One reason I come to Brazil for long periods is because I know that there will be times I will be confined at home because of the incessant rain. This weekend in São Paulo is one of them; I have hardly been able to go out.
São Paulo doesn’t lie in the tropics (Guarulhos airport is dead on the Tropic of Capricorn) but it might as well for the monsoon that occasionally comes down. The city is more expensive than I remember, but despite its richesse the raingutters still overflow when it pisses it down. Remember to bring flip-flops (Hawaianas in Brazil) here; that’s why they wear them: when it rains, you don’t have socks to get wet. Because the state of my sneakers (tênis in Brazil) after failing to clear one of the stormy rivulets that ran down Rua Augusta was pathetic. Thankfully the rain keeps it all cool, only around 20C.
But I love São Paulo. This is a 24/7 living city with the best restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs in Brazil, if not in South America. Wi-fi is free even in the smallest of cafes. Shopping is out of this world. The treasures of the MASP museum is on a par with any in Europe or the US. Modernist architecture rules. Plus, this is a city of superlatives: the largest park in Iberapuera, the biggest bookshop inside the Conjunto Nacional and, of course, the longest traffic jams anywhere in the world. Traffic is so bad here, the rich have taken to helicopters to move about, and every new skyscraper comes with its own helipad.
My pet hate in Brazil is the lack of decent coffee. For a coffee-producing country like Brazil you can’t even find a decent cappuccino in Starbucks. (They, ahem, do not offer any). If you are lucky to get one, as in the Viena string of cafes, it will come with either whipped cream as tall as a 99p ice-cream cone, or with enough cocoa to make you believe you have ordered a hot chocolate. A white coffee is also pre-prepared with hot milk in it and, inevitable, sugar already in it. You can only hope for a cafezinho, a small espresso with as much sugar in it as it has coffee. Brazilians have a sweet tooth. A very sweet tooth.
I do have to recommend my favourite eaterie. It’s an all-you-can-eat churrascaria called Bovinus. I’ve been coming to São Paulo since 1993 and every time it gets better. Although it has now expanded into many branches, I still go to the original at Alamada Santos 2393 with its two large tables of salads and cooked meals, a churrasco in the corner and a mega-table of sweets.
In a city that has kept mutating, this is one of my few fixed points.
John Malathronas’s second edition of Brazil: Life, Blood, Soul is now available on Kindle.