Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sunset In Santos

One of the real advantages to retirement is that I am able to travel whenever I want to instead of just during the summer, Christmas and Spring Break. My wife is still working and part of her job with Halifax Regional School Board is to travel to distant countries to promote Nova Scotia as an educational destination for international students. In September, she was asked to travel to Brazil, and would be visiting cities all over the country, but was to spend five days in Sao Paulo. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. She had her own Hotel room, and there was no extra cost for another person, so I booked a cheap flight to Sao Paulo to see what I could in five days.

Most of my time was spent exploring Sao Paulo, which is an amazing city, but I did get a chance to follow her off on a short side rip to Santos, a city about 80 km outside Sao Paulo. She was in meetings all day and evening, so I had lots of time to explore this interesting city. Santos is actually an island, that has become permanently attached to the mainland. One side of island is a huge container port – I am told the biggest in Brazil, and there was a steady stream of container ships coming in and out of the port, but the other side of the island is a beautiful resort and retirement area with a beautiful beach and over four kilometres of hotels and apartments.

Although I did manage to tag along on a short tour of the rest of the city, the majority of my time was spent wandering the beach, and the areas around the beach. I arrived at about 10:00 am, and had to entertain myself until about 9:00 p.m., so I got to see a lot of this area. There are four kilometres of beach, and the beach is wide and flat. This was the biggest beach I have ever walked on. The distance from the water to the roads was so wide that a group of local youth, set up a full sized soccer game in the middle of the beach, and walking above or below them didn't even bring you close to the game. The beach is an excellent place to walk, and the and is hard and flat, so you are able to walk comfortably all over the beach. In addition, there were bright floodlights spaced along the length of the beach, illuminating the evening soccer game and making it an attractive walk evening after dark.

Although the temperature was around 28 C when I was there, it was winter in Brazil, so the beach was not crowded. The people I shared the beach with were mostly locals I'd say, and primarily walking, running or exercising. There were very few sunbathers are swimmers, even it the hottest part of the afternoon. This was still Brazil however, and the beachwear was definitely the speedo or bikini. Now remember, Santos is a retirement destination, so I was surprised to find that it mattered not the size, shape or age of the individuals, the style remained bikini or speedo.

Santos is built around a series of seven canals that run completely across the island. The majority of the city
is built on muddy sandy land, and the many of the older buildings were not built with the best foundations, and many have developed substantial tilts over the years. The canals now attempt to drain the land making it much more stable and the modern buildings are much more stable. It was interesting to look back at these tall apartment building leaning into each other. I'm not sure I'd want to be living in one of the older buildings.

Between the beach and the street, Santos maintains a beautiful park-like walking and biking area. Ther
e is a nice sidewalk along the street, but there is also a meandering network of walkways gardens and kiosks between the beach and the street. These walkways were well maintained and extremely clean. I even watched maintenance people dusting off the palm trees. There were gardens, fountains and monuments spaced along this area, with lots of benches and seats. There were people walking and running all day and evening along the beach and the walkways. There was also a bike path most of the way along the beach. This was a serious hazard. Although the walkways crossed the bike path in many places, and signs warned bike riders to yield to pedestrians, they were universally ignored, and you had to be almost as careful crossing the bike path as you did crossing the road. The bike riders refused to even slow down for you.

The highlight of my visit to Santos came as I returned to the beach following a meal at one of Brazil's wonderful Barbecue restaurants. As I wandered the beach for the third time, the sun started going down over the hills at one end of the beach. My digital camera came out and I took close to twenty shots of the sun setting. By then most people had left the beach, and although I was warned to be careful walking after dark, the wonderful sunset was worth it. By then, having spent close to 12 hours walking around Santos, I was tired, so I bought a couple of the delicious Brazilian oranges, and a can of mystery soda (I have no idea what it was made of, but it was cold and refreshing), and spent my final hour in Santos relaxing on a bench watching the sky darken and the people walking and running by.