Sao Paulo, Brazil
Knowing we’d literally only dipped a toe into Rio, it was with heavy hearts and bags that we headed to Sao Paulo. The most common phrase used to describe it is ‘big, ugly city’. Apparently it’s third biggest and ugliest city in the world! But let’s not also forget the promise of ultra-violence! We moped off to the airport only to be treated horribly by the staff of GOL airlines who seated us separately in middle seats. It wasn’t an auspicious start so before take off, we’d already decided that we were going to totally ‘Bratislava’ Sao Paulo.
You may be wondering what it means to ‘Bratislava’ a place and you’d be vindicated in your confusion because it’s a term we invented, well, we didn’t invent Bratislava, that’s the capital of Slovakia which Bec, Matthew and I visited several years ago. It was there that the following definition entered our travel parlance:
Bratislava [brat-uh-slah-vuh, brah-tuh-; Czech brah-tyi-slah-vah] -verb: to arrive at a destination having done little or no research, usually travel weary or otherwise perturbed with an already set conviction that the place lacks merit. Having made such determination, time in that destination is allocated to staying in accommodation or finding a cinema showing movies in English.
Ironically, we didn’t ‘Bratislava’ Bratislava at all – after we forced ourselves to explore, we found it to be one of the most delightful places of the trip, none the less, the definition has stuck even though I’m yet to actually ‘Bratislava’ any place, including Sao Paulo.
Flying in, I could see that the city was indeed vast and dense. It looked like a M. Sasek drawing of a city (although he never did a ‘This is Sao Paulo’ book). From the minute we stepped off the plane, the contrast between Sao Paulo and Rio was stark. The airport was modern, clean, well lit. Getting a taxi was orderly, efficient, pleasant. Suddenly we both remembered – we love big, ugly cities – London, New York, Paris (Sydney doesn’t belong on this list, it’s too pretty!).
We checked into our hotel (not worth mentioning beyond saying they incorrectly translated ‘bland business hotel’ as ’boutique’ when naming it) and went for a wander in the local area before heading out for dinner. It’s true that what we’ve seen so far is not going to win any beauty pageants, but it seems to have a great personality. Everyone we’ve encountered has been particularly pleasant and forgiving of my vegetarianism.
Back to the hotel to call our Dad to sing and wish him a very happy birthday. It hasn’t even been two weeks yet and I’m still with family but hearing Dad’s voice has already given me a twinge of home sickness. Hopefully a good nights sleep will help me recalibrate.