Saturday, September 14, 2013

Where to Travel: One Week in São Paulo @ Brazil

A good friend of mine, Nicole and her boyfriend Tariq (both pictured above), recently spent several months living and traveling throughout in Brazil. She always had a strong desire to visit the country, so with admirable courage and a bold spirit of adventure, she quit her day job in the Bay area and headed south to turn her dreams into reality.

Although thousands of miles separated us, that most certainly didn’t stop me from incessantly nudging her to write about her travels so that I could vicariously live through her, as she jumped around from Salvador to Rio and eventually to São Paulo.

Thus, this blog post was born.

Nicole graciously shared her experiences of wandering through Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, encountering vegetarian restaurants, romantic date spots, festive parties and so much more. If you're ever wondering what Brazil is like or planning to visit in the near future and need ideas on what to see and where to go, read about Nicole's adventures in the following paragraphs. I'm ready to pack my bags and go!

From Nicole:

After two months of urban beach living in Rio de Janeiro, I was ready for another escape, this time to Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo. I headed to Sampa or SP—as the Paulistas like to call it—with my partner Tariq to conduct research interviews for the feature film we have been working on. Our plans were only to spend a few days there. But on our descent into Congonhas-São Paulo Airport, we quickly realized that a few days of work wouldn’t leave nearly enough time to experience all that this rockin’ metropolis has to offer. Good thing we only bought one-way tickets!

I like São Paulo for a number of reasons:

1 – You don’t need a car and you don’t want car. It’s true that Sampa is a concrete jungle, often difficult to walk around in without getting lost or lightheaded from the fumes of ethanol gas and cigarettes. I don’t dread public transportation, and the city’s ultra-modern and clean metro system can get you to each of its zones efficiently. Where the metro doesn’t go, buses and trains can take you. Just keep in mind the city is MASSIVE! It can take an hour to get from one side of the city to another, even on the subway! Step into a boteco (bar) and have a cerveja (beer) during hora do rush (rush hour), and forget about driving in this city unless you want to waste hours of your life in traffic.

2 – You can have a great time on a budget.
While São Paulo is Latin America’s economic powerhouse, it also is a cultural mecca. It has an incredible amount of museums, parks and cultural events happening on a daily basis, and most of them are free.

3 – More diversity, more international cuisine than any other city in Brazil!

Here are my recommendations for anyone living or visiting the city soon:

Where to Lunch/Vegetarian: Gopala Mãdhava

The Eats: A lactovegetarian restaurant; Indian-Brazilian fusion

Location: Centro (near Paulista & Consolação metro stations)

The Vibes: namaste

The $ Factor: R$18-$R30 ($9 -$15 USD)

When-to-Go: Lunchtime only

The 4-1-1: Only two three-course plate options to choose from, but the menu changes each day. Not open on Sunday. No alcohol served.

Why I’ll be back: More like a food retreat than a traditional restaurant. With items on the menu like creamy polenta with tomato sauce and artichoke, and deep-fried milk balls in rose syrup, come hungry. This food is divine, even for non-vegetarians! On your way in, help yourself to complimentary sweet ginger juice and on your way out, try the chai tea.

Where to Have the Best Date Spot: Terraço Itália

The Eats: Italian

Location: República in Centro

The Vibes: Romantic and chic, with breathtaking 360-degree views of the entire city

The $ Factor: $$

When-to-Go: 7 p.m.–later

The 4-1-1: You’ll break the bank at this $100-a-plate joint, but they also have a lounge/piano bar next door where you can enjoy the incredible views with a cocktail. The piano bar has a cover charge starting around 9 p.m.

Why I’ll be back: Soaring 40 floors above the ground, it’s the kind of place that makes you feel like you are in a James Bond movie. It’s also a popular meet-up spot for Americans and foreigners.

Where to Museum: Museu Afro Brasil

The Vibes: cultural, historic

Location: Parque Ibirapuera Portão 10 in Zona Sul

The $ Factor: Free

When-to-Go: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The 4-1-1: The museum features more than 3,000 works highlighting the cultural heritage and history of Afro-Brazilians. When you visit, take a person who speaks Portuguese with you, if you can, to help translate and explain some of the history and significance.

Why I’ll be back:
We spent three hours in the museum and still didn’t get to see the entire collection! It’s also located in Parque do Ibirapuera, the central Park of São Paulo!

Where to Nightlife: Samba Rock Party

Location: Jabaquara (centro-Zona Sul)

The Vibes: Old-school meets new-school

The $ Factor:
Cover R$5 for women, R$10 for men

The 4-1-1: Black paulistas were heavily influenced by the American soul music of the 1960s and 1970s. They combined soul with samba beats and unique dance moves to create Samba Rock. The popularity of Samba Rock continues in São Paulo with beautiful black people getting together every Saturday night and showing off their dance moves.

Why I’ll be back:
The party starts at midnight and goes on until 5 a.m.!

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