After the day of getting lost following musicians to mysterious places, I thought it might be wise to have more of a plan for today. So, I mapped out a journey, using the metro map. Sao Paulo Day 2 – A day with a plan! So, I mapped out a journey, using the metro map. It has been my experience that downloading a copy of the local metro map is an amazing travel aid. The hostel did not have a metro map – but they did have a good map of Sao Paulo. Using the two maps, I was able to plan a really nice day!
Started out heading for the subway – this time going the right way! Right where the street crosses Ave. Paulista, there is a place called Fran’s Café – open 24 hours. It is nothing like Fran’s in downtown Toronto – but it was a good place to stop for a coffee and pastry. Then it was on to the metro – where I found the entrance closed. GREAT – another day like I had in Buenos Aires when the metro wasn’t running. Then, I thought to try another entrance and SURPRISE it was open. Plan still on track!
I was heading to the Sao Bento Monastery where, at 10 AM on Sundays, you can hear the monks chant high mass. I figured I was making the right transfers as I followed two women saying the rosary. I guess today’s theme is “follow the rosary!” Sure enough, I made it to the Sao Benito metro stop just in time to hear the church bells reverberate through the metro station! Taking a series of escalators, I made it to the very large church at 9:45. (Another side not here … working escalators in a metro are an amazing invention that I hope catch on in the TTC in Toronto. Yes, I sigh every time I have to face the stairs because the escalator is in pieces again.)
This church was HUGE and packed to standing room only. . The interior of the church is truly stunning with woodwork, sculptures and paintings throughout the massive building. I found a seat on at one of the side altars dedicated to St. Benedict (duh). Then the bells started again to herald the start of the ritual – aided by the songs of the monks. It was very beautiful (and no worries, I did carefully exit during the sermon and gave up my seat to someone else.) Outside the monastery, there was a pedestrian bridge that leads to another church. Not one to pass up a photo op, I strolled over the highway traffic below and got pictures of the “cock atop the church”. Maybe my new entry for Michael McKidd’s next art show?
Sticking to a theme of churches, it was the next phase in my plan – the Catedral da Se or the Metropolitan Cathedral. It is a neo-Gothic structure built between 1913 and 1967. It is the largest church in Brazil, with a seating capacity of 8,000 people. It also has the largest pipe organs in South America.
But enough of the factual stuff, now to the fun stuff. As I was taking pictures of the front façade, I noticed a vulture sitting on a ledge over the door. Cool, eh? Not sure who he was waiting for.
There was a mass going on in the church, so I did not want to disturb anyone, but there were so many cool things to take pictures of – so I felt like I was a spy hiding behind giant pillars, trying to be very respectful while taking pictures of stained-glass windows and cool altars.
Outside the cathedral was a little “sketchy”– lots of very poor people lying in the plaza, some preaching, some just very drunk. I have to say I was only approached by one man who was a little angry with me when I could not understand him. But no real trouble. There was a very strong police presence in the area, so I think it was safe, but it also would not take much for things to get a bit ugly.
Also in front of the cathedral is “heart of Brazil” or the central point from which all roads are marked. It is really just this little pedestal with the names of different places carved into it. I took pictures of the sides for Santos and Rio, since that is where I will be heading next.
The metro station for the Se is very interesting. Two lines literally cross there and you can stand at the top and look down and see the different lines on different levels. Really cool!
So, enough with the churches – now it’s time for something new. Originally, I was going to stay near Placa Republica, but I heard so many stories about the area, then a friend offered me the hostel, so I changed my plans. I do have to say that this would normally be where I would stay – an older area with a lot of interesting “quirks.” I’ve been looking for the “heart” of Sao Paulo – and I just have not found it. It is easy to find in Barcelona and Madrid but in Buenos Aires and now Sao Paulo, the cities are too spread out for there to be a central location that defines the city. Placa Republica could come close. On Sundays, this square has an artist’s market. There were a lot of artists and crafts people selling everything you can imagine.
Across from Placa Republica, there are a series of pedestrian only streets. Most of the little shops were closed, but this is also the area that several people told me was a bit “shady” as in “not a safe place to be alone, especially at night.” But I was on a mission and searching for the next place in my planned activities. So, off I went. There was the collection of posters with people there to talk to you about them. Of course, one of them caught my attention – it had the word “Umbanda” on it. Gee, why would I stop at that, some of my friends might ask? (And for my readers who do not know about Umbanda, it is one of the religions brought by African slaves to the Americas. Umbanda and Candomble are the Brazilian versions.) Of course, this meant that one of the people there had to try to talk to me to explain what they were all about – the man in Portuguese and me in English. Trust me; my understanding of Portuguese is getting much better! My speaking ….. We had an interesting “talk”.
I turned down the next little street in my quest, only to discover that this street was filled with different sex shops – all closed at this time of day, except for a few un-named clubs that I was beginning to think I would walk into by mistake as I searched for the samba club! Not that I mind sex clubs, but being a solo traveller, there are some precautions that just make sense.
I did find it – the Brahma Club – on the corner of Sao Joao and Ipiranga. As usual, I took the long and more “interesting” route to find it. This is a club owned by the Brazilian beer company, Brahma. They have an outside dining area and an inside area where there is a samba band and dancing. When you enter, you are given a number to help the different wait staff keep track of your order. My number was 1069. The beer is good and it keeps coming without even having to ask. And the food – there is enough to share with several people. I ordered Brazilian sausage and grilled onions – and wow! It was served on a hot stone with the onions caramelized to perfection. Yes, I was a happy girl! What more could I want to end a wonderful day in Sao Paulo – beer, grilled meat and onions, and SAMBA!