SAO LUIS - Raposa & Alcantara

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March 18th 2010
Published: March 19th 2010
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Sao Luis has a colourful historic centre. Originally settled by the French, then occupied by the Dutch and Portugese, it has a mix of architecture. We stayed in a hotel housed in a colonial building, with great big rooms and a huge staircase. The historic area is being restored, with some good museums, colourful facades and cobbled streets - all of this alongside some derelict colonial buildings with trees growing from them. The contrast of restored and derelict is what makes it interesting though.

We spent an afternoon meandering around Sao Luis' streets, stopping a couple of times to get a drink or an icecream. It is hot, hot, hot here - we sweat so much during the day that we have to drink almost continuously to keep hydrated. Our first lunch in the town was at a kilo restaurant (this is where you pay for the weight of the food you eat - great concept). It gave us a taste for the flavours here - sort of Carribean meets Spanish food.

The next day we went to Raposa, a small town about 1.5 hours by public bus from Sao Luis. It is unique because the houses are all built on stilts over the mangroves. The houses and town were in truth not that interesting or attractive - the water was out and the mangroves were wallowing in litter and it didn't look very appealing. However, we did get to watch some of the women making heavy lace items. They were very skillful and we bought Amy a couple of pretty lace headbands.

The other attraction at Raposa is the sand dunes. We walked along the shore and amongst fishing boats until we found ourselves sinking into the sand a little too much (visions of us in quicksand flashed through my mind so we went back to the village). Also, it was sooooo hot out there walking on the sand that we had to come in.

Our final day in the Sao Luis area and we took an early ferry boat to Alcantara, over an hour from Sao Luis' harbour. Alacantra is absolutely charming - a complete, rural, colonial museum of a town. Some of the buildings had been restored and, like Sao Luis, some had been left as they were - derelict and brimming with character. There were some quaint churches to sit and cool off in. There are countless fruit trees in the town - coconut, mango and other fruits we haven't seen before.

We also found the perfect place for lunch - a restaurant overlooking to ocean. We sat and ate a local dish of fish and shrimp stew. It was pretty good too (as was the accompanying cold beer!).

To top off a special day in Alacantra we were lucky enough to see some Red Ibis wading in the shallow waters and then taking off. They are the most electric shade of red/pink/orange that they look unnatural. We didn't expect to see them as it is the wrong season for them, so we felt privileged.

The ferry trip back was hair-raising - the boat was accosted by a big swell and rocked from side to side. The fear inside me stopped me from worrying about sea-sickness. Amy of course wasn't phased and just took a nap for an hour, while I gripped my seat and held on for dear life. Andy will tell you I'm being melodramatic, but it was scary, honestly ....

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