Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sao Paulo Day 12 - Leaving on a jet plane

My time in Brazil had at last come to an end (I'm now safely back in the chilly UK), so one final post to finish things off.

After a brutal first week of work in Brazil (7 am calls to the UK, conducting training 9-5 and then another couple of hours afterword), the second week was a but calmer.  I had taken on board my Brazilian colleague's comments that things were a bit more 'relaxed' than in the UK, so coffee breaks and lunches were all a lot longer...

Still not much time to do any sight seeing though, so that was all left to the final couple of days.  On my final day I was taken to the equivalent of a Chinese fake market.  This was an area just to the north of the city centre in an old part of the town.

There were plenty of legitimate shops selling real goods - hardware stores, sports shops, mobile phone accessory shops; but also plenty of fake shops hawking everything from branded shirts/trainers, football stuff and toys.  As an indication, a real Brazil replica shirt was R$189 (about £64), while a fake one was R$40 (£13). I picked up a Brazil shirt for my son (who has not taken it off for 24 hours) and a Corinthians one for me, while my daughter and SO got real Havianas (in pink natch).

After wandering the streets for an hour so we then headed to the Mercado Municipal, a covered food market.  Probably half the stalls were selling fruit and vegetables.  I could identify most of the products on offer, but some I had never seen before.  Papaya and Guava I had heard of, but caqui was a new one to me (Looks almost exactly like a tomato, tastes amazing) and there were also what looked like passion fruits, but with yellow and vivid purple flesh.  Yum.

Many of the stalls were stacked high with bacalhau - dried and salted cod.  This appears to be a bit of a delicacy of the Brazilians (thanks to the Portuguese), with the market also having lots of pastel stalls selling bacalhau pastels.  A pastel, as far as I can tell, is a pasty with pastry made of pasta flour and then deep fried (a very common cooking method in Brazil).  The bacalhau pastel also had spring onions and green olives in it and was very nice thank you very much - especially when washed down with a honey beer.

Good Friday street market - fish on the
 left,  fruit and veg on the right
Ibirapuera park.  Yes, it was raining.
As my flight wasn't until nearly midnight on Saturday I had the whole day to myself.  After a 10k run in the pissing rain (But sooo nice and warm), I had a wander through a local food market and then made my way over to the Pecaembu to try the Museu do Football again.  Its a fantastic museum that describes the evolution of football in Brazil from the point where Charles Miller bought the game to the country to the modern day.  There are exhibits that cover the country's most famous players, stats about the game and (most interestingly for me) the world cups.  The museum is housed within the main stand of the Pacaembu, an art deco stadium built in a valley to the north of city centre.  The sideline stands are built into the valley, so the top of the stands are at road level - very clever!
Pecaembu Stadium.  The museum was within this main stand.
...and the view from the inside.  The stands on either side are built into the valley sides
After the museum I just had time to get some food before packing up and leaving the hotel for my trip back to England.  All in all, a really enjoyable visit to another country I may never get the chance to visit again.  It would have been nice if I could have done more while there - go to Rio, sample a beach and see the rain forest, but you never know, I may get another trip some time!
My lift home...
A week off with the children and then back to work.  More importantly, gonna have to work hard to get rid of the 14 cows I've eaten while I was away...

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Sao Paulo Day 6

Work has been brutal this past week, far harder that anything we encountered in Shanghai, so opportunities for wandering around have been few and far between.  I have also been counselled by work colleagues about realities of Sao Paulo life - I've been advised against using the metro/train to get to the office, not to open my rucksack in the street (wait until inside Taxi), carry only a minimum of money with you and don't show off my watch (a battered G-Shock).  Better to be safe that sorry, but I think its a bit extreme nonetheless.

So in the few hours in between work, taxi and sleep I've managed to sample a few Brazilians meals.  Every single one contained meat of some kind, the majority of which were huge chucks of dead cow.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for a hunk a steak now and then, but this is taking it to the extreme.  Where in the UK, the meat portion is smaller than the vegetable portion by quite a lot, hear the opposite is true.  Huge steaks with a spoonful of salad to help you along!

The 'traditional meal' of the Brazilian people is a beef steak (of some sort), rice, black beans and a little salad.  Its pretty good, only problem is:
  1. The meat is also always well-done to the point of being able to bounce it
  2. So much salt is used it burns my lips.

Bangers, mash and onion gravy every time for me I'm afraid!

I have discovered that desserts are not really that common (unless its ice cream) and chicken nuggets (I forget the Portuguese translation) are looked on as some kind of food of the gods (wtf!?!)

I've also tried some new (to me) fruit - Kaka, which looks like a tomato but is almost toffee-like in taste and sweetness, papaya (heard of, but not had before), which I found to be mleh to eat and very bleugh to drink as juice and finally guarana, which is a Brazilian berry sold as a caffeine soft drink (and very nice it is too).

The street sellers can also be seen pushing cart loads of coconuts around as well - these still have their original green husks around them and the sellers just drill a hole and plonk a straw in and your away!

I've been taken out a couple of times by the guys I'm training, which has been fantastic - the first occasion I was forced to try cacha├ža - a cane sugar liquor that tastes and resembles ethanol.  Lets just say that doing the training the next day was very hard work...

Finally, the sun comes out

Today was the first day this week that the sun shone for longer than about 10minutes.  It also didn't rain.  As a result I've done some wandering and managed to fit in a 10k run first thing.  I may have at last earned a steak this evening...
Paulista Avenue used to be lined with Mansions like the this one (apparently), unfortunately now all mostly cleared for ugly tower blocks.  This building is in a sorry state, but is beautiful
What you can't quite see is the 3 metre wide cobweb stretching from the statue to the tree...
I walked over to Paulista Avenue with a view to walking to Paceambu stadium where the museum of football is, but I soon realised that I was never going to make it in time so I ambled back via a couple of secluded urban parks.  Felt a bit perved out as I appeared to have stumbled into a park reserved especially for secret lovers (snogging going on everywhere!), but I think it will be about as close to the amazon rain forest as I'm about to get on this trip.  By far the coolest thing I noticed was the 3 metre wide cobwebs between the trees.  perhaps I should have had that yellow fever jab after all.
Welcome to the Jungle, we've got fun and games...
Hopefully get to the museum of footy tomorrow and then an afternoon of prep for the coming week of training - such fun!

Another Day, another megacity...

Sao Paulo this time for two weeks of training my Brazilian colleagues in the ways of the dark side...

The flight from Heathrow was nearly perfect - I was whisked through security so fast in London that I even had time to watch the whole England game live.  Kind of wish I had been stuck in a queue for two hours now though given the result!  We were delayed at Heathrow for an hour for some reason but once in the air, everything was great.  The food was much better than Virgin Atlantic (to/from Shanghai) and even though the seats didn't fully recline like the Virgin seats, I was so much more comfortable as I could actually fit my shoulders in!  Entertainment system was much better as well - even got the noise cancelling headpones that reduce the sound of the plane when you switch them on.

Managed nealy 6 hours sleep (unlike the crappy virgin flight), though that may have had more to do with being knackered from the 2 hour bike ride I'd done in the morning (must remember to do that next time I fly long haul ;o)

Upon arriving at Sao Paolo, I was, well, a bit underwhelmed to be honest.  I hadn't really appreciated just how 'new' Shanghai looked until I was walking through the 'Posh' part of Sao Paulo and desperately not trying to trip over the broken concrete, open rain gutters and slippery tiles that make up the pavements.  Parts of it resemble a partly finished building site before they relaid everything.

Been to two places of note today.  First of all a little wander to Ibirapuera park to check out the running route there.  Its an urban park a bit like Central park in New York, with large lakes, a number of museums and ampitheatres all within it.  There is paved road (no cars allowed) with a cycle track and walking/running track marked out.  Today being Sunday it was heaving, be interesting to see what its like at 6:30am on a Tuesday morning though.
Huge sculpture on the entrance to Ibirapuera park.  Pity about the six lanes of traffic that surround it.

View from Ibirapuera park toward Jardim Paulista area of Sao Paulo.  It was raining, a lot
 I also went to MASP (Museum of Art, Sao Paulo), which has the largest collection of western european art outside of Europe  (Ohhh get me!).  It was virtually empty, so I got to wander around and stare at various works of Gainsborough, Turner, Constable, Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet and others to my hearts content.  Only a fiver to get in aswell - great way to spend the afternoon!
The MASP building.  Bloody ugly building, beautiful art inside it though.

Sao Paulo, 1965 called, it wants it's buildings back

View overlooking the Avenue Nove de Juhlo.  Typical of all the buildings in Sao Paulo.
Ah yes, the architecture.  Not many gleaming 200 metre neon-clad skyscrapers here.  If you've been to Plymouth, imagine a mile-long 6 lane boulevard entirely populated with tower blocks resembling the Plymouth City Council building and you're there.  Its not a pretty sight to be honest.

Weather is not holding up its end of the bargain either.  Although the temperature is in the high teens/twenties (so shorts on, natch), it has pissed it down virtually all day.  As a result I was decidedly moist for most of the day.  I came armed with waterproof and cap for windy, UK style rain, not the huge tropical straight down drops you get here.  This is where a brolly really works, must remember than for next time.

Have forced myself to sample the local cuisine as well.  As people warned me, this mostly incolves huge lumps of roasted/boiled/fried meat, with a passing nod to veggies in the form of roast potatoes and fried beans.  There is also a worring tendency to deep fry or steep in syrup anything they get their hands on (Deep fried banana anyone?)  As for the fruit, I thought it looked like a pear, but it most definitely was not...   My best find was a bowl the size of my head full of butterscotch.  I had to force myself to leave the restaurant at that point before I dunked my head in, Winnie the pooh style and started slurping

Work tomorrow, so might get to do any more sights till the weekend.  Hopefully rain will stop long enough for me to take some photos...