Published: April 11th 2012March 2nd 2012
On arrival to São Paulo, we were impressed by the enormous size of the bus station, but the metro and transit system were surpisingly easy and non-hectic. My old roommate from Barcelona, Mariana, lived towards the end of one of the metro lines and picked us up as soon as she got off work, around 5 pm. Mariana greeted us with the warmest welcome ever, and opened her home to us. She gave us her room and bed to make our own, with the condition that she could come in the morning to get ready for work. Since both Chloe and I expected to sleep on the couch or on the living room floor, this was above and beyond her duty. She gave us towels for a shower while she began to prepare dinner. Once we cleaned up, we came out of her room only to be greeted by Estrella Damm cerveza, a classic from the BCN days! Mariana was definitely going out of her way to make us feel at home; an amazing feeling after all the UNfamiliar travel we´d grown accustomed to. Her boyfriend, Fabio, had arrived while we were cleaning up and had helped Mariana with preparing the
delicious hearty stew we ate for dinner. After chatting it up for a while we watched some TV before heading to bed by midnight.
Mariana made a quiet pass through her room early in the morning before heading to work, leaving us to comfortably sleep until 10. We had a relaxing breakfast and coffee before hitting the street and heading to the center for some sightseeing. Mariana had explained and located the top spots on a map, giving us a clear cut plan on what to see and how to get there. In difference to Rio de Janeiro, all the famous or touristic sights were clearly labeled and easy to find. My favorite was the Teatro Municipal, which was unfortunately closed but with the afternoon thunderstorm that had enveloped us, we had the a chance to look inside at the elaborate decor and design while hiding under the overhang. After about 20 minutes, the storm had broken sufficiently to allow us to continue our tour through the city. We repeatedly had to take cover in subway entrances, clothing stores and kiosks, from the torrential downpour that continued building around us. Eventually we arrived to our final destination, el Mercado
Municipal, which reminded me of La Boqueria in BCN. With fresh fish on ice, all sorts of cuts of meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, wine and beer, it was a cool sight to take in. I even found a beer from Rouge Brewery, their nut brown ale, which gave me a whole new respect for the place. On the second floor was a plaza of restuarants serving more or less the same menu. I went for the most popular one, and ordered the classic item on the menu, a ginormous mortadella sandwich. It barely fit in my mouth, and reminded me of the amazing sandwiches found at the best Italian delis in the States. The huge sandwich put a big smile on my face so after lunch, I was content to head to the shopping area of Paulino with Chloe to try and find her a cute dress. Unfortunately, we arrived when places were closing so Chloe was denied her opportunity. But at least I got to eat a super mortadella sandwich, totally worth it! As we walked to the metro, we saw the sun set over the Estação da Luz, the old train station where we peeked inside and were
taken aback by the quantity of people waiting on the platforms. We got our own taste of public transport during rush hour when we caught the bus back to Mariana´s apartment. The huge slinky style double bus was so full we couldn´t get through the turnstile to pay. Somehow people continued to board and pushed our tight space to an unbearably tight cluster. Chloe was on the edge of panicking with closterphobia, only to be enhance by the fact we couldn´t ask the driver or see out a window to know where to get off. Due to this, we realized Mariana´s motherly fear of letting us explore the city by ourselves - we rode the bus for way too long and got off in what later we would find out is a sketchy neighborhood on the edge of the city. At the time we were too stubborn to spend the extra couple bucks on a bus back the other direction so we walked along the empty street. We both got the uneasy feeling of being in an area we shouln´t be, but after about 45 minutes we found our way back to a populated area we recognized and made it
to Mariana´s apartment by 8 pm.
She had been waiting for us, and was a bit worried. We played it off at the time and then cleaned up and changed to go out. Mariana drove us through the city to the Vila Madalena neighborhood, filled with hip bars, funky restaurants, and live music clubs. After finally finding parking, we walked to a bar where we met with a friend of Mariana, Fabio, and Denise, another roommate from Barcelona. It was great to be with two of my roomies from BCN; we reminiced over the good times and shared stories to the others. We ate some appitizers, drank some chopps (draft beer), and chatted it up for a few hours. After the bar, Denise headed home and the rest of us tried going to a small samba club. When we got there, the band was playing a slower, more mellow style of samba; not the type to keep you dancing like Carnaval in Rio. Chloe and I agreed that spending a grip of cash on entrance plus more on drinks in a place that wouldn´t excite us wasn´t worth it so in the end, we decided to head home.
Mariana woke us up the next morning as she had prepared a grand breakfast. Chloe was a bit overwhelmed with all the types of bread and cheese when all she wanted was some coffee, but Mariana was insistent that we were too skinny and needed to eat more, always. We filled ourselves up and took off to pick up Fabio, before heading to Estádio do Pacaembu, where the Corinthians play and where the Museu do Futebol is located. In the parking lot there was a farmer´s market selling fresh fruit, veggies, meat, fish and spices. Mariana had us try the caldo de cana, a sugar cane drink. They would put sections of sugar cane into what looked like a small wood chipper and out a spout would come an extracted pure sugar cane juice. Needless to say, a couple sips was plenty; it was too sweet for me to handle, like a lot of food and drink in Brazil. After a bit of time at the market, we entered the museum, which I can say is probably my favorite museum I´ve been to. It was more than just one team´s history and tour of their stadium. I´ve been to the
one at Camp Nou for Barça, and it had nothing on this. The museum depicted the history of futbol in Brazil using various multimedia nad interactive devices. The World Cup room was cool, with all the years of the cup represented by cup-shaped towers filled with pictures and video showing what was happening in the world during the specific year. My favorite was the Exaltação (enthusiasm) room, located under the concrete bleachers of the stadium, where they blasted the sound of over 30 chants and the emotion from the fans of various clubs, using various screens at different depths and locations to coordinate the feeling of being at a match. As we were traveling during the off season of futbol, this was as close as I could get to experiencing a game. At the end of the tour, we were given the opportunity of doing a futbol penalty kick version of Speedpitch. My first time up I put it wide of the goal, receiving jeers from my fan base of Mariana, Fabio, and Chloe. The second time though, I put it right in the back of the onion bag, at a speed of 77 km/hr. Well, I know that I´m
no Messi or Ronaldo, but I still think I have potential as a substitute!
After the great tour of futbol, we drove to Libertade, the Japanese neighborhood of São Paulo. With Fabio as our guide, we went to a sushi restaurant that he had grown up going to with his family. Following his advice, we ordered a big platter of a variety of sushi, the majority of which I don´t think I´d ever tried. The quality was superb; all of it was so delicious, all we could do was savor every bite and say ¨mmmm¨. It had been quite a while since we´d eaten sushi, but the wait was well worth it. After lunch we drove along Avenida Paulista to La Casa das Rosas, an original Victorian house in the heart of the city, where we had an amazing capuccino and shared a slice of a delectable chocolate cake. We dropped Fabio off at his aparment and drove back to Mariana´s place, where we spent the rest of the night chilling out, reading, writing, and eating delivery pizza.
Early the next morning, Mariana drove us to the bus station that took us to the airport. We said goodbye
and thanked Mariana for her generosity, then bused out to the airport to fly to Florianopolis, a section of the huge Santa Catarina Island, where we would spend the last of our Brazilian beach days.
There are more photos below