The World Cup’s Host Cities Series arrives in Natal. Guest writer, Kassandra Lopes, is our guide to the city she loves.
If you come to Natal take a stroll across town. Discover what lays beyond the famous Ponta Negra beach or the luxury hotels of the Via Costeira (Coastal Highway). Natal is more than just the beach, despite also being it.
Climb your way up. Cross the Newton Navarro Bridge and savour the local delicacy: the “ginga with tapioca”, made right there on the Redinha beach. Browse the North of Natal and see the sun bid farewell to another day under the waters of the River Potengi.
Walk through the city’s historic streets of the Ribeira district. Sit in the audience of the Teatro Alberto Maranhão, visit Natal’s folklorist Luís da Câmara Cascudo’s house or check the view of the area from the top of the “Solar Bela Vista”. Make your way down the road and walk along Rua Chile, stage of the cultural revival of the capital.
Wait. It is not time to leave yet. If your trip falls on a day of a local football match, buy a pair of tickets. The budget and the football players of the local clubs does not compare to the national clubs. But there is a legion of passionate local football supporters that will make you take parts on the rivalry between the America Club and ABC Club, at least for the 90 minutes ahead.
If you bring home a souvenir, forget the classic shirt “Natal – I’ve been there” and buy a local craft – embroideries, laces, bottles with coloured sand. Experience the flavours of the tipycal fruits: cashew and “caja”. People born on the Rio Grande do Norte state where Natal is the capital, are called “potiguar” which in “Tupi” (the indigenous language) means “shrimp eater”. So do it like a local and try the shrimp either breaded or fried.
But “Natalenses” (people born in Natal) are also inseparable parts of Natal. You can always feel receptive during conversations on the bus. We often complain about something. And we often have a valid reason to complain. After waiting for the public transports, you will feel welcome to complain too.
Don’t fear the local dialect. Here we speak English too. We say “boy” and “boyzinha” instead of saying “you”.
Of course this is my Natal. The city that I cross all hurried up everyday for another appointment. I must confess I’m often careless. Actually, I’m almost always an unappreciated citizen that complains about the traffic and how provincial this city is.
But Natal is synonymous of “home”. After three months living in another city, the first I came to visit while boarding back to the “Noiva do Sol” (meaning Sun’s bride and Natal’s nickname), I remember when the stewardess said: “How lucky you are to live in that beautiful city”. To which I replied without thinking: “Yes. I’m very lucky.”
From that day I started to believe in one of the verses of the song “Linda Baby” (Pretty Baby): “This is Natal, everybody does well here. As people say almost without feeling. Pretty baby, pretty baby, keep coming back here.”