Brazil : São Paulo

Originally I wanted to go directly to Rio de Janeiro and just transit in São Paulo airport. However, I changed my mind.  Since I would be already in Brazil and I still wouldn’t know when I will be back in the world’s fifth most populous nation, I changed my travel plans to spend 3 days in São Paulo before going to Rio. Also, it would be sort of a short gasp of fresh air after the almost 33 hours grueling air travel from Manila to Seoul to Los Angeles to São Paulo. [Please click here for the details of my Brazilian itinerary, choice of airline and the entire Rio blog.]

I was on the last leg of my long trip from the Philippines to Brazil:  the 11.5-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo.  We left Los Angeles at around 8pm and landed at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport at around 10am local time.  There’s a 4-hour difference between L.A. and Sao Paulo. I was hoping to catch famous personalities arriving for the Miss Universe 2011 pageant but I did not catch any of them.  I was planning to take the bus from the airport to the city but I gave up as I was already exhausted due to the long trip.  I took a cab for R$80 direct to my hotel, Hotel Gran Corona, which I booked via Agoda website after reading its reviews in TripAdvisor.

This is the hotel’s reception area.

This is one of the hotel’s waiting area.

This is the other waiting area of the hotel.

A few minutes after setting up my things in my room, I was out on the streets of São Paulo trying my way to Praça da Sé by foot.  Shown here’s a city bus plying along the city’s major avenues.

I walked further passing by a bus station amidst a backdrop of some of São Paulo’s tall buildings…..

….and Largo de São Francisco which is the home of the College of Law of University of São Paulo, 20 kilometers from the university’s main campus. Due to its architecture, in the form of arches, it is also called “Arcadas”.

It was also my first  time to see those avocado green telephone booths.

I walked some 2 blocks more until I arrived at….

Praça da Sé  or Sé Square which is considered the city center as it is from where all distances in reference to São Paulo is measured.

Located in the square is the São Paulo Metropolitan Cathedral, the city’s largest.

Commonly referred to as the Catedral da Sé, it is an impressive example of neo-Gothic architecture.

The building was completed in 1954, the 400th anniversary of the city.

Restoration work finished in 2002 returned the magnificent stained-glass windows and tombs to their former glory.

Highlights include its stained-glass windows and tropical-influenced details such as carved coffee beans.  I had to leave the square and cathedral first…

…and I headed for Liberdade, a few minutes walk away.  It is where the Japanese Quarters is located.  São Paulo has more ethnic Japanese than any other city outside Japan.

And so my first meal in Brazil was Japanese (one of my favorites) but it was partnered with a Brazilian softdrinks called Guarana, a fizzy drink that is omnipresent as Coke.  It is prepared with guarana berries from Amazonia.

After my dinner, I went back to the city square sneaking through the area at the back of the cathedral.

As the sun disappeared in the horizon, the lights at the square created a milieu different from the one I experienced earlier.

Praça da Sé came alive in the evening.

And St. Peter’s statue too.

I did not leave the square until somebody would take my photo memento in the area. Fortunately, a guy visiting from Argentina, was in the area also taking shots of the square and he gladly took the photo.

After strolling around the area I went back to the hotel via taxi and I retired early.  I was happy and contented with my short, first-day glimpse of South America’s biggest city and for the new addition to my paper money collection.

The next day, I went out around mid-morning to the streets around my hotel.  There were taxis, mostly Fiats and Chevys, lined up on Ipiranga Avenue.  I ignored them….

…just as I also ignored the buses that ply around the avenue as I just wanted to walk to my destination.

And I was walking I passed by some stores still selling the outdated LP’s…I was amused.

I walked for another 10 minutes passing by three more blocks until the area I wanted to see was on sight.

I wanted to climb up to the observatory of the Empire-State-building-like Altino Arantes.

Edificio Altino Arantes – Torre do Banespa was designed by  Plínio Botelho do Amaral, who was inspired by the Empire State Building and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Around the area were other imposing buildings.

I walked inside the Altino Arantes building.  The crowd at the lobby that day was quite a mix of local, young students (a group even chatted with me to practice their English) and visitors from different parts of the world who were in Brazil’s capital for the Miss Universe pageant.

As there could only be a maximum of 15 people at the observatory at any given time, we waited for 20 mins before we were led to the lift that would take us to the 29th floor and from where we would climb up stairs for 3 stories up to the observatory.

At the top, we saw the dense urban jungle of  São Paulo.

The southeastern side of the city.

The western side of the city showing the Catedral Metropolitana where I spent most of my time the day before.

One of my co-visitors took me this picture when he saw I was trying to take a photo of myself.

The southern side of the city is shown here with the numerous towers above the buildings lining up Avenida Paulista somewhat visible from afar.  After 15 minutes I was back at ground level looking at….

….an adjacent building to Altino Arantes…..

….shoe shine houses….

….and magazine kioks (with those avocado green telephone booths)…..

…with local and international magazines on display.

As I walked back to my hotel, I decided to take a cheap but sumptuous local meal at one of the simple eateries.

I was back on Ipiranga Avenue on Republica area near my hotel, passing by…..

….shoe shiners (again!)….

….and finally Praca Da Republica just a block away from my hotel.  I rested for a while in my hotel and an hour later I was out again.

For my next destination, I needed to take the metro.  Republica metro station is conveniently located a block away from my hotel!

I took the street level entrance…

…two levels down to the metro’s main entrance.

São Paulo already has quite an extensive subway network comparable to the emerging major cities in the world.

A two-level concourse in Republica station is shown here.

I had to transfer at Sé station to the blue line.

From the blue line I had to take a transfer to the green line at Paraiso station on the way to Alto de Ipiranga station.

At Paraiso station was a photo exhibit showcasing São Paulo’s history.

I got off at Ipiranga station, one of the more modern stations in the subway network.

This design reminded me of a similar one in Paya Lebar station of Singapore’s NorthEast Line.  I had the wrong impression that my destination, Museu Paulista Da Ipiranga, was just a walk away from the station.  I had a hard time asking staff at the station counters about my destination as they did not speak English.  One kind English-speaking passenger helped me out and told me to take a cab and so I did!

In 15 minutes and just before dawn I was at the grounds of Museu Paulista Do Ipiranga.

It is a memorial on the Ipiranga Creek where in 1822 Dom Pedro I declared the famous “Grito de Ipiranga” or call for Brazil’s independence from Portugal.

In 1884, Italian architect Tommaso Gaudenzio Bezzi was hired for the construction of a monument to Brazil’s independence in the exact area where it all happened, having presented plans for a building-monument in the eclectic style, inspired in Renaissance palaces.

The dimensions and architectural style of the palace were exceptional for late nineteenth-century São Paulo, which still had no more than 70,000 inhabitants. With 24 columns in the main entry, an impressive staircase and landing, a noble room and elaborate ornaments, the building probably demanded Italian immigrant labor, since local workers didn’t have access to that kind of expertise.

It was getting darker and I had to move out of the area and I took a cab again back to Ipiranga metro station.

I boarded the metro on my way to Avenida Paulista, São Paulo’s Fifth Avenue.

I got off at Consolação station, the gateway to Avenida Paulista.

It was almost dark and the buildings’ lights were starting to glow. I strolled along the avenue….

until I got hungry and had a…(guess what)…Japanese food(!)…inside one of the shopping malls in the area.

After dinner I strolled some more inside malls….

…with contemporary designs.

One of Brazil’s trademarks is its cobble stone-designed sidewalks, promenades and even the malls.

I had to leave Avenida Paulista for my last destination of the night, Villa Madalena, the heart of São Paulo’s nightlife.

As I was waiting for the train, I noticed an entrance lane for bicycles.

And it was cool to know people brought inside the train bikes that could be folded.

As I neared Villa Madalena, the last stop on the green line, the train was almost empty.  Immediately after a short stay in Villa Madalena I headed back to my hotel at Republica station and packed my things for the next day’s trip to Rio de Janeiro.  I could say São Paulo was worth the short stop I made on the way to Rio. It is South America’s and the Southern Hemisphere’s largest city for nothing!

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