While a soccer game can wrap up in about two hours, the process of commuting/standing in line/dealing with crowds/going through security/taking plenty of pictures means that, days when we were attending a game were almost entirely monopolized by the game.
On our first Saturday in Brazil, however, we didn’t have a game to attend nor a single plan. With that glorious freedom to do anything we wanted or nothing at all, we spent the day exploring Olinda.
Olinda, which is just north of Recife, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It dates back to the 18th century. It’s full of old churches (there’s something like 20 baroque churches in Olinda alone) and gorgeous scenery. We mixed that up with a little bit of shopping and a little bit of snacking. Just how we like it.
After checking out a handful of gorgeous churches, we took an elevator to the top of Olinda’s watertower and we could see all the way to Recife.
Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the hills of Olinda. Steep doesn’t even begin to describe the mountainous inclines that we tackled. We weren’t doing much working out in Brazil but every time we ventured out into Olinda it was like we did an entire Buns of Steel workout tape…and then rewinded that sucker and did it again.
We stopped for tapioca. Tapioca in Brazil is closer to a crepe than our familiar Tapioca pudding. It is the famous dish in the state of Pernambuco, where we were staying, so we couldn’t possibly miss out on trying it. We placed an order for three (ham & cheese, Nutella, cheese & chocolate) and chatted with a few Americans and an absolutely hilarious pair of Italian brothers. (Please ask any of us to imitate them imitating the air conditioning unit in their palatial apartment in Recife.)
The tapioca was interesting. Nothing that involves melted, gooey Nutella can be inedible. And we loved watching the old lady who made our tapioca. …minus the smoke that got in our eyes. Yes, the tapioca is made on a skillet over a honest to goodness fire. Very authentic.
After filling our bellies with tapioca and giving our glutes a heavy workout, we headed back to the hotel. We took the long way, through a neighborhood and along the ocean.
We relaxed back at the pool for a few hours before settling in to watch Ghana/Germany in the hotel’s conference room. We met a pair of fellow midwesterners, painted our nails in patriotic colors and enjoyed what was one of the better games of the group round.
It was still early when that game wrapped up but we headed out to find dinner, anyway.
We headed over to Maison do Bomfim, which was a short walk from our hotel. Having seen it mentioned in one of our guidebooks, we expected it to be busy even though it was still a little early for (American) dinner.
We were one of the first groups of the night.
As was the case at nearly every restaurant we ate at in Brazil, that evening’s match (Nigeria/Bosnia & Herzegovina) was playing on a television. We enjoyed an incredible meal and — please don’t be shocked — a few caipirinhas.