As the door of the room swung open, there it was. The bed. The most enormous bed I've ever seen. Forget the Pelourinho, forget Salvador, forget Brazil even. I just wanted the bed. It was delicious. A great plain of white sheets. I didn't see my boyfriend all night.
To be fair, I was sold on the hotel just with the image of that bed. Yes there was a pool, and it was in the heart of the Pelourinho, and you could have breakfast at anytime. Anytime. Four in the afternoon if you so desired. But the bed. There was nowhere else to go. I don't have a bed fetish (well actually I sort of do, is anywhere finer?) but I had slept for 2 months on the worst mattress, it was as effective as putting a yoga mat on pallets. I'm sure it's limp foam still holds the imprint of my discomfort.
Casa do Amarelindo is a French owned boutique hotel, right in the Pelourinho of Salvador. The Pelourinho is the 'old district' of Salvador, now a World Heritage site. It goes for all your senses - the sounds of samba and bossa nova, the smell of fresh oranges and sandalwood, the coloured colonial houses, the cobbled streets and squares accommodating street peddlers and capoeiristas...it's a fascinating city. You can still breath the dark history of colonial Brazil and its murky past of slavery, but also feel the culture that was ignited as a result of the European and African fusion. The music, dance, religion and food of Salvador are all products of this meeting of cultures.
Casa do Amarelindo is a perfect boutique B&B. It is in keeping with the colonial style, but benefiting from the elegance of it's French owners. It has a fantastic restaurant, two terraces, a small pool (you will need this, even in winter Salvador is hot) and most rooms have a view over the bay. The bay of Salvador is more industrial than the word 'bay' evokes (don't go imagining the Mediterranean riviera) but the view is still impressive.
The rooms are all spacious, but not all have the immense bed, so request it when you book. The French owners are delightful, they've really sunk in to Salvador, embracing it, whilst bringing their European standards to the table. They have an instinct for what guests want - hence the all day breakfast offer, and the ability to enjoy your breakfast wherever you want in the hotel, even in the gym if that is your wish. Also they have double glazing - which you need in the Pelourinho, as the music doesn't stop. These touches really make it stand out. The staff are wonderful - genuinely kind, always happy to go that little bit further for you. Many of them were involved in the initial construction of the hotel, which clearly gives strength to their conscientious attitude.
Condor Airlines do good cheap rates to Salvador, via Germany, so get onto it. Within hours you could be by the pool, sipping caipirinha and listening to the rhythms of Gilberto Gil. Then you, or two of you, or even three of you, can sleep like octopuses.
Given that the words ‘cloud’, ‘recession’ and ‘rain’ are currently inescapable in London, the lure of a few days in Brazil’s “Land of Happiness”, Salvador, is hard to resist. Salvador, the first capital city of Brazil, is a hot melting pot of colonial European and African culture. Whilst the dark legacy of slavery hangs over Salvador, the fusion of these cultures bore such fruits as samba, capoeira, and the candomblé, making it as much a destination for the ears as for the eyes.
Salvador is one of the more breezy and unhurried cities in Brazil, the pace of northern Europe is unworkable here – the
heat, rhythm and exotic distractions make this a city in which to saunter. And sauntering is at it's best in the Pelourinho. As the historical centre of Salvador, the Pelourinho was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985, and Michael Jackson's visit in the 1990s (for the music video "They Don't Care About Us") certainly pumped up the tourist trade.
It's easy to see the draw of the Pelourinho - it goes for all of the senses: the sound of samba, the scent of fresh orange juice and sandalwood, the architectural sights and dance of the capoeiristas, the heat of the sun - even in winter - and the cobbled stones of the streets underfoot. Be not afraid of the many street peddlers, they’re not aggressive but quick to laugh, and have some very fine chatter if you can manage a bit of Portuguese.
Salvador has a reputation for it’s vibrant nightlife and is now one of the most popular carnival destinations. But if that’s to your liking there is no need to wait for February - every Tuesday night is party night or “benção”. The music in the Pelourinho is essential to it’s charm – it doesn’t blare out of the shops, but seems to drift through the streets with the breeze – and the songs of Salvador’s most famous musicians, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, combined with a caipirinha will ease you into Brazilian life.
Whilst the wider city has it’s business districts and murkier quarters like most of the major cities in Brazil, it does also
have it’s beaches. As Copacabana is to Rio, Porto da Barra is to Salvador. It’s close to the old town, so there’s no
respite from the movement of the city, but Salvador has many beaches to choose from, and some of the best in Brazil lie
just north of Salvador. But don't forego the Pelourinho for the beach, it's great place to get under the skin of Brazil.