February 14, 2015
I knew three things about Santos, Brazil, they have a beach, Santos FC was the home club of Pele, arguably the greatest football player, and they “got a lot of coffee.” I know the last because Frank Sinatra, in a 1946 recording that he covered again and again sang;
“No tea, or tomato juice, you’ll see no potato juice
Cause the Planters down in Santos all say no no no.
The politician’s daughter was accused of drinking water
And was fined a great big 50 dollar bill
They’ve got a lot of coffee in Brazil”
So I know this and that’s why I wanted to go to the Coffee Museum, the beach and the football museum.
The Coffee Museum is in the old coffee exchange building erected in 1922. It’s an ornate palace, more a cathedral than a commodities trading floor. It has stained glass, wooden benches and an inlayed marble floor. In other parts of the building the woodwork, including the floors on the balcony, is lustrous. Coffee commodities trading moved to Sao Paulo in the 1950s and this building became surplus. The displays talk about the history of coffee in Brazil. There is an educational program and a “Coffee Preparation Center” which gives you tips on making the perfect cuppa. I think the verdict is “go to Italy” because in the café the machine says “Italian Coffee.” The barista assured me that the machine was Italian but the coffee Brazilian. The guide lamented that while Brazil produced about a quarter of the world’s coffee it has been passed in volume by Viet Nam and in quality by Kenya and Columbia. Santos, which was the leading coffee port and is the busiest port in South America, is now more a soy bean port than a coffee port. In the museum the memory, and the flavors, linger on.
Football is big in Brazil and huge in Santos. Pele tried out with several clubs and washed out before he made it in Santos. Santos had two football museums, the Pele Museum and the Football museum. We went to the latter. It was in the stadium where Pele played and where the Santos club still holds forth in a rather small venue, only a capacity of about 20,000. The museum is mostly full of what English sportscasters call “silverware” although in Brazil it’s mostly gold in hue. There are alos jerseys and pennants. There are videos of great plays by Pele, who scored an amazing 1,091 goals in his career, which included three World Cups and ended with the New York Cosmos.
And then there’s the beach. It’s the Saturday of Carnival weekend and while Santos has just under half a million people it’s estimated that a million and a half people will crowd Santos’ beaches. It is not only the port but the beach town for Sao Paulo. Santos is in the Guinness Book for having the longest corniche (seaside walk at 5335 meters) in the world. Normally stops in Santos mean tours to Sao Paulo but Holland America didn’t offer any and recommended we not try it on our own because the traffic congestion made it very likely we could miss the boat. Initially I had thought of some beach time but looking at the beach, we skipped the pleasure of Sao Paulo’s company and went to the aquarium and took an historic tram tour (see the next post) instead.