Bye SP, Hi BA

Last night a bunch of us bought all the makings for a burger feast at a friend’s apartment in Vila Madalena. Upon returning to the apartment from the grocery store, it became apparent that there was no cooking gas (in many apartments here you buy canisters of cooking gas instead of being hooked up to a line). As desperate times call for desperate measures, the burgers were cooked in the toaster. Rest assured they were delicious.

Around 1 am we left the apartment and walked to Matrix Bar. The following five hours were filled with the most remarkable musical selection and hilarious dancing I’ve ever witnessed in one evening. 60’s-70’s pop hits, 90’s britpop, 90’s american hiphop, a bit of typical new indie stuff, 80’s manchester, all seamlessly mixed and perpetually on point. Before last night I didn’t know it was possible to follow cypress hill with iggy pop. At 6:00 am when the lights went on for last call, the crowd was not having is- thus a human ladder was formed and proceeded to unscrew the light fixtures and resume the dance party. Although I’m not exactly the type to wear my sunglasses at night, they sure as shit would have been nice in the morning for the walk home.

This morning I bought a flight on Pluna, the Uruguayan national airline, to Buenos Aires, departing Sao Paulo international at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. I don’t really want to leave Sao Paulo, but I have a meeting Monday morning at 10:00 to acquire the keys for my apartment in Buenos Aires. Hopefully customs isn’t a huge pain in the ass, since I have both my stamped brazilian entry and exit card because apparently the customs agent in Rio neglected to keep their half. I suppose it’s better than having neither.

A bunch of friends are meeting up in Cuzco, Peru in April. Halfway considering ditching my flight out of Santiago in April, getting one out of Bogota for later in the month, and bussing up the Andes.

Although I’m not too keen on leaving Brazil, I must say, I’m pretty excited to speak Spanish.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 28, 2009 at 2:27 pm, filed under Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

Friday afternoon in SP

So today I went back downtown to Praca de Republica and checked out the Edificio Italia, a forty something story building with a fancy restaurant and free observation deck on the top. Unlike Santander, this one doesn’t check for id.

Looking south. I’m staying somewhere in the mess of buildings beyond the big antennas on the right half of the frame.



Northside. The green area is Praca de Republica.

I walked back to the hostel from downtown instead of taking the subway, which took about an hour and a half. The transition between old downtown, Bela Vista, hipster land on Rue Augusta north of Paulista, Jardins, and Vila Madalena is pretty interesting on foot.

Back in Pinheiros, I saw this outstanding Honda Motorcycle parked in front of this gallery a few blocks from the hostel.

If I spoke Portuguese I’d probably move here for a while.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 27, 2009 at 4:29 pm, filed under São Paulo, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

<3 São Paulo

I love this city.

You can buy popcorn on any street corner, california maki is made with mango and strawberry instead of avocado, and pretty girls look you in the eyes and smile on the subway.

Every day around 4:00 pm a storm comes through and turns the hilly streets into rivers. Most evenings the sky looks to be signaling the end of the world.

Walking back home from the market this evening, the sky looked like this.

Today I moved into a new room at the hostel, since I officially extended my stay until Sunday. Last night we went out as a group of no less than 15, and actually required three taxis even though part of the group walked. We played a bit of pool and I was surprised to find out that in many Brazilian bars there is actually a referee that handles the table order and enforcement of proper etiquette. Just as has been the case every other night this week, it was sunny outside when we got home.

I strolled through Jardins yesterday on my way up to Avenida Paulista. Paulista is the most expensive real estate in Latin America and the most important street in Sao Paulo. It’s the highest point in the city, and because of this most of the skyscrapers are topped with gigantic pointy antennas. Jardins is full of expensive shopping and fancy shit, and is also home to the only American Apparel in Brazil, which here is marketed to the rich and is almost three times as expensive as in the states. A pair of pants goes for 250 Reals.

There is also a place called Galeria Melissa that has a bunch of plastic shoes inside of bubbles and a big elephant emerging from their facade.

I’d have loved to not have this woman in my photo, however after waiting over five minutes while her daughter shot a series of different poses, I realized she may not have been leaving for a while.

On Paulista I stumbled upon a mall, much like the ones found on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, except that it was full of photo galleries, book stores, cafes, and art supply stores. I was told to stop before I even began taking photos.

Four on the dot, the storm came through. The sky turned black, opened up, and everyone ran for shelter. I found myself hanging out in a magazine stand, in which I flipped through a Brazilian photoshop magazine only to find a two page spread with a photo of the CTA Damen stop and my apartment building in Chicago.

Consolacão Metro stop on Paulista

The Avenue

Running to the Magazine Stand for shelter

Trying to stay dry

After the storm

I decided to spend the 8 Real to buy an umbrella, and walked back to the metro to head home.

Today I took all three trains to the Republica stop in the center with the goal of shooting photos from the top of the Edeficio Santander, which is a tall bank building with an observatory and apparently a 360 degree view of skyscrapers as far as one can see. However I soon found out that they scan your passport to allow access to the elevator, and as we all can agree, only a fool would walk around central Sao Paulo with a passport in their pocket.

I did however, enjoy a delightful sandwich and smoothie at a juice bar at praca de sé while observing some first rate derelictism in the adjacent plaza. Though I’d have liked to take more photos, in this part of the center of the city you have to be discreet with your valuables, to say the least.

Walking from republica to praca de sé.

Old buildings downtown

Praca de sé

Praca de sé is a metro hub, connecting two of the busiest subway lines.

Back at Clinicas it’s a five block walk home.

Going out in Vila Madalena again tonight.

Apparently I may not have an apartment to come home to in Chicago? Stay tuned!

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 26, 2009 at 5:26 pm, filed under São Paulo, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

São Paulo

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Sao Paulo is enormous. Just absurdly huge. With 20 million people, it is the largest metropolitan area in the southern hemisphere. To go from the bus station (upper pin on the map) to my hostel (lower pin) on the very clean and highly efficient metro requires one transfer and about half an hour. The blocks are huge, and what would at appear at first glance at a map to be a ten minute walk can actually turn out to be a few mile journey that can take over an hour.

It also turns out Sao Paulo is hilly. Being from Chicago, I often refer to Manhattan as hilly and San Francisco as mountainous, and while Sao Paulo is not as steep as SF, it’s shockingly hilly. Perhaps I overlooked this because Rio is the postcard city, built into and around the hills and hugging the coast. Sao Paulo simply has paved over the hills, and observing the city from above, as a simple google image search will reveal, one simply sees an endless sea of skyscrapers of varying height. Once on the ground in the city, you realize, much like the shocking hilliness of downtown Los Angeles, that the thick sea of buildings actually blocks out the varying topography.

Sao Paulo is also extremely diverse. People from every culture in the world live in this city. It even has the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan. Anyone can be from Sao Paulo, thus it’s much easier to blend in. On the subway from the bus station to the hostel I talked with a few people (my backpack drew attention and Brazilians are extremely friendly). One kid had just moved here from Belo Hortizonte and was curious where I was going. We could only communicate in Spanish, because I still cannot speak any Portuguese and he knew almost no English. My Spanish and English caught the attention of a girl on the train who was from Manaus, living in Sao Paulo, but had lived in Oregon and spoke perfect English. We talked for a bit and she showed me where to transfer to the next train. The next train was full of hipsters and models and kids with skateboards and could very well have been the L train from Union Square to Williamsburg.

The hostel I’m staying in is amazing. The people who are staying here as well as the locals who run it and hang out here are all really friendly. A group of us went out to a block party last night that actually walks around the city dancing until sunrise. People play music and “bartenders” follow the crowd, pushing wheelbarrows full of beer, cachaca, and mixers. The party wandered through Jardim Paulista and Vila Madalena and ended in a square a few blocks down the hill from the hostel.

There was a crazy thunderstorm today that lasted about an hour. After the storm passed, I wandered the city shooting photos. Although statistically this city is more dangerous then Rio, I don’t feel particularly sketched out walking around with a backpack and taking photos.

The city is just insane. The juxtaposition of new skyscrapers and colorful old houses and storefronts, the hills, the helicopters, the people. I only booked the hostel until Wednesday night, but I’m already thinking about staying through the weekend. If I do, I’ll forgo Florianopolis and fly directly to Montevideo. The flight is actually about the same price as the combination of bus tickets from SP-Floripa and Floripa-Montevideo.

Here are some pictures:

This is the hostel where I am staying.

Down the hill from the hostel towards Jardins.

My corner.

The Brazilians call their payphones “rabbit ears.”

Sometimes an ear is missing…


Lots of bright colors.

The sky here is crazy.

This is a discreet neighborhood entrance to a fancy McDonald’s.

This is the same McDonald’s. I’m not sure why I find this fascinating.

The small streets are buzzing with people, but the big avenues can be strangely deserted.

The garbage is thrown in these cages on the curbside.

Pão de Acúcar (Sugarloaf, like the mountain in Rio) is the largest supermarket chain in Brazil. This one is down the hill from my hostel and reminds me of a Trader Joe’s.

Walking back up the hill towards the hostel.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm, filed under São Paulo, Travel. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.