Sao Paulo

Trip Start May 07, 2008
Trip End Jan 06, 2009

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Sao Paulo,
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hi everyone
Well, we got here. Eventually. Thankfully, we packed the night before in Buenos Aires as a taxi was coming for us at 6am the next day. The alarm went off at 5am and we hit snooze and slept through it!! We woke to our deafening door buzzer at 6am!! It was security to tell us the taxi was here!! (David: Or, as far as our bodies were concerned, 8am or 6pm or 12am or half past teatime... jet lag is a bugger...) We flew around the apartment like bats in a cave and left in 15minutes!!!!!
And so! To Sao Paulo, the most dangerous city in the world. Apparently. Our plane skidded on landing veering towards grass which was alarming and a round of applause erupted after the emergency brake! Then our taxi driver in Rio drove like a madman avoiding cars like a computer game!! (David: Sounds pretty dangerous to me! Perhaps that's what they mean.)
Our Hotel was central and we were on 14th floor so the view was amazing. It was situated in the middle of the 'Jardins' district so it was full of flowers, gardens, trees as well as lots of shops, traffic, people, noise and incredibly high buildings. Car drivers are mental! It's a 'run for your life' situation. We copied the locals. I noticed immediately 2 things about Brazilian women. Their bottoms are J-Lo huge! And no matter how scruffy or smart they were, their footwear was gorgeous - obviously paramount to your attire here. David was now only interested in looking at girls bottoms though.....
From when we arrived to later that night we were non stop!! No sooner had we put our cases down then we started to organise our trip to Rio in 2 days time. A little research showed us that flights to nearby Rio (just 1 hour from Sao Paulo) are approx the same price as flying from London to Paris! We also discovered that travelling by bus would take about 7 hours and trains don't do everyday journeys only scenic trips, cross country. We didn't particularly fancy being in Sao Paulo for 1 week. We wanted to go to Rio baby, YEAH!! So, we needed advice.
A travel agency was recommended to us which was up the very steep "pant like a rabid dog" hill which was immersed within the plethora of shops and smoking, chugging traffic. Livia, a fantastic girl, helped us organise our trip. Luckily, we discovered that our onward flight from Sao Paulo to Peru had been changed by 12 hours!!! If we hadn't have checked this, we would have missed our flight to Peru and screwed up the rest of the honeymoon itinerary thereafter!  (David: LAN airlines! The planes and the onboard service is great... but they are hopeless at getting booking information from their computers to where it matters: Us and the check in staff.
Ticket office:     "Yes, I can confirm you are on the 9:15 flight"
Check in:          "I have no record of you being on this flight"... happened every time so far!)
The Hotel Livia chose for us in Rio was full and flight prices were going up every 5mins!! Apparently, the day we fly to Rio is a national holiday so all locals wanted to travel!! Typical!! Then we could only pay for the flights by cash as the Brazilian company with the cheapest flights, only accepts cash or American Express!!? We only had a ¼ of the cash to hand so agreed to return the following day to settle up. What a palava!
When we came out of the travel agency, the heavens opened and the streets were a Monet watercolour of umbrellas and splashing cars. We planned to go to a recommended local Italian restaurant for an early supper after the travel agency. Despite the rain, we still walked to the restaurant, getting saturated, only to discover the restaurant was closed and no opening times displayed!! So we walked back to the Hotel to shower and decided to come out later. We were absolutely drenched!!
The local Italian was great. All food cooked fresh. However, the menu was a right kerfuffle. It claimed, in big colourful letters, that all dishes are 2-person portions! Did that mean anything we choose was 1 dish for 2 people only?? or could we order our own separate dishes? (David: Or maybe a Portuguese popular slogan, just happening to be in English. It wasn't, but that didn't occur at the time. We have a similar concept: Deja-vu, viva la difference... etc.) And why, on a couple of items, did it state "serves 2" when at the start of the menu it claimed that all dishes were for 2 people anyway??! And also, why, on a couple of items, did it state "individual portion" price?? when at the start of the menu it claimed that all dishes were for 2 people??! It was crazy! And our waiter spoke no English and was surly and unhelpful. What we got though, was a large bowl of fusilli pasta with salami - for 2 people!! And it was delicious!!
The next day was our first full day in Sao Paulo. We headed straight for the travel agency to finalise our trip, involving another rabid-dog-panting-power-walk up the hill. Then we got on the metro to the city to explore a bit. The underground system was a piece of piddle to decipher. I had drawn up a short list of things to see and highlighted them on the map. David then took over as navigator, as me and maps and navigation are a three-relationship-trauma! Our first stop was a street called Rua 13 de Mayo. Apparently it was the Italian quarter, full of antique shops, restaurants and 'oldy-worldy' charm. Great! However, after a brain-bleeding circular search for the street, we realised Lonely Planet had cocked up and it was in fact AVENUE 13 de Mayo!!! And then we still went round in circles as it dawned on me after some minutes that I had cocked up too!! by highlighting the wrong street on the map!! so we had to detour again to the right street!! David's face was a picture!
Well, we got to AVENUE 13 de Mayo...eventually. It wasn't quite the romantic Italian quarter we had envisaged! A massive concrete flyover, smoking, chugging freight and buses whooshing past your face and if you needed your car servicing well, you had come to the right place! Further up the road, it looked a bit more Italian...there were some palm trees. Where were the antique shops?? The cafes??? I was gasping for a coffee so we stopped for a sit down. I wanted a tea, David wanted a coffee. Simple. You would think. The girl behind the counter could not understand my request. Cappucino was easy to understand. Tea wasn't. After my several feeble attempts, a lone male customer intervened. His English was good. He understood tea and translated for me. Thankyou!!
"What tea would you like?"
"Just normal please"
"Normal??" the lone male customer frowned over his glasses...
"Yes, everyday"
"Every day?"
"Yes, tea..!"
"Black tea?"
No one understood that I just wanted tea!! Don't people drink tea in Brazil?? I just wanted Normal Tea. With Milk. David tried to explain too with the Black Tea statement but he also got nowhere. "Do you want strawberry..? limon...? Apple...?"
" normal...normal tea with milk...con leche...please!" I implored to our kind translating man.
"Er....which one???" he pointed to a shelf and the girl reached down and showed me several boxes of tea...strawberry,
"AHA!! black tea! Black tea!! Si! Si! That one! That one!" I said and the dawn of enlightenment spread over both the translating man and the girl's faces like a sun rising out of the ocean!!! Sigh! The tea was awful....
After a highly unsuccessful morning, we decided to get back on the metro and head for another part of the city to explore. We got off the metro to what can only be described as mayhem! Traffic roared around us, locals thronged the streets striding in all directions, high rise buildings enclosed us, sirens pierced our brains...but there was a beautiful Cathedral protruding from the urban chaos which lent a calming hue to the whole smoggy city cacophony! After an hour of wandering about watching street magicians and looking at architecture, I was desperate for a sit down and some food. We literally turned a corner and stumbled upon this restaurant which turned out to be absolutely fantastic. The décor was all chandeliers and hanging beer bottles with black and white marble tiles, uniformed waiters and scrumptious food! (David: Flattened steak slab with cheesy pasta... simple, but oh so on my top 5 World food menu)
Afterwards, walking back through town, we decided to go to 'Edifico Italia', recommended by Lonely Planet. This is a 41-storey tower block with a magnificent viewing terrace of Sao Paulo at the top as well as a Piano Bar. It took us some time to discover that the neck-braking high-rise was in fact 'Edifico Italia' as the building sign was actually 'Circolo Italia' instead. Well done Lonely Planet. Another editing triumph! The views were indeed absolutely incredible - Sao Paulo is Massive!! Just amazing. (David: 17 million people live in Sao Paulo and there are high rises up to the horizon.) The piano bar had a grand piano and lots of antique ornaments, crystal vases and swallowing sofas but to have a drink in there included a service charge of 30 Brazilian Reals. (David: Equal to about, whatever excuse we have for a currency these days. Would have been equal to about £6 last month.) Ridiculous so we left, we had the photos.
It had been a really interesting stopover in Sao Paulo....but we were glad we were leaving. The next day we packed our stuff up once more and left for our domestic flight to Rio Baby YEAH!!
Ups and downs in Rio....
Love, us xxxxxxxxxxx
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