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Naomi's world tour
No Photos 21st Feb 2010
Sao Paolo

Following the night out in the Curitiba, there some rather fragile looking people on the bus to Sao Paolo (I was not one of them, I hasten to add, for the benefit of my relatives reading this!) We stopped at a large restaurant for lunch where I had my first experience of the Brazilian por kilo concept; you fill your plate with whatever food you want, it´s weighed and the price you pay relates to how much it ways. Of course I managed to get even this wrong when I put some salad on a small plate which seemed logical as I only wanted a small amount. The cashier looked rather displeased and began scraping it off onto a larger plate! I can´t see what the problem was but Brazil seems to like its rules on these matters!

We arrived at the main Sao Paolo bus station which was chaotic with hundreds of people standing behind a perspex screen trying to catch a glimpse of their relatives coming off the bus. Definitely a place you want to keep a firm hold of your luggage. This is the closest I´ve come on my travels to re-experiencing the craziness of China though with still only a fraction of the people.

Fran had told us that our hotel was in the gay area of the city but we hadn´t anticipated the street being shut for a huge parade! The hotel had definitely seen better days with a lovely pink bathroom suite but at least our room was away from the noise on the street. We went out for a rodizio: again another Brazilian institution, an all you can eat affair where various types of meat are brought to the table and sliced off in front of you. There was some interesting meat on offer, including chicken hearts which I pulled a suitably disgusted face, but the more normal chicken, steak etc was really good. I don´t think I´ve ever eaten so much meat as I have done in South America but there really is little else to choose from! At least I had salad and vegetables with it whereas some of the guys were on a mission to eat nothing but meat! After dinner we went to a bar where a well-known song about Sao Paolo was written before we headed back in a large group to the hotel; this place felt quite intimidating especially with the large numbers of people out of the street.

The next morning I went on an orientation walk with Rachel´s group and tour leader before stopping to get some acai, a Brazilian speciality which is a berry mixture served with granola and chopped bananas. It´s delicious and full of anti-oxidants too. In the afternoon we went on a city tour offered by Fran as he knows Sao Paolo and its history really well. First of all we went to the Edificio Banespa which was modelled on the Empire State Building and which has amazing views from the top. You hear about how massive Sao Paolo is, with a population of 27 million, but it isn´t until you see the endless tall buildings as far as the horizon in every direction you look that you get a sense of its size. It´s a pretty mind blowing place.

We then walked around the historic centre on our way to the Cathedral and past a demonstration outside a government building. We weren´t exactly sure what was going on but the signs demanded that an official come out and talk to the protestors. Fran stopped a little way up the street to talk about some of the city´s history. Suddenly we saw a crowd of people heading up the street in our direction and Fran shouted ¨Run!´ We stopped a short while up the street and I was wondering why we were all coughing as I didn´t feel out of breath... then we were told that we had been running away from tear gas which the police must have used to disperse the protestors! Definitely the most scary moment of my travels so far which unfortunately does little to change Sao Paolo´s previous reputation as being a dangerous place.

The rest of the tour proceeded without further incident though I was so panaroid about getting my camera stolen that I hardly took any pictures out on the streets. We visited the Cathedral and then saw a completely different side of the city at Avenida Paulista which is often compared to Manhattan with its fashionable boutique shops. Rachel and I found an amazing chocolate fondue stall serving melted chocolate over fruit...and discovered that a marshmallow counts as a fruit in Brazil! We ended the tour at the Havaianas Concept store. For those of you who don´t know what Havaianas are, they´re world famous flip flops which come from Brazil and are a fraction of the price in their home country. You can also have your own pair customised; I got some baby pink ones with a flower diamonte on each.

That evening we went to a Japanese restaurant as Sao Paolo is famous for its ethnic diversity and has the largest concentration of Japanese people outside Japan. Unfortunately the waiter forgot about my order despite being asked several times where it much so that everyone else had finished eating and was starting to leave before it arrived! I didn´t like having to pay the full cost and the service charge but didn´t fancy another argument in Portuguese! I went out without a bag with my money stuffed down my top and felt much less concerned about having my things stolen. Sao Paolo is a fascinating city and I may have been over-cautious to the point of paranoia but I am very glad I was there as part of a group as I wouldn´t have felt at all comfortable on my own.

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Previous: Curitiba

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