We woke up on Sunday in our Grand Hyatt hotel room refreshed after gaining an extra hour sleep due to the Brazilian Daylight (Standard) time change.
We then went upstairs to the Grand Club (Concierge Lounge) on the 20th floor from our 15th floor Ebano Suite for breakfast.
Steve (DOS) had arranged a private tour of the city, and we met our guide and driver Doris at 10:30am for our 5 1/2 hour private tour of São Paulo. Doris was very enthusiastic and welcoming, and we knew we were in for a great day. I must plead ignorance to my limited knowledge of Brazil, and zero skills with Portuguese, but Doris spoke perfect English and provided us a quick Brazilian history lesson, along with cultural insights throughout the day.
Like the United States, Brazil is divided into States, Cities, Regions and neighborhoods. São Paulo is both a state in Brazil as well as the State Capital. There are some 645 cities alone within the state of São Paulo! (And I just thought it was a big city – actually it’s the most populous city in South America, but it’s also a state as well.) Doris, like others that are native people from the city are known as Paulistanos, while those born in the state of São Paulo, are Paulistas. (We would later notice this term on a shopping bag; ‘Souvenirs from Paulistano’.
We started our tour with a quick stop across from the Unique Hotel, which is uniquely shaped like a ship. While we didn’t go in the hotel, nor have time to return later for the popular rooftop terrace restaurant and bar, it’s nice to know for a future visit, and made for a nice photo.
As we drove along the tour and throughout the day, Doris expertly navigated us thru Saõ Paulo’s different neighborhoods, steering around the streets that were closed for Carnival, and mostly avoiding the crowd whenever possible. We saw lots of merry makers along the way, some in funny or outrageous costumes; definitely providing a bit of local flavor, such as this man on a motorcycle with his pet parrot or other bird happily riding on his shoulder.
We stopped for a while at the Contemporary Art Museum, not so much to tour it, but to take in some nice views from the 8th floor rooftop terrace, which overlooked one of the large parks where the celebrations were going on.
Heineken had a private event going on ‘A Taste of Heineken‘ we would have loved to have attended, but as we had much to see we walked past it and admired the views from the terrace overlooking the people heading to the park for Carnival celebrations.
After the museum visit we headed to the site of São Paulo’s origins. Dorris explained the city was founded in 1554 by a Jesuit priest on a hilly plateau in the city, overlooking the rivers. From this vantage point high up on the hill, we could no longer see the rivers down below due to the shrubs, vegetation and other buildings, you definitely could feel the elevation of the city here, and understand why the founders wanted to be high up for sake of protection.
We stopped to see the mission and toured the area, which unfortunately has not been originally preserved, except for small sections of walls we could see thru glass window protectors as seen by the outdoor cafe there.
We toured the rear courtyard and the street area in front of the mission for and scenic nice stroll.
São Paulo, drastically changed over time, however with the ‘green gold’ or coffee bean, and due to the fertile soil the country quickly became the largest producer of coffee in the world, creating new found wealth and a large influx of immigrants to the country. Dorris explained that there are more Japanese residents in São Paulo than anywhere else in the world except Japan! Also the city has high concentrations of dependents from Lebanon, and Italy, with actually more Italian decedents than Rome, with some 5,000 Pizza restaurants in the city! The diversity of the cultures would be felt throughout the day as we toured various neighborhoods and especially later in the day at the mega-food market.
We toured the downtown area, with Sunday being an ideal day to do so as the government buildings, courthouses, banks etc were closed and it was quiet to traffic. Doris did point out the homeless, like in any city, and she described her tour as the best, the worst, and in-between of the city; refreshingly direct and honest.She noted this downtown area was not a place to go at night as this business and government area shuts down at 8pm, and there are no residents living there, other than the homeless. The downtown area was gorgeous though in architecture and history, and we had a beautiful day to enjoy our leisurely stroll with no safety issues or sense of feeling unsafe.
We then went thru another exhibit hall (like a museum, but has a rotating collection of artwork, typically sponsored by a company). This exhibit hall featured some modern and eclectic art cultures, many of which involved some sort of human figure with various shapes and/or over-size objects substituting for body parts, or every day objects displayed unusually such as this dining table and chest mounted to the side of the building.Once inside, we saw more of the eclectic items on display. The pic below reminded me of a scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where the girl blows up like a huge blueberry!
Other sculptures were similarly different such as these:
And if you want to know who created these ‘works of art’, look no further than the artist self portrait of himself, showing off his anatomy with bananas. (Children cover your eyes!)
And people actually get paid to create this stuff? Our sense of art must be wholly under-appreciated! LOL! On the way out of the exhibit, Doris pointed out the huge bank vault doors, as this beautiful building formerly housed a bank.
Continuing on to the Market, we passed thru different neighborhoods and many beautiful buildings and bridges such as this ‘Eiffel Tower’ bridge, theater and Cathedral along the way.
The Municipal Market in Saõ Paulo is huge and filled with every type of fresh produce and food you can imagine. The building itself had high ceilings and large stained glass windows depicting various Brazilian historical scenes and artwork.
Wikipedia has an article on the history and details of the market, including the stained glass windows inside it. Doris pointed out the stained glass windows to us as we looked across the busy market area from the second floor, and we took several photos shown below of the mural-like windows depicting different periods of Saõ Paulo history, especially with the harvesting of the ‘green gold’ coffee bean, and it’s importance to the economy of Brazil.
Remembering what Doris had told us earlier in the day about the various ethnicities of Saõ Paulo, you could easily understand why there were so many different types of restaurants located within the Market building – Japanese, Lebanese,Italian, Brazilian, etc. Most of the restaurants were located on the second level, while the produce, fast food and drink stations were on the main level.
Of course, leave it to Steve (DOS) to find the one souvenir shop amongst all of the food and drink, as we headed back downstairs,and Steve (UNO) to find a fancy beer stand, but alas only posing for a photo, while DOS actually bought lots of souvenirs!
And by the look of the lady behind Steve in line, you can tell she’s a bit impatient with all of his purchases, many such as coffee mugs and tiles had to be individually wrapped to take home.
If only we had more time to spend at the Heineken exhibit and beer station at the Market . . . but we had to move so we will save that for a future trip. The Market would be a fun place to have lunch and a couple brewskis should you have the time for a leisurely afternoon.
So as we headed on, we made one last stop at the Football (soccer stadium). Doris explained that while Catholicism is approximately 65% in Saõ Paulo, soccer fans runs about 99.5%! Quite simply, Soccer is life in Brazil! And yes I bought a Brazil sports jersey and hat back at the Market. While we didn’t attend a game, we did walk up to and thru the gate for a few photos, which was quite a thrill to be in the midst of the huge stadium, even if a game wasn’t taking pace then.
So after departing the stadium, we headed back to our Grand Hyatt Hotel. We actually made one more stop, and that was a quick stop to the grocery to buy some Brazilian coffee to take home. While Steve and Doris searched for the best brands, I walked thru the grocery comparing prices to things back home. Yes, they had Budweiser, not that I’m a huge Bud fan, but it was cool to see it on display.
So we checked out of the grocery with our coffee purchases and some bottled water and we headed back to our hotel.
So after our grocery stop we arrived back at the hotel at 3:30pm. It was truly a full and fun-filled day, as well as educational, and was made extra special by having Doris as our tour guide for the day. ‘Twas a wonderful day of touring in Saõ Paulo! Thanks Doris – you’re awesome!