The Baiana comes home!

Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
Trip End Dec 14, 2008

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Bahia,
Monday, October 27, 2008

Ever since my mum and dad left here with me when I was a wee 18 month old baby to return to England, I have dreamed of returning to my birthplace of Salvador de Bahia, and here I was at last, unable to contain my excitement, and just about restraining myself from kissing the ground when I got off the plane!

To make it all the more exciting, mum and dad had taken a 2-week holiday to fly over to Brazil to meet us in Salvador, to search for and show me all the significant places in my first 18 months of life!

The Lonely Planet says the following about Salvador: 'If you're going to be pickpocketed or mugged in Brazil, Salvador is likely to be the place!'  Excellent!  Luckily it also says: 'Salvador is one of Brazil's brightest gems'.
None of us really knew what to expect, as the Lonely Planet tends to err on the pessimistic side, but it certainly wasn't going to be the free and easy place my mum and dad remembered from the Seventies.

We stayed in Barra, a swanky area by the sea, in an apartment with sea view and air con - a definite advantage of staying with my parents meaning we didn't have to slum it with the other backpackers!  It also had what was termed an 'American' kitchen, which apparently is so-called because of the perception that Americans never cook, but only eat out or takeaways.  So we had a fridge and cooker but no pans or cutlery!

Our first day was spent strolling around the neighbourhood that my mum and dad used to live in, finding their old apartments, the local supermarket they used to shop in, the square where they spent Carnaval in their wild young days (before I came along and put paid to all the partying!), the market where my mum went into labour with me, and on the taxi ride back to our hotel, the hospital where I was born!! 

Our second day, (to Nige's relief- i think he'd had enough of the Barker reminiscing!), was spent checking out the real tourist sights in the Centro Historico, which is a gorgeous place of cobbled streets with people doing Capoeira, a Bahian martial art/dance, colourful buildings, impressive churches, and little side streets full of tables for drinking a quiet beer in the shade, which we did!  Happily we didn't get hassled by small children begging or trying to steal our money, and it was all much more relaxing and pretty than I expected.

Mum and Dad are still in touch with some of their friends from their time in Salvador, so we spent the weekend hanging out at their friends' beach houses, favourite restaurants, favourite beaches etc, and generally eating and drinking well, and trying to make head or tail of the Portuguese conversation going on around us.  We were made wonderfully welcome, and it was great to spend some time at peoples' homes after being a tourist/backpacker for so long!

 Each evening we have sampled a different restaurant in the Barra area, and had some fantastic nights eating local cuisine by the sea or at a pavement cafe - especially gorgeous is Moqueca de Camarao (shrimp stew with dende oil and coconut milk),  drinking beer (of which the Brazilians seem to consume huge amounts at all times of day or night - well, we are on holiday after all so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!), and sampling different flavours of Caipirinhas (mango being a favourite alternative to the traditional lime variety) whilst being entertained by a crazy car-park girl with a whistle, and nearly being run over by buses as our pavement cafe had spread halfway across the road!

Things I have learnt in Salvador:
1. A Baiana is officially a girl born in Bahia (i.e. me!), but according to general wisdom is a generously-proportioned lady from Salvador of African origin wearing traditional white lacy clothes with a white scarf on her head - hence why I have been told several times that I don't look like a Baiana!!

2. Samba de Mesa (literally, Table Samba) does not involve dancing Samba on a table (which would be pretty precarious considering the amount of hip-jiggling Samba involves), but is a slower type of Samba that can be enjoyed whilst sitting at a table drinking, rather than feeling the need to get up and dance!
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