You know, it's funny: I've been to Brazil three times, and I have put off creating this page. Could it be that someone was lax in getting me copies of certain pictures that were destined to suck up enormous amounts of bandwidth on this server? Hmmmm...I dunno (just kidding, Dedra). Actually, I good place to start this is at the beginning. Although it may not look like it on the map, São Paulo is actually quite a distance from the US. It takes just as long to get there as it does to get to Europe (and you get the amazing thrill of flushing the toilet and watching the water go down counter-clockwise...southern hemisphere, remember? But...as usual...I digress). The 18 hour flight not withstanding, Brazil is a great country to visit. São Paulo is not what I imagined when I thought of Brazil, but then I was here on business, not for vacation.
São Paulo is NOT a nice seaside resort town. What is it? A thriving city (third largest in the world, last time I checked, at about 28 million people. Compare that to New York City with an estimated population of 17 million...now that's big). I had heard all of the horror stories about Brazil...don't drink the water, carry an extra wallet in case you get mugged, watch out for the air pollution, and so on, and so on. Most of these stories turned out to be just that...stories. The water (well, let's just say 'ice'. Caipirinhas need lots of ice, but more on that later) is relatively safe (maybe I just have an iron stomach). The people are very friendly...no muggings to worry about (of course, there are some areas that you want to stay out of...just like any big city). And the air...well, lets just say that i've seen worse days in the Sacramento Valley in the summertime ('Spare the air', indeed)! The Garulhos Airport is located about 45 minutes from the center of town (or 'centers' of town...there are a few).
One of the first things that I noticed about this city were the roads. If you like to go places by traveling in a relatively straight simple manor, don't go to São Paulo: Everything takes some effort to get to because there is no direct route to anywhere. The 'anywhere' in this case happened to be the Caesar Towers Hotel at Villa Olimpia, a nice little 'burb just to the southwest of the city center. This has got to be one of the coolest little hotels that I have ever stayed in. Tall and thin, it gives you a spectacular view of the many skylines of the city. The only bad thing would be that it happens to be right next to the flight path of the airport. Let me tell you...a 747 screaming by at approximately 300 yards from your window will scare the crap out of you if you are not expecting it!My first trip to São Paulo, my buddy Curtis and I headed down to the intersection of the Rua Augusta and the Avenida Paulista. This is pretty much the commercial center of town, with many banks and museums. One Museum had an interesting collection of artwork (unfortunately I did not get to see it...holiday in Brazil), the Museu Arte de São Paulo, or MASP for short. Since the Museum was closed for the holiday, we wandered around the park across the street and browsed for gifts at the street market set up there. We capped off our one day of sightseeing with a few local brews at a local cafe.
The second trip to São Paulo turned out to be nothing much...literally. After arriving at the airport, and calling my boss, I was informed that the work that I would be doing had been rescheduled, and that I could come home (Let me tell you...that is the hard way to earn 14,000 frequent flyer miles!). They said that I could come home or stay the weekend. Since I had interrupted a ski vacation to take the trip, I flew home and resumed skiing! Had I experienced my last trip before this event, I most assuredly would have stayed and hung out in Brazil. On the last trip I really had a lot of fun and met many cool people like Patricia, Edmond, Nunez, Marco Aurelio, Francisco, John (is it time for a shift change yet?), Daniela and Alessandra (you've got to believe me...I really did find you attractive :) Working aside (I never go into details about the work, because A. It's boring, and B. Some of it my employer would not want shared with the world at large), we went to many fun places together.
Daniela and Alessandra took me shopping (this just proves that women all over the world are the same...they never pass up an opportunity to go to the mall). John and Francisco took me drinking (what the hell is in a 'Vomit Comet', anyway?) and Patricia, Martyn and the rest were never at a loss for a fantastic restaurant recommendation. Speaking of restaurants, this is where São Paulo really shines. Most of Brazil was settled by immigrants from Europe (Portugal ran it's government in exile here for a while) and (suprisingly) Asia (São Paulo has the largest concentration of Japanese outside of Japan). This means tremendous variety and some good ethnic cuisine.
The Brazilians are carnivorous. There restaurant of choice: The Churrascaria, otherwise know as the Brazilian barbecue. I sampled quite a few of these while I was in Brazil. They start you off with a salad bar that would make Californian, green-grazing vegetarians drool. Then all sorts of side dishes start appearing: crab puffs, potatoes (can't have a meal in Brazil without 'em), fried bananas (or plantains), manioc flour, bread...you name it. And then comes the meat: as much as you can eat. There is a little dial that sits on the table that can be configured to show either green (bring me meat!) or red (stop bringing meat). If you like having fun with waiters (and can tell when you are being swore at in Portuguese), set the dial half way between the two...it makes for an interesting evening. When the waiters (extremely attentive...nothing like the states) bring the meat, it is the entire haunch of some animal right on a spit! The waiter will slice you a piece, and you reach up with your tongs and grab it. Most Churrascarias had little reference cards that translate different cuts of beef from Portuguese into English. But beef isn't the end of the story. There's Lamb, Chicken, several different kinds of Sausage...you name it, they have it. To wash it all down, try chopp (that's Brazilian Portuguese for draft beer) or a Caipirinha.
Caipirinhas have to be one of the most potent alcoholic drinks known to man (ask for a Caipirinha de Pinga, or else they will make it with Vodka..Caipirinha com Vodka...which is disgusting). Just when you think your choices on this drink are over, you have to decide what kind of juice you want it made with. A few of my favorites are with lime juice (the traditional Caipirinha - kind of like a Margarita but much tastier), with Maracujá (passion fruit juice - watch out for the seeds. As a side note: Kirsten, you are disgusting. Next time don't sit next to me and crunch on the seeds!), and with Kiwi juice (this one is very refreshing on a hot day - also, this one is not bad with Vodka). I brought some cachaça (this is the sugar cane brandy that they are made with) home from the trip. If you're an alcoholic, this is the place to go...a bottle of this stuff runs about $1.50 US. You have to watch out though...the repeat on this stuff is brutal!
Then of course, there is the beer. And the place to go for this is Finnegan's. Located just south of the MASP, Finnegan's is an authentic Irish pub (well, OK, not exactly traditional, I mean hey...Guiness out of a can? And imported from Russia even - the cyrillic letters are a little hard to miss on the side of the can). The place is run by an Irish ex-pat who loves to hang out with the customers and drink (watch out...he can drink you under the table). Be sure to grab a Finnegan's T-shirt or two, and if you are headed down that way, pick up a Blues CD for the owner...it's a sure way to make a friend and get a few free drinks. This is a great place for dinner too...they make some great pies (try the 'Snake and Pygmy Pie" - Steak and Kidney for those of you who don't get the joke). I won't mention any names but a couple of the guys I was hanging out with from work frequent this place so much, they even have their pictures on Finnegan's web page.
Another cool 'after hours' place is right down the street from the hotel: Dado Bier. This place is a huge nightclub, brew pub that's popular with the local yuppies. $15 US gets you in the door, and the place is so big, you can actually order food from one of several restaurants inside the place. It's a good idea to have some food in your stomach before starting in on shots of chilled cachaça! The dance floor is pretty cool to. All of the countries that I visited have one thing in common: they do lunch...big. When is the last time that you took a two hour lunch on a regular basis? One of the best in the area of town that I was working in is a Mongolian barbecue called 'Tantra'. This place is right out of the Himalayas with really cool ambiance and great food. Another area with decent nightlife is on the Faria Lima. This is a major street with all kinds of bars, restaurants and clubs. There are a couple of 'American' themed biker bars (really good selection of Harley's parked on the sidewalk) and some authentic Brazilian stuff. Across the street is a decidedly 'young' hangout that serves Asai. Asai is chilled (frozen actually) bits of fruit that tastes remarkable like fruit ice cream (ironically enough, it looks like chocolate ice cream). The fruit that it is made from (the name escapes me) is highly prized as an energy booster. Think of this place as São Paulo's answer to the California Juice Bar. Try it served with granola. This is a great place to just hang out any night of the week and if you're lucky, Alessandra will be there to amaze and delight you with card tricks (or was that just for me?).
I am still trying to find an excuse to get back to Brazil to hang out with these fun people before my Visa expires in December (luckily I got a one year Visa...nowdays they only do 90 day Visas). My friend John says that I need to come down and hang on the coast for a week or so...rent a boat, and cruise around while sipping Caipirinhas and soaking up the laid back life. Sounds good to me...
|Big Sur, California||Lisbon, Portugal||Paris, France||Madrid, Spain|
|São Paulo, Brazil||Caracas, Venezuela||Amsterdam, Netherlands||Arnhem, Netherlands|
|Nassau, Bahamas||London, England||Curaçao, Netherland Antilles||Santiago, Chile|
|Edinburgh, Scotland||Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada||Hyderabad, India||Rome & Florence, Italy|
|© 2003 - Todd L. Holsopple
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