Jan 19, 2011

Big City

Last weekend I took a 6 hour bus journey down to São Paulo, Brazil´s largest city and commercial capital. 13 million people – the third largest city in the world, apparently. São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are rival cities. Both have strong stereotypes about the people who live there. Cariocas, the people of Rio de Janeiro, are known as being laid-back, lazy, starving artists, and beach bums. Whereas, Paulistas from São Paulo are known for being uptight, working stiffs.

The feeling in São Paulo is very different in Rio. It’s a concrete jungle away from the coast.

We arrived early in the morning on Saturday after taking an overnight bus, dropped our bags at our hotel and then walked to a nearby 24-hour bakery/restaurant. I was first to order and our waiter punched our orders in a hand-held machine. Before he finished taking all of our orders, my papaya had already arrived. This was strange, because the service in Rio is typically very, very slow. I have found that in Rio, if I want  service, I need to wave down a waiter, almost like a taxi.  Every restaurant and bar that followed had great service too.

My local friends down there (who I knew from before in Canada) all arrived early to meet us too. And they were the best hosts/tour guides ever.

We saw:
-Avenida Paulista – their most famous street of tall commercial buildings (not very impressive for North American skyscraper standards – but still a cool street)
-Mercado Municipal – a city market (reminded me a little of Granville Island in Van) where we had yummy mutardella sandwiches
-Museu de Paulista – a museum of São Paulo history, also on a beautiful garden but unfortunately it was raining
-Vila Madelena – Aspicuelta Road– a great bohemian bar distract
-Liberdade – the Japanese area of town (like a Chinatown but Japanese), I bought the best gyoza I´ve ever had on the street there.

Liberdade, the Japanese area of town.

Municipal Market

We were lucky that we went for a weekend and on summer holidays when the traffic was less. São Paulo does not have the beaches, mountains and laid-backness of Rio, but it has its own charms – better food, shopping, nightlife etc. I think if I were to live in S.P., a lot of my frustrations with living here would go away (i.e. having to wait a long time for a lot of things), but then I´d miss the natural beauty and energy of Rio.

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