Category Archives: Brazil

J = Journeys through the Land of the Dead

J

Cemeteries can be interesting places to find some fascinating artwork as well as quiet places to walk in otherwise busy cities. Here are some of my favourite ones.

Père Lachaise Cemetery is Paris is well-known and has some very interesting statuary and “residents”.

La Recoleta Cemetery is the large cemetery in Buenos Aries with many famous Argentinians buried there, including Eva Perón.

I stumbled upon a massive cemetery in Sao Paolo, Brazil. I thought it had interesting art, then I came to the edge of the cemetery and saw there was so much more. This is the largest cemetery I’ve every seen.

My last suggestion is the cemetery in Santiago de Cuba. Not only does it have a memorial to Jose Marti with a changing of the guard and other famous memorials.

 

 

Salvador de Bahia – The Home of 365 churches

After my misadventures throughout Brazil, I thought I might take it a little saner in Salvador.  There was one place in particular I wanted to go, and it was not within walking distance of the port.  So, I consulted with several people and got hooked up with a tour of historical Salvador.  This tour promised to spend more time at each stop and it included the places I wanted to see.  I was very pleased to see that my new friends from Glasgow were also on this tour.  As it turned out, there were only 20 people – nice number – but this time half for English and half were German – it has been a while since I’ve practiced speaking any German! Our guide was native to Salvador, but spent some time in Germany, so he was fluent in Portuguese, German and English – and he truly loves his city.  Throughout the tour, he would tell us how to best interact with people – when to give money (and when not to).  Our first stop was the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim.

Senhor du Bonfim
Senhor do Bonfim

While this is a Catholic church, it is also considered the hearty of candomble – and one of the places I really wanted to visit.  In the plaza in front of the church, I met two Santos who blessed me with cascarillo, bay leaves and corn.  They were wearing the colours of the Oshun, so I thought that was an auspicious start for me.  I was also given the special ribbons that are used to make wishes at the church. Our tour guide also went through this little ceremony, which I thought was another good omen.

Blessing
A Candoble Blessing

He really did seem to understand the religion and the meaning of the different ribbons.  All along a wrought-iron fence in front of the church, people tie these ribbons with three knots.

Senhor do Bonfim Ribbons
Senhor do Bonfim Ribbons
Ribbons at Senhor do Bonfim
Ribbons at Senhor do Bonfim

Inside the church, there is a special “room of miracles” where, when your wish has come true, you send something back to thanks the Saint.  There were pictures of weddings, soccer championships and letters describing how the Saint helped.  There were also rows of wax feet, legs and babies, for people to give as offerings for healing of ailments or birth of children.

Room of Miracles, Senhor do Bonfim
Room of Miracles, Senhor do Bonfim

On the second Sunday in January, there is a procession of Bahaian women in traditional outfits from the centre of Salvador to the church steps, where they wash the steps.  Since this is not considered a Catholic tradition, the doors of the church are close – but the celebration continues.

As we got back on our bus, there were two children who are part of a special program to help poorer children get an education and earn money.  They sang a traditional song to Nosso Senhor.

We then joined the inevitable traffic back to the centre of Salvador and the Pelourinho or the upper city.  This is an UNESCO World Heritage site because of its large collection of colonial buildings. Our first stop was the Palacio Rio Blanco.  It was built in the 16th century and has been used as many things over the years; barracks, a residence for Dom Pedro II and even a prison.  It is a beautiful building that comands exquisite views of the lower city and the port below it. It is also next to the Elevador Lacerda, which is an elevator that connects the lower and upper parts of the city.

Elevator
Elevador Lacerda

As we walked through the streets of the upper city, we had opportunities to take pictures with the women dressed in the traditional clothes – big hoop skirts and turbaned headdresses. We headed to Terreiro de Jesus, a plaza with several churches and a group of men who were demonstrating capoeira moves. As it started to rain, we ducked into one church where you can see the progression of the rococo-style is art and architecture with each side altar. As we left the church, the rain really started to fall – we took shelter in a gem shop and then were told to take some time to get a coffee, etc. while we waited a bit for the rain to die down.

San Fransicso
Igreja de Sao Francisco

We then headed to the Igreja de Sao Francisco.  This is a working Franciscan monastery – and it is also an important gothic monument noted for its Baroque inner decorations.  But first, there are the decretive tile designs that line the interior garden.  They are done in traditional blue and white and depict scene from mythology what have religious meanings.  As beautiful as the tiles are, nothing can compare to walking into a house of pure gold – and that is what the main church is – more than 100 kilograms of gold covers almost ever surface of the interior of the church.  The lights reflect off the gold until you feel you are bathing in its sheen. A part of me was amazed – and a part of me was wondering what St. Francis and his most pious followers would have said about a church like this – since he was known to give away all his gold and earthly possessions. Salvador does appear to be a place of drastic contradictions.

The rain stayed with us as me made our way to an area that was important to the slave trade – and had a church built by the slaves and still used today.  On Tuesdays, the mass said in this church is a combination of Portuguese and Yoruban – with a lot of drumming and dancing. We also had some time to visit some shops along the way.  I, of course, saw an apron to add to my collection and had a great time with 3 ladies in a shop for clothing.  Everyone we met was very warm and friendly.

We then headed back along the cobblestone streets to the bus – the rain was steady at this time and I felt like a drowned rat!  Of course I left my umbrella and raincoat on the bus, as I did not think IU would need it on the sunny day we had in the beginning! My plan had been to not go on the ship just yet, but spend a little time in the Mercado. But I was cold and wet and just wanted to get warm.  Still, I loved the charm of Salvador and the warmth of its people.

A taste of Rio

Cruising into Rio, I happened to have a cabin on the Port side, which was going to give me views of the city as we entered. I decided that, instead of fighting people for a space in the restaurant, I would use my time and space better – order a small breakfast and sit on my balcony taking pictures of Rio. I saw Sugarloaf first – then Corcavado with the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop. With the way the sunlight was, I seemed that I was not able to take a clear picture of the statue, or it would get hidden from my view entirely. I started to accuse the statue of playing tricks on me! It was a very pleasant way to enter the port of Rio and start seeing the sights early.

Sailing into Rio
Sailing into Rio

I knew that a cruise stop to Rio would only give me a small taste of everything there is to see here – but at least I can say I tasted as much as I could! I did join a tour this time because I wanted to experience certain things. My group was about 30 people – half English and half Brazilian. I think the English side got the reader’s digest explanation, either that or it takes a lot longer to explain things in Portuguese. Anyway, our tour guide was really good at getting us an early reservation on the train that goes up through the Tijuca National Park and up to the summit of Corcovado to the Christ the Redeemer statue. While waiting for the train, I made friends with 2 other couples from Australia as we posed for cheesy pictures. They promised to look out for me (an important note as I go on with this story).

Cat's photo at the tram
Waiting for the Tram Corcovado

First, some additional information on Tijuca National Park. This is the only protected natural rainforest in an urban area. There are a number of hiking and biking paths through the park. In the little information booklet, there was a list of “What to Mind” when visiting the park. I found the first one in the list “interesting” as it said, “Religious offerings left on the Park pollute the rivers and the forest, affecting the fauna.” Something to keep in mind when making religious offerings, eh?
So, the little train slowly chugs its way up the hill (2,300 ft.) until you are at the base of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Now, you can either take a series of elevators and escalators up or climb 236 stairs. I’ll let you guess which I opted for. The views of the city are impressive – and we had a perfect day for views. Some days it is foggy, so it really depends on the weather. The statue, however, is just as impressive as the view. It was hard to get a full-view picture of it, so I may have to piece several together! As I was trying to take a cheesy picture of myself, that did not work, someone offered to do it for me and was kneeling down to get as much of the statue as possible. It is awesome.

Christ the Redemer

Cat Starr and the Statue in Rio
Just another tourist picture in Rio

As we made our way back down on the train, a samba band serenaded us. It reminded me of when the World Cup games were being played at Stanford University and the Brazilian team was staying in Los Gatos – a samba band would get on CalTrain and play for the entire route from San Jose to San Francisco. Of course, this ride was not as long as the ride from San Jose to San Francisco, but the musical performance was a nice addition!
We then drove through Rio, first passed the Sambadrome on our way to Rio’s famous beaches – Ipanema and Copacabana. Yes, they are as beautiful as all the pictures – with perfect waves and sand.
Our next stop was Sugarloaf Mountain. This was my “James Bond” moment – remember the scene from Moonraker where Jaws and Bond fight on top of the cable car? Yep, I was finally going to be in one of those cable cars. The trip to Sugarloaf is actually two separate cable cars – the first stops at a lower mountain and the second goes to the top of Sugarloaf. The best views are from the top, where you can see all of Rio’s beaches. You can also get some amazing shots of flying vultures. I even spotted a small lizard.

Sugar Loaf Cable Cars
Sugar Loaf Cable Cars
Lizard on Sugar Loaf
Lizard on Sugar Loaf
Vultures over Rio
Vulture flying over Rio
Rio Beaches
Rio Beaches
Cat Starr in Rio
Cat Starr in Rio

There are also the souvenir shops – including a shop for the famous Havaianas flip flops. They had so many different styles. I finally settled on a pair (purple and gold). We had two hours to make the assent – and descent — up Sugarloaf and do what we wanted. After taking pictures and getting lost in a sea of Havaianas, I thought I had 15 minutes to get back. So, I headed down the mountain and saw the bus – but no one was there yet, so I wandered around a bit. When non one from the group started to show up, I started to panic. When I looked again, the bus was gone. Now, I had to remember when were we supposed to meet again? Was I an hour early – or a few minutes late? What were my options? Everyone I tried to talk to did not understand me, however I needed to sort things out and make a plan. I figured I could catch a taxi back to the ship (I even knew how to ask for that in Portuguese!), but I would wait for an hour before doing that. Of course, when I am nervous, I have trouble focusing properly, which means I fell and got a nice bruise on my knee, although it did not hurt anything but my own pride (which at the time was in very low reserves).

Finally, I saw a couple that looked a little familiar and asked if they were part of my tour. In a deep Scottish accent, I was told that they were and I had found my new guardian angels! We walked down to the base of Sugar Loaf to take some pictures of the beach and then headed to the bus when we saw it arrive and people getting on it. I know … all that panic for nothing!

Cat on the beach in Rio
Cat on the beach in Rio

Our next stop was the Churrascaria Cruzeiro do Sul or the Southern Cross Churrascaria, a “rodizio” or all-you-can-eat restaurant featuring grilled meat – lots of different types of grilled meat that is served from large skewers and sliced onto your plate. I think one was even tongue (a little “tough”) and a fillet in garlic sauce. With my new friends ensuring I did not get lost again, I plowed through a lot of grilled meat (and a few other things).

Churrascaria Cruzeiro do Sul
Churrascaria Cruzeiro do Sul

After our late lunch, we finally saw Rio’s infamous traffic first-hand. I’d say that I would not complain about traffic in Toronto after seeing traffic all over Brazil, but give me a few weeks at home and I’m sure I will be complaining again. We did get back to the ship and I know have new friends from Glasgow.

Sao Paulo to Santos

Sometime during the night, the electricity went off at the hostel. Not sure what happened, but since it was night, there was no real need for light, but the ceiling fan the kept my room so nice and cool was now not working. Finally, I woke up and decided to push the button for my ceiling fan. As soon as I did, all the electricity came on! Trust me, I did NOTHING before that – my timing was obviously right on!

In the morning, I packed and got ready for my next adventure – the bus ride to Santos. This meant getting to Jabaquiro Bus Termino with all my luggage. Okay, I am not a backpacker, especially with all the extra bits I need on a cruise, but I do love my Heys luggage – it is compact and has 4 wheels and long handles. Pedro was back on the desk; he helped me catch a cab and helped ensure I made it to the right bus terminal. Traffic was bad – then again this is Sao Paulo, so I should expect it. They listed that a cab ride to the bus terminal would run about 35 Real, and it ran me just under that amount – and the driver would not take a tip – something to remember for the next time I come to Sao Paulo.

Meeting me at the bus terminal was a nice man who helped me with my luggage and showed me where to get my bus ticket to Santos. When I got to the desk and asked for a ticket to Santos, the ticket agent started speaking to me in the fastest version of Portuguese I’d heard yet – all my confidence in understanding her was gone. Fortunately, she wrote me a note with four items on it: Santos, 19, 30 R, 9:30, #10. Translation: a ticket to Santos cost 19,3 Real, and it was leaving at 9:30 from platform #10. With ticket in hand, my luggage guardian angel assisted me to the bus, where I had to show my passport and add information to the ticket. Then, I was on the bus.

At ~9:40, the bus left for Santos. It seemed that we were outside of the city limits pretty quickly – then we would go over a little rise and the city was back – It goes on and on and on! I started to notice low-hanging clouds and next thing we were turning off the highway and heading for a two lane road that went through the hills. It reminded me a bit of the road between Calistoga and Harbin – with different vegetation, of course! More palms trees and no tall pines. We also had to deal with a lot of heavily laden semis, which reminded me of a very long trip that Gareth and I took (remember Hamburg?).

Road to Santos
Road to Santos
Overlooking Santos
Overlooking Santos

As we left the mountains, and returned to a highway, people on the bus started to request stops. A woman went up to the driver and said something in Portuguese that included the phrase “Vision of the Seas” and the driver said something like, “Nao Rodoviaria.” The couple sitting next to me were speaking French, but asked her in Portuguese about what he said. I decided that my best bet was to get off the bus when they did since my understanding of French was much better than my understanding of Portuguese. So, ignoring the guidebooks, I did not get off the bus at the Estacao Rodoviaria bus terminal (with the directions on how to walk to the port – what they did not mention that the neighborhood was not the friendliest place because, like most bus stations, it was in a poor area). So, for the next hour, we sat on the bus together and got a tour of Santos – and its traffic. There are some lovely beaches and, at one point, the driver stopped for a “10 minute break.”

Santos Beaches
Santos Beaches
Santos Beaches
Santos Beaches

I finally asked the French-speaking couple if they spoke English and they said, “But of course!” So, we talked about trying to get to the ship and hoping we had the right information – even talking about getting a cab if necessary. I also pulled out my map of Santos and we figured out where we were waiting and how we might get back to the docks. About 20 minutes later, the bus driver returned and we were back on our unofficial tour of Santos. In addition to seeing more beaches, there were these lovely storks that congregated at little food stands.

Storks in Santos
Storks in Santos

Finally, it appeared we were not only headed toward the port, but directly to the Estacio Cruizieros (terminal for passenger cruises). What a bonus! Except, that our way was blocked by an accident, a semi had run into a barricade and was blocking 1 ½ lanes of the road. We were able to squeeze by and the bus then pulled into the terminal. Our tour of Santos was officially over.

There were 2 ships in port – and no signs on where to go with luggage. I finally found the check-in for RCI Vision of the Seas, and, as a Gold Member, I was checked in quickly – towing my luggage with me. The next step was the security check – and that is where the long line was forming. I and my luggage snaked our way through and finally headed onto the ship. I did get some help – once on board, I was taken to a back way to an elevator. Bad news, rooms were not ready, so I and my luggage headed to the buffet for lunch.
The rest of the afternoon was just getting settled – finding my room, unpacking, checking out the spa, and the pool. While listening to the house band, two Brazilian ladies decided to take me under their wings and insist I join them for a bit. It was sweet, even though I had no idea what they were saying and they seemed convinced that I could pick it up if I listened long enough. I smiled and nodded a lot.
I also met a couple from Perth. They spoke English, so it was refreshing. The sail away included watching vultures flying off the top of the buildings. Vultures and storks – what an interesting mix of birds!

Vultures
Vulture landing  on the rooftop
Vulture
Vulture on rooftop

As we started to sail away from Santos, I went in search of a nice bar and met Paulo. I signed up for the second seating for dinner – which meant 9:30 PM. Plenty of time to enjoy the show of Brazilian music before meeting my dinner mates.

Dancing by the pool
Dancing by the pool

I am seated at a large table. At my table, there was a Brazilian couple who spoke little or no English and two friends sailing together. Wilson is from Malta and Dmitri is from Russia. My new Maltese friend of course has relatives in Toronto (his auntie used to live near Dundas and now lives in Woodbridge, of course). The three of us have a great time – so I have people to talk to at dinner. Our waiter is Alejandro from Mexico.

Circle of clouds
Circle of clouds

Tomorrow, Rio!

Sao Paulo Day 2 – A day with a plan!

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.)

 Sao Benito Monastary
Sao Benito Monastary

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?

Pedestrian Bridge
Pedestrian Bridge
Crossing the bridge
Crossing the bridge and heading toward another church
Cock on a Church
Cock on a Church

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.

Vulture at Catedral da Se
Vulture at Catedral da Se
Catedral da Se Tower
Catedral da Se Tower

 

Spires at Catedral da Se
Spires at Catedral da Se

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.

Vulture at Catedral da Se
Vulture at Catedral da Se

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.

Mosaic in Catedral da Se
Mosaic in Catedral da Se

 

Side Altar Catedral da Se
Side Altar Catedral da Se

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.

Catedral da Se Plaza
Catedral da Se Plaza
All roads start here
All roads start here

 
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!

Sao Paulo Metro
Sao Paulo Metro

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.

Street Sign
Finding my way…

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!

Grilled meat
Brazilian-style grilled sausage and onions!

Getting lost in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo, April 14

I really can read a map – but I guess it helps if I have a frame of reference.  That pretty much describes the first part of my day here in Sao Paulo. Of course, I was up earlier than I thought it was.  When I checked the board for things to do today, there was a notice about a market that happens every Saturday at Praca Benedito Calixto.  Pedro gave me directions using the metro – usually a good sign for me as I love metros! And so I was off. First stop in my journey was to be Ave. Paulista where I would find a bank for cash and espresso just because it was morning. And that is when I encountered my first mistake – I headed in the wrong direction … down hill.  Met a couple of dogs along the way – labs are the same no matter WHERE you go! I finally decided I needed help and asked a street cleaner where Ave. Paulista was. She explained to me in Portuguese.  I may not be able to speak it, but I did understand that I was going the wrong direction and I needed to head BACK uphill.  So, with nowhere else to go but up, I made my way to back.  Along the way, I met a fruit seller pushing his cart up the street and some brick layers pushing a trolley full of cinder blocks DOWN the street (and losing the handle like we did a lot when moving Pagan and Heather’s stuff last weekend). I knew how they all felt.

Finally saw a sign for Treze de Maio – my street and another with Ave. Paulista – so I guess I was going in the right direction! Finally knew I was on the right street because I found a bank – that did not accept my cards. So, I walked a little further to another bank – that did not accept my cards. Then I saw I was near the Casa de Rosas and the garden was open, so I took a break from my bank hunt and some pictures.

Casa de Rosas
Casa de Rosas

Then I returned to my bank hunt.  As more banks did not accept my cards, I was beginning to panic. I Never had this trouble before when I travelled.   I decided I needed some divine help as I passed the Chapel and Hospital of Santa Caterina. A very good sign – I try to  visit places dedicated to my patron saint.  So, with camera in had to take pictures and a nice, quiet place to ask for help, I took another brief break.

Afterwards, I found a nice coffee shop then the Banco de Brazil!  Finally, I was in business. And all of this was by the metro stop I was supposed to take – the one that is “really close to my hostel”.

Metros are awesome and the one in Sao Paulo is good.  A one way ticket costs 2 Real (~1.50 Canadian).  Signage is very good and there are very good maps throughout. I easily made my way to the stop I wanted and followed the sign to the right street.  I should be “in gravy” right? Well, I did not know how far down the street I needed to go – and there was the row of flower sellers that looked unique.  So, I wandered there and found what has to be the largest cemetery I’ve ever seen. It has masoleums similar to Recoleta (Buenos Aires) or Pere Lachaise (Paris) but the size is overwhelming. I was in the “high part” and I saw an area where I thought I would get a good view of the city, only to find that there was even more below the hill.

Back on the street, I was debating on whether I would find this place, when I saw musicians heading down the street.  I figured I would follow them, since there is usually an open jam at the Praca. By now, though, I am also very hungry.  I found a street market that sold different flavors of “pastels” – a kind of puff pastry with different fillings.  I ordered a cheese one (queirjo) and got some water to drink. Feeling I could handle walking back down the street (and another hill) to follow the musicians, I made it as far as a string of music shops before I decided to give up the ghost and head back to the hostel for a bit of a rest.

I was able to find the easy way back to Ave. Paulista and a place for dinner.  Nothing fancy, but good. I decided to take some time tonight to plan better for tomorrow so that I see more and am not so frustrated and tired. Then, I am going to spend some time with new friends.

Gringo
Don’t Feed Gringo!

Arrival in Sao Paulo

I finally arrived at my friend’s recommended hostel, Lime Time, at 7:15 PM on April 13. Why start with the last thing? Because most of the trip here is really too boring – and way too long – to get into real details.

Here are the highlights:
I’ve officially been travelling 24 hours to get here – from the time I left home and checked into the airport in Toronto. I think this is the longest trip since I went to Cape Town – much longer even than going to Buenos Aires! I think part of that is the layover in Santiago was longer. Good news in Santiago, I finally figured out the money!!!

On my 10+ hour flight from Toronto to Santiago, there was a 10-month old baby sitting a row in front and to my right. At first, I was prepared for a LONG night. However, this little one reminded me of Mary’s Little Monster! What a happy baby and what a great mom. He smiled and played and slept the whole way and was just so sweet. I think we could have travelled with Erric when he was the same age… I did get some sleep on the flight and I even tried watching The Artist, but fell asleep.
My flight from Santiago to Sao Paulo was on TAM Airlines. I love their slogan “Your Magic Red Carpet”. That was an easy flight but lasted 3.5 hours. Arrival in Brazil was a breeze, however. They checked my form, my traveller’s visa, and that was it. No long line, at least for international travellers. It took longer to get my luggage and that is when I realized I was really tired. So, I decided to opt for a taxi to the hostel. By the time I left the airport, it was dark and rainy. Traffic was crazy and I doubt I would have found the hostel without the help of my taxi driver. None of the street signs seemed to match the map I had. This is a good reason the take a cab for the first time arriving in a new city – especially at night.

So, here I am … waiting for the bar to open so I can have a caipirinha – then I think it is off to bed for this traveller. The hostel does not have a sign on the door, but it is painted lime green. You buzz the gate and go up a ramp to the front door. Pedro was working the desk and showed me around and introduced me to Gringo, the dog that lives here and begs for food – even though there are signs everywhere that say “Please do not feed Gringo”. He is a white shitzu – and a little on the heavy side, so I think some of the begging works. There is a little kitchen, a lounge, and a few computers for use. Off the kitchen is a patio and a bar. My room is on the second floor and overlooks the bar. It is also very lime green.

So, it is almost time for the bar to open and for my first drink … Welcome to Brazil!

Lime Time Hostel Sao Paulo, Brazil
Lime Time Hostel Sao Paulo, Brazil