Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fortaleza, the charming Capital of Ceará State!

Fortaleza is Brazil's fifth-largest city, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the northeast with or without the World Cup. The city will be one of the host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, it hosted the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Iracema Beach. It's the bohemian beach, with bars and nightclubs

Fortaleza has a typical tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet and dry climate, with high temperatures and high relative humidity throughout the year. However, these conditions are usually relieved by pleasant winds blowing from the ocean. Average temperatures are not much different throughout the year. December and January are the warmest months, with a high of 31 °C (88 °F) and low of 25 °C (77 °F). The rainy season spans from February to May (locally called "winter" due to the rain, not the temperature), with rainfall particularly prodigious in March and April. The average annual temperature is 27 °C (81 °F). Its relative humidity is 77%, with average annual rainfall of 1,378.3 millimeters (54.26 in).

Fortaleza means "fortress" in Portuguese. The city owes its name to a period in the 1600s when the Dutch established a fort there.

Most of the tourist attractions in Fortaleza revolve around its beaches: the Praia do Futuro(Future Beach) popular for its several barracas - simple kiosk-restaurants built on the sand that serve fresh, typical seafood - while Iracema is the place for bars and nightclubs. There is also more bucolic Mucuripe Beach, from where fishermen venture into the sea with their jangadas (handmade wooden boats). The coastal Beira Mar avenue is also the place for a traditional daily craftsmen's fair and for some of the top spots to dance the forró, a typical rhythm from the north-east of Brazil.
Praia do Futuro. Praia do Futuro was made famous by its barracas (rustic and sophisticated restaurants built on the beach sand)

Praia do Futuro

Iracema Statue. Iracema is the main character of a novel with the same name written by Brazilian writer José de Alencar. The novel tells the story of Iracema and Martim Soares Moreno; Moreno was one of the first Portuguese to come to explore Fortaleza, and Iracema would be his wife. Iracema became so associated with Fortaleza (hence the name of Iracema beach) that a few statues of her were built and are exhibited in the city. 

Mucuripe Beach is the place of jangadas (handmade wooden boats). Still used by fishermen to go into high seas, jangadas can be seen along the way during the afternoon and evenings, and returning from the sea in the morning; part of the catch of the day is sold in an old style fish market. Also, the boat trips leave from this area.

Fortaleza Cathedral. The third biggest church in Brazil

Inside of Cathedral

Cumbuco Beach

Handicraft Shopping in Fortaleza

There are handicraft shops all around the city, but the best places to go are the Feirinha da Beira-Mar (Beach Fair) and the Mercado Público (Public Market). These places have a large number of stalls (fair) and shops (market), and competition drives prices down. The hundreds of stalls where handicraft is sold are assembled and disassembled every day; the first stalls are opened at around 4 pm.

The area around the fair is one the busiest parts of Fortaleza, surrounded by several hotels and restaurants. It is safe and fun to walk from Meireles and Mucuripe to the fair; walking from Iracema is possible (about 1 km from the central Iracema area), but a bus may be more convenient.

Feirinha da Beira Mar. Photo flickr by Luiz Roberto Serrano

Feirinha da Beira Mar (Beach Fair).

bobbin lace
Pieces of Ceará handicraft

Public Market

Meireles Beach is where locals and tourists go to stroll, bring their children to the several play grounds, drink a coconut water, sit down and watch people passing by. The "feirinha de artesanato" (handicraft market) is in Meireles. Photo flickr by Persona Turismo
Ponte dos Ingleses. Inaugurated in 1923, the British Bridge stands as one of the main sights of the city, much appreciated by observers of the sunset.

Over the decades, Fortaleza has invested in infra-structure for tourism and in new features such as the Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura (Sea Dragon Art and Culture Center) and the Beach Park, Brazil's largest water park, with several cutting-edge speed-slides distributed along 35,000 square kilometers.

Central Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura

The Beach Park complex is ocean front and is located in Porto das Dunas, self-sufficient and only 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) from the city of Fortaleza. The Beach Park is the largest aquatic park of South America.

Beach Park. Photo flickr by Udo Matiello

Beach Park. Photo flickr by Udo Matiello

Beach Park
And there is a tradition in the city, every Thursday called Thursday's Crab. Especially on this day, the "king of the night" is crab cooked with parsley, onion and coconut milk. Restaurants and beach bars open at night to welcome tourists and fortalezenses, all accompanied with good music, cold beer, friends and fun.

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