Last updated: 06:47 AM ET, Sat March 21 2015

Dispatch: First Full Day in Salvador

Tour Operator | Avanti Destinations | David Cogswell | March 20, 2015

Dispatch: First Full Day in Salvador

As much as I loved the bed in my room at the Sheraton da Bahia, it was almost impossible to put that first day, that first amazing encounter with Salvador, to rest. Even with the fatigue that comes inevitably with flying all night and morning, even with a full-day schedule to look forward to the next day I had no inclination to go to sleep.

Finally Salvador, the great Brazilian state of Bahia that had only lived before in my imagination, was pulsating all around me in living, breathing, full-dimensional reality. How could I close my eyes?

I had had my first taste, and although even your first moments in a new place will increase your understanding of it a thousandfold, I knew I had only barely begun to get it. I was like a termite taking his first bite of a big house.

Of course a great city is beyond the comprehension of any individual person. Salvador is millions of individual persons, generations upon generations of them stretching back centuries. A great city is dimensions upon dimensions. Every window in every apartment building looks in upon a whole world. The city is the conglomerate of all of them.

That’s what I find so annoying about travelers checking places off their lists when they believe they have “been there done that.” When you have been to a great city like Salvador once you have only begun to absorb it. You are an initiate. You have finished the beginning of the beginning.

Today was my first full day in Salvador, my first day waking up after sleeping in Salvador, and I it is a full day. It will be, in fact, the fullest day of scheduled activity of the week. But this is what I love about the way Avanti Destinations, the tour operator for the trip, conceives of independent travel.

The scheduling is minimal. Actually it can be as minimal or maximal as you want. You are the designer. But the basic template of an Avanti package is the essentials: transportation and accommodation, that is air, hotel and airport transfers, and a few more things.

In its more or less standard recommended offerings, Avanti will add a couple of things to help orient you to the city so you aren’t wandering around confused, lost or vulnerable to those in any city who will take advantage of a person who is obviously lost. In a more positive sense, Avanti will equip you to make the best use of your precious time in the place you have chosen as the destination dream to make come true.  

Day one was a day of arrival and free time, which I divided between unpacking, settling in, eating, resting and a nice little first walk around the neighborhood. I made use of the hotel’s front desk and concierge services to get a map and scope out the neighborhood to find out which areas are safe and fun to walk around in at what hours. It was a good first bite. And absolutely essential to complete the day of arrival.

Once the long chain of transportation links was ended and I was safely ensconced at the hotel I could do anything I wanted. It was comforting to know that I could, if I wished, do nothing but throw myself on the bed and be dead to the world all night. Just knowing I could do that made the weariness of travel irrelevant and freed up the energy to do what I wanted to do.  

By the way, my attention to security concerns may make the environment I am describing sound scary. But those basic security concerns are just the kinds of things one must do in every city. And by doing them, no city is particularly scary, excluding obvious examples like Baghdad on March 18, 2003.

That was Day one. On day two after I awoke and did morning things, I took advantage of the hotel’s breakfast-included deal, and then at 9 a.m. met my guide for the day, Alfredo, the Avanti representative assigned to look after me.

Alfredo, assisted by his driver Jefferson, took me on a great tour around the city, showing me the principle areas I would probably want to explore and where they are in relation to the hotel. It was a private tour, just us. There was no crowd of people keep together. We didn't particularly stand out because most of the time it was just Alfredo and I walking around.

He showed me the two best beaches for me, both accessible by walking. But if a half-hour walk doesn't fit into your plans, a taxi would get you there fast, safely and for only a few bucks. Buying power here right now is just fine. About three Brazilian Real per U.S. dollar.

We mostly concentrated on the Old City and – wow! There is no end of things to say about the Old City, starting with the fact that it’s probably the single coolest place to spend time when you’re in Salvador. Few people would fly from the U.S. to Salvador just to go to the beach, But if you're here ... It’s sure nice to be able to intersperse beach time with whatever else you are doing in Salvador, such as exploring the Old City, eating in one of its sidewalk cafes and watching passersby, shopping among the shops and vendors for innumerable kinds of crafts and goods that are unique to the place.  

And yes, there is that beach, ever beckoning. The beach in Brazil. Just think of it.

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