Monday, May 21, 2012

Sao Paulo or Bust - Part 4

Wow - it seems like when we travel in Brazil it is always good weather and today is no exception.  Our days itinerary is full so it's a pretty early wake up, a quick get ready, and we are off before nine A.M. Our first destination of the day is a short distance from the hotel so we decide to walk.  As we stroll along down one of the cities typical streets, we notice a cemetery on the opposite side.  It is a large cemetery with lovely crypts catching the sunlight as it peaks over the building and trees of the city.  In a unanimous decision,  we decide to cross the street and look around.  The cemetery is the que vou Te Amar which was the first public cemetery in the city.  Inaugurated on August 15, 1858 in and attempt to improve the health and prevent epidemics in the city.  Prior to this date, the dead were buried in the interiors and close proximity of churches. With a new understanding of how this type of burial could affect the health of the residence a cemetery away from the city was a good solution.   At first all economic groups were buried here, but by the early 19th century it became a
social status with wealthy families competing to see who could build the best, most ornamental crypts. They hired many of Brazil's most famous sculptors  to produce works of art at their families grave site and these works stand today.  We enter the grand entrance and walk down the pathway lined with trees leading visitors to the round information building.  I take a couple of photos before realizing photography is not allowed and find out later there is a pass you can purchase which authorizes visitors to photograph the artwork.  Down one of the paths an older man comes and begins to talk with us.  I am not sure what he says as he has a very heavy accent and I am unable to understand or follow his Portuguese at all.  Not that I would have understood it all if he did not have such an accent. Beatrice and Junior both state later that they had a hard time understanding him as well so I did not feel so bad.  After a few minutes of wandering between the ornate crosses, statues, and tombs we head back to the street to continue our day.
As we walk along we pass by other beautiful churches,  a residential tower designed by Oscar Neimeyer, and the city seems to be at a different pace today.  Maybe we are just in a different part of town.  We arrive at the Italia Terrace with its observation deck floors above the city, only to find that it is closed until later in the afternoon.  We come up with a plan to do some more sight seeing and return later.  After a short walk we end up in the same little four story mall we had coffee in yesterday and walking down many of the same streets in central Sao Paulo on our journey to the wholesale district.  The steep streets of the district are packed with people,  all looking for the best bargains.  This is where many store owners come from all over Brazil come to purchase
merchandise to sell in their stores.   The narrow streets are lined with specialty shops selling everything from kitchen supplies to watches and jewelry at wholesale prices. The hustle and bustle of the street reminds me of China town in New York City or San Francisco.  The district is a few blocks long and of course the people watching is great once again.
Our next destination is the Mercado Municipal de Sao Paulo (municipal market) and it is a good thing we arrive around lunch as there is plenty of famous things to eat here.  The market's building  opened in 1933 and since then it has served the city well providing fresh fruits, spices, meats, and other products to the cities residence.  It is a huge building with arched window and two domes welcoming visitor to its interiors.  It looks to consume a whole block of the
neighborhood and our walk quickens as we near the front door.  Once inside the noises of bargaining compliment the sweet smells of fresh fruits and delicious lunches being prepared.  We spend a little time walking down the wide rows of the market in search of a particular item.  The cod pastels are infamous in Brazil and the Mercado Municipal de Sao Paulo is said to have some of the best in the country.  We have to follow our noses to have some for lunch.  Simply delicious - fried pastry filled with cod fish.  What a delightful treat for our mouths.  After lunch we walk around some more and I look at the variety of items being sold.  I am not sure I have ever seen cow hoofs before.  It is a great place to walk around and do some more people watching as well.  (maybe that should be the theme for today).  We are about to leave and I decide there is one thing on my agenda at the market.
I want to taste some fruit that I have never had before.  We stop at one of the vendors and after explaining I am an American he begins to offer me tastes of many different fruits from Brazil and around the world. Langon, Nespera,  Mangosteen, and Granadilla just to name a few.  I am sure there will be a blog post that shares more details about how the different fruits tasted.  When I was finished,  I tipped the guy and we were off.  Satisfied with a wonderful experience that I would tell anyone traveling to Sao Paulo to make sure they partake.
By the time we are finished with lunch and our fresh fruit tasting it is time to head back to the Italia terrace and check out the views.  Up... up... up... to the
observation deck on the 44th floor of the building.  The Edifício Itália is the the second tallest building in Sao Paulo and attracts hundreds of tourist.  We step out on the patio which circles the top floor of the building just outside the upscale restaurant and piano bar.  It is like looking at a large 3-D puzzle with buildings protruding towards us and on the streets below ant like people hurrying along.  This is a great place to get perspective of the size of this massive city and how it goes on from one horizon to the next.  The best way to describe it is through photos so I have created a slide show with great photos.
We end up spending a little time here and it is mid
afternoon at this point.  We are tired and discuss possibly ending the day early and heading back to the hotel but I express my wishes to head back to Ibirapuera Park were we first stopped on Sunday.  If you remember, there were just too many people out enjoying the weather for us to fully enjoy it so we had discussed going back.  Today is our final day in Sao Paulo and I really wanted to check out some of the things we passed on our stroll through the park.  With a little arm twisting,  I get my way and soon we are headed in that direction.  It is another wonderful sunny day to spend time at Ibirapuera Park and what a
different experience it is from our visit on the weekend.  Flowers blooming, birds singing, and a wonderful breeze blowing.  I missed these things on Sunday because I was too busy looking out for people walking, running, and biking.  The park is filled with beautiful sculptures and monuments dedicated to influential events and people of Sao Paulo and Brazil.   When we come to the Afro Brazilian Museum we are intrigued and decide to take a quick look.  What a wonderful find,  filled with artifacts of the ancestral lines of the African people in Brazil.  Costumes,  toys, artifacts and stories of how these immigrants lived in early Brazil fill the walls of the stark white building.  It is a wonderful collection and one of my favorite places in the city.

After about an hour and a half of looking around we leave the museum and head toward the dancing waters we visited the other day.  We walk past the Obelisk of Sao Paulo,  built from 1947 to 1970 to commemorate the Constitutional Revolution of 1932.   Today it stands boldly in the park as the tallest

monument in the city of Sao Paulo.   When we arrive at the lake we rest for a minute to watch the dancing waters and continue on as they abruptly stop dancing. Our next landmark is just outside Ibirapuera Park at its entrance.  Unveiled in 1954 during the parks opening celebration, the Monumento as Bandeiras
("monument to the flags") has stood at its entrance ever since. The massive granite statue pays tribute to the bandeirantes and their influence on Sao Paulo's culture.   It reflects the diversity of the region,  depicting Portuguese settlers alongside indigenous men and women all pulling a canoe.  When we drove by the statue on Sunday,  there were people crawling all over it and today there is no one around.   It is great to have the opportunity to take pictures of this great landmark without anyone else posing for their own memories.  As the day ends and we grab a cab I look back at the wonderful details of this city on steroids.  Filled with people making history one day at a time and I am sure there is more to do and see,  so another visit will have to occur at some point.

Afrobrasil Museum 

Inside the museum of Aftrbrasil
cow hoof for sale at market

Cod Pastel - Yum 


Municipal Market Sao Paulo
Oscar Neihmeyer designed residential tower.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sao Paulo or Bust - Part 3

Like most of our travels the morning routine includes breakfast at the hotel which consists of some breads, fruits, coffee, and today they even have two cereal options.  After showers and Thais and Raphael arrive we are ready to head to the subway to begin the touring.  We walk  a couple of blocks  to the station and I am amazed by the volume of people on the escalators heading up this morning. They just keep coming from the depths below and all I can think as we ride the escalator down is we are fortunate to be heading in the opposite direction.  We purchase our tickets and hop on the first train going in our direction. Our first stop today is the Liberdade
neighborhood.  Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan and that all begins in this neighborhood.   The subway ride is short and soon we are above ground at the large red Torii at the districts entrance.  Constructed in 1974 - this towering arch traditionally marks the entrance to Shinto temples in Japan, but here in Sao Paulo it stands proud at the entrance of the main road in Liberdade the Rua Galvão Bueno.  It represents the neighborhood behind with its Japanese street lanterns,  Japanese housewives heading out for their daily groceries,  Japanese businessmen rushing to work, and Japanese businesses marked with signage in their native language.  It is still morning at this point and many of the stores are just opening up so there is not a lot of exploring to do.  I hear there is a great market on the weekends in the square and I would love to come back and browse around in the future.  I guess it will just be another thing to add to the list to see next time.
With it being so early and little to see,  it is time to head to our next destination the Cathedral Metropolitania of Sao Paulo.  A beautiful structure constructed from 1913 and finally dedicated in 1954 in the neo gothic design.  With a large dome towering above the square below it is easily identified in the city and has the significance of being deemed point "0" for all the streets and avenues of Sao Paulo.  It is another fine example of the Catholic faith's influence on Brazil and importance in their history.  The large wooden doors at the entrance are wide open, welcoming guests to the marble halls of the cathedral.  It is great to explore and there are plenty of photo opportunities even though the light is a little limiting and flash photography is not allowed.  After about a half an hour we are ready to explore the square in front and walk to our next destination.  The square is filled with tall palm trees reaching to the heavens above along with bronze statues of padres interspersed.  In looking at the statues
 closer they all have red hearts fixed to their chests.  It is another time when I wish my Portuguese was a little better as I would definitely be asking around to see what the campaign of the red heart stands for. This area is filled with street people as well so we decide to stick together and make sure no one wanders off on their own.   We walk a little ways and come to another square (yes Sao Paulo like other Brazilian cities has plenty of squares throughout). This one is surrounded with the secreteria de justica with its bold columns at the entrance surrounded by arched windows and doorways.  It is just one of many buildings in the city with architectural character. On the same square is the colonial style building which marks the location where the city began.
This is where the Jesuits built their first school to educate the indigenous people.  The building is breathtaking with its simple architecture.  In the middle of the square stands a monument with a women holding a torch in one hand and and olive twig in the other commemorating the cities start. I tried to find the symbolism of these two items but was unable to find any information.
The next leg of our tour is a lot of walking through the streets of the city.  Filled with people going about their daily activities.  We pass by a Brazilian comedian performing  in front of the Faculdade de Sao Bento a building which houses a local university.  Even though the performance is in Portuguese,  I get a few laughs and realize his slap stick style of  humor translates through language barriers.   A short distance further and we are in the central part of the city and standing in front of
the Martinelli building.  It's claim to fame is that it was the first skyscrapers built in South America.  Built at the beginning of the 19th century by Giuseppe Martinelli,  the 30 story building tells the story of the start of a city filled with skyscrapers that fill the horizon today.  Next time I am in Sao Paulo,  I want to make sure we take a tour of the building.
In front of the Martinelli building is a beautiful pedestrian boulevard filled with palm trees and other tropical vegetation.  There are plenty of places to find a shaded spot to take a break and I am sure the people watching would be spectacular.  But our journey today contains more walking and so we venture down the incline to the valley below... next stop the Municipal Theater of Sao Paulo.  Constructed from 1903 to 1911 it was met with great
expectations by the people of Sao Paulo and over the years it has not let them down as a leader of the arts in Brazil.  The building is prominently placed facing the Praca Ramos de Azevedo, another lush park filled with tropical plants, fountains, and statues which stands above the valley of the Anhangabau River.  In 1922 the theater hosted "The week of modern art" and introduced the Brazilian  Modernist movement which sought to break art away from the heavily structured  European influenced realistic art.  Modernism defied the days view of what was art and how art was to look. It also gave many rising Brazilian artists a platform to share their talents.  The theater has been a large influence in Brazilian art during its 100 plus years existance and has hosted theatrical plays and operas by the best international and national playwrights and composers. Today the building hosts the São Paulo Municipal Symphonic Orchestra, the Coral Lírico (Lyric Choir) and the City Ballet of São Paulo.
After a little while of looking around we journey down some more streets filled with people going about their daily routines.  There are some street people selling home made jewelry, a man piping in some music holding cds which are obviously for sale,  and plenty of business men and women in their office attire.  A short stop in a four story open mall for some coffee allows us to do some more people watching.  We soon continue our journey and come to a great building with obvious importance but we are not sure what it is. The decision is made to take a look inside and we are please to discover the Central
Post Office of Sao Paulo.  A magnificent building with bright artwork welcoming guests as they enter the atrium.  I truly enjoy the wonderful colors and distinct patterns of the art.  I convince my travel companions to ride the escalator to the second floor for a closer look and once we arrive at the top there is another area for us to investigate.  Inside a room off the atrium is a display celebrating the Brazilian phenomenon of Carnival with a couple of the extravagant costumes on display.  What a great unexpected find in the city.
 Can you believe it is only lunch time and we have reserved this meal to sit down and have lunch at the infamous Famiglia Mancini Italian Restaurant. We find our way and enter into the eclectic eatery complete with wine bottles,  hanging baskets, and red checkered linens.   The host

brings us to a table towards the back next to a gorgeous blue and white fountain.  The party of six take our seats and spend the next hour or so enjoying a great meal and wonderful conversation.  The atmosphere of the restaurant takes second seat to the food and service as both are excellent and we leave satisfied and ready for more adventure.
After lunch Thais wants to take us to Oscar Freire Street, a   shopping district in Sao Paulo where american brand names mix with international specialty stores.  It is a wonderful street with lovely trees lining it.  Along one of the streets before we get to shopping district,  I find an antique store (the Antiquario Epoca)  and suggest we go in and take a look around.  Like traditional stores in the United States it is filled wall to wall with stuff.  Everything one could imagine.  The shopkeeper Alysson speaks English and tells us about her travels and some of her favorite pieces.  I truly enjoy looking around and finding some great items even though I am not in the market for anything.  She has traveled the world collecting these wonderful historic items and it is obvious she is attached to some of it as well.  After a while we head back out to the street and stroll down to Oscar Freire Street. Louis Vuitton, Armani, Carmen Steffens, Dior, Monblanc, Cartier, Cavalli, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, Adidas, Nike, Diesel, and Marc Jacobs are just a few of the shops that line the luxurious street.
Besides the antique store,  my favorite boutique would have to be the Havaianas store.  A stark white building with bright cut-out accents designed by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld to lure pedestrians in to purchase the famous Brazilian flip flops.  The design actually won the Shopping category at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona in 2010.  I can totally see why it won the award,  there is just something refreshing and alluring about it even though I did not purchase any havaianas.
We head back towards the hotel as Thais and Rapahel need to head out to the suburbs.  After saying our good byes we walk the short distance to the Paulista Avenue.  This avenue is one of the most important avenues in the city with many financial and cultural businesses having their headquarters here.  The avenue was once a residential thoroughfare lined with lavish mansions,  today is it mostly commercial and considered the most expensive real estate in Latin America.  It is obvious that this is where the floods of people exiting the subway station this morning were heading to start their work days.  When we arrive this afternoon,  it is the start of the evening rush hour so the streets are not quite filled yet.  We walk a ways down the avenue and come across one of the old mansions as well as a statue with a red heart affixed to his chest.  I have still not found out what the red heart campaign is about but will do some searching this evening on line.
A short distance further we come to the famous native forest park - The Parque Siqueira Campos and since the streets are beginning to fill with commuters,  we find refuge by strolling into the park.   Another lush green space with park benches and all kinds of tropical foliage in the middle of Sao Paulo's business district.  A nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.   We take a leisure walk through the park and soon we are on the opposite end. The day has been long and the hotel is already calling us to take the evening off.  We find a nice patio at Defrutti where I enjoy a acai and strawberry treat.  What a great combination and end to a day full of touring.  After we are done it is time to retire to the hotel and get a good nights sleep as today was a lot of walking and tomorrow will be more of the same I am sure. (thanks wikipedia for some bits and pieces of information in this post)

Havaianas Store 


Red Heart Campaign??? 

Add caption

Heart of Sao Paulo

Central Post Office Sao Paulo 

Central Post Office Sao Paulo 

Famiglia Mancini Italian Restaurant

Famiglia Mancini Italian Restaurant

Cow Campaign make it to Sao Paulo 

Mansion on Paulista Avenue