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BootsnAllcom Fortaleza Brazil February 2000


It’s a world gone mad!
You can’t move for posters advertising new classes, students buying note books (incredibly expensive), people rushing round to take entrance exams and professors moaning about the new academic year. Brazil is going back to school.

If there were an award for scholastic enthusiasm then I would have to nominate Brazil. The academic year starts this week and it seems that everyone wants a slice of the action. But this being Brazil, nothing is quite so simple and almost every course requires you to take an entrance exam.

For example, I have a friend who wants to learn English. The school where he wants to learn requires that he sits a 3 hour exam on Portuguese history before he can be admitted to the school. Can someone please explain to me the link between the history of Portugal and learning English? I know I have been away form the UK for a long time, but really…

Another consequence of this sudden test madness is that everyone is suddenly studying hard and not out spending their hard earned money in the bars. It’s quite spooky to stroll along the beach at night and see it virtually deserted. So instead of hanging around Fortaleza this month (and believe me as an English speaker you don’t want to do that unless you want to end up giving a 101 English lessons) I suggest you take off to one of the many beaches around here. This months pick of the crop has to be Praia da Lagoinha.


Praia da Lagoinha


Praia da Lagoinha is 124km from Fortaleza, which is about 2 hours drive, or 2-3 hours by bus. It is a truly fantastic beach. A local once described it to me as one of those places where you notice God is in every detail. I am not normally one for such high praise, but I do love this beach.

A few weeks ago when I was there the places was almost deserted, the 15km long beach, which isn’t always white sand, was totally free from the hordes of tourists which had descended on the beaches in the centre of Fortaleza. The first view of the beach you get is from the road that approaches high above the beach. It’s one of those occasions when the sheer beauty of a place makes you almost cry. My first view was of the half moon shaped beach tucked snugly between two coconut covered sand dunes. A few local boats were slowly working their way through the surf bringing home the days catch of lobster.

Choosing a good place for breakfast wasn’t easy, each of the small beach side bars looked idyllic. Simple rustic furniture, sunshades made from palm leaves and the smell of freshly cooking fish. We chose Martha’s Bar mainly because Martha dragged me in by my arm and also because a wizened fisherman was busy sorting the days catch out and the lobsters looked fantastic. Our breakfast of 6 fresh lobster, 2 icy cold bottles of beer and a grilled fish came to the princely sum of about 6 dollars!


The views are free


The beautiful views, the sound of the sea and the early morning sun glinting on the reef were all free – though I am sure it is only a matter of time before Martha works out a way of charging me for them. A similar meal would have cost maybe $75 in central Fortaleza.

During the 1970’s only a few locals knew the place and the only tourists that went there were either lost or on their way to somewhere else. Local legend says that in the late 1980’s a French man reached the place searching for a place to spend his vacations. Milton, a local fisherman, did not understand this wild Frenchman’s intention but decided to rent him one room anyway. The next year the French man returned with a friend and over the next few years the group got bigger and bugger until Milton was forced to give up fishing and move into the hotel business instead.

However, the development was limited and today there is really only one hotel on the beachfront. The hotel is beautiful, lovely cool rooms, a fine swimming pool and it is cheap (about 40 R$ for a room per night). It does, however, have the world’s most aggressive and active mosquitoes. After my one sleepless night there I counted a grand total of 107 bites on my arms and legs. So, if you are going to stay, and I highly recommend you do, take alone some mosquito coils, nets, stun guns – anything to escape the agony I had to endure.

To get there from Fortaleza take a bus from the central bus station. Three leave a day and the fare is about US$5. Leaving there is another matter altogether, and like me you may just decide to stay…

Surreal Tourist Activity of the Month
Once again I am drawn back to the supermarket for my surreal activity of the month. Jacca fruits are now in season and are being virtually given away in the supermarkets. The average Brazilian will tell you that all the best fruit is exported and that the quality of fruit is much much better in Europe (which quite possibly may be true), but Brazil wins each and every time in the surreal stakes.


Top of the bunch is the aforementioned Jacca. A good size jacca will weigh about 10-12 Kgs. They are easy to spot in the supermarket as they dwarf almost everything else and look like they would be comfortable in a science fiction film.

To eat the fruit you need to cut a square from the tough spiny skin and reach inside and pull out the seeds. The edible fruit is actually wrapped round the seeds. The taste of the fruit is somewhere between banana and pear, but is quite divine.

Questions?
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our South America Insiders page.

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Fortaleza, Brazil – February 2000

It’s a world gone mad!

You can’t move for posters advertising new classes, students buying note books (incredibly expensive), people rushing round to take entrance exams and professors moaning about the new academic year. Brazil is going back to school.

If there were an award for scholastic enthusiasm then I would have to nominate Brazil. The academic year starts this week and it seems that everyone wants a slice of the action. But this being Brazil, nothing is quite so simple and almost every course requires you to take an entrance exam.

For example, I have a friend who wants to learn English. The school where he wants to learn requires that he sits a 3 hour exam on Portuguese history before he can be admitted to the school. Can someone please explain to me the link between the history of Portugal and learning English? I know I have been away form the UK for a long time, but really…

Another consequence of this sudden test madness is that everyone is suddenly studying hard and not out spending their hard earned money in the bars. It’s quite spooky to stroll along the beach at night and see it virtually deserted. So instead of hanging around Fortaleza this month (and believe me as an English speaker you don’t want to do that unless you want to end up giving a 101 English lessons) I suggest you take off to one of the many beaches around here. This months pick of the crop has to be Praia da Lagoinha.

Praia da Lagoinha

Praia da Lagoinha is 124km from Fortaleza, which is about 2 hours drive, or 2-3 hours by bus. It is a truly fantastic beach. A local once described it to me as one of those places where you notice God is in every detail. I am not normally one for such high praise, but I do love this beach.

A few weeks ago when I was there the places was almost deserted, the 15km long beach, which isn’t always white sand, was totally free from the hordes of tourists which had descended on the beaches in the centre of Fortaleza. The first view of the beach you get is from the road that approaches high above the beach. It’s one of those occasions when the sheer beauty of a place makes you almost cry. My first view was of the half moon shaped beach tucked snugly between two coconut covered sand dunes. A few local boats were slowly working their way through the surf bringing home the days catch of lobster.

Choosing a good place for breakfast wasn’t easy, each of the small beach side bars looked idyllic. Simple rustic furniture, sunshades made from palm leaves and the smell of freshly cooking fish. We chose Martha’s Bar mainly because Martha dragged me in by my arm and also because a wizened fisherman was busy sorting the days catch out and the lobsters looked fantastic. Our breakfast of 6 fresh lobster, 2 icy cold bottles of beer and a grilled fish came to the princely sum of about 6 dollars!

The views are free

The beautiful views, the sound of the sea and the early morning sun glinting on the reef were all free – though I am sure it is only a matter of time before Martha works out a way of charging me for them. A similar meal would have cost maybe $75 in central Fortaleza.

During the 1970’s only a few locals knew the place and the only tourists that went there were either lost or on their way to somewhere else. Local legend says that in the late 1980’s a French man reached the place searching for a place to spend his vacations. Milton, a local fisherman, did not understand this wild Frenchman’s intention but decided to rent him one room anyway. The next year the French man returned with a friend and over the next few years the group got bigger and bugger until Milton was forced to give up fishing and move into the hotel business instead.

However, the development was limited and today there is really only one hotel on the beachfront. The hotel is beautiful, lovely cool rooms, a fine swimming pool and it is cheap (about 40 R$ for a room per night). It does, however, have the world’s most aggressive and active mosquitoes. After my one sleepless night there I counted a grand total of 107 bites on my arms and legs. So, if you are going to stay, and I highly recommend you do, take alone some mosquito coils, nets, stun guns – anything to escape the agony I had to endure.

To get there from Fortaleza take a bus from the central bus station. Three leave a day and the fare is about US$5. Leaving there is another matter altogether, and like me you may just decide to stay…

Surreal Tourist Activity of the Month

Once again I am drawn back to the supermarket for my surreal activity of the month. Jacca fruits are now in season and are being virtually given away in the supermarkets. The average Brazilian will tell you that all the best fruit is exported and that the quality of fruit is much much better in Europe (which quite possibly may be true), but Brazil wins each and every time in the surreal stakes.

Top of the bunch is the aforementioned Jacca. A good size jacca will weigh about 10-12 Kgs. They are easy to spot in the supermarket as they dwarf almost everything else and look like they would be comfortable in a science fiction film.

To eat the fruit you need to cut a square from the tough spiny skin and reach inside and pull out the seeds. The edible fruit is actually wrapped round the seeds. The taste of the fruit is somewhere between banana and pear, but is quite divine.

Geography

Located just under the equator, in a clearly tropical position, is the Cearense coast. The greenish-blue water is warm all year around. The average temperature ranges from 25 to 28°Celsius.

Fortaleza is the capital of the North Eastern Brazilian state of Ceará. It is a large, modern city where bold, new architecture contrasts with beautiful beaches and tall coconut palms.

Brazil Map

Ceara State Map

Weather

Why ask? It’s going to be hot, between 27 – 33 degrees, blue skies and heaven is a local call.

Accommodation

Accommodation falls into three categories. Hotel, motel and pousada.

Hotels range from the reasonably priced such as the Hotel Passeio (tel/fax 085 252 2104) which has doubles for about R$30 a night, to the mid priced Olympio Praia Hotel (about US$100 a night) which includes a massive breakfast (tel 085 244 9122) to the massive Ibis Hotel (silly price).

Motels are a Brazilian institution and most rent by the hour. Mostly, or so I am told, they are clean and reasonably priced. If you are considering staying in one it might be a good move to check the room before handing over any cash.

Most people stay in a pousada. These small, often family fun hotels generally offer excellent value for money, clean rooms and friendly service. There are about 65 officially registered pousadas in central Fortaleza. Unless you are arriving in the height of summer, finding a nice room shouldn’t be a problem.

Health

Generally Fortaleza is a healthy place – the odd hangover permitting. However, there is some concern about a recent outbreak of dengue fever. As always, plan ahead and ask your local doctor before travelling. Malaria is not an issue in this area. Up to the minute updates can be found at:

www.cdc.gov

And more specifically on dengue.

Travel

Fortaleza is three hours flight, or two days by bus from São Paulo the main gateway to Brazil. The flights are not cheap, but sometimes Varig has special deals.

The best way to travel around Brazil is with an air pass, which must be bought outside the country.

The Author

The Author is a regular contributor to this and other travel magazines. He grew up (or at least spent his formative years) in London and left as soon as possible for the surreal shores of Japan.

18 months there was more than enough and after overdosing on raw fish one night, he jumped on a plane to Brazil, where he now lives in relative peace.

His travels have taken him across Africa, through much of Asia and through most of Europe.

He has never ever seen a Japanese nuclear submarine, especially not the on that was parked in Nagasaki bay last time he was there.

Honest!!

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