Continuing on from the vibrant Ver-o-peso Market, we land in Praca da Republica, home to the famous Teatro da Paz, a theater built during the rubber boom. Upon arrival, we see that the Praca has erupted into a rhythmic, colorful sensorial feast!
Throughout the month of June in Brazil, the entire country celebrates Festas Juninas, or June Festivals, a mixture of pagan and Catholic ceremonies commemorating several saints and the southern-hemisphere harvest time. At 11 AM in Praca da Republica, the whole city it seemed, was already taking part in several Festa Junina activities. A local drum and brass band were already triumphantly setting the beat for a group of brightly dressed dancers all wearing traditional straw hats with rainbow streamers trailing off the brims. Street vendors had set up numerous tents selling ice cold beers, freshly squeezed juices, grilled meats, fried pastries and more. The crowd stomped, twirled, and swayed and we were immediately brought into the jubilant fold of the festive Paranenses, Para state locals.
Working up an appetite dancing in the Praca, we head to lunch at Iacitata Restaurant, a restaurant run by our guide, Lorena, and her husband. The food served at Iacitata is 100% local and organic and the dishes highlight the most famous traditional delights from all over the state of Para. Set up on the second floor of Lorena’s home, a colonial building off of Praca Frei Caetano Brandao, we eagerly order numerous cold, fresh juices of Tapereba, Cupuacu, and Acai while we take in the views and welcomed breeze passing through the windows. Our meals arrive and we are served an epic spread of filhote and dorado fish, rice seasoned with jambu (a local herb that numbs your mouth), faraofa, shrimp and more. Desert is a chilled passion fruit custard.
Practically rolling ourselves out of Iacitata, we make a quick stop at the Our Lady of Nazareth cathedral, the entrance gate gayly covered in brightly colored prayer ribbons, and we continue on to the botanical gardens of Belem. Here, we weave our way between massive trees, tranquil ponds filled with 3-foot-wide lily pads and bromeliads wet with dew. The Amazonian skies start to darken as we finish our loop through the gardens and thunder can be heard in the distance.
The threatening storm, however, thankfully decides to retreat and we find ourselves greeted by a stunning, majestic, pink and orange sunset over the Guajara Bay as we eat dinner at As Docas. A hip refurbished industrial area of Belem, As Docas, or The Docks, sits on the waterfront of the city and has become the place for a wide variety of local gastronomic delights including Amazonian gourmet restaurants, The Amazon Beer Company (a local microbrewery that infuses Amazonian fruits into their brews), and the famous Cairu Ice Cream Shop that boasts over 50 flavors of mouthwatering gelato all with local flavors.
We end our day falling asleep excited about our adventure tomorrow to the island of Cotijuba!
Your friendly Brazil Expert,