Sao Paulo, Brazil

Trip Start Nov 23, 2007
Trip End Nov 29, 2007

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sao Paulo is the most ethnically diverse city of Brazil.  6 million Italians in Sao Paulo...more people of Italian origin than any other city in the world, outnumbering even Milan and Rome!  Portuguese, Germans, Arabs, Japanese, and Chinese are predominant as well.  Think of Sao Paulo like New York City with all of the culture, activities, smog, pollution, and traffic....Sao Paulo is just several times larger than Manhattan.  The sea of skyscrapers in every direction is mind boggling!  Helicopter shuttles to and from buildings are a common site to bypass the congestion below.  As I sit in the concierge lounge at the Sao Paulo Renaissance, all you see from every direction is buildings galore!  I took a three hour tour with a guide who drove me around town, but I was disappointed that there weren't many sites to see.   Sao Paulo is really a business center...many just fly in and fly out.  Certainly not a vacation destination, although the city is well known for its varied and sophisticated cuisine, ranging from Chinese to French, from fast food chains to five star restaurants.  You won't go hungry.  One mustn't pass up an opportunity to dine at a churrascaria (a Brazilian or Portuguese steakhouse)...I sure didn't!  One of the best places to eat is Figueira Rubayat. It is THE place to see and to be seen, as well as to eat very well. Of course, it has the inconvenient of being expensive. But most foreigners won't find the price as outrageous as most Brazilians due to the exchange rates. You can sit under the shades of a 100 year-old fig tree with huge branches (HUGE), and the best is that even if it rains, you won't get wet since they have a transparent covering over the entire seating area.

Gaining a VISA to enter Brazil was challenging to say the least.  Plan ample time for this bureaucratic process and don't be surprised at countless roadblocks thrown your way.  It's just the way of doing business! Sao Paulo is a great city for pedestrians, and most neighborhoods can easily be explored on foot depending on where you are staying.  Private security firms are paid by the neighborhoods to keep law and order.  The wealthier the area...the better the security is.  There is however, countless areas in the downtown business district that look perfectly normal, but my tour guide suggested that merely walking around would invite trouble.  Best advice...stick to the car and local.   Neighborhoods Jardins--what is currently called Jardins (gardens) is a combination of a number of neighborhoods such as Jardim Europa, Jardim Paulista, and Jardim America that extend southwest in a regular grid pattern (mostly) from the towers and offices of the Avenida Paulista.  Wealthy families, private schools, manicured gardens, and nice shops line the streets...relatively safe to walk around and dine out at night.  Despite being one of Latin America's premier financial and industrial centers, Sao Paulo's seemingly intractable social ills and political mismanagement threaten to stunt the economic progress that the city.  The city has emerged as perhaps the most grim example of what happens when developing countries-including economic powers such as India and South Africa-are unable to maintain a critical balance between economic growth and social development.  Millions of its residents live in two- and three-room shacks. Forty percent live without a sewage treatment system...(you drive by this as you go to the airport).  The poverty level is strikingly similar to Calcutta, India.
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