The grey overcast morning light and torrential rain was an unwelcome eye opener in South America’s largest metropolis; at 4:30 am, few bus terminals in the world would claim to entreat you to explore their city. However, after soaking up the tropical heat and lush natural surroundings of Ilha Grande and Paraty, Sao Paulo’s urban sprawl, combined with a groggy head, felt like a Monday morning in the office following a week in the sun. As with London, there are infinite reasons why over 20 million Paulistenos call the city their home and divert their attention from the inclement weather. As Brazil’s work horse it has shopping malls to rival New York and apparently a strong art, design and cultural scene. U fortunately though, on Cass and my 1 day pitstop here enroute to Florianopolis, we had a tight schedule.
We were very thankful to escape the rain, buzz through the somewhat shady entrance gate and catch a few extra hours sleep in the excellent LuneTime hostel. Clean,modern and using its namesake as a keynote for its furnishings - though perhaps lime curtains was a mistake. After migrating from sofa to dorm room and finally private double, we hit the now drizzly lunchtime streets.
On initial inspection, Sampa (the colloquial name) feels a fairly functional city with limited charm downtown, but strolling through the Jardin district we spotted orchids growing natively on the pavement trees, softening the shuttered fortresses of the surrounding apartments. Our mission was to find the Havaianas concept store. After navigating the Rodeo Drive-esque boutiques, complete with valet parking for even coffee shops, we arrived to a spectrum of flipflops in every shade, but sadly not every size. My size 11 is popular, so instead I took advantage of the custom service and made my own in “baby blue” and “chocolate brown” - for roughly £8, our first Brazilian bargain. Cass opted for a slim strapped bronze pair, which we’re bizarrely more expensive, but as the originals are practically indestructible, I suppose they have to differentiate somehow.
Following a delicious coffee and eclair, and after making use of the excellent tube system with its wide carriages and air conditioning (TFL take note) we did a quick turnaround from the hostel and headed out to meet Cass’ ex House of Lords colleagues for dinner at Esquisito. Eliana and Alessandra had told us to catch-up with them if we hit Sampa, as well as stressed how guarded we should be against crime; although after surviving Rio unscathed we felt relatively safe. With a hearty steak and a side of Bolhino Carne Seca ( dried beef steak balls - tastier than it sounds) and washed down with the obligatory Caipaharina, Alessandra’s boyfriend whisked us on a driving tour of the city in search of a busy bar to enjoy a few late cervezas. The guys were incredibly hospitable and treated us all night, rounding up a generous introduction to a long day in Sampa.
- By Ian