Sao Paulo

Trip Start Sep 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 17, 2008

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Greetings from Istanbul! No, you haven't clicked on the wrong travel blog, I'm just a little behind.

Where did we leave off? Ah, yes, the magnificent surprise in Buenos Aires. It came at the Buenos Aires airport, and I'll give you a's not when my corporate card was declined when I had to pay the exit tax. That was quite a surprise, but it wasn't really a fun one. It happened when we walked on the plane.

At check-in the woman at the ticket counter told us that she was giving us an exit row. I turned to Erin and said "great, more leg room!". When we stepped on the 747 and I saw the stairs I got pretty excited. "Wouldn't it be fun if we were sitting upstairs?" I said. Erin said she'd sat upstairs before and it was just more coach seats. Still, upstairs is upstairs...except when it's the British Airways flight from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo. We were led up the stairs to our Club World business class! Not just any business class. We got pods! I know this is old hat for some of you (Mike), but this was a highlight of our trip. It is possible that we have almost as many photos of our seats as we do of La Boca. For the first time in the history of flying Erin and I were actually wishing that our flight was longer so we could have actually had time to enjoy our beds. But, for a two hour flight, we weren't napping for a minute. It would have cut in to our drinking of the unlimited champagne.

You know you don't fly business class when:
You get your lunch plate of smoked salmon and potato salad and think, "gee, this is kind of small, but it's fancy". Ten minutes later the flight attendant asks "can I take your first course dish?" and you realize that the meal hasn't even arrived yet.

Erin and I were very sad to leave our seats. The flight was continuing on to London and we serious contemplated staying on board. But, our crew was getting off in Sao Paulo and they kind of made us get off too.

It turns out that the crew from our BA flight were actually staying at the same hotel as us. We said hello to our flight attendant at check-in. We arrived in Sao Paulo in late afternoon and knew we couldn't fit in any sightseeing. The idea of eating again didn't really appeal to us, but there was a restaurant that my boss had recommended that I felt we needed to try and I wasn't sure we'd have a chance after the fair. So, we made reservations for 8:00.

Figueira Rubaiyat is a fancy (and as it turns out, expensive) restaurant that is build around a giant 100 + year old fig tree. Of course once we saw the menu the whole not eating concept flew out the window...well, actually, it couldn't because it turns out that the entire restaurant is outside! There were heat lamps, but it was still winter. It was chilly, but we did ok. Erin ordered the scallops and I ordered the treasure chest, which pretty much meant I ordered the ocean: two lobster tails, a fish filet (pretty sure it was cod), giant prawns, octopus, calamari, and scallops. We split an arugula and spinish salad. Not wanting to offend, we also ordered dessert. We had delicious caramel crepes and then they brought us an extra tray (yes, a whole tray) of dessert samples to go with our tea. Oh, the mint tea! It was actually just hot water and fresh mint leaves. It was delicious.

The day of the fair we were free until 4 PM. The hotel didn't offer any group tours, only private tours, with the cheapest being about $100/person. So, that was out!
Despite all of the horror stories told to us (including the one about the BA flight attendant being held up at gun point right outside our hotel), we decided to visit a few sights while we were in the city. We couldn't stay couped up in the hotel all day. While we were downstairs at breakfast (yes, more food, but this time it was free!) we ran in to a few other people in the lobby. They were meeting at 2 PM to go to an churrascaria for lunch. We didn't want to lock outselves in, but if we were done seeing stuff we were going to try to join them.

We visited the conceirge (for about the 10th time..she loved us!) and asked if it would be ok to take cabs from one site to another. The tall man behind us leaned in and said that he was planning to do the same thing. We asked him if he wanted to share cabs with us. He did! Martin was a school rep from the Canterbury Christ Church University in Canterbury, England. He was delightful. He also happened to be fluent in Spanish and knew his way around Portugese, so this made dealing with cabs much easier.

Sao Paulo is not a tourist city. There really isn't much to see but I think we caught the highlights. In our two hour "tour" we saw the Catedral da Se, the courthouse, the location where Sao Paulo was founded, the theatre, main train stations, and the municipal market.

We made it back to the hotel in time for lunch. After our splurge of a dinner we still weren't hungry, so it seemed like the perfect idea to go to an all you can eat beef fest!

The restaurant actually sent a van to the hotel to pick us up and take us there. We sat at a huge round table where approximately a dozen sides were placed in front of us:rice, beans, french fries, fried bananas, etc.
Then, we received a map of a cow with every part clearly labeled and numbered. This way when the men walked around with all the meat we could clearly identify what we were eating. I decided I was done being adventurous, well, except for the wild boar. Lunch was almost $60 so I was saving room for the good stuff. Lots of sirloin and rump came around but the filet mignon remained elusive. Everyone started groaning and saying they were full but I refused to leave without the filet. So, the next time the sirloin came around...again, I picked up my cow map and pointed to #10. A few minutes later the guy came back with a steaming stick of meat. We're pretty sure they went back to cook the filet just for us. Suddenly everyone found a little more room.

We walked back to the hotel in an attempt to digest before the fair. Because, after the fair we were off to dinner! Just typing all this is making me full again.

Erin and I were ONLY going to order drinks at dinner but in the end she wound up with a salad and I tried the heart of palm soup...but only because the school rep who used to live in Sao Paulo said it would be good. He also convinced us to try caipirinha (yeah, I had to look up the spelling on that one). It is the national drink of Brazil made with cachaca (sugarcane based alcohol), sugar and lime. Strong, but delicious.

The next morning Erin and I went to the gym which at that point had become a necessity. We met a few people and walked to the Sao Paulo art museum, which turned out to be free on Mondays! It was located in a strange building on stilts, and the building was kind of small, but it turned out to house quite a collection. We saw works by Dali, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Matisse.

After the museum, Erin and I found a sushi restaurant for lunch (yes, more food). Sao Paulo actually has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, so we had pretty high expectations for the sushi. It was ok, but damn expensive. No joke-three rolls, two Diet Cokes and a dessert came out to over $75! The restaurant was cool though. We had the place almost all to ourselves and it was similar to the fig tree restaurant in that it was partially outside, partially inside. I enjoyed the ambiance.

Erin and I met Rodrigo (school rep from UT Austin, and a Brazilian) to ride to the airport. Boy, did we pick the right travel companion. He introduced us to this magnificent place called Kopenhagen. It served some of the best hot chocolate in the world. Vanessa, I am not going to lie, I think it was better than Angelina's in Paris.

Unfortunately, we were not upgraded on our flight home so that ride on coach felt so much longer. Still, all in all the trip to South America was great. If you can handle consuming an incomprehensible amount of food, I highly recommend that you plan a visit.

Obrigada para a leitura!
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hoytj on

You write A LOT about food. Glad it was a great trip - and now youre off again.

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