Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Elegant Decay of Belém (Part Dois)

Fishing boat moored alongside the Mercado do Ver-O-Peso
Here's my observation.  It's not particularly original, but it's the thought I'm thinking.

Rivers are the life blood of a city.  Cities without rivers are artificial, like plastic replicas of a real city.  This works for Las Vegas which is all about the artifice.  But it's what's missing from essentially soulless cities such as Atlanta or Dallas.  For this reason, we're drawn to the rivers of new cities.

Belém has impressive rivers, most significantly the massive Rio Guajará of the Amazon system.  Mercado do Ver-O-Peso is alongside the river.  It's not just a tourist attraction, it's a working market where fish, chickens, sausages, and fruits and vegetables from the Amazon are brought for sale.  I'm sure the Fishermen's Wharf section of San Francisco once served this purpose.  I know the docks of Manhattan once did.

Mercado do Ver-O-Peso under an ominous sky 
Working boat at the quay, featuring decaying colonial buildings
Carrion at the quay (from a safe distance)

Carrion at the quay (up close and personal) 
You can tell that Mercado do Ver-O-Peso is a working market from the strong odor that would attract carrion fowl.  I also spared you the pictures of live animals for sale.  Those live chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs?  They weren't for sale as pets.

From the quay side, it was a short walk up the hill to Cidade Velha, the Old Town:

Straight up to the Catedral da Sé
This is the area with the highest concentration of tourist attractions in Belém.  And apparently they are occasionally open.  The Catedral da Sé?  Locked tight as the proverbial drum.  The Museu de Arte Sacra?  Closed for my convenience, or something or other said the sign.  I think it was closed for maintenance, but I could be wrong.  O meu português é péssimo.

It certainly looks nice.

Catedral da Sé
A religious figure important in the Portuguese history of Brazil
Igreja do Santo Alexandre e Museu de Arte Sacra
Fortunately, not all was closed in Cidade Velha.  The Forte de Presépio was open.  For the low low price of two reaies, I could tour the fort and a small museum about the conquest of the indigenous Amazonian tribes.

Entry into the Forte de Presépio
This will atone for the fact that I failed to tour the Fortaleza dos Reis Magos in Natal, although that may have been closed during the World Cup because of the nearby FIFA Fan Fest.
Looks like a military ship, likely decommissioned
The grounds of the fort were nice to walk.

Looking at the warship from the fort 
Big guns at the fort
Guns 'n rivers 
Two young brasileiros who wandering the fort grounds continually snapping selfies at all the viewpoints
Looking toward Ver-O-Peso from the fort
More big guns
From the roof of the fort
I was getting hungry.  Back to the Estação Das Ducas for some upscale dining for upscale mim.

The closest thing to an ADA compliant ramp that I've seen in all of Brazil
I love upscale dining in a mall food court atmosphere, so the restaurants of the Estação Das Ducas would be perfect pra mim.  I thought I had chosen Restaurante Lá em Casa, which is the #1 ranked restaurant in Belém according to TripAdvisor.com and I am an absolute slave to TripAdvisor ranking.  Turns out, I chose the restaurant right next to it, the Capone, an Italian restaurant.  All the restaurants in the Estação Das Ducas were having a lunch buffet and it was all so confusing.

My filhete grelhado, grilled fish, in a shrimp sauce, was incredible.  It might have been a buffet, but I had seconds of that.  The "risotto" was not really a risotto, as the rice was not a porridge consistency, but was dry, but the banana addition was delicious.

Grilled fish and a "risotto" made with bananas, along with a shrimp in cream sauce
I snapped the picture after I ate my Caesar Salad which, as you would expect from a fish-eating town, was HEAVY on the anchovies, which I had forgotten were a traditional part of the Caesar Salad.

But the greatest thing about eating inside the Estação Das Ducas?

Look up above the chafing dishes of the Capone buffet
Look again. It's getting closer.
It's right above me!
There is a band box on rails that rolls down the length of the building.  In the box was a live bossa nova combo, playing bossa nova songs such as "Pois é".  The box moved slowly, about one song each above each of the restaurants.  This is without any doubt one of the most awesome things I have ever seen in all my years.

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