Porto Alegre is the first and only “big city” we visited in Rio Grande do Sul. Between the Germans up north and the border with Uruguay in the south, it was the perfect place to stop. We were also lucky enough for a family friend to put us up for a few nights!
After several weeks in small towns, up in the hills with trees on all sides, there was a bit of a shock landing in the centre of the chaotic traffic that Porto Alegre is known for. It’s the state capital, home to 1.4 million people, and has a reputation for being a bit dodgy at night time. Which you could say about any big city in Brazil, actually. Staying in those little country towns can be a lot easier, truth be told.
Our first confusion was over the mundane matter of “how to pay for a parking space”. Incredibly, the parking inspectors haven’t been around for the past 6 months, and most of the meters were out of action. We eventually got some change and paid for a few hours, to at least give the impression we were doing the right thing. Getting change was another struggle, we’ll leave that to the reader’s imagination.
We were received by Helena, a friend of Marina’s aunt, and her son Vincent. A luxury location on a glitzy street in the Moinhos de Vento (Windmills) neighbourhood. It’s an upmarket, trendy area of town. Lucky us! Even better, we shared the apartment with their pets, a labrador and a friendly cat.
Downtown Porto Alegre is centred around the municipal market, cathedral, and nearby parks. Of which we unfortunately took very few photos. But trust us, they’re lovely. The market is jam-packed with regional foods, tobacco ropes, and Gaúcho accessories for all your Gaúcho needs. Want to drink some maté? Saddle your horse? Buy a knife? A poncho? It’s all there.
We did take a little time to enjoy the sunset in Parque Farroupilha, named for the Riograndense rebels who once fought the Brazilian empire in a doomed war of independence. The adventuring Italian general Garibaldi found himself involved in that fight too.
Later, we had the “honour” of witnessing the Olympic Torch relay as it passed through the city on its way back to Rio for the Olympics. An inspiring sight, wrapped in Coca-Cola logos. Fortunately the small crowd we found were more interested in protesting the acting President, crying “Fora Temer” at every opportunity.
A short stop, after just two nights we had to head on, as the time was ticking down on my tourist visa. Or so we thought!
Next stop? The longest beach in the world.
- On-street parking: Free if you’re willing to take the risk that you may get towed away!
- Food at the municipal market: R$ 15,10 / €4 for two pies and coffees
- Drinks in Moinhos de Vento’s fancy hipster bars: R$ 7,50 / €2 for an exotic, imported longneck called “Heineken“
- Accommodation: Free with Helena, a friend of Marina’s family