“So, we leave from Santos Dumont and we land in Congonhas.”
Santos Dumont is in Centro Rio de Janeiro and Congonhas is also a “city airport” in São Paulo, so it means shorter taxi rides than if we were using the larger international airports.
Feng shrugs. Oh well.
I slept during the one-hour flight from Rio to São Paulo, but I sure woke up when we arrived—it was a hard landing in what’s said to be one of the world’s most dangerous airport.
São Paulo was back to business after the Christmas/New Year break. Avenida Paulista was jammed and so were most of the freeways. I found myself staring at suit-and-tie businessmen who looked exotic to me after amateur beach bums with an Argentinian accent in Florianópolis and professional beach bums in Rio de Janeiro. Yet, Paulistas are still friendly. “Oh, you’re not getting the lamen tonight?” the Sukiya restaurant employee asked when I ordered a gyūdon bowl for Feng. In a city of 12.10 million, it’s pretty amazing that someone remembered us from our stay two weeks earlier. And it wasn’t just one employee with a good memory for faces. As soon as he saw me, the guy at the local padaria where I went three times just before New Year’s Day has my favourite bread ready!
São Paulo is quickly becoming one of my favourite cities in Latin America, along with Santiago and Montevideo. “Yeah, well, you like big, artsy cities,” Feng notes. I guess that’s a way to put it. It’s just that I feel I could spend days, weeks, months exploring it and I would never get bored.
On terça–feira—“Tuesday,” not Wednesday as you could logically assume since we all tend to start the week on Monday…—we joined the queue of locals at the Museu de arte de São Paulo (MASP) because this is the day when it’s free.
Downtown, we shopped at the Galeria do Rock, an old-style shopping mall dedicated to various subcultures. Mark got a brand-new “Pink Floy – The Wall” t-shirt and so did I.
“I really have to hug you now, mommy.”
“Because you bought a t-shirt with my name on it!”
One day, we will tell Mark “Floyd” that the band is more famous than his second name…
I spent hours in Libertade, exploring the maze of shopping galleries featuring Japanese products. It reminded me of these giant malls in China where thousands of vendors all sell similar products and you can’t really remember where you start and where you are now. Unfortunately, imported “Made in China” Japanese products are expensive so I couldn’t justify spending money on Korean boybands memorabilia and other kawaii items.
The three of us got a haircut, which is a very pleasant experience in Brazil. The hair stylist recognized Mark from his last haircut in December, as for Feng, it looked like he was enjoying the scalp massage he was getting when I barged in with Mark. I went to a grungy hair salon on Rua Augusta, where I was offered a beer (I opted for coffee instead), a back massage (yes, please!) and a fun cut for 80 reais ($22). Except for the first terrifying five minutes when you have to explain what you want in Portuguese, I’d highly recommend everyone to get a haircut in Brazil. Also, if Brazilian stylists could immigrate to Canada, that would be great.
At night, I picked up food from my favourite 24/7 bakery and restaurant, Padaria Bella Paulista—I needed a break from lamen. There’s always a long queue for tables, so many people just sit at the counter around the busy open kitchen. This is one of the rare places where no one uses a phone—customers are focused on their plate or on the waiters and cooks performing a flawless ballet. It took on average 20 minutes for my food—fancy omelettes, I was craving eggs—to be ready and I wasn’t bored for a minute.
Tonight, running across the busy Avenida Paulista, completely drenched by the rain and carrying a container of Japanese food for Feng, I briefly felt like an expert Paulista.
Oh yeah, São. Paulo comes with some fine print—the weather.
Most of the time, in this season, it’s sunny and very hot. But once a day, it rains and you never know whether it’s going to pour for twenty minutes or rain for three hours.
Sometimes, you see the sky getting darker and darker until it feels like nighttime. “Vai chover,” knowledgeable Paulistas whisper, invoking a spell in their native tongue. The guy who was selling coconuts minutes ago is now offering umbrellas. Should you spend 10 reais on one, just in case? Is it going to rain right now or do you still have the time to find shelter in the nearest shopping mall?
Minutes or hours later, the city is a mess—broken tree branches, soaked feet, flooded streets.
And then it’s sunny again.
I’m telling you, you won’t get bored in São Paulo.