EXPLORING THE ENCHANTING DEPTHS OF SAO PAULO, BRAZIL’S BUSTLING HEART, CAPETONIAN WRITER AND EDITOR, TESSA O’HARA, TELLS US ABOUT THE AWEINSPIRING STREET ART, BOLD VIBRANCY AND INFECTIOUS ENERGY OF THIS SOUTH AMERICAN GEM.
During August this year, I visited Brazil for work, São Paulo to be more exact, but also managed to add a bit of sightseeing to the trip.
Before I go any further, if you’re thinking of visiting Brazil, make sure you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination, or else you won’t get further than Brazil’s airport!
São Paulo is massive, the capital of Brazil’s largest state and home to more than 41 million people. In fact, it is the largest city in South America and the southern hemisphere.
The minute I landed I could feel the air frizz with vibrancy, even at 3 am, as people of every nationality teemed through the arrival halls. The city is a giant melting pot of cultures, and immigrant communities from Japan, Italy, and Portugal. A fact I found fascinating, and which is very apparent, is that São Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan!
I had organised a tour guide to explore the city, thank goodness, and what a great choice that turned out to be. Roberto speaks English, which may not seem to be a “big thing”, but it is in a country where very few locals speak it! Portuguese is the language of São Paulo, but it’s also a very specific Portuguese only spoken in South America. So, if you’re planning to use Duolingo to hone your Portuguese skills before visiting Brazil, make sure you learn the correct version!
I explored Batman Alley with Roberto, an area that epitomises the bold colours and vitality of Brazil. This lengthy stretch of high-walled residences in the suburb of Vila Madalena showcases some of the most impressive street art and graffiti, and virtually no surface is left untouched.
Then it was on to Parque Ibirapuera, one of Latin America’s largest urban parks. Its iconic importance to São Paulo is often internationally comparable to that of Central Park in New York City. Like everything worthwhile visiting in the city, it is huge! It was a Sunday, so there were hordes of locals jogging, walking, having a picnic and just relaxing. It’s been described as “a green oasis at the heart of a concrete jungle”, and it was a welcome relief for me to stretch my legs after the long-haul flight.
Roberto told me while we were walking that São Paulo also hosts the world’s largest LGBTQ+ Pride parade, drawing millions of followers each year.
THE CITY BOASTS A UNIQUE BLEND OF ARCHITECTURAL MARVELS AND CULTURAL HERITAGE.
Having a local guide was wonderful; he was very flexible about what we did on the tour, so I also managed to visit the Monument to the Bandeiras, and the Japanese ‘suburbs’ of Liberdade – and felt like I had travelled to Japan without leaving São Paulo!
A highlight of the tour was our visit to the Municipal Market of Sao Paulo. The historic building houses stalls of rare fruits, vegetables, dairy products, cured meat of every description and a ‘food court’. The meals offered here are incredibly diverse and delicious, but there is a lot to choose from. Thank goodness for Roberto who ordered for us both!
Exploring Sao Paulo’s historic sites is a captivating journey through Brazil’s rich past. The city boasts a unique blend of architectural marvels and cultural heritage. As I wandered through the cobbled streets of Batman Alley and through the halls of the Municipal Market, I felt a deep connection to the city. The vibrant energy of this metropolis is beautifully complemented by its historic gems, making it a destination that truly bridges the past and present.
Brazil has 4 time zones. The reason for this is because it is so big there is a big difference in when the sun sets across the country.