Thursday, September 05, 2013

Farewell to Sao Paulo . . .

Roadside Fountain, Sao Paulo
What I remember most of this first visit to Brazil is a sense of awe at its tree-lined streets with rich, tropical versions of flowers we thought we knew; its cosmopolitan air of big city bustle contrasting with small neighborhoods, each with its own personality.

We spoke very little Portuguese, and yet our Spanish opened doors everywhere. We walked as much as we could, discovering marks of Brazil's colonial past, even with this small street-side fountain tucked beside a busy road, remembering the past and the influence of Portugal.

In one such neighborhood, passersby sent us to a tiny storefront for the best sushi I have ever eaten anywhere. The exquisitely fresh sushi was served Brazilian style, which means this platter was simply the first, brought to us from an amazingly diverse buffet. We could barely finish and were surprised when the waiter came back to ask, "Are you ready for more?"

Brazilian sushi
Brazil is a largely Catholic country with churches everywhere. The Cathedral of Sao Paulo was no exception, grand outside and in, with a soaring design.

In the great plaza fronting the cathedral, crowds of people went about their business.

The churches I remember best are not always the biggest, but the constant crowds entering and leaving this grand cathedral made us feel as if we were part of this city.

Entrance to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Sao Paulo

Side view of Cathedral of Sao Paulo

The gritty side of traveling can be the unexpected. On our third night in Sao Paulo, we transferred to a small private apartment. The walls were covered with mold. We slept there anyway because we had no other place to go. The next morning, a travel agent wearing a shirt open to nearly the waist with a bright, golden cross, and who worked from a one-room street-side office, apologized profusely in a mix of English, Spanish and Portuguese. Our last two nights in Sao Paulo were spent in an executive studio high rise with sweeping vistas of the commercial district.

But I still remember the flowers.

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