Okay Brazil, you win.
We arrived in Brazil with little to no expectations — other than we would probably be robbed several times — and we left three weeks later, dare I say, more than a little smitten.
Five days in São Paulo cinched the deal.
Dear Brazil, if you were a Spanish-speaking country, we’d likely be at that stage in our blossoming relationship with you where we discuss with you where we should live.
Our friends Kevin and Vance generously offered us their guest room and planned many award-winning activities for two São Paulo first timers. Our friends at home often marvel at how we end up with a variety of friends around the world. I suspect it’s because the more we travel, the more people we meet, the more international friends we make. It’s kinda that simple.
In São Paulo, we saw some pretty great neighbourhoods, and a few that we’d only whiz through behind tinted car windows. Never have I been in a city that has areas that remind me of so many other cities – especially some of the bigger ones in North America. At times things felt new and different, and other times we felt a sense of familiarity.
We arrived on a Friday and spent the day wandering around the Jardins area, while our friends were at work. We set out to see some of the main shopping streets including Oscar Freier. Much of that area reminded me of streets found around W4 Street in Vancouver and certain streets in San Francisco.
That night our friends took us to the Terraço Itália building, for cocktails on the 42nd floor rooftop lounge with panoramic view of the city of 19+ million people.Saturday started with an early trip to the largest produce market I’ve seen. We enjoyed pastels (deep fried goodness) and drinks made with a variety of freshly pressed fruit juices, ginger and sugarcane. Simple. Sweet. Delicious. To work off those sins we zipped over to Ibirapuera Park for a 9K run. If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn I was running with the throngs of others in NYC’s Central Park. Trees. Lakes. Pathways. People.
Later in the afternoon our gracious hosts brought us to a regular Saturday street festival near their place. We walked through an area filled with enormous homes and more than a few consulates. There is some stellar architecture in São Paulo, be it homes, office towers or museums. Our necks are only now just recovering from looking every which way at the buildings.
At the street festival, we met a few new people (including more Canadians). There is an antique market that runs along one side of the street. The other side is filled with crowds of people spilling out from a local bar. Yes – drinking on the sidewalk and enjoying the weather. There was a great vibe in that area.
From there we dashed to a Columbian restaurant for some food and then back to home base for an early evening siesta. You see, it was going to be a late night. Our last stop of the day (or should I say first stop for Sunday morning) was a bar-dance club-drag show extravaganza.
The drinking and dancing was the same as Canada. The drag show on the other hand was packed with energy. The show started at 2 a.m. and it gave the crowd a second wind. These ‘ladies’ weren’t just lipsyching to ballads, they were whipping the crowd into a frenzy. I wish I would have brought my camera to record some video because photos don’t do these performances any justice.
Sunday was recovery day although there was a visit to the gym, but that’s just a blur. We enjoyed a brunch at friends of our friends, where I proceeded to nod off into my plate of food like any good guest would do. Desculpe, but those drag queens stole my mojo.
Monday and Tuesday were fairly action packed during the day as we Uber’d our way around São Paulo while our friends worked. One of the places we visited was Vila Madalena where there is a side street with some of the most extraordinary street art.
We went downtown to check out some of the fantastic architecture and the grittier side of the city.
I don’t doubt there is truth in the hype about rampant crime in São Paulo. That just wasn’t our experience. And I hope that isn’t what might keep people from coming to this beautiful city.
While we felt safe, our hearts were heavy given the vast number of people sleeping on the sidewalks – not just tucked away in entryways, but right there in the middle of busy downtown sidewalks where there was no option but to walk over them. We’ve heard that is just a very small sample of a very large poor population there. Like many places around the world, São Paulo has such extremes when it comes to the spectrum of rich and poor.
We strolled along Paulista with tall office towers lining a wide street. Paulista seems much like Bloor Street in Toronto or some of the streets we’ve walked in NYC.
We were also able to squeeze in visits to the Modern Art Museum and the Museum of Art.
We did as much as we could in five days without killing ourselves – but there is so much yet to discover and enjoy, like the Nutella coffee that we couldn’t seem to slowdown enough to enjoy at the cafe across the street from our friends’ place.
It was a perfect, first trip to São Paulo. Thanks K&V! If you ever decide to open a B&B and coordinate tours for guests, we would highly recommend your friendship and generosity.
I see another visit to São Paulo in our not-too-distant future. Until then, it’s back to Buenos Aires and then preparations for our return to the Northern Hemisphere.