Experience São Paulo - The Medusa
Well here we are in the Belly of the Beast - São Paulo. The financial capital of Brazil - A vast cosmopolitan sprawl of concrete and steel - A metropolis teeming with brilliant diversity and not always in the best of ways. As Praias do Ceará - Beaches, Dunes and other Cliches are a world away - the pleasant predictable huuuush of waves rolling on the beach has been replaced with the annoyingly predictable screech of sirens and bus trains rolling on the blacktop roads.
São Paulo is an absolute monster of a city - It is a Medusa. A city with many heads, some will bite you and some will kiss and she has a gaze that will turn you into stone, all that before lunchtime. She is often over looked as a travel destination, most will only make it to the airport en-rout to more the fancied coastal cities like Rio or Salvador, but don't let this deter you! Will you be like Perseus and venture into Medusa's lair?
- Here is Medusa, how are you still reading this if you're already turned to stone?
The Old Wrinkly Head 🤓
Ok, strap yourself in; it's history time. São Paulo's surge of prosperity during the 19th century grew on the back of the coffee industry (and the coffee industry grow on the back of the slave trade). While it was not involved in the actual production, it was the organisational hub - the head of the beast if you want to continue the analogy. From the early 20th century the coffee industry lost a lot of its productivity mainly due to competition. So the city adapated and moved towards general industry - with this shift came a wave of immigration - German, Italian, Greek, Lebonese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean people arriving, each leaving traces of their own cultures upon the city today.
My first afternoon was spent walking around the historical center of São Paulo, the usual thing to do when you first arrive in a city right? go see those famous buildings from the postcards. It was OK, some of the architecture was really nice, a mix of Renaissance and art deco. The highlights here are the Theatro Municipal, with its classic green domes and renaissance elegance or the Farol Santander building looking like a mini-empire state, a tall prong of art deco concrete stretching into the sky. The Cathedral is nice too but you can take it or leave it if you've seen the more famous sites in europe.
Some photos of the old head. They are nice in their own right but i have chosen photos that emphasise what you see around the building themselves
- Me in Vale do Anhagabau with The Farol Santander building in the background
- The Theatre, with the youth in the foreground
- Farol Santander Building
- Cathedral with somebody showering in the fountain
The Dead Head 🧛♀️
Brazilians are a fun loving people. Even though they don't have a beach, Paulista's are no different, they work hard, they love to shop, spend their hard earnt and also love to party. São Paulo has world class restaurants, clubs and nightclubs. It is the richest city in Brazil and it shows.
It was upon my first day in São Paulo that I noticed the odd person dressed up in Halloween costumes. I was intrigued and start to follow one such group. As i turned around the corner of the building, a plaza with a broad road spread out back towards the Theatre, there were thousands of people here dressed up. Today was 2nd November, Finados, the Brazilian day of the Dead. It was like carnival, expect with zombies. The youth were out in force, sipping their Pinga Cachaça dressed in a myriad of different costumes, dancing the upon the streets with their funk music booming away.
- Freeze! Even the police want to rob you
- Pablo Escobar is all class amoungst the zombies
- Its always important to make new friends when you are traveling
A small video of the street party, relatively early on in the evening
The Head without Shoes 😥
Brazil has a problem with in-equality. And no where else in the country does it sucker punch you in the face more than here in São Paulo. The city is very wealthy, it's where all the elite of Brazil either live or at least visit frequently. Here you can buy your luxury items from the prestigious brands, the fast cars and any other ridiculous status symbols. I visited one shopping mall, the ground floor was entirely ultra-high end brands Mont Blanc, Channel, D&G etc. The flipside of this is the massive problem with poverty and homelessness. It is so blatant here; the disparately between the rich and the poor.
This next section shows the gritty underbelly of the city. Often the travel pieces I read, especially those magazines tucked away in the back of the airline seat, are all about glamour and the good and the beauty of a place - seeming more like a sales pitch. I am here to smash the bubble and show you some cold hard reality. I personally did not enjoy the historical centre. However at no time did i see unsafe, in general you are left alone, I was not hawked at for my money and there was a calming police presence on every other corner. This is the reality of Brazil sometimes, because sometimes you feel like you need to wait for police to be around before you can safety take out your camera.
- The authorities do not seem bothered about hundred of people setting up camp around all the land marks
- Away from the fancy shopping malls, what causes a city to wear its rubbish onto the streets like a blanket, is it lack of education? city services?
- The Plaza in front of the Cathedral
- A man with his dog
- Some more of the city in disrepair
The Beautiful Head 😍
If the historic centre of São Paulo was the birth place of a thriving metropolis; then the many dozens of suburbs surrounding it are the Renaissance. It is in these neighbourhoods that city comes to life, here away from the crowded dirty streets of the historical town is where you can find cultural and culinary gems. Artsy Vila Madalenda, the green Jardims or the fast paced Pineheiros to name a few. Is it just me or did the people decide to abandon the centre and escape to the burbs?
There was so much going on in this sprawling city of twenty million you just can't quite put your finger on what was it go damn intriguing;
Was it the variety of food on offer that was a welcome reprieve? After months being in the quieter areas in Brazil, i was frankly sick of eating beans and rice every other meal. The sight of a hot rotisserie meat slapped into a gyros or the nuclear Indian curry that had me sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage.
- Food, glorious food*
Maybe it the buzz of the Ipirapuera Park on a Sunday afternoon? The emerald heart of the city had been overrun with Paulista's that day. It's always interesting to see what other people do for fun! The shared pathways were busy with cyclists and runners rushing to and fro. Upon the fields under the tropical trees couples were stealing kisses on picnic rugs, always on alert for stray footballs bouncing towards them from the young men showing their skills. You could catch glimpses of Capoeira training through the trees, rollerbladers and skaters jumping and clacking on the concrete. This park was a highlight for me.
- When the weather doesn't want to help you out...
Perhaps it was the Art in some of the many Museums? I am more critical of art than i am an art critic. Some of it I don't understand, some needs to be explained and some, I am sure the artist really didn't know what they were doing but wants you to think they did. Nevertheless attempts were made at being sophisticated so galleries were visited - a great experience!
- Hundreds of clay mushrooms made by school classes
- The Museu Afro Brasil is a must see, the collection is huuuge
- A scence made entirely from old plastic from the ocean
- Seriously WTF?
Do you think the bristling Mercado Municipal helped make São Paulo so intriguing? One of the best markets I've been to around the world, only downside was the amount of people! It was rammed. What I like so much about this particular market was it didn't have that feeling of the same store repeating itself, have you ever felt like that? And also there a great mix of open seat restaurants intermingled into the food stalls.
- When the lighting on phone camera agrees with you...
- I like beer...
- These sandwiches were iconic of the market
- Tasting the goods
- Shots from above, the 2nd floor has really great places to eat
I am sure it must have been the cosmopolitanism nature of São Paulo. Did you know that São Paulo has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan? I discovered this for myself in the Liberdade district, not only Japanese but also Chinese and Korean influences are prominent. And it is not just Oriental cultures, the city is deeming with diversity.
- The old folk of Liberdade
- Shots from the Oriental garden
- The main street of Liberdade
- There was a great fusion of food here, they took at Brazilian way and added an Asian ingredients to create some slamming combos
The Head that Concludes 👌
As you can gather I try to tell things as i see them. I'm not trying to glorify anything unless its justified. This was a really interesting city. It had the beautiful architecture, the cultural, the food etc all with a gritty underside. But it didn't feel like the Brazil we all know. Maybe it was missing the beach? It is a cosmopolitan mega-city, fast-paced, diversified, with the problems of a 2nd world city that managed to keep you on your toes the whole time. Definitely come check this monster out but don't stay too long or you could end up a statue!
A couple more photos:
Question Time 👨🎓
Have you every been to the Medusa city, did you like it?
Do you think it's rude me taking photos of some of the people?
Was this post too long? I crammed in one week worth of content
You are only allowed to eat one food for the rest of your life what is it?