The sun was shining, the city sounded dead quiet and we didn’t need hangover remedies since we only had half a glass of a mini bottle of cheap champagne bought for 9.90 reais ($2.55) at the 24-hour Extra supermercado on New Year’s Eve—don’t ever ask me to bring wine to your party, I make terrible choices.
The day was starting well—or rather, the afternoon was considering we all went to bed very late and got up at noon.
We already knew tudo estará fechado because all when there’s a holiday, everything is closed in Brazil. Fair enough.
I had a plan A and a plan B for food. Plan A was what I had bought the day before, nothing exciting but bread, butter, ham, yogurt and a few snacks. Plan B was takeout from Sukiya, the ubiquitous 24/7 Japanese fast-food chain—we’ve been eating lamen and Tokyo bowls for a few days, Japanese cuisine (adapted to Brazilian taste) is popular here.
Avenida Paulista was still closed to traffic, which was relaxing. It’s a treat to wander around a quiet city, especially one of the size of São Paulo. It feels like you’ve pressed the “pause” button. There’s nothing to do but look around.
We took a long walk through several neighbourhoods, blocks and blocks of leafy avenues, wide sidewalks occasionally destroyed by tree roots, modern buildings and old, posh houses. São Paulo is surprisingly green, it’s not just a concrete jungle.
And then, after walking for hours, we began to understand how huge São Paulo is. In most cities, that would be it—you would have crossed the main neighbourhoods, maybe ended up in the suburbs, and you would definitely be feeling that you’re close to the city’s unofficial limits. In São Paulo, you’ve barely seen anything. There are kilometres of streets and buildings in front of you, behind you, on both sides as well with highways, overpasses, underpasses and a thousands of “main streets” that would be “the” main street in most cities.
After getting unreasonably excited when we found vending machines along the way—it was hot, we needed drinks!—we ended up in front of a giant Santa seated in a half-lotus position (??) and a very posh shopping mall. The stores were closed—damn, no Chanel bag, Louboutin shoes or Tiffany necklace for me!—but the building was open so we used the marble bathrooms.
We took the bus back to Paulista and parted ways—the guys went back to the hotel and I kept on exploring the city. I walked to Libertade, the Japanese district, to see if anything was open but it was dead quiet too.
The sky was getting darker but I thought I would make it back to the hotel before a possible downpour.
I was at one end of Avenida Paulista when it started to pour. I needed to get to the other of the 2.8 kilometres stretch. Since everything was closed, there was nowhere to hide.
I did the things we probably all do when it rains unexpectedly. First, I pretended it was “just a drizzle” until it turned into a downpour. I found shelter and waited for ten minutes, hoping it would stop. When it didn’t, I ran to the nearest shelter and waited a bit longer—still raining. Since I was already soaked, I thought there was no point in buying an umbrella—vendors were starting to show up on the otherwise empty Avenida Paulista—and I was too close to justify taking a taxi. So I shrugged and walked the last kilometre with my feet in two inches of water—Paulista does flood—and my rain-soaked clothes stuck to my skin (and nipples showing).
“May as well grab the take-out Japanese food on the way,” I thought.
Except the damn Japanese place was closed! I tried the other location, on Rua Augusta, but they had ran out of food.
I had no backup plan.
Well, Feng kind of did. “Mark, pop corn tonight. Yeah, sure, you can make him a sandwich too.”
Since I really wanted hot food, I went out again and queued for an hour at the padaria Bella Paulista (Rua Haddock Lobo, 354, if you ever need food on a holiday or in the middle of the night!). As the only restaurant open, it was jam-packed but at least, it had stopped raining when I walked back to the hotel with drinks and dinner.