Week 1 - Sao Paulo - Brazil
A day by day account of the first week in our 2022 travels through South America, Mexico, USA and Canada. Starting here in Sao Paulo.
Thursday 3rd February 2022
On our first day, we arrived in Sao Paulo from Paris at 5am after our second Antigen test in 3 days and a 12 hour flight. We landed at Guarulhos Airport (GRU) and had a room booked for our first 4 nights at a hotel/motel in the district of Santana, around 8 kilometers north of the central hub. With Uber being a worldwide app, all we needed to do was log onto the airports WIFI and reset our current location, our taxi arrived in 6 minutes and was charged through Uber to our UK bank account for he exact amount of the ride and our chosen tip. Another great thing financially for us about Brazil is that Santander, with whom we bank, is a major bank in Brazil, with branches all over Sao Paulo, meaning that we can withdraw cash anywhere with no fee's at all.
We got to our place, dropped our bags and headed on the Metro from Santana to Republica and walked from there to Avenue Paulista. Although Paulista has its own Metro stations but we fancied the walk of a couple of miles to take in the essence of the city. The first thing that we were told about Brazil and also most definitely the first thing we noticed was the poverty, everywhere you look. So much homelessness that is very humbling and upsetting to see. Kind of makes an immediate guilt or almost embarrasment set in around being there just as a traveler to see the city, when they can't find enough money for the basics of life. This also means that it is quite a dangerous city, therefore we made sure not to take out too much cash or valuables and if we did, they were close to our bodies, under our clothes. There are regular reports of muggings, so there are places in the city that cannot be visited at night, especially alone. This also means that it feels disrespectful to be taking too many photos in certain situations, therefore I am guessing that we will not have a massive amount from the cities in Brazil.
Friday 4th February 2022
Friday was a day in which we chose to sample some Brazilian food and drink. As we were out walking and exploring the city again, it was the street food that we sampled and then a couple of Brazilian cocktails (Caipirinha's) when we got back to our accommodation. We had breakfast in the hotel and then left to ride the subway, again from Santana, but this time to Se. On leaving the metro we stopped at one of the many food venders in the station to grab a couple of Coxinhas (image below). Served as a completely enclosed fried and battered dough, although in the photo we have broken them in half to get maximum hot sauce coverage. These can come filled with beef or chicken combined with other accompaniments (as with most things here in Brazil), we chose the Chicken and cream cheese option. We continued to wander around the market area in Sao Bento and later got ourselves Empanada's, which offers a similar variety of fillings but served looking and tasting more like a traditional English pasty. It has that same smell combination of pastry and meat. We varied our fillings, chicken and cheese, spicy beef and chicken curry.
After we had had our fill of the clothing, food and general useless goods markets, we headed back to our hotel. We then got involved in something that we did not fully understand, the drinking of traditional Brazilian Caipirinha's. A Caipirinha is a cocktail of rum, lime juice and sugar which sounded ok but at the time we did not realise that when actually in Brazil, the liquor fermented sugarcane rather than rum, and served in very generous portions. We have been told since that after two, things go rapidly downhill and we found this out straight away. We woke up the next morning with both of our third glasses virtually untouched.
Saturday 5th February 2022
One of the most important things for me to experience while in Sao Paulo was 'Projecto Garrido Boxe' which is a boxing gym set up by a local hero named Garrido with the aim of helping the homeless. It is a very unique place as it is outdoor, set-up under a flyover and has been put together with second-hand equipment, donations and Garrido and his friend's massive hard work. There seems to be a lot of people around the city working for the homeless and it is good to see that this is not ignored like it is in some places. In Sao Paulo help to the homeless is respected and treated as a communal responsibility by a lot of people which is nice to see. I had been in contact with Garrido through Facebook and Whatsapp while in England with a view to helping in anyway i could as well as keeping my training going. I had offered basic boxing technique help, English classes or general labour/maintenance as I am massively impressed by his faith and it as a project. We met with him there on Saturday morning and talked with the aid of our phones to help with some translation. He informed us that there was no boxing sparring or pad work at the moment due to the pandemic, as numbers are bad here, therefore it was only in use as a basic gym at the moment, therefore I will just be training there.
In the evening we went to a famous bar street in the city called Rua Augusta to attend the Itau cinema. We had seen that they were showing a film called to Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), about the not so well covered 'Harlem Cultural Festival' in 1969. The film was about how the festival was a celebration of black culture in a transformative time just after tensions had peaked, but was eclipsed in the media by Woodstock which was happening at the same time. We are big soul fans, so this film was perfect for us. Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and a whole host of others watched their own amazing performances for the first time and spoke about how much this festival meant to everyone involved. We then took in a few bars on the street. There is a really large Japanese community in Sao Paulo and so much Japanese food on offer. We stopped at one of the food vendors and had Yakisoba (noodles) with chicken and beef.
Sunday 6th February 2022
What a great day, in a great place, meeting amazing people. This day was spent fully on Avenue Paulista. Megan had been speaking for a lot of the week prior to a girl named Verity (pictured) and had agreed to meet up. Verity has been running a great project for the past three months where she has been cooking a massive batch of food on a saturday and then serving it up to more than a hundred homeless people a time, every sunday. We had ageed with her to help her for the day in order to get an essence of the real Sao Paulo and to try to contribute. We were serving rice and a combination of beans and pork. Again, we really noticed the respect for the help. As well as the homeless being really thankful, the general public were constantly tipping the project and offering words of thanks and encouragement which was great to see and hear. We were there for around three hours until 3pm when the food ran out after over 100 homeless people had been served. We will never forget this experience.
Sunday is also the day that Avenue Paulista get closed to traffic and is pedestrianized. This means that this massive road is filled with group exercise sessions, bands, musicians, street performers, food vendors and traders. This is definitely the best day of the week to visit here. We spent time taking this in, snacking and staying hydrated.
Monday 7th and Tuesday 8th February 2022
On Monday we moved from our hotel/motel in Santana to an Airbnb in Republica which felt a lot more relaxing. We had booked six nights, therefore we felt like we could relax, unpack our things and get in some shopping to be able to cook ourselves and not eat out all the time. We also had a desk and lots of room to continue with our own projects and writing, therefore we spent a couple of days winding down as we had not really took time to take stock of our situation and process the last week of flights from England to Paris and Paris to Sao Paulo, two rounds of anxiety provoking covid tests and so much moving around and walking. It was nice to just relax and take in the beautiful view and access to natural light and air.
On Tuesday we took another journey out into the streets and market area again.
Wednesday 9th February 2022
Throughout our day so far, we had seen so many people eating the type of meal below and we were desperate to try it as it looked very filling, especially after my session at the gym this morning. It is a Brazilian staple meal, sold at almost all eateries, whether it be a corner, canteen style place or a more expensive restaurant. Comprising of your choice of meat with chips, rice and beans. It did not disappoint, both of our plates were given back completely cleaned up.
The photo of the street art is representative of most corners and buildings in Sao Paulo. Amazing paintings and murals fill every possible space and are all of a massively impressive standard. This picture was taken on my run across the city to the boxing gym. Such a beautiful place for art.