Apparently Brazil has very few extended bouts of cold, wet weather – even in their winter, which is, of course, right now – but one of them started just before our arrival. Sao Paolo had just gone 40 or so days without rain, and so many people welcomed it. Fair enough. From our side, we were hoping for better weather to discover Sao Paolo, but in the end we spent more time than expected catching up on work and schoolwork.
Our Airbnb was very central – just a block from the famous Paulista Avenue.
There are many, many pizzerias and sushi bars in Sao Paolo, probably a function of the fact the largest Italian and Japanese populations outside of their respective countries are in Brazil. At least that’s what I’ve been told. On our first evening in Sao Paolo – after getting in very late and getting driven to our appartment – we tried Brazilian pizza, and it was interesting… the cheese was on top, which appeared to be the principle difference, as far as I can tell. We went to the pizzeria around the corner from our apartment, so I’m sure there are better references for the dish of which so many Brazilians seem so proud.
Paulista Avenue is the main financial district in Sao Paolo. Autodesk Brazil is in Brooklin – which is more of a high-tech hub – but in the end I didn’t visit the office: I worked at the apartment while the rest of the family caught up with other things. I did, however, get the chance to meet with Augusto and Silvio, whom I know well from my time in the ADN team. On Saturday we all went with our respective families for North Eastern Brazilian seafood (yum!) at Coco Bambu. Great food and fantastic company!
On the Sunday morning, before we left Sao Paolo, we headed back along Paulista Avenue for a quick walk. The street is closed off on Sunday mornings to let people walk, cycle and run along it, which is really nice.
I mentioned last time that I’d been concerned about our stay in Brazil, mainly due to the rise in criminality the country has seen in recent years. Augusto, Silvio and Alex Bicalho (with whom I spent some time chatting about it in San Francisco) were all really helpful with suggestions on how to deal with it. Many thanks to all of you for your kind advice.
So far things have gone reasonably well… one of my big concerns had been getting down from Sao Paolo to Paraty, the next stop on the trip after Sao Paolo. In a general sense, we really want to take buses in South America whenever possible, but we’d received very strong recommendations not to try that in Brazil. So we opted to rent a car. This proved trickier than I expected: cars in Brazil tend to be smaller, European models, and we’re a family of 5 with several bags between us. This even meant that – due to the lack of larger taxis such as UberXL – we had to take two cabs to get back to the airport to pick up our rental car… we used the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison of UberX and Cabify in Sao Paolo. Uber won that won solidly on cost (40% cheaper!) and efficiency (the Cabify car was a bit slower).
For the rental car itself: in the end I opted to rent the largest car Avis had to offer at the time (a “Chevy Cobalt or equivalent”, which ended up meaning a Ford Ka), and stuck with that. We were really lucky: everything squeezed in without needing any bags at people’s feet.
With Augusto’s guidance we opted to take the coastal road to Paraty – the BR-101. This is largely along Brazil’s Costa Verde: under normal circumstances I’m sure it would have been utterly stunning. We did get to see some of it during daylight – although the (at times) heavy rain meant visibility wasn’t great – but we ended up driving much of it at night.
One thing you really need to know about this particular route (and I still believe that other options would have been no better) is that there are regular changes in speed limit: the coastal settlements understandably try to limit the speed of cars passing through, so the speed limit changes a lot. There are often really aggressive speedbumps (or sleeping policemen, as we call them in the UK) where you need to slow down to well under the speed limit to avoid scraping your car or taking off completely (we did both of these things, unfortunately – some of the bumps were really hard to see). They are all of different heights, so there’s really no way to know how best to go over them other than slowing to a complete crawl.
Also, the latest trend in Brazilian motorist taxation is in speed cameras that catch you and don’t even flash to let you know you’ve been caught. We didn’t realise this, at the time: we'd received the advice to install Waze, but foolishly just chose to rely on offline Google Maps. Looking back, we should have installed Waze right away, as it gives great advice on speed camera locations (this is something that’s illegal in Switzerland, so it wasn’t a reflex of ours to use it). Waze needs internet connectivity, of course, but (and here’s the particularly stupid bit), we’d actually rented a wifi hotspot along with the car, so we could have used it all the way along. As it was I dread to think how many times we were caught silently by speed cameras along the 7.5 hours of driving we did from Sao Paolo to Paraty. We mostly respected the speed limits, but when you’re tired, it’s late and you’re impatient to arrive at your destination... With hindsight I now understand the various signatures Avis asked for in the rental contract, agreeing to the passing on of charges for motoring offences and the sharing of my license details with the Brazilian authorities. We’ll see exactly how bad it is in the coming weeks, I guess!
Anyway, we were delighted to finally arrive in Paraty. The place we’re staying is a little outside of the town, on the road towards Rio. We’re up from the waterfront and have an absolutely stunning view across the bay.
The first few days were a little overcast – we spent time on the first day exploring the local jungle, which was fantastic, as well as taking a look around Paraty itself.
We then went into Paraty for dinner – we ate fantastic, fresh seafood at a very simple place called Nono’s, before heading back to our apartment.
Dinner was cash-only, which basically exhausted our reserve of Reals, so we decided to stop at an ATM in Paraty on the way back. There were two options we could find on Google Maps: both were “Banco 24 Hora” ATMs in the back of supermarkets in town. They have security guards present, as theft at ATMs seems to be a big problem in Brazil, generally. I was a little shocked at the R$24 fee (about $8) to take money from the ATM, but then I guess having armed security adds to your overheads.
After our third night in the apartment, we’re finally sleeping well: the first few nights we were really bothered by mosquitoes, but we’ve now had nets installed over each of the beds. Zika doesn’t appear to be a problem in this area, at the moment, but I’m happy we’ve managed to find a solution… the mosquitoes here are aggressive and very annoying. It’s heartbreaking to see so many bites on the kids’ hands, feet and faces.
It seems that the sun is gradually coming out… we’ve decided to extend our stay here from 4 to 6 nights, so we’ll be leaving here on Saturday to stay somewhere closer to Rio for one night before flying on to Iguassu. We haven’t yet decided quite how close we’ll stay to Rio, though: we’d love to see Ipenima and Copacabana, but we’ll end up deciding based on what seems safest.
By the way… if you’ve enjoyed these photos, you can see more (and more regularly) via our Instagram page.