Carnaval and catch ups in Brasil

Trip Start Aug 28, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Sao Paulo,
Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We got to Sao Paulo after an overnight flight from Ushuaia - with a 5 hour stop over in Buenos Aires between 1am and 6am (cor blimey, you can imagine how tired we were but we were excited about being in another country other than Chile and Argentina for the first time since before Christmas and also back in a major city after all the mountains and wilderness of Patagonia). WOW, what a massive massive city Sao Paulo is! Biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere and home to 22 million people!!! ...thank goodness we were spending our time with some Brazilian friends that we had met for the first time on our travels on the 3 day salt plains tour in Bolivia in November. We kept in touch and they invited us to spend Brazil's Carnaval with them! How could we turn that down?!

So we arrived, met one of the guys, Caio and headed for his girlfriend's (Samara) parents apartments on the 13th floor of one of Sao Paulo's thousands of high rise serviced apartment blocks. We were welcomed by a typical Brazilian lunch of fejoida and farofa!! Big yum! Caio then had a meeting, so he dropped us at the National Museum of Football which is underneath the stands of Corinthians stadium - Estadio do Pacaembu. A celebration of the magic of Brazilian football and quite right! One section simulates what it is like to be in the middle of a Brazilian crowd at a game using funky projections, surround sound and all that - amazing!! That night we went out with Samara's fabulous family for one of Sao Paulos most famous dishes, thanks to the biggest Italian community outside of Italy - Pizza!

The next day, me and Lou were let loose on our own in Sao Paulo, so Caio gave us a planned out list of must sees in the city! It was the day before Carnaval started, there were loads of locals out and about preparing for the long holiday and basically a massive party! We went to an amazing park called Jardim de Luz which was a tropical park dotted with wacky modern art installations. We then headed for the Mercado Municipal for a look at Sao Paulo's most historic and biggest market. Caio tipped us off to try some more typical Brazilian food - Pastel de Bacalhau (cod filling in a croquette style pastry with fresh lime) and Mortadella (layers and layers of sliced pork with tomato and melted cheese in fresh french bread)....both very tasty and calorific! We then bopped around the market and bought a few fruits from a crazy fruit seller that was so excited we were English that he proceeded to make us try at least 8 different fruits from his stall! As we had already eaten, we were not so keen, but he wasn't letting us get away!! He didn't want us to buy just to taste all the fruits of Brazil!...funny man. We dived off to have a look at the Cathedral and the Japanese neighbourhood (and yes, the biggest Japanese community outside Japan - gives you an idea of the size of Sao Paulo!!)  Later we met Caio at a swanky shopping mall that had a dog salon that provided all possible services for dog grooming! We then learnt that it is fairly 'normal' for dogs to visit dog salons and even dog gyms!?! ....strange that dogs we so loved in Sao Paulo and in the rest of South America, even though there are so so many dogs about, they are largely ignored and only used to guard property. That night we had an amazing meal of another popular cuisine- Arabian- and some vino with Samara's family.

The following morning, me and Lou headed to the MASP - Museo Arte de Sao Paulo to see the "Romanticism" art exhibition - an amazing collection which left us feeling inspired!! The rest of the afternoon was spent dodging the torrential rain and doing a small bit of shopping. In the evening we met Caio in one of Sao Paulo's trendy neighbourhoods - Vila Madalena. We saw loads of the streets painted with Brazilian flags - we learnt that this is what the Brazilians do during the football world cups! Better than cheap England flags on our cars l reckon! We tried the legendary Brahma "Chopp" beer - creamy, smooth as, yum yum, get in my tum! Had a few with some jerk beef, then headed to see the other Brazilian guy we met in Bolivia, Rafa..and his girlfriend who had just flown in from Rio - Marina! We were gonna spend the next few days at Raf's dad's beach house about 2 hours east of Sao Paulo! What a smashing idea!, lets go!!..........We headed out of the city at 2am to miss the traffic and arrived at the beach at 4:30 am....sleep!

Next day we realised what an incredible spot it was! The small beach town is backed by rainforest, has red sand roads and a perfect palm-lined white sand beach. Raf's dads place was a short 1 minute kayak ride across the shallow river to the beach - errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, this should do for the next few days! Blindin'....

We got up late, so headed to the beach for some chilling and l had my first game of Brazilian beach volleyball in the rain on the beach with some locals - good times! That night the village had a stand for Carnaval set up and after a small parade and lots of cold beers we found ourselves dancing on the streets to samba most of the night. The night was marred slightly by a 26 year old collapsing by the stage and getting rushed off in an ambulance - sadly we later found out he had died of a heart attack.

Blue skies awaited us the next day, so we sprung out of bed and over to the beach for our first swim in the warm ocean - the perfect hangover cure! We drove to the big supermarket to buy provisions (mainly meat for the bbq challenges!) for the next few days. Two things were unique about this supermarket - 1. From the cash tills all you could see across the road was a stunning 8km long surf beach. 2. At least 10% of the customers were wearing bikinis or small man shorts. Neither of these happen in Clapham or Catford. So back we went to the house and BBQ'd very large quantities of meat and cheese...washed down with some cold beer it was the perfect afternoon!

Everyday Rafa and Marina drove us to different beaches - wooooooooow what a country this is!! After a visit to a new beach, we headed to another house where Rafa's brother was staying with his wife's family. We were greeted by the smell of another BBQ and the large Italian/Argentinian family - 4 grandma's and lots of cousins. After lots of steak, sausages, bread, guarana and cheese, me and Lou slept in a nearby hammock for a brief siesta.

Our last day at the beach Lou and I kayaked up the river and then back down to where the river meets the beach (Lou almost kayaked into one of the swish motor boats on the way back to the beach!) We then went to another beach and had a late lunch of Moqueca which reminded me of Lou's mum's cooking back home - fish stock, flour, garlic, onions, tomatoes and fish!! Another true Brazilian dish happily tasted and approved with the Tim&Lou cert! ....

The time had come to head back to Sao Paulo, so we drove back and got back to Rafs's flat in Sao Paulo late doors via a Bobs burger drive thru. Over the burger we learnt from Rafa that the most famous Roberto Carlos in Brazil is in fact a singer from the 1960's - l thought it would be the legendary left back footballer - strange!! There's a whole 3 day cruise dedicated to this man where you go to mingle with him and the crowds and watch Roberto in concert on plush cruise ships! The next day me and Lou chilled in Rafa's awesome flat, went for some sushi and then Lou and Rafa's girlfriend, Marina went to get their nails done - a biweekly necessary beauty commitment to the women of Brazil. Mine didn't need a fresh paint. We then met all met up with Caio and his girlfriend and went to an 'all you can eat' shrimp place and laughed and drank the night away. The night ended with some weird looking cartoon vegetables, pinguingela! Ahhhh...

A sunny and hot day in Sao Paulo! We went to the MUBE in the city which was holding an awesome graffiti exhibition all about life in Sao Paulo - we loved it! We headed to Sao Paulo's equivalent to Bond Street after my best ever favourite smoothie at Santo Grao Cafe, a passion fruit taste sensation!! After that came a visit to the Havaianas flagship custom store via a crazy decorated shop front which was decorated with thousands of post it notes! Bonkers!! ...Lou (a post-it fanatic) - loved it! We then met Caio and Samara for a night of Samba and chopp drinking in Villa Madalena in a bar that had the walls painted with images of the favelas dotted with some famous star characters of samba. An awesome live band played the night out and we danced English style samba i.e. without the fast feet!! Impressive stuff....

The next day Caio and Samara showed us Sao Paulo on a Saturday. We went to a cool antiques market and then headed to a family party with lots of screaming children and one of the finest princess/Disney party scenes we have ever seen!! Our last supper was back to the local pizza house Jullia, to say goodbye to Caio and Samara and thank them for being truly welcoming, fun and absolute legends!! Same goes for Rafa and Marina too for showing us true Brazilian beach culture!!! We will remember our time in Brazil as a stand out highlight of our American Tale...................very very good times!! Now with the help of Caio's translating skills we tracked down Lou's aunt and we're off to Londrina on the bus to visit Lou's great Aunt, Catherine.

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