Graffiti, history, laughter, and Caipirinhas –the only way I can sum up my amazing layover in Sao Paulo in November. With only a short time in Sao Paulo, I made it my mission to see the most of the city as possible, and in doing so I took a free city walking tour, met up with locals, drank Caipirinha’s at a local café, and wondered through backstreets filled with tasteful graffiti art. My time in Sao Paulo was short, but extremely memorable, and I cannot wait to return to explore the city further!
Over the last ten years I have flown well over a million miles and have become an expert at plane hopping, yet despite being a pro plane hopper I am still not a fan of quick stop overs in foreign ports. I believe that if I am truly going to experience a city or country, I not only have to leave the airport lounge, but I also need more than just a few hours in the city to explore. Furthermore, I am a firm believer that it is obligatory to leave the hotel and hostels full of foreigners and get in touch with the locals when traveling. Traveling and isolating oneself from their local environment is what most bloggers and western travelers are best at, as many Americans/Westerns often gloat about luxury resorts and hotels in developing world cities, we habitually spend more time highlight fine dining experiences, hotels, and the first class suite that lavished us during flight instead of highlighting the places themselves. We quickly forget about the reason why we travel (or at least the reason why I do)—to experience something new! I am guilty of this in my writing, but I also take pride in the fact that I spend most nights while traveling couchsurfing, staying with locals, and doing what the locals do. I am not bound by my hotel, and instead I am one to often stay in the cheapest place possible, as a hotel is nothing more to me than a place to rest my head after a long day exploring! Yet, the majority of these experiences I do not write about, for they are often not PG or blog material.
Despite my statement above, as I said, I am guilty of doing just the thing I hate most. For example, on my recent trip around the world, I visited Brazil for the first time. And although I may have a visa and passport stamp, I can hardly say I experienced Brazil; as I was there for barely 15 hours! Regardless, I tried to make the most of my day in Sao Paulo by both exploring local sites and hanging with locals.
Upon landing in Sao Paulo, I briefly stopped by the new LATAM lounge in T3, showered and freshened up and then stored my luggage at the airport luggage lockers (~$10 for a small bag for 12 hours located across from baggage claim) and headed into the city. From GRU transportation options are limited to bus + subway, taxi, or dedicated bus service by ETMU to different areas of the city. I opted for the dedicated schedule bus service for R$42 (~$15.50) and arrived at Republica square an hour later. Bus service was quick and comfortable, and included free wifi!
Once in the city, I starting exploring using advice I had received from message boards from locals via the local couchsurfing group. For intercity transportation, I opted for the subway and my two feet. Once off the airport bus at Republica Square, I fumbled through the process of purchasing a metro ticket, mapped out my route, and headed to Beco do Batman. It took me about 45 minutes between the walk and metro ride, but I arrived at the highly acclaimed alley and was quickly enthralled by the street art. Not only is the one alley covered in beautiful graffiti art, but houses leading up to the ally display all types of their own homegrown art. Like the reviews said, it was more than a photo opportunity for tourists, as many locals were having professional photos taken themselves.
Some of my favorite shots from Beco do Batman:
With little time to spare, after gawking at the grandiose murals for a good hour, I trekked back to Republica Square to join other travelers on the free walking tour. The Sao Paulo Free Walking tour lasted about three hours and the flamboyant guides were ecstatic to share the cities culture and history with patrons. During the three hour tour (which was highly recommended by local couchsurfers in Brazil) not only did I get to see a large part of the historical downtown, I was able to take in some of the history of the city, eat delicious snacks, and learn many great tips for shopping, eating, and entertainment venues. Not to mention the guide was quick to point out many awesome buildings with cheap or free vistas of Sao Paulo! The Free walking tour of old town is available on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturdays starting at 11:30. For more information about the Old Town Tour and other free walking tours visit the SP free walking tour website. Just remember, be sure to tip your guide, as the tour is free and the information gained is priceless!
A few shots from the tour:
With so much to do and so little time, I rushed from the free walking tour to meet up with a local Sao Paulo Couchsurfer who wanted to show me the edge that Sao Paulo offers. Being Halloween, Sao Paulo was ready to celebrate and to the clubs and parties Gustavo thought he would take me. Unfortunately for me, I had a flight to catch to Paris, so there would be no partying in Sao Paulo. So instead, Gustavo took me to a trendy Sao Paulo neighborhood and we drank the most potent Caipirinhas known to man. Three dinks later, we found ourselves highly intoxicated! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! A couple hours later and many laughs, Gustavo and I felt like we had been friends for life; but the evening of relaxation and laughter had to end as I had another flight to catch.
With little time to spare and a rain storm hovering over Sao Paulo, Gustavo, myself and my other new friends jumped in a cab and rushed to the EMTU bus station to say our farewells. I bought my ticket and jumped on board just in the nick of time waving feverishly at my new friends while the bus pulled away. I sat down in my seat and passed out instantly only to be awakened by the bus driver when we arrived at the airport. My day in Sao Paulo was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, but I was utterly exhausted!
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