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Nossa!... Carnival in Sao Paulo.

BRAZIL | Thursday, 1 March 2012 | Views [956]

Carnival

Carnival

I didn't want to go to Sao Paulo. I didn't want to leave the beach but the imminent start of the carnival meant that I could no longer stay at Ubatuba. It's probably for the best as I can almost see myself 1 month on and still lying on the same spot...

After consulting some locals I was left with two options - spending the mad week in small town of Sao Luis or head to the big city.

Everyone I met so far kept going on about how much I will like Sao Paulo cause it's European, more resembling London than Rio. For me, however, one of the main points of going away was to escape the city, so was not thrilled to be going to one for the biggest party of the year.

Unlike Rio, there is no massive price hike during that time and the accommodation proved easy enough to find, so I packed the beach gear, waved goodbye to Ubatuba and headed to Sampa.

The plan was to spend 3 days there, see some art and then head to Curitiba.

But it turned out that I have chosen the best possible place to stay with some amazing people; so the art and culture had to wait.

My first two days in Sao Paulo were kind of a whirlwind - I arrived at O de Casa at 3pm, managed to have a quick shower and change and by 4pm I was in the bar with a drink in my hand... 36 hours later I have still not managed to leave Villa Magdalena (the four blocks surrounding the hostel) but had great fun at the all day bloco and lots of laughs with hostel crowd in the evening.

It became clear that I will not be leaving any time soon...

It is so amazing when during your travels you encounter a place that just makes you feel like home. Sao Paulo turned out to be the perfect mix of wonderful people, fun parties, awesome hostel staff and a bit of culture thrown in.

After completely failing to see any of the city in the first 2 days (we blame one of those on the lack of water on our street, you simply cannot go out without having a shower - we are proud women after all!), Ji In and myself decided to brave the Avenida Paulista for few hours on Sunday and come back to our safe haven for BBQ.

It's a long, long street. But in a way it was exactly what I expected Sao Paulo to be - lots of high rises, big avenues, some graffiti on the walls.

Our progress was slow... I really would not encourage anyone to attempt to walk this street as a way of recovering from last night's party...

I did not get to see MASP (Museum of Modern Art) - it was open but as a budget traveller I found myself making a choice between going to see some art or having enough money for a beer that night and I have to admit that I chose the beer... That very moment made me really appreciate London were art is free (OK, the permanent stuff) and is also amazing. With all due respect I could not see MASP exceeding the collections of Tate or National Gallery.

So after failed attempt at seeing some culture and many stops at parks (really nice ones along the Avenida) we came back for BBQ, beer and another bloco at night.

I also did not get to see the official samba competitions. I know all the arguments for going, regardless of the cost, cause its one in a lifetime experience, but I don't like organised fun. I like more organic carnival, happening where it should always be - on the streets. So instead of going for the big one we spent our nights joining the local blocos that would conveniently pass by our hostel... And it was perfect. They grew in size and force each night with Tuesday night culmination. There was hardly any trouble despite vast amounts of beer and testosterone. As a foreigner there was not a moment when I felt threatened. People would talk to us, be curious but just wanting to have fun with us and made us feel welcome in their city. Parties were full of energy, samba and lasted through the night. All in all, an amazing experience.

Despite all the partying I did not give up on the cultural side of the city so we headed out to Latin American Memorial and the cultural centre of Pompei where we stumbled across a beautiful kids carnival that was almost as good as anything we saw for adults, minus the beer.

The Memorial is a really interesting place grouping handcraft art from all countries of Latin America and showing off some great art from the region.

On my last day in the city (I was being tough and despite really wanting to stay, booked the ticket for the overnight bus to Curitiba) Victor very kindly took me around the old parts of the city. It was really amazing with a highlight of the Museum of Portuguese Language (luckily you only need a bit of the language to understand the exhibition). The only downside was that I had about 3 hour sleep and found it really difficult to concentrate and keep my eyes open at the same time...

Sao Paulo for me will never be the most beautiful or interesting city in the world. But it does have something that makes me think of going back there and spending more time. It is a hard working kind of place but with a bohemian heart. It is also true that my memories of the city will always be more linked to the people I met and the atmosphere of the hostel and blocos. But that's probably enough to make me visit again...

Tags: bloco, brazil, carnival, city break, rtw, sao paulo

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