After my mega-hike the day before, I woke up on Monday morning with my whole body aching. Seriously though, have you ever walked 8 miles, most of it in flip flops? It’s not something I would necessarily recommend, although I happen to think it was worth it. I previously shared that I had been nervous about taking this trip all on my lonesome – my first totally solo trip. While rubbing my feet and trying to ignore the throbbing pain in my hips, I was also feeling glad that I had in fact come alone.
Because seriously, Rodolfo would never have walked 8 miles with me. He would have told me I was being ridiculous to try to do every single thing in Sao Paulo – and I recognize the possibility that he would have been right – and made us sit down and relax. I think most of my friends would have done the same because I do not know many other people insane enough to walk so far that they cause themselves pain, yet I was glad to have traded momentary suffering for the memories I have and now get to write about. One point for solo travel!
Luckily for me, I only had one stop to fit in before heading to the airport: the Mercado Municipal. After my failure the previous day, I had been assured it would be open even on a holiday Monday, so I retraced my steps toward the metro to check it out.
If I thought Rua Vinte e Cinco de Março had been busy the day before, I was in for a shock. Suddenly every store in sight was selling Christmas decorations – apparently November 1 is the day it becomes ok to start prepping for Christmas in Sao Paulo – and I swear every single one of the city’s 20 million inhabitants was crammed into this one block buying ornaments, tinsel and garlands. Minus point for solo travel: being alone once again made me decide not to get my camera out in a sea of people where it easily could have gone missing, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself.
Happily this time I arrived to a totally different scene at the Mercado. Gone were the locked gates and silent aisles, replaced by the riot of colors and rivers of people I had expected on Sunday.
Salt cod is a big deal in Sao Paulo, sold both in giant chunks and in the famous pastéis de bacalhau, which is essentially a salt cod empanada. My first priority in food was, of course, a fresh mango juice, and with that in hand I braved one of the extremely long lines in search of this typical local fare.
Partway through the line, however, I noticed that the pastéis contain green olives, which I don’t like, so I decided to get my salt cod fix in fritter form with a bolinho de bacalhau accompanied by my old favorite, a pao de queijo. This was the best pao de queijo I had all trip, so although my salt cod experience was unsurprisingly a bit too salty for me, I still think you should hit up Tigrao for their delicious cheesy bread.
After lunch, I had just enough time for dessert and souvenir shopping before I needed to be back at the hostel to take the bus to the airport. Sweetened condensed milk for me brings up childhood memories of being allowed to lick the can when my mom made a specific family recipe, so it holds a special place in my heart. Combined with fresh ripe strawberries, it’s pretty much heaven in a plastic cup.
I don’t really do souvenirs, but as you can tell, I definitely do food, so I decided to reward my in-laws and husbands with typical Brazilian sweets. I picked up a giant brigadeiro, which is a truffle of a chocolate-y dulce de leche covered with chocolate sprinkles, and an equally giant beijinho, a white truffle of sweetened condensed milk covered in grated coconut and sugar. I may have also grabbed a normal-sized beijinho for myself. Hey, I said I love sweetened condensed milk!
After packing up my things and saying goodbye to the hostel staff, I had an hour-long bus ride to reflect on my weekend. Is Sao Paulo the concrete jungle everyone says it is? Sure. It was busy and bustling with both people and cars even on a holiday weekend, and I can see how if that doesn’t do it for you, you’d hate the place. But I found it to be much more than that, a place with gorgeous parks and plazas, beautiful buildings and good food. I don’t know that I would make a trip from far away only to see Sao Paulo, but if you’re close by or have the time to add it to a Brazil itinerary, I say give it a shot. And solo travel? While I still prefer traveling with others – that’s why I have family and friends in my life, it’s because I like spending time with them – if the only way to see somewhere is alone, I’m not going to miss out because I’m scared of being lonely. Although next time I might map out my proposed routes beforehand to avoid blisters.