a small antique shop if you can call it that, with old toys, cameras, books, posters, mini-statues and so much variety. cool junk that can be crammed into an old house.

Fewer tourists venture further along the unusually (for Salvador) almost straight street. With the two terraces overlooking the bay, the Cafélier is an old-school-style cafe with antique decor, while the modern and trendy Casa Boqueirão sells local crafts and fashion.

Finally, it’s time to explore the city’s famous food scene. Just outside the old town, four-year-old Mistura Contorno occupies a former warehouse with protected status. While more recently the space was a club, at one point it was also a brothel. For all of its historic brick walls and archways, its large glass windows add a modern feel and allow for spectacular views of the marina below and above All Saints Bay.

Already known for her quirky restaurant Mistura in the suburb of Itapuã, owner and chef Andréa Ribeiro mixes Mediterranean and Bahian cuisines on her menu, creating seafood dishes you’ve never tasted, like the bar with pupunha heart of palm and asparagus or grouper in Prosecco with truffle risotto.

In a house with the same breathtaking view of the bay, the white tablecloth Chez Bernard is an institution known as the best French restaurant in town since its founding in 1963. Today, chef Laurent Rezette’s pepper steak and bacalhau grilled are popular, while dishes such as a salad of figs with goat cheese, almonds and honey from the uruçu bee all use local ingredients. Belgian chef Rezette even makes his own chocolates.

Located among a row of upscale shops facing the marina, Amado is a former sugar mill turned into a spacious restaurant with huge storefronts. From duck breast with polenta and bacon to scallop ravioli, squid and shrimp with basil and sage cream sauce, the extensive menu also appeals to romantic diners and families.

Also directly on the marina, the Lafayette Restaurant has a popular outdoor terrace that stretches out under a huge tree with low branches, a location that also promises sunsets seen through the masts of the docked sailboats. Their expansive Mediterranean cuisine includes a grilled seafood mix of lobster, shrimp, calamari, octopus and white fish.

It takes over an hour by boat or car around All Saints Bay to get to Ilha do Frades, the Island of the Brothers. But the trip is well worth it for the beautiful church on the north side of the island.

In a small village on the south side of the island, you’ll find roosters crowing at the rustic open-air restaurant Preta where you dine under colorful umbrellas in a green setting and the party atmosphere that reigns sometimes includes music. live.

Of course, it’s a long way to go for the hearty Bahian moqueca, or lobster with grilled corn and tamarind-based chutneys, and for the tangy fruit of the Brazilian. Pitanga plant. But if you’re in no rush to return to the mainland, you’ll be glad Preta has a few small rooms to rent as well. And especially if you are here for a well-deserved break after the carnival.

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