Travel Guide: Rio and Sao Paolo: Part I: Sao Paolo

There is a Brazilian saying that goes “Paulista trabalha e Carioca na praia.” (The Paulistas works while the Cariocas, or natives of Rio, spend their time at the beach). Vital Stats: Population: 170 million. Ecomonic Rank: 10th largest economy in the world. World Cups Won: 5. Beaches: Longest stretch of tropical beaches in the world.

The “Brazilian vibe” as it is being called is reaching the main stream in the US and Europe through music, sexy top models, worldwide appreciation of “the bunda” or, as one might say in the states, love of a luscious posterior, Havaianas sandals, popularized drinks like the caipirinha (Brazilian rum mixed with sugar, ice and lime), sports like capoeira (an African martial arts/dance) and of course adulation for Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and pretty much anyone else in a Brazil football uni.

Beach Bunda

One misnomer about Brazil is that since it is exotic, people are wild. Don’t be mistaken, Brazilians do know how to party and have a good time, but it is their style or “jeito” that makes them cool. Though very active, the local attitude is about doing things in rhythm rather than in quantity of activities. Doing so facilitates the process of absorbing the country’s upbeat mood.

Sao Paulo is the third largest city in the world with a population of over 20 million. If you are one in a million, there are at least 20 more people like you. The state of SP produces over 35% of Brazil’s GDP. From its roots as a coffee growing region, the city’s growth exploded in the 20th century to become, along with Mexico City, one of the business centers of Latin America and the world.

A fraction of SP

The energy here is raw. The feel is that you must be either producing or consuming. As a knowledge based city, ‘here’ you can find whatever you want if you know where to find it. Tuesdays can be wilder than Saturdays and it is at night that the fun begins.

Where to stay? Personally, I stay at the Renaissance Hotel on Alameda Santos and Haddock Lobo. It is close to the Avenida Paulista, one of the main avenues for business and home office to some of Brazil’s and the world’s best known companies. Two other local hotels to consider are Hotel Fasano, a new project by long time restaurant group Fasano. This luxurious hotel is almost hidden, but right off a great shopping street in Haddock Lobo and in close proximity to great restaurants. The other hotel worth mentioning is Hotel Unique This melon-shaped building is one of Sao Paulo’s most daring and coolest architectural works. It also hosts one of the city’s best views. Unique’s scene at night is hip and trendy, and in the day-time you can enjoy amenities like a roof top pool with underwater music.

Because its population is composed of immigrants from many parts of the world, Sao Paulo’s gastronomical offering is extremely diverse and authentic. You will find any kind of food you want: Italian, Portuguese, regional Brazilian, international gourmet, steak houses (known as churrasquerias), Arabic, Spanish, Japanese and much, much more. At lunch, you will mostly find businessmen in suits or sophisticated ladies taking a break from the arduous task of shopping. This always makes for a colorful crowd wherever you go.

Steak is a popular choice for the mid-day meal. Though there are many great steak houses, my favorite is Rubayait Figueiras. Located under a massive “figueira” tree (banyan), this restaurant raises their own cows, has a sleek design, and the service is top notch. Gero is an Italian favorite owned by the Fasano Group. Its staff prides itself on giving personal attention to their guests and making sure that the pasta is fresh and perfectly prepared. Other notables for lunch are Spot (international), Fogo do Chao (steak) and Jardineira (steak), Alluci Alluci, and Carlota.

Shopping: Sao Paulo has some great places to shop. Among them Haddock Lobo street, home of many local and international boutiques like VR, Richards, and Forum. Another great drag for the global consumer is Oscar Freire street. Some call it the Paulista “Rodeo Drive.” Here you will find stores like Louis Vuiton, Mont Blanc, Dior, Bulgari, Versace. Higienopolis Mall is a great work of architecture, and Iguatemi Mall is a favorite of the shopping elite with stores like Tiffany and Versace. Another alternative to the main shopping malls are small “galerias” (or little shopping malls) like “Galeria Ouro Fino” located on Rua Augusta, where you will find several stores with new Brazilian fashion designers. A massive boutique where only woman are allowed in, Daslu, is a shopping paradise. The staff are the daughters of the Paulista elite who work there to learn the latest in fashion and mores of high society.

After a hard day at work, most Brazilians stop at the gym before embarking on the “balada” (the big night). Nightlife begins with dinner and after that steak, perhaps sushi is a great alternative to ease the waistline. SP is home to the largest colony of Japanese outside Japan hence the sushi is world class. Some of my favorites are Japengo, Kosushi, Jun Sakamoto, Shimo, and Nagayama. Fun dinner alternatives to sushi to kick-start your night are Na Matta Café, Boo, Burger Bistro, and Hotel Lycra. After-hours you have a dizzying array of options. Among them are going for Brazilian music at Lanterna, Passatempo or Piove. If you are in the mood to dance with a young and fun crowd, check out Heaven or Disco.

Its Saturday morning and after your busy week of partying, shopping, ogling beautiful Brazillians and nursing your whiskey or caipirinha hangover, you head to Rio, “a Cidade Maravilhosa” (the Wonderful City)…

Scene Report by October Juventis.

Continued in Scene Report: Brazil: Rio and Sao Paolo: Part II: Rio

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