“Non dvcor, dvco”
(Motto of São Paulo translating as "I am not led, I lead.”)
As we landed at São Paulo, our first stop on the South American trip, our excitement was just so obvious– like little kids grabbing window seats, peering out and clicking snaps. The first impressions are of a rapidly growing congested city with all those skyscrapers. After all, it is the third largest city in the world!
At the airport we are greeted by our bubbly guide Laura. She doesn’t stop talking for even a minute, as we move from the airport to our hotel, which is at the other end of the city, nearly an hrs drive away- giving us so much information about her city, Brazil, Brazilian culture, what to eat, what to drink etc etc. It starts raining & pouring and we are transported to our very own Bengaluru / Mumbai with traffic jams and over flooded streets! She warns us that this is a daily thing – morning will be nice and sunny and it will start raining at 4:00 PM. And she is so right, as we encounter rain again at the same time the next day!!!
She tells us that traffic jams are so bad here that São Paulo has the 2nd highest no of helicopters per person in any city in the world. Many of the high-rises have helipads. The business honchos feel that the cost of owning and maintain a helicopter are less than the cost of the time wasted in traffic jams. Plus there is the added benefit of freedom from the fear of mugging and kidnapping.
M and I decide to call it a day early. The downside of that is that we are up at 2:00 AM, ready and packed by 5:00 AM and at the breakfast table at 6:00 AM. No one seems to speak English as we struggle and finally succeed to explain Laura’s recommendation - 'cheese bread' (pão de queijo ) to the staff. It’s yummy especially if eaten hot!!!
We finish breakfast and no one from our group is to be seen so we decide to go for a walk. And that was the best part of the day. My initial impressions of this being just another economic power-house with offices, offices and still more offices are changed. Just a short walk from our hotel in the business centre, and we are in lovely neighborhood. It’s full of bakeries and patisseries which have the most amazingly creative ideas for their shops, cakes, vans! Then we see a computer repair shop – that was like height of creativity. They gate of the place had been decorated with chips, keyboard and mouse. The banner had an old laptop with a stethoscope around it…he is after all a doctor for sick laptops!!!!
A cute little dog scampers up – he has orange balloons for socks!!! What a great idea, considering the dampness left by the rain of the previous day.
Back at the hotel, Laura has arrived. As we wait for the bus she gives us a samba demo!!! We leave for the city tour. What a city of contrasts - next to the modern High Rises are the 'The Favelas'. These are supposedly the 'slums' of Brazil but as Maria rightly pointed out - they ain't no 'Dharavi'!!! Inspite of being slums, they are on neat clean tree lined roads
The municipality developed a slum demolition and redevelopment program named Cingapura (Portuguese pronunciation of Singapore). But that was a failure and now what they have is the Favelas, still existing as is behind the Cingapura.
We pass by the official residence of the Governor against the backdrop of towering, modern skyscrapers – again a wonderful blend of the traditional & the contemporary.
Located on Paulista Avenue is the striking São Paulo Museum of Art, one of the postcard monuments of the city. It can’t be missed - it’s a large concrete and glass structure raised above the sidewalk, supported on two huge bright red beams on one side. From there we pass through Ibirapuera Park with it’s beautiful gardens and lakes. It is a huge 2 million square meter oasis of green in the heart of down-town São Paulo.
At the entrance to the park, we stop to admire another of São Paulo's postcard monuments - Monumento às Bandeiras, popularly called by the locals as the Push Push monument. It’s homage to the first settlers, the Bandeirantes. The name literally means "monument to the flags" i.e. "those who follow the flags", which was the name used to refer to these private explorers.
Inside the park, we stop by the lake and admire the obelisk – a monument built in memory of the republicans that were killed in the 1932 revolution.
Laura introduces us to a Brazilain term – Jeitinho which the Bangaloreans can equate with ‘Adjust Maadi’. She changes the itinerary because she knows we will enjoy the local market more than a soccer stadium. So we stop at this market with the most amazing fresh fruits, spices, food, meats & sweets!!!!! Everything looked so tempting it was hard to decide what to try and what to leave.
We first attacked a fresh fruit stall and tried some of the freshest fruits! M bought her lunch – a chicken Pastel de Bacalhau. It was a wee bit salty, but still quite nice.
Obviously Brigadeiro was not to be missed. In southern Brazilian states is it called as negrinho, literally "blackie" and is just a simple chocolate bonbon, but wow…was it yummy!!! There were other flavors also and I tried a pista one which was also amazing!
Soon it was time to leave and say good bye to the market, São Paulo and Laura. One image that stays with me is the friendliness of Laura. She had bought her lunch, a vegetarian Pastel with corn and banana at the market and she willingly was letting some of us try it.