Tag Archives: Vila Madalena

Skipping straight through to Monday morning

14 Feb

Something had to give. I’d been on my best behaviour since arriving in Brazil, regularly in bed by midnight and getting up at 7.30 in the morning. My excitement in Brazil has been made up almost entirely of my current obsessions with Brazilian music, namely bands like M. Takara 3, Tulipa Ruiz, Lulina and Karina Buhr, all of whom are based in Sao Paulo. So I’ve been spending the majority of my time going to gigs, writing about those gigs, meeting Brazilian musicians and pitching ideas to hugely-underwhelmed editors. In some ways this culminated in some article ideas which I sent to Time Out SP last night for possible inclusion in the March edition.

After I sent the articles off with hopeful spirit, Isadora (who works at the hostel) asked if I wanted to join her for some drinks when she finishes work. Not having broken loose in a while I could only but agree, and so off we went at 2am to see what Sao Paulo has to offer on a Sunday night. We didn’t get too far. This is a city that has to sleep sometime, and Sunday night/Monday morning seems to be that time. After asking countless people getting chucked out of bars up and down Vila Madalena where was open and getting only negative answers we decided the best option was to go to the petrol station and get some beers there.

With a few extra people in tow, including a ridiculously-upbeat Dutch guy who kept asking us if we wanted to get some drugs, and a Brazilian girl who kept asking me to retort lines from the Harry Potter books and then shouting “Harry Potter! You’re Harry Potter!,” each time I followed her orders, we went to the petrol station. Which might seem a little depressing but was actually the best place you could ever go for beers. First off, the beers are a third of the price of beers in the bars, secondly we had our own table and chairs that were parked on the foyer, thirdly this meant we could get into a bit of banter with all the visitors to the station, fourthly we had a decent, clean toilet right next to us (which was always vacant) and lastly, when I told a taxi driver nearby that I was a big fan of Tim Maia (which he was playing in his car) he became our own little soundsystem, parking himself nearby. It was almost as if we had inadvertently started our own little bar on the street.

Heading home at 7.30am after countless beers, when the city is coming to life, was the strangest aspect of all. God knows what the people on the Metro thought of us as we camped out in the corner of the underground train. It’s fair to say we were past caring.

Sao Paulo – possibly not a city to explore

9 Oct

I am still waiting for Sao Paulo to reveal itself to me.

After spending a further three days there I am none the wiser. This is supposedly the biggest city in South America, so you’d expect there to be a few things to excite a weary traveller, but I`m still waiting to find them.

On my last trip there I was trying to sort a few things out and decided to go for a bit of an amble near the centre. I didn’t realise this at the time, but Sao Paulo is not a city in which you can amble, that should be saved for the Yorkshire Dales it seems.

I was only three or four blocks from the centre when I noticed a restaurant offering meals for one Real. This is without doubt the cheapest meal deal I have ever seen. To get anything under seven Reais in Brazil is a miracle in itself, so to have a whole dish for just one is some kind of phenomenon (this equates to about 33p at the moment, normally it would be around 25p but the Pound is not my friend at the moment).

I took a closer look and realised that I had missed lunchtime.

There were around 5 or 6 ladies in pure white overalls cleaning down the room, itself pure white and rather large, with full pressure hoses. Whoever had been eating there wasn`t too bothered about the food going in their mouth it would seem.

I carried on walking and noticed two policemen pass me. Then a police car pulled up on the right, and a further couple of coppers passed me on the pavement. I suddenly realised that maybe this wasn’t a good area, but there was no way I was going back on myself.

I walked past a series of bars, heaving with drunk, one-toothed, silver-haired Brazilian men. It was only 1.30 in the afternoon. Then I came to my main challenge.

I could see the Estadio do Luz at the end of the street, a known bastion of safety. But first I would have to walk past a 200m stretch of road with delinquent, 100% toasted vagrants on one side and some of the most unlovable looking prostitutes on the other. I took a deep breath and went for it.

As I walked I couldn’t help but make a mental note of everything I had on me (100 Reais, 2 bank cards, camera, blue pants) and just hoped that I would get out of there with all of these still on my person.

I got through it, but not without feeling as perilous as I’ve only ever felt in one other place – the centre of Salvador. There is something about a strong Police presence in these situations that seems to encourage some of the edgiest environments possible, a real pressure cooker. Speaking to people later it became quite clear that – yes – this was the worst neighbourhood in Sao Paulo and – no – you should never walk through there on your own. I won’t make that mistake again.

On the other side of the spectrum, I stayed in Vila Madalena for two of my days in Sao Paulo, which has to be described as one of the loveliest parts of the cities.

Every street is dedicated to a different product, including a whole row of 60s antique furniture, ethical goods, unbelievably expensive bars and too many clothes shops by half. Plus, the area used to be frequented by a whole bunch of hippies in the fifties with the main reminder of their presence in the street signs. Harmony, Sunflower and Wizard are all roads in this area.

Which means you can say that bar you really like is on the corner of Harmony and Wizard which really can’t be a bad thing!