At the beginning… there was São Paulo…

Posted: February 11, 2012 by Ben Weber in English, The Journey
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São Paulo is the largest city of South America and one of the largest cities in the world with over 11 million people in the city itself and over 19.8 million people in the metropolitan region. When in the city, as you look around, all you can see are 30-floor condominium buildings in every direction. Natalia was born here, I have lived here for over four years, though Norm hasn’t yet visited. The city – as with many places in the world – inspires conflicting opinions, with many loving it and just as many hating it.

There are great restaurants, nightclubs, people and a few nice parks, museums and points of interest… lots of different cultures melt into one enormous conglomerate here – with over two million people of Japanese descent, for example; the highest number in any one place outside of Japan. Japanese food is simply delicious here. Many Paulistas say that the pizzas here are better than in Italy, and whilst I couldn’t bring myself to believe that when I arrive, I think I actually agree with them! (Sorry, any Italian readers!). You are reasonably near some decent beaches – just an hour or so outside of town, and there are nice markets like the artisanal Benedito Calixto and the fantastic fresh food fair of the Mercado Municipal. As a footballing fan, it is pretty good here as well, with a bit of rivalry between the four main teams, Corinthians, São Paulo, Palmeiras and Santos. Obviously Santos is the best………….!

On the other hand, the city is extremely busy – traffic can be quite simply ridiculous at any time during the day, with over seven million cars registered, and the metro system is seriously overcrowded, carrying over six million people on a daily basis. When one arrives back from work in the evening after an hour and a half commute (and some people endure much worse than this) and it is very easy to just fall asleep on the sofa,  before eventually dragging yourself to bed. The climate reminds of London, just a few degrees higher in the overall temperatures. The weather is extremely changeable and you can have four seasons in one day; it seems more overcast than London, and it seems wetter than London. When you get up in the morning, it is difficult to know how to dress – it can look cold and wet and be around 15C, but by the end of the morning it has already gone up to 30C. The storms here can be quite dramatic, to say the least – one time for example a window cleaning box outside the windows of a tall office tower started swaying violently as the winds picked up speed with no warning – the two guys in the box were hanging on for dear life and had to be dragged in through windows people inside had opened in order to grab them! You really have to watch this news video of what happened – absolutely terrifying!!!!

It is a tough place to live, and in my opinion there are many other cities which are easier to enjoy than São Paulo, especially for those living as opposed to just travelling through and just visiting for a few days. For the tourist, the city can be exceptional. Living here can, however, sometimes be a drag!

But it is what it is, and it is an exciting place. It is ultimately a city of extremes – quite an apt location from where to begin this project. Indeed, it is the place from where, after two years of training and preparation, our expedition will embark in a north-westerly direction towards Campo Grande and the Pantanal. And, over three years after we leave, it is the place where I am absolutely we will all be delighted to see it again after what promises to be an exhausting journey.

Next in the series: Through the Pantanal and into Bolivia

A familiar scene for anyone who needs to take public transport

And one of the more monstrous architectural examples - now been... removed...

Browsing CDs at the Benedito Calixto fair

Relaxation at the Jardim Botanico

Ibirapuera - lazing on a sunny afternoon

At the Virada Esportiva - One man playing chess vs 15 others...

Spoiled for choice with all the foods, herbs and drinks at the Mercado Municipal

And when you have time... the beach is only an hour away (or eight... depending on when exactly you leave the city)

  1. Oh! Love the chess picture! One man Vs 15. Great!

  2. niki says:

    Busy city! I really like the last picture!

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