Sao Paulo

August 9, 2009

We came to Sao Paulo yesterday.  I was very curious about it.  When we were thinking about where to move, we were pretty evenly split between Rio and Sao Paulo, and there was a divide in the advice we were given.  The big city was described as uninhabitable by some.  Others claimed it was the only real city in Brazil, that Rio is merely a provincial town.  Scott described it as 20 million people’s worth of midtown.

My disclaimer so far is that we’ve only seen a very small part of it, but it’s not uninhabitable in the way that I expected–gritty, super crowded, like 46th and Sixth at rush hour-it’s mostly empty.  It’s definitely more of a real city than Rio, glossier, glassier, with substantial buildings, not hole-in-the-wall juice bars and pe-sujos.  Right after checking into our hotel we bee-lined to Vila Madalena for lunch.  I kept saying that it looked like LA, and Scott wasn’t seeing it, but then I realized that the LA I know best is Silver Lake and Los Feliz, and it does look exactly like that, with whitewashed boutiques, sloping streets, and bars, restaurants and cafes everywhere.  There were tons of 20-somethings hanging out and drinking in the sunshine and then the gathering dusk, and it felt like a real city–LA, or the East Village.  It was nice to be back.

I’ve never really had the experience of coming from a small, less sophisticated city to a big city.  This is the first time, and it’s really strange to feel like a country bumpkin from Rio here.  Our accents are different, people here in Sao Paulo wear shoes, not flip flops.  In Rio, as Scott pointed out, every restaurant looks from the outside what it will look like on the inside.  In Sao Paulo there’s another layer of depth.  We went to dinner at a sushi place in Jardins, and while it was white and mod from the street, with a conveyer belt up front, the downstairs where we ate was all dark wood and smooth black stones and orchids.  The food was of a different caliber.

I don’t regret moving to Rio at all, I pointed out that it has sort of a dumb, boundless happiness, a relaxed quality that suits me, and I think I wouldn’t have appreciated the quality of Sao Paulo as a city coming straight from New York, which I so desperately needed a break from, but it feels good to be here.  Now we’ll go see the rest of it, and I’ll see if I feel like the emptiness is calming, the clusters of neighborhoods sufficient.

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