I woke up on my only full day in Sao Paulo before 8am. Even though Sao Paulo is an hour ahead of Santiago and I’d barely slept the night before what with work, last minute packing and an early flight. I don’t get it either, but I think the combination of loud girls coming back from a night out and my excitement to see the city played its part. I had my route all planned out, and the sun was shining, so after a shower I headed toward the nearest metro stop planning to find breakfast on my way.
And find it I did. Something that just screams Brazil to me – based purely on my Rio and Sao Paulo experiences – is the sight of lanchonetes on what seems like every corner. These open-air snack bars specialize in quick eats and fresh-squeezed juices, as evidenced by the fruit hanging from the ceiling and the bar at which you can stand to eat your finger food.
I made it to the Vergueiro metro station easily and hopped aboard a train toward my first stop: the Sao Bento monastery.
Aside from just being a pretty building, the monastery is a house of worship, and as luck would have it I was there during a service. They leave the doors open, so even we heathens can hear the monks performing their Gregorian chants and see the beautiful inside. I can’t remember if there were signs specifically asking people not to take pictures, but I don’t have any because I didn’t feel that taking pictures was appropriate.
From the monastery, I headed toward the Mercado Municipal. I’m a sucker for a central market, so I was excited to see this one but didn’t think I’d be taking a particularly scenic route. As it turns out, Rua Vinte e Cinco de Março is quite the sight. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in one street before – street vendors selling CDs, people running in and out of stores, cars trying to get through the masses – it was total chaos. If I’d been with someone else, I would have whipped out my camera to document the crowds, but as it was I didn’t fancy making myself a pickpocketing target.
I rounded the corner to the Mercado in a festive mood, buoyed by the energy of so many people out and about, only to find myself faced with the complete opposite. The Mercado was empty, its doors shut, due to the presidential elections taking place that day. I hadn’t known about the election when I planned my trip, and once I arrived I just hoped that I would still be able to see most of what I wanted to see despite any closures. Only slightly deterred, I decided that this answered the question of what I would do in the morning the next day before I had to leave for the airport and headed toward my next stop.
I was carrying a map and saw that from where I was, I could walk toward Patio do Colegio, the site of Sao Paulo’s founding in the 1500s. It wasn’t far, but the sun was out in full-force by this time as it was around 11am, and I was carrying a bag with a recent purchase. Not only that, the street that I ended up taking turned out to be full of people who appeared to have done some hard partying the night before before they passed out on the sidewalk, smelling as one would expect in that situation, and I got more than one look of “what is SHE doing here?” I made it to the street I needed to turn on only to find that I had to go up a big hill, and after following the signs to Patio do Colegio – which I realized too late were made to guide cars around the one-way streets and therefore had me circling around more than necessary – I made it.
In all honesty, it’s not a particularly interesting spot. It’s a Jesuit church with a museum, but the museum was closed either due to the elections or simply to it being Sunday, so I took a picture or two and moved on. Luckily my next stop was just across the road.
Sé Cathedral, also called the Metropolitan Cathedral, is an imposing church situated in a tree-lined plaza. In contrast to the people I’d seen outside Sao Bento monastery, many of whom seemed to be tourists, the crowd outside Sé Cathedral was more in keeping with the people I’d been passing on my walk: regular Paulistas going about their Sunday routine. For some this included yelling in what I imagine was a desperate attempt to save my soul, for others arguing over the previous night’s events, for others just walking through what to them was a run-of-the-mill plaza on their way to their destination.
Mass was in progress at the cathedral, but by this point I was so hot and my feet were so tired that I couldn’t confine myself to observing from the doorway. I snuck into the back and sat down on the base of a marble column to enjoy a respite from the beating sun. I’m not religious now, but I did grow up in the church, and although I didn’t understand the words and wasn’t raised Catholic, it was somehow nice to be a part of the routine, albeit for a moment.
Feet rested and body temperature lowered to normal, it was time to continue my tour of the city. Next up: the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade and its street fair.