Primeiro dia em Sao Paulo!
Getting to town
Mariana and I have been very very close friends, she is like my little Brazilian sister. And a sister got to do what a sister got to do, even if it includes getting up at 4am to pick us up from the airport 🙂
Turns out that Mariana is not only a perfect example of the best friend anybody should have in their lives, but also a great guide of her hometown and proud to be a Paulista! Having Mariana with us gave us the opportunity to see the city with different eyes, she truly loves Sao Paulo and made such an effort to make us feel like we are at home.
I was told by people prior to our trip that Sao Paulo was 'nothing special' and 'not as nice as Rio'...
But having Mariana along our side does not only add to the fun, but it also gives you the possibility to explore the true Sao Paulo, with its people and its culture which makes this trip even more amazing.
While driving from the airport to Mariana 's home, we pass several favelas. Slums in Brazil are called Favela which derives from a name of a slope area in the North-East Brazil called „Morro da Favela“.
Nowadays, over 1 Million people live in favelas in Sao Paulo, even more so in Rio de Janeiro. It is estimated that a total of 6% of Brazil's population is living in slums, in Rio even 20% of the inhabitants. Favelas are usually built without the city's approval, and lack basics such as water or electricity , proper amenities , garbage collection and so on.
Duck when they fly over
It is evident from the beginning that Brazil is a country full of contrasts. After about an hour, having passed poor as well as rich areas, we arrived in the Central/Southern part of the city, in Vila Olimpia , a prosperous neighborhood and part of the financial district Sao Paulo 's, which Unliever, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Co. can call their home. Here, at the border of Moema and Vila Olimpia, is our home for the next few days. Mariana decided to surprise us with a nice stay at a fancy hotel in this area, a great room, a pool on the rooftop terrace (17th floor), and a priceless view over Sao Paulo. One fascinating fact about the city is that airplanes fly in very close proximity to the ground above downtown Sao Paulo, meaning that one could sit in the pool on the 17th floor and watch planes flying directly over your head - crazy! In addition, this location gave Johannes the opportunity to take some great pictures of the city, even if the weather was not the best.
As it was way too early for a check in, we decided to have true Brazilian food for breakfast. I was allowed to order in portuguese under the supervision of Mariana and we had:
Queijo Minas, tomates e oregano, Bisnaga com Manteiga na Chapa; Ovo , Suco de laranja e chocolate. ( Toasted bread with butter, scrambled eggs, a sandwich with traditional Brazilian cheese-similar to halloumi- and tomatoes, oranges juices and hot chocolate).
We received exactly what we ordered and it was very delicious.
Pizza and turnstiles
Afterwards, we started our little sightseeing tour through Sao Paulo , from Vila Olimpia and Momeo by foot to the Ibirapuera Park, one of the largest city parks in Latinamerica with leisure opportunities, exotic trees, as well as a vivid culture scene with museums and statues. We crossed big skyscrapers for affluent people (good area- very expensive), skyscrapers for poor people (looked just the same at least from the outside) and an area with villas, individual houses with big fences around them and surveillance. People with villas tend to hire securities which are standing in front of their gates, sometimes in a small box (reminded me of the guards in London), in order to protect their home. People with villas or living in fancy houses also have a special 'pizza box' for delivery outside their house like a mailbox - but for Pizza - interesting....
In order to get to March 25th avenue and Mercado Municipal, we decided to take the bus which was an experience in itself. In the middle of the bus are turnstiles which you need to cross in order to get off the bus as the exit is in the back. There is always someone sitting right at the turnstiles, a security/cashier if you want, who makes sure you pay. As one can imagine, getting into the bus, finding your money, trying to get through the turnstiles (with bags or a trolley) and getting off the bus is an adventure. No wonder that buses take forever to get from one place to another. Luckily for us, we managed to take the buses before rush hour, but Mariana confirmed that in the mornings and evenings, getting the bus can be the hell X-D
While passing some dodgy areas and March 25th Avenue, we finally make it to the Mercado Municipal, a very big market where they sell exotic fruits, local cheese, meat and other products. From there on we decide to walk to the Estacao de Luz, a very 'British looking' old railway station. Estacao de Luz was the main entrance to Sao Paulo in the first part of the 20th century. The current building was designed in the UK, assembled in Glasgow, then disassembled and sent to Sao Paulo where it was reassembled again. We continued our tour by foot through the Parque de Luz to Piacoteca and eventually back to Vila Olimpia in order to eat some Japanese food. Japanese food in Brazil, why that? Well, the biggest minority group in Sao Paulo are the Japanese, and the food is supposed to be good so we gave it a try!
Samba and "Pay TV"
In the evening we planned on going to a place in order to listen to real Brazilian samba music. So we went to the hotel, checked in and got changed. Upon leaving the hotel room our eyes almost fell out of our face when we saw a Brazilian couple working 'hard' in an office building right next to our hotel. Rather than focusing on paperwork, they were very busy working on each other, however, Mariana said that this is not representative for all working Brazilians;) OK, OK, I believe you, Mariana but it fit the cliche and it was definitely a fun start of our first night in Sao Paulo.
We went to an area called Vila Madalena of the Pinheiros district in the western of Sao Paulo. For everybody who is planning on going to Brazil and stopping in Sao Paulo, this area was one of our favorites! It is known for its bohemian culture, its street art, galleries and great nightlife, similar to Bricklane in London nowadays and definitely a must see! So we got an Uber (first time for the both of us) with Mariana and her friend, we listened to traditional Brazilian music from the country side called Sertanejas, we got off at a bar called Garrafas, had our first true Brazilian caipirinha (with white surgar!), and went on to another bar called Disritma in order to meet some other Brazilians and to listen and dance to live samba music- not the one you see on TV, but real Brazilians dancing to real Brazilian music, more like Samba de Roda. Needless to say we had a blast, Johannes got to dance with a hot Brazilian girl (Mariana 😀 ) and i with a nice Brazilian guy to samba music- our first day could not have been better!
And to be honest probably also not more tiring. After 22 hours of traveling and 19 hours of sight seeing and dancing we had a good night sleep.
Visting the family
On the next day, we explored Vila Madalena again, in order to have a look at the vast majority of street art available in that area. After a little stroll, we went to visit Mariana's family who lives in the suburbs in a place called Aldeia da Serra in Barueri. This was our first time in a 'secured' community and all the houses in that area were very beautiful from an architectural point of view. As Mariana's father is an architect, and as he has planned the design of his house, it is no surprise to say that Mariana's childhood house is really, really unique. Mariana's mother, Murcia, whom I have met on their tour through Germany a few years back, had cooked an extraordinary selection of Brazilian food!
It was like heaven, food, and even more importantly, so many hugs- a combination i could die for 🙂 With Mariana's family you could really feel the love and it was truly like being with our own family. We communicated by using a mixture of English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and words cannot describe how much fun we had and how thankful we are for the great hospitality. I promised Murcia to come again 'but not for less than 7 days', as per her request, and promises are there to be kept, so we shall see each other again.
For the food lovers among us, part of the dishes that Murcia cooked for us was camaro na moranga (a Pumkin filled with shrimps) and bacalhau con batata e cebola (codfish with potatoes and vegetables), as well as Brigadeiro (little pralines) , Pave de Pessego ( peach and coconut dessert), Bolo de Laranja (Orangecake), but the list goes on and on.
I think none of us could choose a favourite as it was all so delicious, but i will take some recipes home with us for some of the dishes, in order to show off at the next house parties we are invited to 😉
Thank you again for your hospitality and looking forward to seeing you again, in Brazil, Germany or Romania. Obrigada!
Our last day in Sao Paulo
Sunday was our last day in Sao Paulo, we checked out of the hotel and 'checked in' at Mariana's student apartment. First thing we did in the morning was to escort Mariana to the elections office, as it was election day in Brazil for the mayors. Apparently it is not possible to vote via mail and if you want to vote (btw. you have to vote), you can only do so in the town you are registered in and you need to physically be there. Should you not wish to vote for your hometown, you can go to the area you live in and excuse yourself there by signing a form.
After voting, we went to see Ave. Paulista, a very popular shopping street in downtown Sao Paulo where we could watch a Bateria perform some samba songs (Carneval style).
Mountains of meat
We decided to have some traditional Brazilian barbecue in a typical restaurant which are called Churrascarias. What is typical about this place is that the waiters serve you with one spit full with meat after another, offering you sirloin, tenderloin, ribeye, ribs, neck, hump, knuckle, basically a whole cow if you wish plus pork roast and chicken hearts until you cannot see a single piece of meet anymore. Johannes was in 7th heaven and I learned a lot about the anatomy of a cow 🙂 I even enjoyed some of the pieces and we are sure that some of our friends would have been jealous. As we had to wait a while for the dessert (everybody is usually focusing on meet, so desserts take a little longer to order apparently;) ) and because of some problems with the bill, we even got offered free vouchers for a next visit at fogo de chao. Unfortunately this offer is available only in Sao Paulo, so we left the vouchers with Mariana, but should you ever be in Brazil and have a craving for eating a whole cow, this is the place to go!
Another round of Samba
After having some food we walked through a neighborhood called Jardin and ended up in Vila Madalena again for another night with live music. Due to the fact that the old city center can be a little dangerous at night, and it was already getting dark at 6pm, we decided to miss out on that and do some dancing instead. The bar we went to used to be a normal house which they use for performances nowadays. We were lucky enough to listen to two Brazilian bands playing all kind of traditional Brazilian music, mainly from the Northeast of the country. It was a joy to watch everybody dance along with everybody, it is just beautiful to see the 'alegria' that Brazilians bring with them, they just don't worry, dance, are very open and enjoy their life. I wish we could bring some of this joy and spirit back with us. Brazil is a beautiful country with beautiful people (inside and out!). From a Romanian point of view, I saw many similarities with my hometown ( the architecture, the street signs, the volume in which people talk and the hugs, the loud music) , the language is very similar to Spanish so following a conversation can be relatively easy, depending on the topic. So this makes me at least feel like at home and very comfortable. On the other hand, there are many strange and unusual things going on, which in return make this beautiful place seem exotic. So in summary, it feels like an exotic version of home to me, at least for my Romanian side. From a German point of view, less similarities, but in return a completely new place to see and explore.
Now we are off to our next stop- Rio de Janeiro!