Saturday, December 28, 2013

The chicken church, the ferry line and other charms - São Sebastião

Yesterday morning, my mom, one of my sons and I went "downtown." Downtown in this case is the center of São Sebastião (population 75,000) which is the oldest (and to me, the prettiest) town on the São Paulo coastline.

São Sebastião was named for the saint day of St. Sebastian-- the explorer Amerigo Vespucci passed by the port on this day. Resident here already were Tupinambá and Tupiniquin "indians."  From these languages, we get "Guaecá" and "Barequeçaba" and "Boiçucanga." Also known as how to weed out the gringos in pronunciation which is difficult to say the least.

In its time, São Sebastião was rich from agriculture--sugar cane and coffee--and it shows. The buildings, most recently renovated and restored in the last decade are beautiful old Portuguese houses. Now the town is newly rich from tourism and as the port city for Petrobras.

We strolled about the quiet streets (it was 8:30 in the morning), entering one enormous fabric store, and then the village cafe-bookstore. Then we went to the restored church called Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, aka the "chicken church". On its steeple top is a chicken. I once knew why but I don't anymore and I found wikipedia singularly unhelpful.

Ooops, cut off the chicken from the top of the steeple

94 year old Nonna used to attend service here on Christmas Eve and it is still referred to by the family as the chicken service.  

Hmmm, hard to see but I swear that is a chicken on top.
The renovation was paid for in large part by Petrobras, the major occupier of the port city. I can almost forgive the views of the tankers off the shoreline for this gesture to the city. Almost.

The day was fast heating up and we decided to return to quiet little Guaecá with its lack of commerce, cars and asphalt. On our way, we briefly got stuck in the line of cars waiting for the Ilhabela ferry--a wait that was topping 2 1/2 hours at 9 am.  Later in the day, the line was a mile and a half long and the wait 6 hours (I read this all from the safety of our beach house). 

Finally we got free, wound our way through 20 minutes of small beaches, native Atlantic forest, and back to Guaecá for one more day.

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