Expecting hot weather, we were pleasantly surprised by the cool summer breeze that greeted us in the morning when we stepped out of the hotel lobby onto the sidewalk leading into Avenida Paulista, Sao Paolo’s business district. Though it was a Sunday, the avenue was abuzz with all sorts of activity: Vendors of craft/antiques flea markets were setting up shop next to the Museum of Art Sao Paolo (MASP); Enthusiastic joggers and cyclists were zipping by this way and that; Eager pets taking their morning strollers for a walk.
Then there were Others
What broke the normalcy of the scene was the large community of hobos who decided that they would share the same address as the skyscrapers of the commercial artery – the occupancy rate was about one every 100m or so. I am not known to exaggerate. They disappear come midday, but their presence was very much felt.
We were warned to be careful by so many. I can see a bit of why that is now. We didn’t feel particularly threatened, though we were more alert than usual and did not carry with us any more than necessary for fear of adding on to the already decent crime statistics. Also, we made sure to get off the streets when night fell. Erring on the side of caution seemed the right thing to do.
People in Sao Paolo
That said, we found Brazilians, or rather Paulistanos, to be very warm and friendly. Smiles and holas are extremely common amongst strangers passing one another in the streets. Landing the plane safely will garner loud, appreciative applause. A smile and nod across the breakfast table will earn you a pat on the back moments later. An elbow that accidentally finds its way into your side, will earn you an apology and a quick rub to ease the pain. Paulistanos are entertainingly expressive, particularly when you don’t quite understand what they are saying; And will turn to their iPhones to translate Portuguese into English to get their message across.
The Ruas (or Streets; I added the ‘s’ for plural and hope it works the same way in Portuguese)
Other than Avenida Paulista, there were a few more streets that we checked out. Rua Haddock Lobo, the one our hotel is on, is a street with rather interesting eateries and stores that sporadically pop up as you go along. If you continued on, you would arrive at Sao Paolo’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue/Champs Élysées/Knightsbridge, Rua Oscar Freire. In all honesty, it is not the equivalent. But aspiring, yes. In case of interest, this is where the flagship store of Havaianas is found.
Bookworms should not miss Livraria Cultura
Once upon a time the largest bookstore in Brazil, it has since spawned more of its kind around the country. The flagship store in Sao Paolo remains its largest chain to this day, and I think it has plans to spread its wings beyond Brazil. It was crowded when we were there, and the airconditioning was not performing optimally so the air was stale…and some parts of the 3-storey establishment smelled sour. Other than that, it felt as if we were visiting a modern public library that sold instead of lent its books.
Trianon Park is worth a visit
Walking into a strange park seemed akin to an open invitation to be robbed. So we have always steered clear of the dubious shades of large, tall trees and overgrown bushes. But this park that had trees over 300 years old was particularly inviting with police standing guard at most corners. 🙂 Add to that people walking large dogs and small, aggressive, yappy ones loudly announcing the presence of other persons within a 5 meter radius, we thought we could dip our toes in for a bit. We were glad we did. Watching a group of Caucasians practicing Lian Gong (I don’t even know what that is) taught by another Caucasian to Chinese orchestral music and a voice counting 一， 二， 三 in the background was amusing to say the least.
One day is too short a time to really see a place for what it is. But I think we stuffed in what we could, and enjoyed our time there. So, would we go back to Brazil?
A resounding yes.