Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Elegant Decay of Belém (Part Um)

A boat plies the waters of  Rio Guajará
Belém is a port city in an elegant state of decay.  How could it not to be?  It is very wet and rainy city with high humidity.  Its best times were 100 years ago, during the rubber boom, but the city is over 400 years old.  It is the Atlantic port of the Amazon River. It is located on an estuary of the Amazon, rather than the Amazon itself, but the rivers are huge.

Why come to Belém?  Two reasons.  Even in its state of decay, it is still a beautiful city with a great history and the famous Ver-O-Peso (see the weight) market.  And it is the center for Amazonian-Brazilian cuisine, where the flavors of the Amazonian rain forest are brought forth to the rest of the world.  And sometimes these great rain forest flavors are turned into ice cream.  But more on that later.

This is my walking tour of the reclaimed port area, the Ver-O-Peso market, and the Cidade Velha of Belém.  Apparently there's a modern city here, too, but who cares about that?

First, the area around the guesthouse where I am staying, the Residencia Karimbo Amazonia.

The view down Travessa Piedade
It is B&B.  The owner, who is French (note the partially hidden tri-color being flown out front), rents a few rooms in his residence.  I would highly recommend the place to you the next time you are in Belém.

The Residencia Karimbo Amazonia 
From there it is a short walk to the river:

I think this is a banyan tree, but I'm no arborist
Lots of statuary and beautiful old colonial style buildings:

Meet Pedro Teixeira
That man is Pedro Teixeira, the first European to travel the length of the Amazon.  That was impressive.

Alongside the Rio Guajará, or Guajará Bay which, technically, count as the waters of the Amazon (system)
The area alongside the river here has been beautifully developed.  The old port buildings have been re-purposed into Estação Das Docas, a complex of shops and upscale restaurants.  Normally, I'm not one for "upscale" restaurants, but when it comes to Amazonian-Brazilian cuisine, I'm guessing I'm going to prefer the more "upscale version"

Outside the Estação Das Docas
 They even kept the old port cranes for atmosphere.

Still outside the Estação Das Docas
Selfie along the waters of Rio Guajará
They even have a brew pub in the Estação Das Docas, for Amazon Beer, that's how upscale it is:

Amazon Beer brew pub
Amazon Beer brew pub, note the copper vats
From there, it was onto the more traditional, more historic, Ver-O-Peso, translated alternately as "See The Weight," or "Check The Weight":

This is where you get tour boats to explore the river:
Touring boat docked
I'm guessing this small little boat is for day-trippers, but I'm not sure.

The dining section of the tent section next to Ver-O-Peso
This is where real Belém eats, not in the upscale Estação Das Docas.  There looked to be a lot of grilled chicken (frango) being eaten in there, which I could handle, but I wimped out and opted for the upscale buffet dining in air-conditioned comfort (a lifesaver given the humidity levels in this city). Note that the Ver-O-Peso has grown so huge that the old building can't contain all the market stalls.  There is a tented section between the Ver-O-Peso and the upscale Estação Das Docas.

My favorite part of the Ver-O-Peso was the fruit section.  Some of the fruits were familiar-looking.  After all, Belém is known as the "Mango City" and I know what a mango looks like.

Fruit market
But the fruit market smelled great.

And, finally, the blue spires of Ver-O-Peso:

Various views of the Ver-O-Peso
This a real working market and not a tourist attraction.  Tourist souvenirs are sold in tents between this and the Estação Das Docas.

From here I walked to the Cidade Velha.  But my battery is getting low (actually and metaphorically), so I will stop here and post Part Dois later.

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