Travel: Sao Paulo, day 2 (part 1)

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.

Brazilian breakfast


I made it to the Vergueiro metro station easily and hopped aboard a train toward my first stop: the Sao Bento monastery.

Sao Paulo metro

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.

Sao Bento monastery

Sao Bento monastery

Sao Bento monastery

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.

Sao Paulo

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.

Mercado Municipal Sao Paulo

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.

Patio do Colegio Sao Paulo

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.

Sé Cathedral Sao Paulo

Sé Cathedral Sao Paulo

Sé Cathedral Sao Paulo

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.

More in this series:
Planning Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo, day 1
Sao Paulo, day 2 (part 2)
Sao Paulo, day 2 (part 3)
Sao Paulo, day 3

8 Responses to “Travel: Sao Paulo, day 2 (part 1)”

  1. Kyle says:

    I remember the lanchonetes! Except I never knew what they were called.

    And that very last photo is beautiful, that also looks very typically Brazilian to me.

  2. Vince says:

    you have a bit of a thing about photographing food product 😉

  3. Emily says:

    Kyle said my photo is beautiful. My life is complete! Seriously though, I spent the entire weekend being wow-ed by the greenery. After hearing over and over that Sao Paulo is all concrete, I couldn't get over how exotic and just plain Brazilian it looked (and yes, I realize that's a ridiculous thing to say, but it's how I felt).

    Vince, what can I say, I like food!

  4. Vince says:

    Don't we all Em', what we don't do is travel 2000miles to photo the stuff no matter how photogenic.

  5. Lori says:

    Loving your recaps. It's reminding me of all the things I miss. :)

  6. Yay for traveling posts! I'm ready to jump on the 1st plane to SP now. :)

    I'm still laughing at the pic the woman took of you. You look beautiful as always, but wow she ain't gonna win photographer of the year!

    I can't believe how much you walked girl!!!

  7. LauraG says:

    Nice recap! I've never been in Sampa outside the airports but it sounds like you got to see a lot there. Concrete jungle or not, it's always fun visiting a big international city!
    I love the lanchonetes! Compared to fast food in the US, I like how each one in Brazil is a little different. And oh how I enjoy the Goiba juice and Pao de Queijo!

  8. Emily says:

    Haha, it's true, Vince. But food is such a part of the travel experience!

    Lori, I'm glad I could give you a little flashback to expat life :)

    Andi, right? I really didn't think I had to explicitly say I wanted the building in the picture, but apparently I was wrong.

    Laura, with all your trips to Brazil, maybe you can take a couple days as a layover in Sao Paulo next time. I really enjoyed the city.

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