12 March 2012

My idea of Paradise

The concept of Heaven or Paradise is different for all of us. If you are a religious soul, Heaven is mostly a place in your mind. An utopic dream of eternity and happiness. For others, for the more practical minded, Heaven is a place on Earth (thanks Belinda!). I belong to this second group. Not that I don't fancy the idea of life after death. It's quite appealing, actually. After a lifetime of work and (almost) no fun in the lower level of the atmosphere, who isn't teased by the idea of enjoying the eternity in a penthouse on the highest condo of the block?
Well, regardless of that post-mortem prize we all are supposed to get, I think we should make an effort to find it here. In our lifetime.
It can also be a place within us (probably it always is), like several oriental philosophies praise for centuries. But for the vast majority of us, Heaven is, normally, a physical place and a time.
Struggling with an attempt for a concrete definition (we humans are so analytical), I would say that, to me, Paradise is a place in this good old Earth where I would love to spend my last days. And although I'm in love for the mountains since my childhood and run to them in every free weekend, I couldn't consider the idea, as a senior citizen (if I last that long), to spend among the highest peaks my last years of life. No Sir. Too cold. And I guess by that time, we all, more or less, suffer a little bit from rheumatism. Too isolated, also. So that means no roads, no cinemas, no malls (well, that's hardly an inconvenience). But, above all, no people. And how many of us want to die alone? So the mountains have their role. Certainly. When we climb them we feel closer to something divine. Place us closer to that biblical idea of Heaven. And, for that matter, the actual mountain high is irrelevant. As long as we are above the clouds. Also, the light air makes us think smart things (or is it oxygen deprivation?).
However, after all this enlightenment, it's always good to return to the valleys, to the actual world of mankind where we belong.
Therefore mountains are far from being my idea of Heaven. To me, they are just therapeutic. It's a bit like Jesus’ forty days sojourn in the Judean desert. He went there because He needed answers. Not because it was a particularly interesting place to visit.
So, my paradise on Earth is at a quite lower altitude. Near sea level, to be precise. It has to have tepid and peaceful salt waters, a coral reef at the distance, nice people, pure white sands and coconut trees leaning over our heads. Sharks are dispensable.
I can honestly feel that I've found this place one year ago. More than a place, it's a region: all the coastal area of the Pernambuco state, from the city of Recife to the border of Alagoas. Along a stripe of a few hundred kilometres, we can see some of the most wonderful beaches of Brasil. But, to me, Tamandaré beats them all. Distant about one hundred kilometres from the state capital, Tamandaré is a peaceful small town of 20.000 persons that, for the time being, manages to be free from the massified tourism that invaded the nearby Porto de Galinhas. This calm fishing village is, for the time being, my idea of paradise.
Not so well known to the foreign tourists, Tamandaré is for decades one of the most important resorts in Brasil for it's internal tourism. The proximity of Porto de Galinhas, with it's massive international touristic offer, allowed this gem to pass the years almost untouched. Nevertheless, expensive holiday mansions located by the seaside, belonging either to wealthier Brazilian or foreign citizens, are becoming common. How can we blame them? 
The seaside avenue of Tamandaré. Here you will find plenty of snack-bars (the "quiosques) by the beach where you can eat some nice Brazilian meals, while listening some live folk music. Strangely, the place, although touristic, is never too crowded.You will always find tourists walking around, even in the low season when they are in shorter numbers. However, You will always have the sense that this friendly town is only for you.
The Tamandaré fortress (Forte de Santo Inácio de Tamandaré) is a Vauban-style fortress rebuilt in the XIX century over the previous Portuguese fortress from the XVII century. The monument, with elegant architecture, is a mandatory visit in the village. Sadly it's interior is in a state of ruin. The Tamandaré lighthouse, seen in the picture, is erected within the fortress perimeter.
No enemies to face anymore.
The guns at Tamandaré fortress face the sea and the ancient stories of the Portuguese-Dutch wars.
Regardless of becoming a touristic place, Tamandaré remains a fishing village. Aside from the normal power boats, this small industry still relies on the typical Pernambuco raft for its purposes. Steered with an oar, they also have a movable fin keel secured in either port or starboard. The propulsion is normally achieved with a Latin sail and also, sometimes, with a small outboard engine.
Evening light in Tamandaré beach.
In the Winter season, with the whole beach for himself, a biker faces the evening sun in Tamandaré beach.
The Pousada Beira-Mar, in Tamandaré.
The Pousada Beira-Mar is one of the many friendly and family-owned hostels that already exists in Tamandaré. Dedicated to a more easy-going and peace-driven kind of tourism (if you want a five star resort, you can go to the nearby Porto de Galinhas), these small hostels have, nevertheless, excellent conditions, sometimes even with wireless Internet. So, if you hate to hear noise, dealing with drunken guests and enjoy the idea of sharing "your" home away from home with a maximum of fifteen people, then you came to the right place.
It seems that in Brazil Carnival never really ends. Carnival confetti hanging in a restaurant of Tamandaré.

Coconuts in the Tamandaré street market.
The fabulous Praia dos Carneiros, 7 kilometres North of Tamandaré. Believe me, the five mile walk, along the coast, between Tamandaré and Carneiros is, probably, one of the best beach walks that you can make in this God's Earth. Just take a bottle of fresh water, a hat, a t-shirt and a pair of "Havaianas" with you.