Back In A Big City

Trip Start Mar 11, 2007
Trip End Jul 27, 2007

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Saturday, March 24, 2007

We spent the last two days in Sao Paulo, financial center of Brazil, visiting my friend Charles. It's the second largest city in the world (after Tokyo) and showed it.

We stayed at a modest, yet charming pousada called Dona Zilah in Jardims. The breakfasts were the best so far and included scrumptious items such as freshly made french toast dusted with cinnamon and sugar and freshly baked cheese pastries. Jardims is one of the better Sao Paulo neighbourhoods; the houses are expensive; it's filled with high-end, but cute boutiques; the restaurants are nice; and it's gay-friendly. Most importantly, it's relatively safe to walk around during nighttime--something of a rarity for Sao Paulo neighbourhoods.

Returning to the variety of a large city, we grabbed sushi for our first night. The fish was decent, but not stellar. We finished the night visiting a crowded sidewalk bar where we drank Bohemia (a Brazilian brew) and watched people.

The following day, Charles picked us up for a personal tour of Sao Paulo. Driving in Sao Paulo is akin to navigating an asteroid field at light speed in the "Millennium Falcon"--the traffic is incredibly dense with cars coming out of nowhere. The traffic situation is really, really, bad. Charles related that the city has been forced to institute all sorts of byzantine rules to make the situation bearable. For example, cars with license plate numbers ending in even digits are forbidden access to certain parts of the city on certain days. To make matters worse, the public transportation system is inadequate so almost everyone drives.

Before visiting Sao Paulo, I had read on a blog that it was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Coming from New York, I took this statement with a grain of salt. While we weren't molested, I was disconcerted when Charles didn't stop at red lights after dark for fear of incident.

Back to Charles's guided tour... The first place he took us to was Praca Da Se, or point zero of the city (where the city first started). Sao Paulo first started as a mission for spreading Christianity to the natives. We visited the large Catedral Metropolitana and Sao Paulo's first monastery.

Our next stop was the Pinoceteca art museum. Not art aficionados, we found the building housing the art more interesting than the art. Our opinion may have been influenced by the lack of English text. This was accentuated the fact that Sao Paulo is not anglo-friendly.

Hungry, we headed to an incredible food market located in the historical building Mercado Municipal. We ate some delicious codfish fritters and a Sao Paulo specialty, a huge baloney-like sandwich. We washed our food down with fresh pineapple and mint juice.

Eager to work off some of the food, we headed to Parque Ibirapuera, Sao Paulo's main park which is like Central Park, but smaller.

In the evening, we ate a fabulous dinner at an Italian restaurant which is known for its caipirinihas (a drink made with special Brazilian rum) and home-made pasta; we were impressed with both. Jama had a delicious concoction created by 3 bartenders who used their knives and pestles on fresh mango and kiwi for 15 minutes to create the drink. The drinks were cheap considering the quality: 10 riels (5 USD). The pasta was equally fabulous: fresh tortellini pasta with clams, shrimp, fresh basil, and tomatoes.

That wraps up our exploits during our brief stay in Sao Paulo. Our next stop is Buenos Aires which from all accounts is a gorgeous city. Can't wait!
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