It’s the kind of day when you know you won’t accomplish much except going from point A to point B and hopefully make it to your destination, which is admittedly a goal in itself.
Maybe you’ll get to catch up with emails and work if the airport has free Wi-Fi. Maybe you’ll get to catch up on sleep in the plane.
Maybe everything will go as planned.
I mean, things rarely go exactly as planned but chances are, you’ll be just fine.
We checked out at noon and stored the backpacks at the hotel. Mark and Feng went to see a movie while I was exploring the neighbourhood.
São Paulo was back to business and it was strange to see so many people in their office attire. Brazilians take their lunch break seriously. Between noon and 2 p.m., the top activity on Avenida Paulista and around was eating.
We met at the hotel at 3 p.m. and took a taxi to one of São Paulo’s four (!) airports, Congonhas. I’m still not quite sure how to pronounce “Congonhas,” it just doesn’t sound like it should—but hey, that’s the story of my life with Portuguese.
“Not, not the international airport,” I explained to the taxi driver. “Congonhas… Con-gon-nee-a…? Smaller airport? Domestic flight?”
Score. We ended up at the right airport.
Congonhas must have been fancy and impressive at one point in 1936 when it first opened, but now it’s chaotic, packed and stuffy. The central hall, supposedly one of the most outstanding examples of modern architecture in São Paulo, was only impressive because it had a giant Santa Claus and an annoying floor piano kids kept on running on—imagine one of these music and sound toys grandparents love offering babies but louder, echoing in the airport.
For some reason, all the gates were at the lower level—who gets to depart from the upper level?—and passengers had to board buses to get to their respective plane, so it felt like a cross between being in a busy bus station and being in an airport.
The bus circled around the tarmac several times, as if the driver wasn’t quite sure which one of the many orange GOL aircraft he was supposed to drop us off at.
Things got even more confusing once on board.
“Look, I know I don’t have a pilot licence, but I think if I ever have to take off, I’ll pick a long and straight runway,” I muttered as the plane was taxiing all over the place, stopping in front of what seemed to be a curve.
“Gee, are we going to fly or are we taking the land route?”
We took off late (apparently, Congonhas is very congested), landed late and waited for the bags for a while since there was only one carrousel for all the flights coming from Rio and São Paulo in Florianópolis’ airport.
At 8:30 p.m., I started to freak out. We needed food, everything was going to be closed!
Check in was slow at the Hotel ZIP, our plan B hotel since we couldn’t find anything cheaper. It took us exactly five minutes to figure out which kind of hotel it was—the “let’s crash here for the night and leave,” with a “suicide shower,” bare room, thin sheet and very thin walls.
Inexplicably, we ended up with a five-bed room and Feng was entered as “Argentinian” in the computer system.
Also, free coffee at the reception, which I really needed by then.
And it turned out the supermarket was still open when we finally got there at 9:30 p.m.
A lucky travel day, then.