I ended up spending three and a bit days in Sao Paulo. My hotel was right in the old downtown. It had delusions of grandeur and thought that because it had a restaurant (which was closed) that made it a hotel rather than a hostel. It was ok though; for the money I paid it was fine.
There are a lot of rough sleepers in the downtown area. Not particularly a problem by day but it gave the area a general feeling of insecurity at night. I didn’t wander around the area after dark.
By day there are a lot of fine buildings to admire:
The first thing I did was to look for the Banespa Tower. I’d read this was the highest tower to see the city view, and that’s always a good place to start in a new city. However it turned out that the Banespa is closed and you can no longer go up. I was a little disappointed until someone told me about the Martinelli Building. Not quite as tall but you could go up for free and see the view from there.
Built by Count Giuseppe Martinelli, an Italian immigrant, his family lived on the top floor in an attempt to convince the public that the building was safe.
Shopping seems to be a big hobby for many Paulistanos. In Sao Paulo they work hard and also play hard. Avenue Paulista is Chock-a-block with shops, malls, galleries, bars and such. I had a quick look although I’m not a keen shopper.
Prices are high; a lot of stuff is imported and you could get the same stuff in Europe or North America far cheaper. Only Brazilian brands (Havaianas for example) offer any real savings.
The Havaianas shop was amazing. Not only selling so many of the flip-flops that make them famous, they also sell special socks to wear with your flip-flops. I’m not quite sure who wears socks with their flip-flops, or whether it represents the same giant faux-pas as wearing socks with any other type of sandal (the look so popular with older European men). It could just be I’m so far out of touch that I don’t realise that this is now the height of fashion, however I didn’t see anybody wearing this look in the street.
I also enjoyed visiting Liberdade, which is the Japanese area. Brazil has the highest number of Japanese immigrants of all South American countries. These days there are also a lot of Korean and Chinese in the area. There is a small market on Saturdays, right outside of the metro. The area itself is full of sushi/noodle restaurants; after so many years in Asia I never thought I’d ever voluntarily eat noodles again, but time is a great healer. Asian supermarkets and Japanese style makeup/cosmetics stores are also popular.
I had my first Portuguese conversation with a sales assistant in one of the make-up stores. ‘Tudo bem?’ she asked me, which I remembered from my first you tube lesson means both ‘how are you’ and ‘I’m fine’.
‘Sim tudo bem’ I told her (yes I’m fine) and then having a sudden recollection of the lesson added ‘e voce’ (and you?). She replied that she was fine too, but I felt so pleased with myself. I had managed to keep that conversational ball in the air for three whole sentences. I racked my brains for something else I had leaned that I could add, but couldn’t remember anything. But still; three whole sentences. I think it may now be time for me to move on to more complex phrases.