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Brazil

Day 22: São Luís

Michael Palin - BrazilFizzy drinks are hugely popular in Brazil and Coca-Cola has sixty-six similar plants throughout the country. Their presence here in São Luís is a boost for a sluggish economy, but at the possible cost of one of the things that made the state so proud of itself. Guaraná Jesus will no longer exist by right; its future depends on the continuing addiction of the people of Maranhão to this curiously indescribable pink drink.

Despite Coca-Cola's confidence, it's clear the economic rebirth of São Luís still has a long way to go. Give or take a few smart European car showrooms, the arterial road is largely an industrial wasteland, and the roads themselves are a pretty rough ride.

Back at Calhau the families are coming off the beach and the night music is warming up. Brazil is not a quiet country. Volume is a badge of honour. But the beachfront is friendly and most of the restaurants serve good, fresh fish and very cold beers. And you'll never be alone. Hawkers move between the tables offering postcards, beads, jewellery and oysters from polystyrene containers, shucked at your table. A tall, skinny man, swinging a pail of hot coals on which he will grill cheese for you, barely breaks his step as he trawls his way through the outdoor tables. He passes by with grace and style, as if asserting his innate superiority to any potential clients. He's the man. He's doing you a favour. If you want him you have to catch him. This being infinitely accommodating Brazil, land of live and let live, no one either running the restaurants or eating at them would dream of complaining about itinerant oyster-shuckers or cheese-grillers. Unfortunately the same virtuous tolerance also applies to the very bad, volcanically amplified country singer murdering 'Every Breath You Take' at 3.30 in the morning.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 22: São Luís
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: São Luís
  • Book page no: 103

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  • Day 3 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 34 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 22 
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