Tag Archives: Salvador de Bahia

A to Z Challenge: E = Excursions

E = Excursions (and Egypt)

EOne of the choices you have when taking is cruise is about whether or not to take an excursion when in port. The ship offers a number of excursions for passengers to take – and mostly you will be crowded into buses with 40+ people from the ship, a tour guide / mother hen and a driver. If you plan ahead of time, you can also arrange for private excursions with other passengers.  These tend to be smaller – 8 to 16 people — and you have the ability to adjust the tour to your needs. One of the best ways to arrange a private excursion is to sign up on a ship’s roll call in the forums on www.cruisecritic.com! You can also “go it on your own” and see what happens when you get to a port. This includes following your own plan, or grabbing a private tour looking for people, or the “hop on, hop off bus” that tends to be close to where many cruise ships dock.  I have done all of the above – and there are reasons to experience each one. It just depends on what your needs are and how you like to travel. For this post, I am focusing on my best ship-organized excursion experiences.

Ship-organized excursions have a guarantee that you will make it to the ship on time. If you need this type of security, than this is a good option.  In most places, the tour guide is licensed. The guide also gives you a running commentary on all things about the country, culture and places visited (this can get a little annoying if you just want to watch the world go by). For my first cruise, I used most of the ship’s excursions because I was nervous about making it back to the ship on time and I was not sure about “doing things on my own.”

Taking the excursion from Alexandria to Cairo was very important because there was an accident on the only road between the two cities and the all the buses were late getting back to the ship. We also had an armed guard with us on the bus. He realized I was alone in the group, and took a few pictures of me – and helped me out when a scammer almost stole my camera at Giza!

Funny picture at the great Pyramid
While a fun picture, it was taken by a “fake” security guard who tried to steal my camera. Several people stepped in to help me.
Navigating the streets of Cairo
Navigating the streets of Cairo

In Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, I took a historic tour of the city that included visiting the Senor do Bonfim church that is important to the Candoble religion in Brazil. Our group was small – about 20 German and English speakers – so it was as close to a private tour as we could get on a ship’s excursion. He was extremely knowledgeable of all the different traditions and religions in Brazil, and even talked about the different meanings of the Candoble ribbons and blessings you can receive.

Senhor do Bonfim Ribbons
Senhor do Bonfim Ribbons
Ribbons at Senhor do Bonfim
Ribbons at Senhor do Bonfim
Blessing
A Condoble Blessing

Read more about my tour of Salvador de Bahia.

One last experience is courtesy of a traveling companion.  On a tour to Olympus, she discovered her camera was missing as we were heading back to the bus after a long day.  We both panicked as we listed our options (forget the camera, look for the camera, miss the bus, take a taxi back to the ship …). We found the tour guide and told him our dilemma. He called one of the museums we had visited and the camera was there. We thought we would just take a taxi back, when the entire busload of people voted to wait for her as she ran back to the museum to get her camera – and they all applauded when she returned, camera in hand.

Returning with lost camera
Returning with lost camera

On our return to the ship, she went to the shore Excursion desk to fill out a comment card. They are so used to getting complaints that our comment card filled with thanks and compliments really touched them. The next day, they delivered a bottle of red wine to our cabin. Bonus!

Sharing wine with my travel buddy, Bryan the monkey.
Sharing wine with my travel buddy, Bryan the monkey.

Here is more information on the #atozchallenge.

 

2012 Travel in Review, Part 2

For the second half of my travelling adventure, I decided to include a transatlantic cruise that would also include crossing the equator.

Sao Paulo: I started the adventure in Sao Paulo. Nothing prepared me for the number of people, the traffic, or the language barriers! But, that is what makes travelling n adventure — learning to face new challenges and opportunities. In Sao Paulo, I stayed at the LimeTime Hostel, which was very close to the Metro and Ave. Paulista. Of course, my first day out, I turned the wrong way and got lost looking for the Metro and Ave. Paulista, but I finally started learning my way around — and using the Metro was a great help!  Want to do something different?  If you are up early on a Sunday — which can be difficult because there are so many cool bars in Sao Paulo — head to the Benedictine Monastery for 10 AM mass.  It is crowded, so unless you get there a little early, you may have to stand, but the singing is beautiful!

Casa de las Rosas
Casa de las Rosas
Statue in cemetery in Sao Paulo
Statue in cemetery in Sao Paulo
Lower level of the Sao Paulo cemetery
Lower level of the Sao Paulo cemetery
Statue in Sao Paulo cemetery
Statue in Sao Paulo cemetery
Cat in cemetery in Sao Paulo
Cat in cemetery in Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo Cathedral
Sao Paulo Cathedral
Placa de Republica
Placa de Republica

Santos: There is a bus that takes you from Sao Paulo to the beaches of Santos.  It takes about 90 minutes and will stop right on the beach.  I took the bus to the cruise terminal to join my ship, RCI’s Vision of the Seas. There were a few of us on the bus — and we all got a little nervous, not knowing the exact route the driver was taking through Santos.  But we made it safely and got a mini-tour of Santos in the bargain.  The beaches are beautiful!

Beach at Santos
Beach at Santos

Rio: It was really nice sailing into Rio — I sat ion my balcony and took pictures from a view many people in the city would never see! I was also very fortunate to hook up with a small group of people to “see the sites” and had an amazing lunch at a Brazilian BBQ place.  I also had a moment of panic when I thought my group had left without me. I would love to spend more time here — preferably with someone and not on my own.

Cat on the beach in Rio
Cat on the beach in Rio
Rio Beaches
Rio Beaches
Vultures over Rio
Vulture flying over Rio
Sugar Loaf Cable Cars
Sugar Loaf Cable Cars
Christ the Redemer
Christ the Redemer
Cat's photo at the tram
Waiting for the Tram
Sailing into Rio
Sailing into Rio

Salvador de Bahia: I loved the history and and experiences I had here in Salvador — and took one of my favorite pictures here as well.

Ribbons at Senhor do Bonfim
Ribbons at Senhor do Bonfim
Senhor do Bonfim Ribbons
Senhor do Bonfim Ribbons
Blessing
A Candoble Blessing

Crossing the Atlantic: I can say that I have not only sailed across the Atlantic, but I also sailed across the equator! This was 6 days of pure relaxation (when I wasn’t sick form a nasty cold).

Tenerife, Spain:  Our first port after 6 days — and I needed to get back into nature.  What a great place to experience the beauty of a volcano and this unique landscape. I want to go back and see more!

Rock formations near Teite Volcano
Rock formations near Teite Volcano
First view of Teite Volcano
First view of Teite Volcano

Funchal, Portugal: I had such a lovely day in Madeira — this is another place I want to return to and spend more time (and one of the reasons I cruise — get a “taste” of different places to decide where to return to!).

Funchal Market Monte tobaggan View from Monte Swan Tobaggan ride Funchal Cable

Lisbon, Portugal: I love Lisbon — great food,wine, entertainment and beautiful architecture — so much to take pictures of! I stayed at the Living Lounge Hostel — a wonderful spot in the heart of the city. I never seem to have enough time in Portugal!

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Salvador de Bahia – The Home of 365 churches

After my misadventures throughout Brazil, I thought I might take it a little saner in Salvador.  There was one place in particular I wanted to go, and it was not within walking distance of the port.  So, I consulted with several people and got hooked up with a tour of historical Salvador.  This tour promised to spend more time at each stop and it included the places I wanted to see.  I was very pleased to see that my new friends from Glasgow were also on this tour.  As it turned out, there were only 20 people – nice number – but this time half for English and half were German – it has been a while since I’ve practiced speaking any German! Our guide was native to Salvador, but spent some time in Germany, so he was fluent in Portuguese, German and English – and he truly loves his city.  Throughout the tour, he would tell us how to best interact with people – when to give money (and when not to).  Our first stop was the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim.

Senhor du Bonfim
Senhor do Bonfim

While this is a Catholic church, it is also considered the hearty of candomble – and one of the places I really wanted to visit.  In the plaza in front of the church, I met two Santos who blessed me with cascarillo, bay leaves and corn.  They were wearing the colours of the Oshun, so I thought that was an auspicious start for me.  I was also given the special ribbons that are used to make wishes at the church. Our tour guide also went through this little ceremony, which I thought was another good omen.

Blessing
A Candoble Blessing

He really did seem to understand the religion and the meaning of the different ribbons.  All along a wrought-iron fence in front of the church, people tie these ribbons with three knots.

Senhor do Bonfim Ribbons
Senhor do Bonfim Ribbons
Ribbons at Senhor do Bonfim
Ribbons at Senhor do Bonfim

Inside the church, there is a special “room of miracles” where, when your wish has come true, you send something back to thanks the Saint.  There were pictures of weddings, soccer championships and letters describing how the Saint helped.  There were also rows of wax feet, legs and babies, for people to give as offerings for healing of ailments or birth of children.

Room of Miracles, Senhor do Bonfim
Room of Miracles, Senhor do Bonfim

On the second Sunday in January, there is a procession of Bahaian women in traditional outfits from the centre of Salvador to the church steps, where they wash the steps.  Since this is not considered a Catholic tradition, the doors of the church are close – but the celebration continues.

As we got back on our bus, there were two children who are part of a special program to help poorer children get an education and earn money.  They sang a traditional song to Nosso Senhor.

We then joined the inevitable traffic back to the centre of Salvador and the Pelourinho or the upper city.  This is an UNESCO World Heritage site because of its large collection of colonial buildings. Our first stop was the Palacio Rio Blanco.  It was built in the 16th century and has been used as many things over the years; barracks, a residence for Dom Pedro II and even a prison.  It is a beautiful building that comands exquisite views of the lower city and the port below it. It is also next to the Elevador Lacerda, which is an elevator that connects the lower and upper parts of the city.

Elevator
Elevador Lacerda

As we walked through the streets of the upper city, we had opportunities to take pictures with the women dressed in the traditional clothes – big hoop skirts and turbaned headdresses. We headed to Terreiro de Jesus, a plaza with several churches and a group of men who were demonstrating capoeira moves. As it started to rain, we ducked into one church where you can see the progression of the rococo-style is art and architecture with each side altar. As we left the church, the rain really started to fall – we took shelter in a gem shop and then were told to take some time to get a coffee, etc. while we waited a bit for the rain to die down.

San Fransicso
Igreja de Sao Francisco

We then headed to the Igreja de Sao Francisco.  This is a working Franciscan monastery – and it is also an important gothic monument noted for its Baroque inner decorations.  But first, there are the decretive tile designs that line the interior garden.  They are done in traditional blue and white and depict scene from mythology what have religious meanings.  As beautiful as the tiles are, nothing can compare to walking into a house of pure gold – and that is what the main church is – more than 100 kilograms of gold covers almost ever surface of the interior of the church.  The lights reflect off the gold until you feel you are bathing in its sheen. A part of me was amazed – and a part of me was wondering what St. Francis and his most pious followers would have said about a church like this – since he was known to give away all his gold and earthly possessions. Salvador does appear to be a place of drastic contradictions.

The rain stayed with us as me made our way to an area that was important to the slave trade – and had a church built by the slaves and still used today.  On Tuesdays, the mass said in this church is a combination of Portuguese and Yoruban – with a lot of drumming and dancing. We also had some time to visit some shops along the way.  I, of course, saw an apron to add to my collection and had a great time with 3 ladies in a shop for clothing.  Everyone we met was very warm and friendly.

We then headed back along the cobblestone streets to the bus – the rain was steady at this time and I felt like a drowned rat!  Of course I left my umbrella and raincoat on the bus, as I did not think IU would need it on the sunny day we had in the beginning! My plan had been to not go on the ship just yet, but spend a little time in the Mercado. But I was cold and wet and just wanted to get warm.  Still, I loved the charm of Salvador and the warmth of its people.