We’re writing this post in tandem. Jules goes first and Verne goes second.
When we started planning our RTW trip, we left Brazil out of the itinerary: it’s so big and full of amazing things to see, that we thought it would deserve a trip on it’s own. However, as there are no direct flights from Lisbon to Buenos Aires, our first desired stop, we ended up doing this pit stop in São Paulo. São Paulo is a huge city, with some 12 million persons living in the city centre and another 8 million in the outskirts. It’s a lot of ground to cover and although we stayed mainly in the central area, we ended up walking 55 km during these 3 days! Our legs hurt 🙂
We’ve spent here three full days and now that we’re about to leave, I still have mixed feelings about this city. Our morning run at the Ibirapuera Park and the visit to the “Museu de Arte Moderna – MAM” (modern art museum) and “Livraria Cultura” (Culture bookshop) were supercool! I don’t remember seeing so many people running and exercising in one place as I saw at Ibirapuera. There’s definitely a “fit vibe” in this city! We had our first coconut water here and it was deliciously refreshing.
However I could never totally shake off a feeling of “uneasiness”. This was probably amplified by all the fenced wired houses, with security in front and dogs inside.
I guess São Paulo is one of those cities that needs to “grow in you” and three days is definitely not enough to get a full grasp of it. One thing that is a big plus is the weather: it’s early autumn and the temperature averages around 26C (79F). This is perfect for Southern Europeans like us 🙂
About to get on the plane. Talk to you again from Buenos Aires!
Describing São Paulo after spending only three days there is tough. Not only is São Paulo the largest city in South America, it is also not particularly geared towards tourism. It’s a city to live in, not to visit. But that’s a good thing: when you go to one of the thousands of restaurants, you’re eating side by side with the locals. When you go running in Ipirabuera Park, you’re trying to keep up with the incredibly fit ‘paulistanos’. When you visit one of the many museums and book shops, you quickly realize that they exist because there’s a lot of demand for them, not because the city is trying to get into some posh travel guide.
São Paulo is an expensive city however. Going out for dinner, jogging in Ipirabuera and checking out museums are privileges that a significant part of the population cannot afford. Throughout the city the barbed wire, security guards and ‘blindados’ (bullet proof cars) act as a further reminder of the huge gap between São Paulo’s rich and poor.
Safety has vastly improved over the last decade, and is probably now on par with other large South American cities, meaning: don’t let the internet scare you away from enjoying the city, but don’t go strolling like a lost tourist either. Blend in, ask the locals which areas should be left alone, and avoid taking out your camera if it doesn’t feel right. With these rules in mind, we had absolutely no issues with enjoying the city in our usual backpacking style, with lots of walking, metro and buses.
I’m writing this post already on our way to Buenos Aires, with São Paulo gently rolling through the airplane window. There’s so much to see in so little time! How on earth did Phileas Fogg managed in 80 days?