In a big metropolis the best thing to do is just start somewhere anywhere. I akin it to picking up that heavy bowling ball putting your fingers in the tiny 3 holes, walking up to your lane and just rolling. I started with the one place in São Paulo I knew for certain I would like to see on this beautiful day – Ibirapuera Parque. And the ball started rolling and in a big way.
First I walked from the hotel a couple of miles to get to the park just so I could look around and get a feel for the city. Plus I need to start getting back in shape if I’m going to do the Gringo Killer a/k/a Machu Picchu in Peru next month. At the entry of the park, I came upon an enormous statute in front of Gate 9 called the Monumento às Bandeiras meaning monument to the flags. It is massive at 50 meters long and 16 meters high and was unveiled in 1954 as part of the opening of Ibirapuera Parque. The sculpture pays tribute to the bandeirantes who shaped São Paulo’s culture. It reflects the diversity for which Brazil is so well known. It includes sculptures of Portuguese settlers, blacks, indigenous men and even women all working side by side in harmony to pull a canoe. This is said to be a common portrait of Brazilian’s ubiquitous river expeditions.
After taking in this grand monument, I continued my walk through Gate 9 of Ibirpuera and there was my first tickle of excitement about Brazil. The grandeur and beauty of this park was limitless. Lakes surrounded by lush green grass you just want to sink your toes into and every color of flower I could think of starting with yellow, then blue, pink and purple. Black and white swans dawdling about on the green grass before sliding back into the water. Children playing, teens skateboarding, twenty somethings running and adults cycling and everything in between. I, of course, was desperate to find the bike rental place myself which one of the policia indicated was at Puerto Cuatro and so I made my way there. For five Real per hour, I rented a bicycle and rode for several hours and would even have been blissfully ignorant of the afternoon bath I received from the monsoon-like rain showers if it hadn’t been for the fact I wore my glasses today. Suffice it to say I was drenched but loving it!
It wasn’t long before I met my first local – the charming Leonardo – on the beautiful bridge separating the two sides of the park. He rode along with me and told me a litany of things to see, do, eat and experience in his city and that is when the bowling ball for this leg of my trip increased speed and in one fell swoop and with one incredibly cool Brazilian at my side knocked all the pins down. Now I knew what I had to do here. For starters, Leonardo told me about some spiritual and religious customs that I must experience. He told me what restaurants and coffee houses to go to, what food and juices to try (note Brazil is well known for its juice bars), where to see panoramic views of the city, among many other things, like Samba Saturdays and weekend markets to check out. Turns out that Leonardo (who I can’t help but call Leonardo DiCaprio in my head) is also a lawyer like me and he introduced me to two other lawyers he went to law school with who live in Rio and who agreed to escort me through the ins and outs of my next big city including one – Lucas – who can hook me up with paragliding around the Christ Redeemer…yes another dream about to come true! Don’t you just love the locals!!! Meeting them is my favorite part of traveling as you may already know about me and should be key to any travelers wish list if you want to connect and engage in foreign countries and if you want to get the birds eye view and if you want to know what not to do and how to stay safe.
After our long walk and talk from the bike rental shop, Leonardo delivered me straight to the elevators leading to the Sky Bar on top of one of the coolest hotels I’ve seen throughout my travels which rightfully earned its name – Hotel Unique. The Sky Bar provides a huge outdoor terrace for drinks and a spectacular panoramic view – first of the city at sunset and then the city at night. I’ve never seen a city change so drastically right before my eyes – Ciudad Maravilhoso is its new name for me! Moreover, Sky Bar has a rooftop pool lit up like the red light district in Amsterdam adding to the light show I was already experiencing from the city itself. Rafael, the supervisor at Sky Bar and Bruno and Gustavo his staff, were yet another wonderful addition to the evening and made sure I had everything I needed in order to enjoy this lovely place including my own special mocktail (a cocktail with no alcohol). Moreover, my friend, Tony who I met in Austin, Texas a couple of weeks ago and who was the one who invited me to my first Formula One Grand Prix Race at Interlagos here in São Paulo, joined me for a drink there before we headed out to find authentic Brazilian cuisine for dinner.
Tony and I took an Uber to a place recommended by Leonardo DiCaprio called Consulado Mineiro – and yes Uber is here in Brazil too and it was a mere $3.41 USD to our next destination. Tony and I inadvertently stumbled into Cozhina 212 instead of Consulado Mineiro which was next door and what a fortuitous mistake that was. My best friend Liz may have a run for her money when it comes to the best steak I’ve ever eaten. The Brazilian Chorizo Angus was perfectly seasoned and grilled to my liking and was simply mouthwatering. And despite how good that steak was it didn’t come close to the charm of the bartender Gorgine who was like a young Brazilian Santa Claus! He had the jolly down to a tee and generously wrote certain words down phonetically for me so I could pronounce them correctly, introduced Tony to a delightful Brazilian drink called Cynar and Tonic and was all around yet another delightful companion to share the evening with.
Obrigada Sao Paulo. I began to fall in love with you today.