Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sao Paulo or Bust - Part 2

Wow -- what a difference a nice bed and cooler temperatures make.  I get plenty of r.e.m. sleep and after a quick breakfast we are ready to head to Sao Paulo. The drive this morning takes a little over an hour and we are on the outskirts of the city and soon find ourselves driving down one of its many traffic filled streets.  My first impression of the mega-city  is that it is huge, there is a lot of traffic, the architecture is interesting which often incorporates  a helicopter pad on top and besides this detail,  it is very similar to a lot of cities back in the United States.   Sao Paulo has more helicopters per person then any other city in the world.  Many business executives choose this form of transportation to avoid the congested roads below.   I was not able to convince my touring companions to take a helicopter ride so we will just have to travel using the paved roads
below. On our drive we pass numerous favelas (shanty towns), many beautiful flowering trees and plenty of city sprawl.   For a stretch of our drive we are parallel to the Tiete River and its tributary the Pinheiros river.  As we drive along an odor begins to infiltrate the car and although the weather is quite fresh we close the windows and turn on the air.   This terrible stink is from all the pollution in the river system.  The   Tiete River is often referred to as the most polluted river in Brazil.  They have spent over fifteen years working on cleaning it up with  promising progress and yet today it is obvious to us there is much left to do.    Along our drive we pass by the Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge with two lanes of traffic that cross each other like an X  in the middle.   This crossing sends vehicles in two directions when they reach the opposite side of the Pinheiros river. The bridge is famous for its holiday decorations around Christmas time and the uniqueness of its design.
Our first destination is Ibirapuera Park filled with museums,  gardens,  sculptures, and lots of walking paths.
It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon and a place to park the two vehicles is our first hurdle,  but after a short while we succeed and are soon walking down the traffic free roads which wind through the park.  Ibirapuera Park is often referred to as Central Park of Sao Paulo and today it is easy to see why.  The park is filled with people as it seems everyone in the city has the same idea regarding how to enjoying the afternoon here.  It is quite crowded and after a short walk to see the famous dancing fountains and a couple of other attractions,  we decide it is a place we should come back to during the week when there are less crowds.  There is no way to get many photos of the things we want without having a ton of other people posing with us.  It is an enjoyable day and after a few days in the car a walk in the park is simply wonderful.
Our second destination today is on the banks of the Ipiranga brook where Padro I of the Portuguese Empire stood and declared independence for Brazil on September 7, 1822.  A granite and bronze monument known as The Monument to the Independence of Brazil or Alter of the Fatherland was designed and built to celebrate this occasion.   It is a massive memorial with sculptures of a small group of men on the one end commemorating a 1789 uprising in the city of Ouro Preto.  This uprising is called the Inconfidência Mineira and is considered a starting point to Brazil's independence and began the process that led to Pedro's action.  The monument also plays tribute with sculptures of other individuals like Hipólito José da Costa and Joaquim Gonçalves Ledo who played important rolls in convincing Pedro to make his declaration of independence.  On the front of the monument there is an eternal flame that overlooks the Ipiranga brook and symbolizes strength of Brazil's future.
Behind the flame is a large crypt where the remains of Emperor Pedro I and his two wives are housed and on top of the crypt there are statues of revolutionary men with their canons and horses.  As the second place we visit, I am truly impressed and begin to look forward to more of our touring of this great city. Our visit to the monument is enhanced by the piano playing of Arthur Moreira Lima.  A famous classical pianist from Rio de Janiero who is currently traveling around Brazil to places where classical music is rarely heard.  It is just by chance that we are here to enjoy a portion of the free concert as we admire the Monument to the Independence of Brazil.   I had not heard of him prior to today,  but after I listen for a while,  I appreciate his talent and will make sure to add a pandora station to my Ipad.
My anticipation of what is next cannot be halted as in distance, up a great incline, is a wonderful yellow mansion of a building.   This building is part of our journey today so after a few minutes of musical enjoyment we begin to dodge the skateboarders speeding down the steep incline. It seems so dangerous and we are surprised this is allowed in such a tourist spot.  However, later a security guard tells us skateboarding is only permitted from one to three on Sunday afternoons.  I guess you
can say the skateboarding made a lasting impression on me or maybe it was the fear of getting plowed into.  Well, back to our journey, after we make it a forth of the way we veer left to a little frontier home which has been preserved.  It is said that this is the exact location where Pedro I exclaimed "independence or death" and with this declared Brazil's independence.  We peak around the little home which is filled with artifacts from colonial Brazil.  They have been preserved wonderfully and after a quick look we are ready to continue up the hill.  More zigging and zagging to avoid being pummeled, we finally arrive at the beautiful gardens and fountains which welcome usto the Paulista Museum, the Museum of Brazilian History.  We wander around the gardens admiring the perfectly manicured foliage and find plenty of photo opportunities.   Soon we are ready to explore the insides of the majestic mustard colored building standing boldly at the summit of the hillside.  Our pocket books are surprised as there is no charge on Sundays but that will also mean it is a little more crowded I guess.  Immediately upon entering one is thrown back into days gone by as portraits of the first presidents
of each Brazilian State line the rotunda.  We continue down the long halls in each direction peaking in rooms filled with artifacts from Brazil's Imperial and Colonial periods.  It is a wonderful collection with old trains,  dresses,  kitchenware, and much more.  There are many stories told of Brazil's history and its humble beginnings.  I would love to share these marvels with you but photography is not allowed so you will just have to visit the museum yourself someday.  After a couple of hours of time looking around, we decide it is time to head to the hotel.  On our descent from the museum we walk through a small street fair filled with  wares hand crafted by local merchants and different kinds of street foods.   It is a quick trip through the fair as we are hungry and have some things to do before we eat.

Our third stop is the hotel so we can check in and secure our bags but upon arrival the room is not ready - go figure.  They do have a garage for our vehicles and allow Thais' mom Jakelline to park there with us so we decide to leave the cars and continue our Sao Paulo adventure.  A quick stop at a little mall for some food and we are off for the subway station.  As we walk to the station, the streets are filled with vehicles and people scurrying to their destinations.  We descend in to the subway station and find a map on the wall to route our trip.  First impression is that it is clean and well maintained.  There are quite a few people entering so it is obviously a reliable way to get around the city.  We purchase our tickets and are off to our next
destination Park da Luz and the oldest museum in Sao Paulo "Pinacoteca".  We exit the train and head above ground into Luz Station.  Constructed in the early 1900's when coffee was being transported to the city by train and renovated in the 1990's,  it is a beautiful piece of architectural history and a great place to look around for a bit.  Very similar to train stations in the United States with a large open area for arriving and departing trains,  lots of glass to let sunlight in and of course a few homeless people loitering around.
Across the street is a beautiful park with many statues and sculptures along the main paths.  We briefly walk through some of the grounds but as the afternoon is fading and our real destination is the Pinacoteca, we head towards the two story brick building at the corner of the park.
The Pinacoteca was founded in 1911 and has a large collection of Brazilian art.   It hosts a transient international circuit of exhibits which continues to bring in artists from around the world.  I am impressed by the beautiful paintings and sculptures and even recognize an artist or two.   We spend a few hours wandering around the halls of the magnificent brick building exploring each of the three levels.  It is a great way to spend the afternoon but as the day begins to wind down  we have a couple more places to see in the area so we must leave the Pinacoteca.
We want to make sure we are on the train before it gets too dark as the Luz neighborhood of the city has recently been in the news for the drug dens and number of homeless drug addicts who have congregated here.  We are encouraged to stay together as a group,  keep our cameras close, and pay attention to our surroundings as we begin our walk to the next "must see".   A little while later with no incidences we arrive at the Julio Prestes Train Station another grand building constructed during the reign of coffee plantations in the interior regions of Brazil.  In the early 21st century the building was renovated into a concert hall where the Sao Paulo Symphony performs today.  This renovation from train station to symphony hall took many years as the engineers struggled to reconcile modern technology with historic conservation. In the end
81 of the original doors were restored and after reviewing many photographs much of the intricate details were reproduced to hold on to the historic attributes.   We step up to the front doors only to find out the hall is currently under renovations and closed for three months.  Disappointed as this is one destination I really wanted to visit after seeing pictures of the majestic hall which houses the symphony.  It will get added to the list of places to see on my next visit to Sao Paulo for sure.

We walk back through the Luz neighborhood surrounded by poverty and wealth intermixed.  There seems to be a few more street people wandering around so I am not as disappointed that the hall is closed.  Exploring would have pushed the return to the station back a while but soon we are at the ticket booth purchasing our return trip.   Our destination now is a district known for its great restaurants.  After we leave the subway station and a short debate on getting a cab, the decision is made that we have enough energy for a short walk.  Little did we know it would be a walk up a long auto less street with
wonderful graffiti to distract us from our journey.  Once we reach the summit we find ourselves in an upscale residential area with no restaurant district around.  This short walk is becoming longer then we expected so when we find a corner with a few places to eat we choose one for our evening meal.  It is a nice meal and soon it is time to grab a cab (well actually 2) and head back to the subway which will bring us to the hotel.   It has been a long but wonderful day in Sao Paulo.  After a shower, some unpacking, a little computer time,  my head hits the pillow and eyes shut immediately - dreams of the days adventure dancing through my restful mind.

(Read Sao Paulo or Bust - Part 1)

(Read Sao Paulo or Bust - Part 3)

Fountain in Luz Park 
Crowds at Ibirapuera Park 

Subway Station

Luz Train Station



Arthur Moreira Lima

Dancing Waters at Ibirapuera Park 

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