Two reasons not to go to Recife, it is the murder capital of Brazil and you can’t swim at the beach because there are sharks… with this in mind, we headed for picturesque Olinda next door.
Olinda, a UNESCO heritage site, is set around a tree-covered hill and is an artsy town filled with painted colonia buildings, galleries and workshops. There are twisting streets leading up to a night-time market with great views over the town and strange stalls selling tapioca based snacks (slightly better than the tapioca I remember from school but not much).
Olinda is also famous for its carnival, that runs for a full 11 days and starts with the Parade of Virgens do Barrio Novo (400 men in drag) – we will be in Rio but apparently they couldn’t wait and have already started celebrating prévias, or pre-Carnival and Sunday for a full on dress rehearsal. We were staying in the lovely Pousada Sao Pedro which has prime position on the carnival route – so were able to enjoy every moment of the madness from right on our doorstep.
So reasons to love Olinda? Night markets selling caipirinhas with amazing sunset views, pretty cobbled streets with painted colonial buildings, great restaurants selling seafood cooked in whole pumpkins, a lovely colonial pousada with a tropical garden complete with large pool, tortoises, fruit laden mango trees, and all the fun of Carnival.
As the owner of the pousada said – everyone comes back!