Brazil is 35 times larger than the United Kingdom – but how little we know that. We usually talk only about Rio de Janeiro (carnival, Copacabana beach, caipirinhas) or football (Pelé and his maestros in yellow shirts).
So there's a spring in my stride when I go to Salvador, capital of the northeast state of Bahia, and thousands of miles from its nearest neighbor.
It is the third largest city in Brazil and was the first capital of the country, founded by the Portuguese in 1549. Its colorful and old cobblestone neighborhood, Pelourinho – a UNESCO world heritage site high on the marina – provides a beautiful backdrop to the city. almost constant carnivals, ceremonies and festivals.
Salvador's colorful old cobblestone neighborhood, Pelourinho, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that sits high above the marina.
It's an hour and a half north at the Tivoli Ecoresort, Praia do Forte. Its vast grassy acres of rainforest are lush; buildings need to fit in with nature and the way tree branches grow, rather than nature with them. The lawns roll gently to the private 11-kilometer stretch of beach. It is predominantly filled with Brazilian guests; The only Englishman I hear is from an Australian mother on vacation with her daughter and Brazilian husband.
Perhaps the lack of British accents is because there are no direct flights, but this allows a chance to stay overnight in Lisbon. From our base at the Tivoli hotel, on the beautiful tree-lined Avenida da Liberdade, it's easy to avoid the most touristy parts of Lisbon (tip: any restaurant with staff outside calling you) and instead stroll the cobbled streets passing by paintings in pastel buildings.
Navigate the Bertrand Bookstore, founded in 1732 and officially the oldest bookstore in the world, and line up with the residents of the Alcôa Pastry Shop for a Pastéis de Nata (nothing like the school canteen's cream pies) before reaching the vast Praça do Commerce Square, full of life and by the Tagus River.
The most pleasant thing is that we pass a square where a resident opposes the music of the cafes and is playing salsa intermittently through the speakers on the first floor balcony. Locals: Don't you love them?
Then to Salvador, where, in our Brazilian refuge, he would not need to hold such a protest; Noises are drowned out by acres of tropical gardens that stretch to private sands, while rooms are spacious and secluded.
The highlight is undoubtedly the location. Think of the Atlantic and you can imagine dark, stormy waves, but this stretch is hot enough to get right in (and this is from someone who usually takes 40 minutes to turn into something colder than a warm bath). Bathrooms can benefit from a spruce, but with an Anantara spa and beachfront water loungers, you're barely in your room.
A turtle in Projeto Tamar, in the city of Praia do Forte. It was established in 1980 as one of the first centers to protect five species of endangered marine reptiles.
The seven pools have a pleasant lack of lifeguards, health and safety warnings, or locked gates in the early evening.
It is highly recommended to swim alone in the infinity pool with the hypnotic sound of the crashing sea as the twilight becomes dark.
Just like canoeing in the lagoons, not just for a chance to watch birds and float, but also to chat with the fun guides. A few years ago we arrived from Sao Paulo, fed up with city life and never stepping on a canoe or paddle board – a happy contented salesman.
Praia do Forte is a relatively small town, a cluster of beachfront shops that has spread beyond the main street.
Less than a mile from our hotel, it's a little pedestrian delight. The main street is made up of cafes and shops that lead to a small beach, a small church and the Tamar Project (Tamar is an abbreviated version of the Portuguese word for sea turtle, sea turtle), created in 1980 as one of the first. centers to protect five species of endangered marine reptiles.
Giant hides from another world lay their eggs and bury them on the beach. The center rescues those in danger, then hatches and releases them back to sea. The black babies in their pools look like rope bath toys.
Garcia d´Avila Fort was built in 1552 on land provided by the king of Portugal
A turtle hatchling's sex is determined by the heat of the sand in the hatchery – the warmer the more females are produced – which means that in these stifling temperatures, it's great to be a male.
And while they now compete with bathers over their own version of a sandy maternity, females return to the same place they were incubated to lay their own eggs.
A few kilometers inland is the Garcia d´Avila Fort, built in 1552 on land provided by the king of Portugal. Garcia d 'Avila was the son of Brazil's first governor-general, Tomé de Sousa, and built this fortress with church, watchtower and castle to watch enemies coming to the sea.
The curved terracotta tiles were shaped by being rolled up over the builder's thighs. Or so we were told.
It's now a ruin, but even a real estate agent would look for the thesaurus to do justice to the spectacular location – seen through a dense tapestry of rainforest to the Atlantic.
Exploring this area is a great introduction to a place that Brazilians – spoiled for choice by beautiful beaches – select for their own vacation.
Kate Johnson traveled with the Tivoli Hotels (tivolihotels.com), which doubles on Avenida Liberdade, Lisbon, from £ 189 B & B and Ecoresort Praia do Forte, Brazil, from £ 277 on half board. Touch Air (flytap.com) London to Salvador via Lisboa from £ 547 return.
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