João Pessoa

João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraíba in northeastern Brazil, is just what the doctor prescribed: a lovely, laidback city with plenty of sunshine and beautiful, clean beaches. The town also boasts the largest urban Mata Atlântica preserve in the country and the easternmost point in the Americas. When we arrived, our friends suggested that we might want to partake of a ritual at Jacaré Beach: watching the sun go down in a festival of colors to the sounds of Ravel's Bolero, no less. We're not exactly huge fans of his music, so we skipped that in favor of a tour of the splendid crafts market (look at the lace dresses below) and a tapioca filled with doce de leite.

 

That was followed by a book-signing event. The book was about the huge St. John's Festival in the nearby town of Campina Grande and the author, professor Severino de Lucena Filho, had brought along a group of young rabeca players and a troupe of dancers in festa junina costumes. What a treat! He was also kind enough to invite us to eat some of the festival's typical foods: our favorite canjiquinha or curau, plus some corn cake, pamonha, etc. (We found out that the June festivities coincide with the local corn harvest.)

Next morning we took a stroll around the historic section of town to visit the Nossa Senhora do Carmo Church (1592), the Santo Antônio Convent and the São Francisco Church (1770), and the gorgeous Santa Roza Theater (1889). Unfortunately, there was some sort of temporary structure in front of it, so no photos there! Walking downhill, we passed the Casa da Pólvora (the white building) and this horse, who was happily munching away and not at all phased by the camera's beeping and clicking noises.

 

Take note: João Pessoa is a very musical city, home to the Orquestra Sinfônica da Paraíba, the renowned Quinteto da Paraíba, Quinteto Uirapuru, Brazilian Trombone Ensemble, and—this one won our hearts!—the whimsically-named Orquestra Metalúrgica Filipéia (in honor of the city's first name, we suspect), featured on Sivuca's last DVD.

Last, but not least, the state of Paraíba is home to the National Cotton Center and a colorful variety of cotton (ecru, brown, green, red) that is used today to make home accessories, dolls, and gorgeous clothing without the need of dyes. Check out the dresses (one of which came home with us), skirts, and tops above.

And whether you're going to João Pessoa for the earliest sunset in Brazil (at Cabo Branco) or the sunset at Jacaré Beach, the music or the laidback atmosphere, check out our friends at Férias Brasil (in Portuguese).

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