Sunny Sao Paulo (NOT!)

Sao Paulo Travel Blog

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The Municipal Theatre, Sao Paulo.

8 August:
After a very rough bus trip from Ouro Preto to Sao Paulo, we arrived 1 1/2 hours late into the pouring rain at about 7am.  The road from Ouro Preto to the main highway (about 6 hours) is dreadful, very potholed and rough, and it was impossible to get any sleep with the bumps and sharp corners.  Once you get to Sao Paulo state, the roads improve and we did manage to doze a little, but still very tired by the time we arrived at our hotel.  As it was only about 8am, the room wasn´t ready, so we filled in time until noon walking through the pouring rain to try and find an American Express office to arrange a new card.

´The Kiss`outside the School of Law.
  We discovered, after finding that the office wasn´t where the lonely planet said it should be, that Amex in Brazil no longer exists as it has been bought out by Bradesco and therefore getting a new card here will be quite difficult.  We will just keep using the old cards until they expire at the end of this month and hope that the Mastercard keeps working (it has not been the most reliable in this country, but touch wood seems OK at the moment).  Once we could check in, we had a glorious hot shower with fantastic water pressure, and then watched a replay of the Olympics opening ceremony before catching up on our lost sleep.  The ceremony was pretty impressive, but we still feel the dancing lawnmowers at the Sydney opening ceremony were the best ever!!
We are staying at the Golden Tulip Belas Artes in Av.
Bronze sculpture of a black woman nursing a white child, a reminder of the many faces of slavery.
Frei Caneca (just off Av. Paulista), a 4 start hotel.  We got a good deal on www. hotelclub.com (via travbuddy) and are really happy with what we got.  The room is enormous and so is the bed, the water pressure is fantastic with lots of hot water, and plenty of cable TV in English.  A very good 4 star hotel in an excellent and safe location, definitely recommended.

9 August:
Lots of walking today, did a tour of the city centre from the Lonely Planet - once again, some of the directions and maps left a little to be desired, but we found our way in the end.  Thankfully the rain has stopped, although it still quite overcast.  We walked right down our hotel´s street and across to the Praça Republica, where we saw a few odd little tourist stalls and a mini-food market.  Walked over to the Teatro Municipal, completed in 1911 on Tea Hill, and inspired by the Paris Opera House.  It is an impressive building on the outside, but can only see inside by doing a pre-booked tour so didn´t get to go in.  It has hosted some amazing performers from Caruso to Callas, Ana Pavlova, Baryshnikov, John Gielgud to Viven Leigh, although the museum does state that the acoustics are not ideal for theatre.  The museum can be accessed from the little park below the theatre, and has an array of placards telling you all about the theatre´s history - you can get an English transalation if you need it.  The entrance to the park features the Carlos Gomes Monument, built in honour of hte first Brazilian maestro.
Then crossed over to the Largo San Francisco to see the Law School, which was set up for a function with red carpets and crystal everywhere.  The bronze statue outside is called ´The Kiss´and caused an outcry when it was first revealed, showing as it does a Frenchman kissing an indigenous woman.  Next door is a church and monastery, but they were closed so couldn´t get in.
A short stroll later we arrived at the Praça Se to see the Metropolian Cathedral with its 92m towers and 3-ton jacaranda doors.  There is an amazing baptismal font just inside the main doors, with lots of silver around the base, and the walls feature huge mosaics.  The Cathedral only opened in 1954, but the towers weren´t finished until 1969, so relatively new.  The crypt underneath is quite impressive, but again can only be accessed on special guided tours.  In 2004, the remains of man who invented the hot air balloon were placed into the crypt here - not quite sure why, as he was French!  Interestingly, the Lonely Planet says you should `soak up the fun atmosphere´of the Praça Se, but all we could see were many very suspicous looking people hanging around and ready to pounce on unsuspecting tourists - we felt distinctly uncomfortable here, and didn´t want to hang around too long.
We therefore headed over to the Pateo Collegio, reputed to be the place where Sao Paulo was actually founded, and from here up to the Sao Bento Basilica and Monastery.  Walked down Av. Sao Joao to the Largo Paissandu to see the church built by slaves, and the statue behind it of a black woman suckling a white child.  Also felt very uncomfortable here, as the little square was filled with aggressive street people and prostitutes - no sign of any police and when we were accosted by a man in a very unfriendly fashion, we decided to move on quickly.  A pity, as this is one of the more moving locations in the city.  Right across the street is the only tourist information office in the city itself, so went in to get a map and some further information.
From here, we walked all the way home along Rua Consoloçao and met our friend Tim for dinner - he´s come down for a conference, so came a bit early to do some sightseeing with us.  Went to an Arabian restaurant for dinner, very delicious, and also got a souvenir plate (part of a set which Tim has been collecting) - many of the restaurants here do a special dish that comes with a handpainted plate to collect.

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The Municipal Theatre, Sao Paulo.
The Municipal Theatre, Sao Paulo.
´The Kiss`outside the School of L…
´The Kiss`outside the School of …
Bronze sculpture of a black woman …
Bronze sculpture of a black woman…
Sao Paulo
photo by: Eric