The Editor may be safely back in Europe, but his summer adventures in Brazil continue right here on UTB. After partying hard for eight days during Carnaval, is it finally time for him to experience some culture?

After lying in bed for 24 hours after Carnaval there was only one day left in Recife before my flight back to Rio. I had a dilemma. Either lay in bed for another 24 hours, or get off my ass and explore the city. On the one hand it was about time I finally emailed by mum to say I hadn’t been kidnapped by World Cup protesters, plus my Fantasy Football Team needed picking and since arriving in Brazil I had been so swept off my feet that I’d barely had time to gloat to all my friends back home on Facebook – all things that could be done comfortably reclining on Pedro’s spare bed. On the other hand I don’t find myself in Recife too often.

Common sense prevailed and I took the bus to Boa Viagem, the beach district of Recife. It was a gorgeous day, at least by British standards – one half of the sky was overcast, the other a bright Cobalt blue straight out of my 11th birthday watercolour set (I was quite the artist, back in the day), and the sun was doing a decent job of beating the cloud cover – and this no doubt lent a holiday brochure air to the scene before me. I was gobsmacked that here, in one of the most concretey jungles I’ve ever been to, was a sizeable slice of paradise. Stepping straight off the dual carriageway and I found myself on a vast and untamed stretch of coast, blessed with silk-soft fine sand and turquoise waters lapping lazily over seaweed covered rocks, with the aforementioned sky paintbrushed in smooth wide strokes above it. The trunks of two palm trees formed the gateposts to this nirvana, and their verdant fronds, waving in the wind, greeted me and beckon me enter. Amazingly I was pretty much the only one there. I can only surmise that after the sins of Carnaval not many of Recife’s residents would be admitted into such a Garden of Eden.

Gateway to paradise
Recife’s beaches boast an untamed Northern beauty, quite different to Rio’s Ipanema and Copacabana

After enjoying the solitude of this majestic beach in the shade of one of the palm trees, surrounded by coconut husks, I walked towards what I will dub “The skyscraper end”, where I finally found the odd enclave of sunbathers. Not many dared to go in the waters however, and it quickly became evident why when I found this sign:


Yes sharks are a very real and present danger in Recife, and in fact there had been several attacks that summer. So be warned people, stay out of the water!

A romantic bike ride, safe from sharks
Boa viagem
Heading towards the Benidorm end of the beach

Conscious of time I reluctantly left the wild beauty of Brazil’s northern coastline (wondering what it must look like outside of the city!) and hailed a taxi for Oficina Ceramica Francisco Brennand on the other side of the city. The first thing to know about the OFBC is that it’s not to be confused, as my taxi driver did, with the more popular Instituto Ricardo Brennand. The latter is a fake castle, erected in impressive grounds, filled with historic artwork and artefacts, and the number one attraction in Recife (according to Tripadvisor); the former is an obscure ceramics factory and museum, hidden deep in a forest on the outskirts of the city, which showcases the works of the eponymous local-born artist… and a much more natural destination for a pseudo-hipster like me. And so it was, in my second taxi, and with just 40 minutes to spare before closing time I did finally arrive at the Oficina.

Oficina Francisco Brennand: a madcap museum of sculpture, art and ceramics
The sinister and the sexual rub shoulders in Brennand’s emporium of art
Some ancient influences shining through
A homage to Janus, the famous Roman double-headed God?

Whilst museums dedicated to a singular artist are always in danger of being a little indulgent (especially when you have to hitch two cabs into the middle of nowhere to get there), I took an instant liking to the works of Brennand and the skansen-esque complex in which they were displayed, part ceramics factory part open-air museum. At first with their organic shapes, I was reminded of the works of Antoni Gaudi, a visionary who I hold in high regard from my Barcelona days, but whereas the Catalan’s creations have a high minded purity guided by his devotion to God, Brennand incorporates a crude and primal sexuality into his works that reminded me of the late H. R. Giger (the man who famously designed the alien in the Aliens franchise), especially when I saw what looked like lizard heads hatching from eggs. Other sculptures drew on Greek mythology, such a bust entitled Mercury, or a curious interpretation of the legendary Trojan Horse, facing towards a rather menacing “Templo do Sacrificio”; whilst ruder and cruder forms reminded me of millennia old art I’d seen in La Louvre not so long ago… statuettes of chubby fertility Goddesses or reliefs of geometrically sketched animals. Whilst I was left wondering what was behind the ticket office of the Instituto Ricardo Brennand (the one that I got so close to accidentally visiting), I’m glad I made it to this eccentric outlier of a tourist attraction, certainly one of a kind… and that’s what Urban Travel Blogging is all (or at least mostly) about at the end of the day. Trying to find the unique and the interesting in any destination.

This section of the “office” looks like a twisted mausoleum
Sometimes even the best artists have to play to the crowd…
…and here’s what the artist actually does for a living.

And so my adventures in the North of Brazil came to a highly satisfactory end. Recife was a city that began by shocking me with its horrendous traffic, potholed pavements and hideous skyscraperyness, but then managed to charm me with its surprisingly fancy (and cheap) restaurants, tattered pockets of architectural splendour, stunning beaches and surprise treasures. If Recife was a person, it would be that weird bloke back at University who always wore corduroy trousers and who you avoided for about two terms before he finally cornered you in the Guild bar… at which point you realised he was an enlightened, entertaining and all-round awesome fellow. So there you go… if you ever get the chance then go check out Recife. If not at least invite that weird bloke from IT out for a drink.

If these pointless musings haven’t put you off following more of my adventures, keep up with me, the Urban Travel Blog editor, in the next episode of On The Road as I head back to Rio and start to explore the South of Brazil, starting with Ilha Grande…. simply subscribe, follow, or Facebook fan us. (Social links in the top right corner!).

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