Despite the shitty events preceding my trip, I had arrived safely in São Paulo. After drinking some generous amounts of wine provided by the flight attendants and generating small talk with my neighbors (a teenage couple from Connecticut, who — in the beginning of the 8.5-hour flight — the girl would frequently berate and punch her boyfriend in the stomach), Clayton, Brett, and I landed at Guarulhos International Airport a little after 9pm local time. We each withdrew about 200 to 300 US dollars from the airport’s ATM (about the equivalent of 900 to 1000 Brazilian Reals), and took a cab to our Airbnb near the bustling street of Avenida Paulista.
The Airbnb was charming: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a washer-dryer combo, a rooftop pool, and a very effective gated, security system that — in case of a Brazilian Zombie Apocalypse — I’d feel more than safe from an undead horde. The apartment was owned by Nash, a middle-aged expat from Colorado who was incredibly accommodating and always carried around a leather fanny pack on the three occasions he’d stop by.
After meeting one of Brett’s friend, Marcel, at a bar for some cheap beer and Cachaça shots, we ended up at a club that solely played 90’s alternative and dance hits. By the end of the night, Brett, Clayton, and myself took an Uber back to our Airbnb (Ubers in Brazil are so fucking cheap), where I passed out on the couch — fortunately next to the open balcony overlooking São Paulo.
The next morning, I woke up, turned on the TV, and started watching “The Simpsons” in Portuguese. Sure, the voice-acting was off (Milhouse sounded like a 40-year-old man), but as a fan of the earlier seasons who knows every line of dialogue, I felt that “The Simpsons” in Portuguese would better acclimate me to the language. Leaving an appropriately hungover Clayton behind, Brett and I walked around the area bit and managed to stumble upon some of the organized protests against Lula and Dilma.
At first impression, São Paulo feels like a hotter, more tropical New York City. Unlike New York, São Paulo is way more sprawling: on the second full day in the city, the three of us went to the top of Edifício Itália, the second tallest building. From the skydeck bar, all I could see around me were miles upon miles of indiscernible, concrete buildings. At least with New York, I can point out iconic skyscrapers like 30 Rock or the Freedom Tower; in São Paulo there are just plain, gray monoliths whose only charm was that there was a shit-ton of them. Still, one thing I found incredibly fascinating about São Paulo was the street art. I know a lot of world-renowned streets artists are from the area, and what São Paulo lacks — visually — several stories above the ground, on the street level there’s an abundance of great murals and graffiti.
There was talk between Clayton and Brett that we won’t stay in São Paulo for the entire duration of our trip. In fact, they’ve talked about renting a car and driving up to Rio De Janeiro. Stay tuned, but in the meantime here some photos:
Places of note:
- Elevado Costa e Silva is a section of the highway closed off to vehicle traffic. It’s a lot like The Highline here in NYC but retains the infrastructure of an otherwise busy road. It’s a photographer’s paradise.
- Brazil really likes their Havaianas flips flops, and there were so many stores as much as there are Starbucks here. You can even customize them in-store.
- The Liberdade district is generally considered a Japanese enclave, and as a result São Paulo has the second largest Japanese population outside of Japan itself. They have good ramen and sushi in this area, and if you’re ever going to find a karaoke bar it’s here.
- Vila Madalena reminds me of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg: kinda cool and very hip, but at night it’s packed full of drunken assholes. Still, of all the neighborhoods we visited, this one has the best graffiti in all of the city.