the only way for me to capture an experience on paper is if i write it down immediately. many of my travels disappear into memories before the details make their way into words. a few photos get posted here and there to help jog my memory years later.
but, it is the trips that include lots of bus time, flight time, and alone time that end up being best documented. this trip is one of those trips. first up? brazil!
we are on a bus heading from sao paulo to ubatuba. just reaching the peak of the serra do mar and heading down the hills to the beach. our quick trip to brazil is something of a city sandwich: sao paulo and rio de janeiro with some relaxing beach and surf time in ubatuba in between.
after a five hour flight to atlanta and a nine hour redeye to sao paulo, ryan and i arrived in brazil absolutely exhausted. (the late night celebration in san francisco prior to our initial flight might have been part of the problem… thanks viv, ruth, and andrew…) we quickly skipped through customs and threw our one overstuffed suitcase into an uber. yep, an uber. ordered straight from the app with ease. ¡vamos a jardins village hostel por favor!
oh wait, they don’t speak spanish in this south american country?! shit.
i haven’t visited a country without a native speaker or being able to speak the language in a little while. it is sort of fun to be forced to learn some portuguese and create my own bastardized version of spanish, english, and random google translated portuguese words. turns out i can understand enough key words to get by. and the google translate app is like cheating really… with the photo hover translate feature?! i can’t wait to tell our children about the days when traveling to a foreign country was WAY harder.
we are in brazil for five days. we haven’t traveled like this in awhile either. quick stops in multiple places to see as much as we can before going onto the next country. we have had the privilege and luxury of spending weeks or even months in most of our travel destinations. time to shift the mindset. we’ll never see it all, just sample and take notes for next time.
and so, we spent our first 24 hours in brazil, walking around as much of sao paulo as possible. my feet have blisters and my shoulders are sunburnt, but my belly is full and my heart is too.
sao paulo has a population of 12.11 million people. it is the most populous city in the southern and western hemispheres. it is the 11th most populous city on earth.
and yet, it felt manageable.
of course, we didn’t have time to visit everywhere, but the neighborhoods we visited were clean, easy to navigate, and full of cheerful paulistanos (sao paulo locals).
our hostel was in an area known as jardins, down a cute little alley.
it was a couple blocks off avenida paulista, one of the main bustling city streets crowded with men in suits, street vendors, and an endless variety of people.
that was one of the main things we noticed right away. it is impossible to typify a brazilian. every time i thought i’d hear english or german or japanese come out of someone’s mouth, it was portuguese. every time i thought, “that person is for sure a tourist,” they’d prove me wrong. brazil should maybe steal the american title of “melting pot.”
and everyone is lovely. from the uber driver trying to point out attractions to us in broken spanish…
to the shaved head barista teaching us about the history behind the delicious “bread of cheese”…
to the old man helping us find a misplaced credit card at the empanada bar…
to the woman at the phone store directing me to a place where i could find an outlet converter…
to the waiter at the brazilian steakhouse explaining how to take advantage of all the tableside-carved meat.
every confusion caused by our lack of portuguese came along with a loving smile and a joyful willingness to help.
we walked from our hostel in jardins all the way to vila madalena, an artsy district full of hip shops, galleries, and cafes. it was further of a walk than we expected, but it was a great way to take in our new surroundings.
we toured beca de batman, an alley filled with amazing street art. all of sao paulo is covered in street art and graffiti. buildings, sidwalks, walls, cars, there is art everywhere. but, this specific alley is a famous spot to see a lot at once.
after this, the effects of our redeye started to set in. we were both exhausted. like, barely keep our eyes open exhausted. we stopped to fill our bellies with empanadas and hoped it would give us a little energy boost.
it didn’t. so instead of walking an hour to our next destination, we called up an uber. $4 for a 30 minute drive? yes please. ryan instantly fell asleep as we battled traffic to the central part of sao paulo or the old historic downtown.
the calm, artsy vibe of vila madalena and the poshness of jardins disappeared. we were now back in what felt like a city. people everywhere. smells everywhere. an underground system of rails below us. the blazing afternoon sun above us. we let ourselves get lost. walking the streets taking in as much as we could.
throughout our travels to major cities, we inadvertently have started a tradition of going up to get a bird’s eye view of the city from its tallest building. usually it is overpriced and overcrowded, but it is always worth it. a chance for perspective. a chance for orientation. a chance for awe.
the edificio italia has a 360 degree viewing terrace from their 42nd floor. it cost R30 (about $7.50 USD) and included a free glass of wine. a real steal compared to the $30-60 you usually spend getting to the top in places like hong kong, seattle, tokyo, chicago, etc.
sao paulo sprawls forever. in every direction. there is no one main clump of skyscrapers. it is a sea of skyscrapers.
with my shoulders getting progressively more red and our lack of sleep getting progressively more impossible to ignore, we decided it was time for a little siesta. after realizing we were in an uber pickup hell (three drivers couldn’t find us and canceled even after we tried moving), we jumped into a taxi and fiercely fought our heavy eyelids.
sure, we only had 24 hours to take in as much of the city as possible, but enjoying an afternoon siesta is definitely a classic way to experience south america.
we passed out hard but woke up just in time for dinner. what kind of food did we want to eat? meat, of course!
when in brazil, a churrascaria it is pretty much a must-do. an endless delicious variety of meats on a skewer brought to your table and hand carved onto your plate.
the restaurant we chose came complete with a beautiful buffet of sides as well (and the above photo on their website). not to mention a tasty flan for dessert.
after we literally could not eat another bite without spewing, we strolled home in complete satisfaction. it was only 9:30pm, but we had to catch a bus early in the morning, so we settled in and drifted back to sleep.
i know, we must be getting old… in a country known for its celebrations and not going out until the sun comes up…
we’ll have to see what rio has in store. 🙂