Where to start? The largest city in Latin America, the financial heart of the country, the home of the best Brazilian music, a crazy, chaotic place. And most importantly, Marina’s birthplace! A place where you breathe the culture along with the pollution, with great wealth and deep poverty all together in one place. It’s a place Marina has mixed feelings about, a place she remembers fondly from her childhood. So we spent our time here visiting friends and relatives, to rediscover some of these places from many years past.
Our two weeks here was split between two homes, both in the Vila Olímpia neighbourhood. First, Fabi and Paulo, friends we originally met back in Dublin. We felt right at home, nothing better than a few glasses of wine around the dinner table and a chat in the evening. Thanks guys! The second one belonged to the family of Tatiana, who was Marina’s first flatmate when she moved to Ireland back in 2011. We were absolutely spoiled here, much appreciated!
But, soon, we ventured out. There’s enough in São Paulo to keep you busy for a lifetime, so naturally we didn’t do everything. We hit the Pinacoteca (A former art school Marina’s mum once studied in), Banco do Brasil Cultural, the Teatro Municipal, Liberdade (chinatown), the shopping area around 25 Março, the art institute Tomie Ohtake, and the famous high street Avenida Paulista. The city is such a mix of old and new, there are new things to appreciate around every corner.
Marina’s mum was visiting São Paulo at the same time, so we had the chance to join her for a few days. The Teatro Municipal has extremely cheap concerts most Saturdays, we paid only R$5 (€1) to attend a classical concert in the main auditorium! An amazing experience in a beautiful theatre, the grand finale was a cacophony of rare instruments and strange sounds from all over Brazil. A great night, it was indeed “Louco Barato” – crazy cheap.
The opportunity arose to do something really off the typical tourist route. We were on TV! One of the main production studios of Globo TV (the #1 network in Brazil), is only a short walk away from where we stayed in Vila Olímpia. Another of Marina’s childhood friends now works for Globo as a researcher for Altas Horas, a weekly culture and current affairs show. I jumped at the chance for millions of Brazilians to see my face on TV. In the audience. In the background. Who wouldn’t? The show was fun, the presenter (Serginho Groisman) was fantastic. The guests were three fairly important Brazilian celebrities. A model, (Isabeli Fontana), an actress (Letícia Sabatella), and another TV show host (Márcio Garcia), with a few appearances by a rock band plus a series of Elvis impersonators. But the best part:
We got our 2.3 seconds of fame!
Another family outing took us to Pirituba, an outer suburb to the northwest. We visited Marina’s godmother Rosa, her granny’s old house from years past, and ran into some of the neighbours. A local landmark is Pico do Jaraguá, the highest point within São Paulo city limits.
Given our habit of visiting high points when possible, we stopped to enjoy the view. We passed the cultural hub of SESC Pompeia on the way back to town, it’s a reformed factory with a very “british-modern” feel to it. Finally we visited Cecilia, another family friend, and her two cats.
Let’s not forget David, another fellow student from Dublin, always ready for a night out, and always great fun. We spent a few good nights out in the city centre, at the Praça Roosevelt (good drinking spot), Bar Mandibula, where we saw a Argentine band and bought their CD. Rua Augusta too, full of bars and clubs. Every night is a good one to go out here.
In a city that’s normally full of bumper-to-bumper traffic, it’s rare to find a pedestrianised street. Even rarer, to find a huge avenue free of cars for an entire day. But, that’s what Avenida Paulista becomes every Sunday. Everyone’s walking, skating, cycling, we even found a Japanese couple doing a cosplay photoshoot in the middle of the street! The Itaú cultural institute and MASP (Art Museum) are probably the biggest sights on this street, but it’s like walking down 5th Avenue or the Champs-Elysee: the buildings themselves are the attraction. Just down the hill is a bar that’ll really let you feel the city. Called “Mirante” (Viewpoint) it’s on a viaduct over a motorway. Bands perform here out in the open air, and underneath there are food stalls, a restaurant, cocktail bar, etc. Marina’s pretty sure she saw someone famous, Jaloo, dancing away at the next table!
São Paulo could have been almost perfect – but we had a bit of a mishap on our second-last day. Since it’s always difficult to find a parking space, we left the car somewhere… maybe we shouldn’t have. Next morning we woke to find the car missing and a friendly wooden frame in it’s place, telling us we’d been towed. Shit. We spent the rest of the day queuing at the Dept. of Transport office, paying a fine, getting documents together, and eventually putting the car back where it should have been. After our very expensive day trip, we’d be eating noodles for a month to balance our books. So, whatever else you do in this enormous city, make sure you don’t park within 5 metres of a corner, or you’ll suffer the consequences too.
- Pinacoteca Art Museum: Free!
- Estação da Luz Museum: Free!
- Banco do Brasil Cultural: Free!
- Teatro Municipal Shows: R$5 / €1.50
- Tomie Ohtake Institute: Free on tuesdays.
- Globo TV filmings: Free if you ask ahead.
- Pico da Jaraguá: Free if you can get there by car/bus etc!
- SESC Pompeia: Free entrance with many events every week.
- Latin America Memorial: Free entrance.
- Bar Mandíbula: Beers from about R$12 / €3.50.
- Mirante 9 de Julho: Beers from about R$5 / €1.50.
- Parking fine: R$622 / €176 😦