São Paulo is big. No it's not big, Paris or New York are big cities. And Bogota was a lot bigger, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it from high up. But São Paulo is massive, gigantic, whatever word you want to use. I spent two weeks in Shanghai last year and yes it felt similar but somehow I'm even more amazed now than what I was then. I'm giving you some facts so you get my shock:
So here I am, in Brazil (!), and I've been exploring São Paulo for a day. I've seen skyscrapers, street art and stunning views. I went strolling in the central park, Parque Ibirapuera, learnt to use public transportation and tried São Paulo's signature cocktail, a Pisco Sour. Not bad for one day I'd say.
When I arrived here early in the morning I already understood that this city is huge. Of course it was rush hour (I later learnt that it is always rush hour) so the ride from the airport took an eternity. And every time I thought that we were approaching Vila Madalena, where my hostel was, there would be yet another neighbourhood to sit in traffic through. When I had finally checked in to my hostel and woken myself up with an acerola juice, I went to explore the city and got even more convinced about how crazy the distances are. A metro station that is "right around the corner" is actually a 20-minute-walk, altering uphills and downhills, away. When in Paris I rather walk from Chatêlet to Saint Paul instead of taking a metro for two stops (except if I'm super in hurry/lazy), here two stops is a whole different distance. And then there are cars everywhere. I totally get the Friday evening trafic jam point: this is crazy.
Despite all this I was an efficient tourist (as always, some would say). First I went for a morning walk in Vila Madalena. I loved the quartier, it looked residential and chic with beautiful houses, gates and gardens, but at the same time cool and laid-back because there were graffiti on the wall of every third building. Here's some pics:
My street-art collection:
After having strolled around there for a while I found my way to the close-by metro station and with a metro-taxi combination travelled to São Paulo's most popular park, Ibirapuera. Like always when I complain about the weather in Cartagena (it's ok really, but nothing ever is perfect...) I loved resting for a while in the green nature. Even if it was hot, the air felt and smelled so different, springlike somehow. And not only in the park but also walking in Vila Madalena I was so happy to see trees and flowers because in Cartagena we barely have any. Ibirapuera is referred to as São Paulo's "Central Park" and sure it felt a little bit like in NYC, with a lake in the middle and skyscrapers around.
At the park:
One remark that I have to make already: Brazilians are very fit and wear very little clothes. I had heard that in Rio almost everyone (men and women) is topless, and not only on the beach, but it seems to be true in São Paulo as well. Not one jogger that run past me in the park was wearing a shirt, the women had tiny sport bras and the men were half naked. I even saw some guys who were working at the park, like cutting the grass and collecting trash and so on, without a shirt and showing off their tanned and athletic bodies. Not that I did mind, of course. ;) Anyway, it was great to walk, breath, relax and read a book in the park.
When I had had enough of the sun, I decided to head back and thought of taking a taxi, at least to a metro stop. But when I saw the traffic I changed my mind: no way I would sit there and pay for not moving. Since there were no metro stops nearby, I walked to a bus stop across the street and decided to try it out, of course without having any idea of which bus I should take to get back to my hostel. When the first bus arrived, I asked if it went to centro, the driver said yes and I hopped in. I figured that anything that takes me towards the centre would do and I could hop off when reaching my metro line. I tried to give the driver some money but no, it is not how it works in this country, I had to buy my ticket from a lady who had a ticket booth in the middle of the bus, and who then let me go have a seat. The bus had its own line so it was faster than a taxi, and I enjoyed observing the city from the window. I smiled to myself that having been in the country for only a couple of hours, I was already on the bus like the locals. Or almost like the locals. I tried to follow the route on my map but since it doesn't work very well without internet, I got confused and when all the passengers got off the bus, I realised that I was at the end station and had missed my metro line. Oops. Luckily I was still somewhere in the central area and there was a metro nearby (I only had to ask three persons to find it), but I had to change to three different lines before reaching my destination. But since I live in Paris and taking the metro is for me like breathing, I made it without any trouble. Later in the evening when I saw a friend who lives in São Paulo since a couple of months, he told me that the green line is very convenient and easy, but the others not really. Well, in one day I had travelled with the green line but also yellow, red, blue... And he had still not tried the bus. ;)
By the way, communicating here is surprisingly ok, mostly because the locals seem to be very friendly and helpful. I don't understand much of Portuguese (to me it sounds like Spanish spoken with a strong Russian accent) but they understand my Spanish, so usually at least half of the messages get through. I hope I will get used to and understand more in a couple of days (or hours, preferably), but so far I'm doing fine. :)
Oh and here's some city views from my second metro ride:
Back in the hostel I wanted to take a nap but was afraid of never waking up so instead I went out again. My mission was to see the sunset from the top of a skyscraper, something I wanted to do in Bogota but didn't succeed in because the sun set so early that I missed it both times I tried. This time I thought I was well on time, when taking a taxi to a famous building called Edificio Italia. But well, what have I learnt so far: nothing. The sun goes down early in Sao Paulo as well, what is supposed to be close is very far, and (what a surprise): there are traffic jams! I still did ok, even if I was a little late. I was astonished by the view and how the city and the jungle of skyscrapers seem to never end. So beautiful.
Even if I had spent an enjoyable tourist day on my own, I was glad to have some company in the evening. Once again, it is great to know someone in every possible place. When I was in Miami in January, I met a Finnish guy, H, in my superbe luxury hostel. We didn't really spend time together but chatted briefly, since we were sleeping in the same dorm. He was also about to travel around a bit, before settling to São Paulo, for a 6-month University exchange. Even if I said that I would certainly not travel to Brazil, and he was not planning on going to Colombia, we exchanged Facebooks anyway because well, you never know. Then all of a sudden, I was about to travel to Brazil so I contacted him because he had seemed very nice. He was very nice, and so were his friends with whom we went for dinner and bar hopping in my quartier, Vila Madalena. Thanks guys for the company! It was fun and I liked the area a lot in the evening as well. Very chill, lovely ambiance, and it felt really safe walking around.
I like a lot this hostel where I'm staying for tonight (and for another night when I come back from Rio) but there is no one here. Before going out with the boys I was writing this blog post on the terrace, which is lovely, but the bar was closed, there was no music and I was completely alone. Now when I came back and was finishing this post I bumped into a Swedish guy (I hate it when I have to speak Swedish haha) but apart from him there is barely no one. Weird. Well anyway, I'll sleep now a bit and then wake up early (again) to catch my flight to Rio de Janeiro. Good night.
Read the next story here.
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!