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.
For the second half of my travelling adventure, I decided to include a transatlantic cruise that would also include crossing the equator.
Sao Paulo: I started the adventure in Sao Paulo. Nothing prepared me for the number of people, the traffic, or the language barriers! But, that is what makes travelling n adventure — learning to face new challenges and opportunities. In Sao Paulo, I stayed at the LimeTime Hostel, which was very close to the Metro and Ave. Paulista. Of course, my first day out, I turned the wrong way and got lost looking for the Metro and Ave. Paulista, but I finally started learning my way around — and using the Metro was a great help! Want to do something different? If you are up early on a Sunday — which can be difficult because there are so many cool bars in Sao Paulo — head to the Benedictine Monastery for 10 AM mass. It is crowded, so unless you get there a little early, you may have to stand, but the singing is beautiful!
Santos: There is a bus that takes you from Sao Paulo to the beaches of Santos. It takes about 90 minutes and will stop right on the beach. I took the bus to the cruise terminal to join my ship, RCI’s Vision of the Seas. There were a few of us on the bus — and we all got a little nervous, not knowing the exact route the driver was taking through Santos. But we made it safely and got a mini-tour of Santos in the bargain. The beaches are beautiful!
Rio: It was really nice sailing into Rio — I sat ion my balcony and took pictures from a view many people in the city would never see! I was also very fortunate to hook up with a small group of people to “see the sites” and had an amazing lunch at a Brazilian BBQ place. I also had a moment of panic when I thought my group had left without me. I would love to spend more time here — preferably with someone and not on my own.
Crossing the Atlantic: I can say that I have not only sailed across the Atlantic, but I also sailed across the equator! This was 6 days of pure relaxation (when I wasn’t sick form a nasty cold).
Tenerife, Spain: Our first port after 6 days — and I needed to get back into nature. What a great place to experience the beauty of a volcano and this unique landscape. I want to go back and see more!
Funchal, Portugal: I had such a lovely day in Madeira — this is another place I want to return to and spend more time (and one of the reasons I cruise — get a “taste” of different places to decide where to return to!).
Lisbon, Portugal: I love Lisbon — great food,wine, entertainment and beautiful architecture — so much to take pictures of! I stayed at the Living Lounge Hostel — a wonderful spot in the heart of the city. I never seem to have enough time in Portugal!
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?).
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
Things I learned along the way in Brazil … or a list of my misadventures! As one of my travelling partners will attest (aka Sue) I do a lot of pre-planning in the name of research. I’ve learned in this trip that I either could have done more planning, or the information was either lacking or just wrong! Nothing prepared me for a few of these highlights (and a few lowlights) I call my misadventures!
1. Taxis In Sao Paulo It is not cheap to take a taxi around the central downtown area, unlike what the guidebooks say. Take the Metro, it is clean, efficient and had the best signage in Sao Paulo – the arrows and street names actually point the right ways! Taxis get caught up in the never-ending traffic. Sao Paulo is a city of between 11 and 19 million people (depending on who you talk to). Just take a minute on that number. There are 34 million on all of Canada – Sao Paulo is a city. So, the information on taxis is this: as soon as you get in, it costs 4,10 Real. The good news is that the price only goes up when the taxi move – not when it is merely stuck in traffic. The bad news, there is no “straight” way to get anywhere. The other good news, none of the taxis drivers I met would accept a tip.
2. Speaking of signs The signage in Sao Paulo is also interesting. The further away from a place you are, the better and more frequent the signs. As you get closer, the signs seem to disappear. Street signs are also placed at angles, so you almost have to guess which one matched the street. After a while, you do start to see how the signs match the streets, but if you are lost, good luck!
3. Getting from one place to another Tour guidebooks provide all sorts of information about how to catch a bus to go from point A to Point B, however most rarely tell you what the trip will be like. Such was the case for the bus ride from Sao Paulo to Santos. All I knew was a) there was a bus, b) it would take about 1 hour and 20 minutes c) it would cost 19,30 Real and d) the main bus terminal was an easy walking distance to the port. I did not know that the drive would go through a mountain pass that was incredibly beautiful. This lovely, winding road was also filled with transport trucks heading to the port. The aforementioned bus terminal was on the outskirts of town – and nowhere near the port (nor would I have wanted to walk through this neighborhood with my luggage and lack of Portuguese). The bus became a “local request a stop” bus through the city of Santos. The good news? Its last stop, which was exactly 2 1/2hours after we left Sao Paulo, is the Cruise Port! I need to let the Cruise Critic website know that for future cruise planners. It would have saved me a lot of worries and I might have enjoyed the impromptu tour of Santos a little more!
4. Portuguese Yes, I knew that Spanish would not suffice completely, however I truly know how it feels to only speak one language and expect people to understand you. I’ve never told so many people that I do not understand, and they continue to talk to me, thinking that it is just a passing phase and I will soon figure out what they are saying! Funny thing is, I have started to understand a little – at least enough to smile and laugh at jokes. I’ve even had people insist they do not speak English, only to hear them speak it to someone else! It has been an adventure in languages, and will continue as we cross the Atlantic, as 85% of the passengers and over 50% of the crew are Brazilian. (NOTE: I met a waiter last night who is from Bulgaria – and he was so excited to speak English to me that I have a friend for the cruise!)
5. “Cruise passengers never experience the real essence of a place” I’ve heard that said a lot. It is one of the reasons I try to make my own way as often as I can. I was going to go it alone in Salvador because I really wanted to spend some time in the Nosso do Senhor Bonfim church, which is at the heart of Condomble. After some harrowing experiences in other areas of Brazil, I thought I should get some assistance in arranging a tour. I was able to join a tour of Historical Salvador and was able to experience Salvador in a way that included meeting people and participating in various rituals – including a blessing by two Santos, and a performance of children who are going through a program to try to keep them off the streets and give them a way to earn money. I also met some amazing and beautiful people.
Final notes: Caipirinhas rule! Trust people to be willing to help you along the way and smile!
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!
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.
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.
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!