Sao Paolo central market and Feijoada

The weekend is prime time to shop in Sao Paolo.  With so many guidebook and magazine recommendations, I didn't know which one to choose, so we just went with the largest market for Saturday because hustle and bustle was exactly what I wanted to get lost in. It was incredibly crowded especially near Largo Sao Bento and the Municipal Market.  
Part of the street was closed off solely for the Saturday market. 
The street was swarming with shoppers, vendors and families on their day out.  The market was a lot like a swap meet with vendors selling everything you can think of from clothes to candy and cell phone chargers, "Nike" shoes (who knows, maybe they're real) and iced water bottles in carts, coolers, backpacks and even on cardboard boxes turned upside down as makeshift tables. 

Just starting to make our way into the market
I couldn't help but notice that many of the shop owners spoke Chinese;
it's still such a trip to hear someone change from speaking Chinese to Portuguese in seconds. 
Jabuticaba, the Brazilian Grape, sold in a street cart.
You don't eat Jabuticabas like grapes; you bite open the skin of the fruit, then squish the inside into your mouth.  It's quite a tart fruit; at least the one that I tried!

Inside the Municipal Market.
The Municipal Market mostly sells food; produce, deli and fish downstairs and mostly restaurants upstairs.  I should have known better than to answer to fruit vendors calling out to me!  The fruit vendors grab their produce and cut them open and offer them to you to try.  I couldn't resist - I love trying local fruit (with the exception of that one time with the Durian...)!  Well, they got me.

The deli section
They kept cutting open Mango after Cherimoya after Guarana after Caja and then Caju and something that was similar to dragonfruit and offering them to me to try, and of course, I did.  After sampling so many fruits, I felt obligated to buy something, so I picked one mango and some spiny fruit called a Kiwano.  When I took my fruit to the cashier, he told me that my total was 50 Reais (~$12 USD).

I knew they were conning me (especially because they asked me where I was from and I was stupidly honest), but my American manners had me feeling obligated to spend something because they spent time and gave me fruit (even though I knew it would not have cost anything close to what they were trying to charge me), while other smarter shoppers simply walked away without buying anything.

Why couldn't I have just gorged on their fruit and walked away like the others?!  I settled with overpaying for a mango, which I knew I could easily get for 3 Reais a Kilogram at the regular supermarket.  Darn my conscience.  I was annoyed with myself for perpetuating the stupid rich American stereotype that day...  I can't help it!  American culture makes you feel guilty for lots of things!

View from the 2nd floor
We had a long walk ahead of us to find lunch so we decided to have some Coco Gelado, which means "ice cold coconut".  Coconut Gelado is a popular refreshment sold in the street and very economical at only 4 or 5 Reais.  Vendors usually have a cart full of ice and coconuts.  When you order, they'll pick one out, grab a machete and take 3 hacks off the top forming a small triangle shape and then stick a straw in for you to drink the water directly from the coconut,

Coco Gelados to rehydrate
Ready to eat!
If you finish your Coco Helado near the stand where you bought it, you can ask the vendor to cut the coconut open in halves with the machete and eat the coconut meat, using a piece of the rind as a scraping apparatus.  Note: the more water there is in a coconut, the less meat there will be and vice versa, so if you get a lot of water, sometimes it's not worth it to have them cut it open afterward.  On the other hand, if you didn't get much water, you know there's plenty of fruit inside for you to eat.  No harm in trying!

Afterward, we headed over to Restaurante Ita, a well kept secret among Paulistas for a late lunch.  I was on the lookout for Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian comfort food normally served only on Saturdays at lunch time.  Feijoada is a stew made of pork, black beans, and rice.  Steph read that Restaurante Ita served some of the best Feijoada around so we walked and finally found the obscure, no frills Brazilian diner.

Such kind service from this humble diner!  Things definitely change after a million demanding tourists overrun a place.
Steak Paulista - basically a pan fried steak and egg, served with beans and rice.
I didn't see Feijoada on the menu so I thought that maybe they didn't serve it that day and instead, ordered Steak Paulista and Passionfruit juice.  Halfway through my steak, I noticed that other customers were being served from the clay pots that Feijoada is known to be served in.  It was the only Saturday we'd be there so after some gentle urging from Steph, yes, I made like a glutton and ordered my second plate for lunch.

Feijoada: stewed pork, sauteed kale, rice, and black beans.
I was so glad I did; the Feijoada was delicious.  The pork was stewed so tenderly that if there was a bone, it would be falling off of it.  The beans attained the flavor of the pork and the sauteed kale was the perfect savory complement and contributed depth to the dish with its unique texture.  This was my favorite Brazilian food on the trip.

Pudim de leite 
What could make a meal better than delicious food?  Company, of course.  We met a new friend, Eddie, during my Feijoada and after chatting a bit, he convinced us that this particular diner served the best Pudim de Leite (milk pudding), "it's better than sex... sometimes!"  Laughing, he ordered a Pudim de Leite for us to share.  It was a very good, sweet dessert and apparently, Eddie got his free for upselling their dessert to us.  Thanks, Eddie! :)

The best part about eating at local places, in addition to the authenticity, local service, and traditional food is - - the price!  Our meal (both of my lunch plates and Steph's and drinks and dessert) came out to about $12 USD.  Thank you, Restaurante Ita!

Che Bonita, Sao Paolo!


Bilhete Unico, Sao Paolo's Metro card

Just as London has the Oyster card, and Hong Kong has the Octopus card, Sao Paolo has Bilhete Unico. Like many large metropolitan cities, these subway cards have the same purpose; they are rechargeable value cards so you can swipe your card when entering the subway turnstiles instead of buying a ticket every time you use the subway.

Metro stop Fatima Sumare
However, while all other subway cards I've used have convenient machines to buy, add credit, and return cards for a refund, Sao Paolo Metro recharge cards do not and frankly are difficult to access.  Bilhete Unico requires you to go to an office (which are not available everywhere) to buy the card and add value.  On the other hand, if you do not use Bihlete Unico, you'll spend a lot of time standing in long lines to buy single journey tickets every time you need to use the subway.

Jabaquara stop, the Metro station of inefficiency

Inside the subway
When we ran out of credit on our cards and went to one of the kiosks to add credit, the machine didn't process our credit cards.  We didn't have exact cash and the machines do not provide change. With no ATMs in the metro station, we had to find the office to refill our cards.

For some reason, there are separate offices to add credit to Bilhete Unico cards and to buy regular single journey tickets, and someone decided to put them on opposite ends of the metro station in Jabaquara, our base metro.

Something that would have taken 2 minutes to do on a machine ended up taking half an hour to wait in lines and walk back and forth between the office and the subway entrance (not to mention speaking "Portuenglish" to the Metro attendants).  We found out that many Paulistas (residents of Sao Paolo) including a police officer we spoke with have the same complaints about the Metro cards.

The only advice I can give to anyone who plans to ride the metro in Sao Paolo:
1. Buy the Bilhete Unico card (it will still save you time, compared to buying individual one-way tickets every time)
2. Fill the card with more value than you expect to use.  Note: Each ride costs 3 Reais and 50 centivos  (about $0.87 USD).
3. When you must add credit to the card, avoid doing so during high traffic times (such as when people are on their way to or from work).

Sao Paolo: Photoblog in Vila madalena

After all the cloudy days and thunderstorms in Floripa, I was ready for the city.  I was born and raised in a big city and it's where I feel most comfortable, despite the traffic, pollution, noise, and weirdos that anyone who's lived in a big city is familiar with.

While most small towns are generally safer, I feel fine walking downtown in big cities.  It doesn't make sense for me to say this, especially because the past few cities we've visited have some of the highest crime rates in the world, but I'm used to walking down the street in bustling neighborhoods.

You can imagine my excitement to visit Sao Paolo, the biggest city in Brazil, full of diversity in people and food, tall buildings, traffic, nightlife, and noise.  I had a list of things I wanted to try here and neighborhoods to explore.

We first went downtown to Avenida Paulista, where we saw there was a demonstration for immigrants.
The working class has no border; all immigrants are legal!
Down Avenida Paulista
After having an Acai shake and walking down the street, we took the metro to explore Vila Madalena, which is the hipster/artsy area of Sao Paolo.
Vila Madalena is in a hilly area and has lots of boutiques, pubs, specialty stores, art galleries, and vegan/vegetarian food; it reminded me a lot of Silverlake in Los Angeles.

Beco do Batman ("Batman Alley) is a well-known spot for street art in Vila Madalena.  This alley is amazing; each of the murals are works of art.  It didn't seem like anything was tagged carelessly.

After walking around the neighborhood and dropping into a few very expensive boutique shops, we went to Empanadas Bar, the first shop to serve empanadas in Sao Paolo.  Empanadas Bar changed my mind about pastels and empanadas.  I thought they were tasty, but I didn't realize they could be so much better.  Everything I had up until then was cold, bland, dry, or all of the above, but my first carne empanada was so delicious, full of ground beef, spices, green olives, onions, diced tomatoes, and most importantly, served piping hot!    

Then empanada that changed my mind:
Empanada Carne and Brahma Chopp, the local Brasilian beer. 


Cruising: Photoblog

Growing up, "cruising" was never the thing to do because there was no point to it in my little suburbia town.  When we had the car, it was for practical reasons like going to school. Besides, where was there to cruise, and did we really want to show off our jalopy of a family minian?  Gas was expensive and we weren't the rich kind of teenagers.

However, cruising is the thing to do in Floripa - not so much to show off your car, but to explore the island, stop at quiet beaches on islands and cafes for coffee and maybe even oysters, in the right places.

We knew ahead of time that we definitely need  car in FLoripa; even though the island is small, it would be difficult to get around without.  Calling a cab seemed troublesome because of the wait and we'd have to call a lot of cabs to explore the island.  The solution was obvious: we needed to rent a car.  Luckily, car rentals are abundant at and around the Floripa airport and you can get a car for the low price of 70 Reais (or $20 USD) a day for a basic car, including insurance.

If you've ever driven a bike or a car in another country, you know that the first time can be nervewracking because signs aren't the same (especially if they're in a different language) and while traffic laws are generally universal, they're still a little different everywhere.

Well, the traffic laws and signs weren't our first concern.  Actually, what we were most nervous about was driving a stick shift. It is very uncommon in Brasil to drive an automatic (not to mention more expensive).  Both of us first learned to drive automatic cars first and while motorcycles require manual transmissions, it's just not the same!  Lastly, very few car rental shops have automatic cars; they're just unpopular and costly to have in general.

We had only a few options:
1. walk/run/bike
2. call cabs all day, every day
3. Learn to drive a manual transmission car.

Door number 3 won this one with a very nervous Steph behind the wheel.  Both of us had a friend teach us to drive stick shift at some point in our lives (albeit unsuccessfully in my experience as I stalled 3 times in a minute) but Steph was the better driver and also had a better understanding of the mechanics.

Together, we stood at the car rental counter, pretending that we knew what we were doing.  (Pedroca told us later that this is not uncommon with many travelers who come to Floripa!)

The first day was a challenge, but by the end of our 3 days in Floripa, Steph was a pro, shifting like we were in an automatic.  He drove us from the south to the north of the island (on so many windy and steep hills!) and even downtown in rush hour.  Thank goodness he learned or else we would have had to figure a way to carry a surfboard on a bicycle to the beach!

Excellently driving manually.  
Heading south
Pantano do Sol 
I'm in a boat
Pantano do Sol is a fishing village
Stray beach dogs
Praia Armacao
on the way to Praia do Matadeiro

Teenagers come here to smoke weed
A popular surf spot in Praia Matadeiro
The fog rolled in
Taking photos...
Of this. 
Vultures feeding on dead fish on the beach
We crossed the bridge over to Ponta das Campanhas

Building boats...
Children don't feel the cold.
The calm before the storm at 5 p.m. in Praia Campeche.
Campheche - a lovely beach with silky sand, and a long shoreline.

Sun setting at Praia Campeche
There were quite a few storms on our last day in Floripa; the rain would come down very hard; so much that it hurt if I was hit directly!  On the other hand, the storms wouldn't last long. Most people would continue doing what they were doing or just wait it out in a nearby cafe or market before going about their day.
Just before the thunderstorm
Ostradamus - where I tried the island's specialties - oysters!  A fun restaurant with ship-themed decor and staff in sailor duds.

Oysters at Ostradamus
Deep fried oysters with catupiry & parmasao
This photo was taken between 2 thunderstorms in Ribeirao da Ilha on the east side of Santa Catarina

Praia Mole, the best beach for beginner surfers

Taken from Fortaleza da Sao Jose in Jurere (the Beverly Hills of Floripa)
Another storm came so we took shelter in the car.  By the time we walked up to the Fort, they wouldn't let us in because it was 4:58 and they closed the doors at 5 p.m.  Darn it, we had 2 minutes!
A photo of the outside of the fort, in our Daiso ponchos. 
Downtown Floripa
A painting by Adri Volpi in the gallery in Beiramar
Boa Noite, Floripa