Here is part 2 of Hal’s article about Natal. To read part 1 click the relevant link at the end of the article.
Natal is a comfortable city; large enough to have most everything a person could want, small enough to navigate easily, with restaurants, hotels and particularly beaches, very handy. By taxi the airport is about 15 minutes and a number of beaches from five to fifteen minutes from downtown. North and south of Natal the coast is lined with beaches, one nicer than the next, within an hour’s drive.
There are a wide variety of hotels ranging from pousadas (small hotels) to very fancy resort” hotels on a section of the oceanfront (but watch the currents here, they can be tricky). Most beaches are very safe, usually well protected by reefs.
Restaurants vary from very upscale serving Brazilian or regional specialties and other cuisines include Swiss, Italian, Spanish and Japanese; in the middle range are less formal restaurants, some self-service like Mangai, my favorite, which gives you a wide selection of potiguar specialties and oozes atmosphere. For food at a good price there are hundreds of outdoor luncheonettes/bars with specialty and regular foods, plus pizza and hamburger joints – there are even two MacDonalds for the kids.
For the needy there are large shopping malls and a few boutique lined avenues where you and your money are always welcome. The selections are large, the prices competitive. Then there is Alecrin which is a thrift district; go with a brasileiro and watch you wallet.
The city has about 800,000 people. The majority earn a low-minimum wage, or less; a middle income group that is growing, slowly, and a small number of rich who, as is their wont, manage. While this overall pattern is similar to those in the US, Europe and elsewhere, there are proportionately more poor here and the middle income group is smaller. Whatever their background, the vast majority of Potiguares are friendly and welcoming.
Multi-storied condos dominate the Natal skyline, almost as if some giant scattered condo seeds on empty lots and they ripened and grew in the sun. Single family casas tolerate this intrusion. Condos Natal – Ocean in the background,
Large numbers of vacationers from Europe visit Natal. Many buy vacation condos; some retire here. Brazilian tourists come up from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, it is said to avoid crowds of foreign tourists. There are fewer Americans, largely because they tend to dead-end in Mexico or the Caribbean Islands. The latter are a lot closer to home, easier and cheaper to reach, and the resorts there cater to the American preference for Americans.
For a fact sheet in English go to: www.natal-brazil.com and then click on the “read more about Natal link.” To explore further: Google “Natal Brazil” and poke around in the first few sites given.
Previous articles by Hal:
Around Brazil: Natal Part 1
Brazil: A View from Rio Grande do Norte“