Ilhabela was starting to become too comfortable. You know, like when you’re reclining in a summer orchard looking up at the trees through lidded eyes, that kind of comfortable. Munching on figs, daydreaming, mouth slightly dry with thirst – need water, water, wake up wake up…..
Even though we were assured that we could stay for as long as we liked, years even, we decided that it was time to move on. Our wonderful hostess Ligia had worked hard to make our stay so effortless, helped a little by the generosity of neighbours who seemed to think that the job of looking after us was a collective one. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t resist, but now was the time.
We weren’t going to stop in Sao Paulo as we had heard it was big, bad and not worth the hassle, but a colourful neighbour called Taisa had kindly offered us a flat to stay in, so we thought we’d take a look.
So we waved good-bye to Ilhabela from a rainy ferry boat and moved a few centimetres over the face of the map again.
The drive to Sao Paulo was potty. It was raining hard, the road was dark and at times Taisa slowed down to walking speed in contrast to the other traffic that wanted to drive at car speed. We were accompanied by Taisa’s dog and pet parrot, the parrot sitting on the head-rest behind my head and the dog attempting to join Taisa in the driving seat occasionally.
Funnily enough I felt pretty secure with all of this. The car windows were bullet proof and we had airbags, what could happen to us – it was the outside world that was dangerous (apparently) and we had a centimetre of glass to stop that from crashing through the windows. So we cruised though the Tropic of Capricorn to some good sounds on the radio and everyone in good humour.
London is big, Sao Paulo is a bit bigger. Sao Paulo has a lot of building work going on, Brazil is making money and Sao Paulo is where the money is counted.
At first I thought that Sao Paulo was faceless, but luckily we had some inside help so we made it to some nice places, checked out some old stuff (not a lot of old stuff in Sao Paulo) and started to get the hang of what it was about Sao Paulo that is its biggest resource. People. Yup, just like London it is people that give Sao Paulo its flavour and there are a hell of a lot of people. Plus the fact that if you have money you can have your fix of Hi Octane Sao Paulo, then be on the gorgeous beaches of Ilhabela in less than half a day. A lot of people aren’t rich enough to do that though and that’s where such a big sprawl becomes a nightmare, but luckily we were in the part that served up faultless sushi. Forgive me lord!
It’s hard to draw parallels to Sao Paulo. It’s a place that’s perhaps best defined by the view from the window of the eatery you happen to be in at the moment, the stretch of avenue you can see, the vista from the helicopter you are in or the prison cell, the favela bar, the Padaria. We stopped in a small park, halted by the scent of Lemon Verbena, we spent a lot of time in the large pedestrian space by the Municipal Theatre, so much space. My favourite places were the diners, I am tempted to say American style diners but as It’s America that’s the new boy on the street I am assuming the concept started here.
At these diners you can sit at the bar and enjoy a coffe or a beer and a snack to a full meal. I was mesmerized the other day by the chef knocking up a sandwich. Enough said, sandwiches can be mesmerizing in these places, something that I thought such a simple process proved to be worthy of some kind of award as the chef danced around the bun, cooked it’s filling (under a plate to heat the cheese topping quicker), sliced the result at an angle to best display it’s succulent filling turning this filling outwards on the plate to again show off it’s best attribute to the world. This sandwich wasn’t going to remain intact for long, I felt a little sorry for it, such a short life.
We got to see a few different sides of Sao Paulo. The apartment we stayed in a little expression of luxury, we were also shown around the factory that Taisa manufactures cakes for her cake making business in. We also saw some of the first beggars in Brazil so far, kids sitting on street corners, faces with little hope.
But again we had to move on just as my head started to make a start in working on some of the paradox’s. Probably best. So we took an overnight bus south to another jewel of an island, Florianopolis.
Florianopolis is a city that sits on the side of a white sand beach bedecked island where some of the best oysters in South America are harvested. It also has great waves for surfing and a whole host of water sports. It has two parts, one is on the Mainland and this is where the industry is, the other part is on an island and has a far more laid back feel. We took a stop in the local market for a juice and people watched for a while, a woman to my right was drinking a large beer at 11am which the waiter was teasing her about, we were hassled a few times by wild eyed lads who looked like they had slept the night in the dunes, they were selling sunglasses, one wanted to clean my trainers. After a little walk around we took a bus to the a little lakeside town where there are guest houses, it is a short hop to the best beaches that line the western side of the island.
We took a walk over white sand dunes to one of the beaches. It was quite a hike that became a maze as we had to negotiate small lakes. It got quite wild as the sun beat down, fancy birds took to the skies as we disturbed them, but just as we were enjoying a ‘Laurence of Arabia’ moment we came across a whole bunch of kids surfing sand dunes. Then we came a across the sea and a bar. La Vida Dura eh!