Sao Paulo, one of the world’s biggest cities. When you include all of the metropolitan areas you pretty much have the population of Australia in one place. That’s phenomenal! but it’s not hard to believe once you try to catch the subway at peak hour. The people look extremely diverse. Stand in the street for five minutes and try to pick the origins of the people walking past you and you’ll constantly be bemused and intrigued.
Getting in and where I stayed
I flew to Sao Paulo from Manila. Yep, Manila. The opposite side of the world and not only that I flew the longer way around the world via Europe. It sounds silly, but you’d do it too if you could fly around the world for $20.
I came to visit some Brazilian friends I’d met on my last trip to South America. Something inside just told me that I needed to be there and be around them. Maybe it’s because they are so warm and welcoming and that just beams from their personalities. Maybe it’s because they love to have fun and have a laugh so carefree. Maybe it’s everything about their approach to life and people. I don’t know and I still can’t narrow in on what it is, but I knew I just needed to go and soak it up.
I was lucky enough to spend a bit over a week with my friend Luisa and her extremely kind family. I was expecting just a couch, but I even had my own room in her flat.
What’s it Sao-ll about?
Brazilian Bakeries and Higienopolis
The first thing we did was check out the bakeries of her suburb and now I understand why the Brazilians were so defensive of their bread when we were in Chile together. Bakeries in Sao Paulo (at least) were fantastic!
This is where I discovered the best Brazilian snack – hands down. You take a pão de queijo (a bread baked with cheese), cut it in half and grill it and finally slather it with more melted requeijo (another soft cream cheese). We ate three of these in the first sitting and if I ever own a cafe I’m going to serve these for sure. They will rewrite the saying to “selling like hot pão de queijo”.
We also checked out a more up market pâtisserie called Benjamin’s which had a sinful milkshake. It seemed as if they’d somehow made a caramel cake and turned it into a milkshake. Heavy heaven.
Another great cafe to chill and eat at in Higienopolis is Santo Grao in the mall. It’s a bit more pricey of course as this is an expensive area, but they do a great signature roast and fruit salad. It’s also adjoined to a bookshop. Actually there is also another cool bookshop in the mall too on the Avenida Higienopolis side.
After such heavy eating it was necessary to walk it off. There was a small park in Luisa’s neighbourhood which turned out to be a good workout spot. Knitbandits had already knitbombed the place.
The other thing I love about Higienopolis is that it’s the home of tons of golden retrievers. Actually loads of dogs in general and the streets are full of people walking dogs!
Marilia came to join us for some wine and some R&R, and then it all started to feel like time had rewound to October last year.
The Central Market
Rain had been a dampener on the whole Sao Paulo experience from the start and it didn’t let up all weekend. We headed on a train downtown to Sé to see the city and central markets. The tropics constantly amaze me with a whole host of bizarre fruits and vegetables that we never even hear about back home.
Maybe not the weirdest, but my favourite by far was finding out how cashews are grown. I think we all know what the nut looks like, but like many pre-processed things in the supermarket I had no idea of their original form or how they grow.
I picked up some ultra genuine Ralph Lauren sneakers from the market for R85. He told me they were made with real leather, but I don’t think he understood how badly I was ripping him off. They did the job well.
I also scored some St Agur French blue cheese for just R150/kg. This has to be one of the best blue cheeses there is and so I was pretty happy when I got home and found they’d marked the wrong price because normally it’s AU$120/kg! It turns out Brazilians love cheese too and out it on everything.
The rain started to show it’s full fury, but that didn’t stop us meeting up with Carolina at a cool pop up bar called BTNK (beatnik) in a disused train depo. It was in the middle of no where, but it was novel, with good music (not the jazz music advertised though) enjoyed over a bottle of wine. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of splashing about in the rain! (well maybe nice shoes don’t but mine did not care)
Parque Ibirapuera and Açai
The next day was (just guess), raining, but we tried to go to Parque Ibirapuera anyway. It’s a huge recreational park in the middle of Sao Paulo and even comes with a few museums, but in the rain we opted for some açai. Just R18 for a tub far bigger than I should have ever tried to eat! It was a constant brain freeze, but definitely enjoyable with some banana and museli.
During the week we hit up Vila Madalena a couple of times which was my favourite area of Sao Paulo. Creative looking places, cool grafiti and nice cafes made me feel a bit like I was in Melbourne.
Brazilians certainly know how to do both filter coffee and European style espresso. That I can certainly vouch after two weeks as well as the quality of the baked goods. Thank God the European influences are stronger than the American ones.
Paulistas apparently consume more pizza than anyone else in the world so it’s no surprise that we ate good pizza multiple times. Take away pizza is brilliant here, but we had a nice sit down dinner with Luisa’s sister and boyfriend. The only thing I’ll say is that in Brazil they don’t know how to deal with winter. How can you not have portable heaters (or necessarily even hot water at home?) outside the restaurant? In Canberra your business would be empty or perhaps be surrounded by a bunch of frozen bodies.
It’s like Europe
Along with a lot of history comes a lot of interesting architecture too. Sometimes when walking the streets I could swear I was in a little piece of Europe. Cobblestone streets and European style buildings just have such a nice appeal to them.
The End…to be continued!
Above all though I think it was nice to just relax, chill and enjoy some good wine and good company after a long time on the road. Everyone will forever be telling me I should have gone to Rio, but for me there’s no way I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
After this we took a bit of a side trip to Americana for a weekend and then it was time to hit the road for Iguacu Falls. Back in a few weeks!
I actually left a bunch of luggage at Luisa’s place and so I had to come back to it after venturing south. I really enjoyed travelling ultra light and I know how I’m going to do that next year now!
The good thing about coming back meant that I could visit my loves once more. Pão de queijo at Dona Deôla 24hr Padaria & Cia and the milkshake at Benjamin’s.
That’s pretty much all I had planned to do, but a traveller at the hostel drew me out for one last dinner in Itaim Bibi. Who would have thought that they would have an Eataly here that’s bigger than New York!
After a good night’s sleep, it was time wake up early to make the most of the airline lounge. I don’t think I’ve ever flown business class before, but it was only $150 more than economy. After doing it I wouldn’t say it was worth it. I’d rather just fly 3 times and use the spare change to buy a lounge pass and some dinners at Michelin star restaurants.