Monday, 26 April 2010

Kimchi, Sauvignon Blanc and Warhol

We made our inaugural trip to Pinacoteca, the Museum of Contemporary Art, for the Warhol exhibition. It's a beautiful building and the exhibition was great. It's free on a Saturday so I expected it to be much busier (they were all queuing at the Museu da Lingua Portuguesa where they have an exhibit on Machado de Assis, a very famous Brazilian writer- we'll have to come back).

One of the Korean ladies at the ALC lunch mentioned that there were some great, very traditional Korean restaurants near the museum. Stupidly I didn't take the restaurant or road name so we wandered hungrily and aimlessly around Bom Retiro until we happened open Rua Correia (Korea) Melo. There was no time for scouting out all the restaurants - we stepped into the first one we came across; Restaurant Dare, Rua Correia Melo, 117. So if you want to come and hang out with a bunch of Portuguese-speaking Koreans, who eat kimchi and bibimbap this is the place to come to. Food was as authentic as I know and the crowd in there were all Korean / Korean descent. Delicioso!

We had a quick wander around the area after lunch.* There are lots of really cheap clothes shops in this area -  though the clothes are not quite to my taste! We also went to check out Luz Station (see below) which was actually built in England and assembled here. 


Sunday 25th April = ANZAC Day. We were forwarded the invite by Greg (a blogger I read religiously when we first moved to SP). I was excited about meeting some other kiwi's in town and drinking as much NZ Sauvignon Blanc as I could get my hands on (regretting that today....). It was at a bar aptly named Kia Ora which apparently is one of  the places in SP to meet a nice lady friend. I think Tim is already planning to take our first male visitors there.  We arrived right on time (i.e. not Brazilian time) for drinks and canapes, met some of the  embassy staff who had organised a lovely service and a buffet dinner... though sadly no lamb or beetroot or mince pies : (

*I've just read the wikipedia section on Bom Retiro which advises people to only visit this area during the day and in a group as it's also known as 'Cracolandia'. Unfortunately we missed the crackheads and prostitutes...




The Asian Ladies Club

I went to my first Asian Ladies Club lunch on Friday. 

It's a group of about 30 ladies who lunch every other week, giving everyone a chance to eat some home cooked food from the distant lands of Asia! There are 4 different groups: East Asia, South East Asia, Indian and Associates (who have a strong connection to Asia). I've blogged previously about my love of food, particularly Asian food and when I found this club I was so excited!

There is a really interesting mix of ladies. They are all a mixture of ages and nationalities; some of them have lived here for a long time, one of them has lived here for over 55 years! A great source of information about Sao Paulo and life in Brazil. 

I need to attend the next 3 lunches to gain my membership - as well as prove to them that I can cook. All fingers and toes crossed. 

Monday, 19 April 2010

Vila Madalena




I am a city girl through and through. I love them for being open 24 hours / 7 days  a week. I love finding a cute coffee shop around the corner from where I live even though I’ve walked past that same street for months. I love taxi’s. I love that there is a sushi restaurant, a wine bar, a laundromat and a hairdresser within 2 blocks. 




We’ve just moved to the other side of town to be closer to Tim’s office. So I have spent the past few days exploring our new neighbourhood, Vila Madalena, which was described to us as the ‘Lan Kwai Fong’ of SP. At the moment that’s a good thing because we can walk to some great restaurants and bars. I have 6 sushi restaurants within walking distance, next door is apparently one of the coolest clubs in town (we need to test that the baby monitor works from our apartment*) and Tim’s office is only a 10 minute walk away. I know most people here in SP drive – partly because of the scale of this city, and partly because of safety – but I don’t think that we would’ve happened if we were sitting in a car. Maybe I am being naïve about walking the streets – I always give people the benefit of the doubt – but I have certainly felt more uncomfortable at times in NYC and London.  





Vila Madalena has a history of being the centre of the city’s bohemian culture and it’s reflected in the shops, restaurants, bars, art galleries and graffiti –covered streets. Here are some piccies from around the neighbourhood. 


*Kidding about the baby monitor!!!!

Selling giant pots

Need to do some translating...

Tim decided to buy 50 bananas..

Sunday afternoon drinking

Enroute to the supermarket


It's coffee time!


One of my local sushi restaurants


Chop-p por favour!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Curitiba

Vanessa is a Brasilera we got to know really well whilst living in London. She's from Guarapuava, a small town approximately 4 hours west of Curitiba. The purpose of their trip was for her boyfriend Tim (any ex-colleague of mine in London) to meet her friends and family. They were unable to fit Sao Paulo into their itinerary so we figured we'd head over to them instead!

The flight from Guaralhos is only 40 minutes. As we flew in the view was pretty amazing for as far as we could see the land was covered in small, idyllic farms and there were trees, trees and more trees. Joaquim, one of Tim's associates, came to pick us up at the airport and drop off us at our airport. Unfortunately we arrived just in time for rush hour.. and even more embarassing, he drove us to all 3 Mercure Hotels in town (obviously the last one was the one we were booked in..). One thing we are finding more of each day, is that the hospitality of the Brazilians is incomparable to any country we have lived / travelled in. 

Curitiba has a brilliant public transport plan. The roads are split into 4-6 lanes on the main roads. 2 lanes are allocated for normal traffic, 2 lanes for fast traffic and the middle 2 lanes are for speedy buses which operate just like a subway system in any other major city but instead it's on street level. Clever people. 

I think Tim was excited to have some English speakers after a week in rainy Guarapuava... sadly for him, all we wanted to do was speak as much Portuguese as we could! We ate in kilo restaurants, drank caprihinias, visited the Oscar Niemeyer Museum via the Linha Turismo (tourist bus) and found Bar do Alemão (Curitiba has a strong German presence). As much as Sophie loved hanging out with all the jagermeister shooting, beer sculling students it was already way past her bedtime and plus we had plans to check out the world's largest restaurant (only 5,000 people can eat at any one time) in Santa Felicidade, the italian quarters. 

Unfortunately Santa Felicidade was only 4,995 people full that night...and fortunately for us we were invited last minute to Vanessa's friends' house for a churrascaria. Alessandro came to pick us up ... again, that Brasilian hospitaility... in other countries it would be assumed that you would make your own way, not have the host come pick you up, welcome you into his home and cook and serve you food and lots of beer all night! Vanessa met Alessandro and his wife Andressa, and Alessandro's mother Rosa in Italy when she was living there a few years back. They were all really excited about meeting Vanessa's Tim but at the same time were so welcoming to all of us. We spent the evening bantering in bad portuguese, eating picanha and winding them up about Tim's love for Argentina.  A great last night for Tim in Brazil so hopefully he will come back again for a visit soon!! (Tim, I promise sunshine and a bottle of cachaca will be waiting the next time you visit!)

Joaquim invited us to his daughter's 24th birthday 'fejoida' lunch. Fejoida is Brasil's precious national dish which is like a heavy meat stew with beans, and you eat it with rice, crisps (?) and other assorted veggies, oranges and pickles. Tim's other associate (Helio and his wife, Decca) came to pick us up from our hotel. We arrived at the Casa da Pedra... it wasn't a local restaurant like we had assumed but an art gallery / wine cellar that they had hired for her birthday! I had forgotten my own rule (Rule No. 38 - it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed). I was horrified as I was wearing jeans that Sophie had peed on earlier that day (this is what my life has come to) and I walked into a room of champagne swilling, 5 inch stilletos and bling bling bling. Haha, and we were on the table with the 'oldies'... but lunch was lovely, the setting was absolutely beautiful and it was great people watching. I can't even remember what I did for my 24th birthday. The band started up and Sophie woke up. Helio and Decca insisted on taking us on a tour of all the parks around Curitiba - there were some really stunning parks, alot of them have only been developed in the last 20 years and a couple of them were converted from old quarries. More clever people. 

I know Curitiba is not really a destination point for most visitors but if you are travelling through Curitiba it's definitely worth having a look around. 





Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Traffic

Live update blog, this one. Am stuck in traffic and trying to decide whether to attempt the 'bus hopping' trick that worked a treat last week. What happened then was that heavy rain had knocked out all of the traffic lights with predictable consequences to the flow of traffic. Bus-hopping literally involves getting off the bus and walking its route until you are past the blockage. Last week I overtook the four previous buses that had been furrowing the same route and got on the next one past the blockage, quite satisfying. When the traffic stops here, it literally stops, I have no idea how long i would have been on that bus but I would expect a good couple of hours. The worst road on my commute is definately Juscelino Kubitshek and after we move house next week, I never want to see this road again. Shame because we found a restaurant (Camelo's) that serves fantastic pizza (and having lived in Brooklyn I feel I can comment) , a few good bars, and several large office towers containing firms I probably need to get to know in order to execute my job..

Anyhow, part two of this todays tale is that I did try the bus-hop, but I left it way, way too late. I actually didnt think it was worth it but all of sudden could not stand to be on the bus anymore. It was one of those gridlocks where each greenlight, one or two of the vehicles in front could filter into the joining street (Santa Amaro). Last week i made my decision early and it paid off, this week I got off having already sat in the jam for 40 mins. The plus side was that I got some exersize, sprinting to join the same bus at the next stop.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Feliz Páscoa!

We were invited away for Easter weekend to Ilha-do-Araujo. It's about 30 minutes away from Paraty, one of the main historical towns (20 mins by boat + 10 mins drive). They spent the day telling us about what a fabulous weekend away it would be but to be fair, we really didn't need any convincing.... I mean, it's what we came to Brazil for.. to hang out with some real, live Brasilero/a's and drink caprihinia's on the beach!

But firstly, getting out of SP on a holiday weekend needs special planning. It's no different to trying to get out of London on a bank holiday weekend or travelling through Bangkok in rush hour... OK, I lie, it's a whole lot worse!!! The super-rico (very, very rich people) take helicopters which takes about 12 minutes to the closest beach (maybe next year...). It took us 4 hours to get out of SP (and then another 3 hours to Paraty) and this was us leaving before the rush hour! At the moment there is an incomplete ring road called the Marginal. This is where you do not want to be anytime after 4pm. Rodrigo came and picked us up before 4pm and raced through the city to get to the marginal on the opposite side of the city where we could link to Aryton Senna (most appropriate name for a motorway) which takes us up the coast. There is another highway called Dutra which can take you direct to Rio but  all the big trucks take this road as well which Rodrigo wanted to avoid.

                         


Tim taught Rodrigo the phrase 'Spend a penny' - very amusing as as he spent hundreds, thousands and millions, not just pennies... thought the rest of the weekend was spent entertaining them with our sub-standard portuguese instead!

We arrived at 10pm to a lovely little house aptly named Ilha de Mel (The Island of Honey) as it was covered in purple flowers with busy wee bees flying from one honey flower to the next. It was a small bay with 10 beautiful holiday houses scattered throughout and a small beach. The girls in the second car had left late so had been stuck on the Marginal for over 3 hours and weren't expecting to arrive until 3am so we didn't stay up for them.

Rodrigo's wife, Ines and her sister Florencia are Argentinians and they came with Luciana and Debbie. There was also Fabiola, an ex-colleague of Rodrigo's, who now lives in Rio. The weekend was lovely - we spent the whole time immersed in portuguese, learning lots of new foods and taking boat trips to other islands and beaches. We even saw a pod of dolphins on one of our boat trips but they swam away before we could jump in the water with them. Most importantly Tim also learnt to make caprioskas with lime until we ran out of limes, and with oranges until we ran out of oranges. Delicioso!

 

On the Saturday night we popped into Paraty after dinner. The girls wanted to have icecream (unfortunately no hokey pokey here) and the shops were open until midnight! They tried to convince me to buy Tim a new pair of very small swimmers so he could be 'a real brazilian man'. Haha, I was too disturbed and I think he might prefer to pick his own.* There were also lots of bars, restaurants and clubs and a real buzz in the streets. We'll have to go back and spend a few days exploring the town and learning more about the history of Paraty. Note to parents - not a great place for buggies as there are lots of large paralelepípedos (my new favourite word which means cobbles).

Little Sophie decided to only sleep for 2 hours on Saturday night so we were pretty exhausted but it wasn't the end of the world as all we had to do was lie by the pool and eat. Typically it started raining when we needed to leave but everyone was keen to get on the road anyhow so they could try and beat the traffic... we were stuck just leaving the beach on the roads that connect to Aryton Senna and/or Dutra for 4 hours!!! If you want to try and avoid traffic there is a live travel website for SP state - www.der.sp.gov.br - though if you're stuck it's just really depressing! We felt much better when we checked the girls' route via Caraguatatuba and saw that the traffic there was horrendous as well. Luckily once we hit Dutra the traffic was flowing;  we spent a few a pennies, ate some pao de queijos, drank some guarana and whiled away the 7 hours with bossa, samba, jazz and random chat about Obama, travel in Asia and legalising drugs (all in Portuguese of course though maybe I did more listening than talking...).

(Sand and Flowers for lunch - Yummy!)