To Friends/ Family Members and the friends/family members of traveling companions,
Our first hours in Sao Paulo were eye opening to say the least. As our bus bounced around on an interstate, that was 4 lanes wide, it was past by just inches on either side by motorcycles whizzing past. As for turning signals and traffic lanes in Brazil they seem to be about as real as Bigfoot and the Lochness monster (i.e. very few believe and abide by them). Surprisingly though it was not what really caught my eye as we traveled through the city, It was the skyline of a city that was 3 times the size of New York and home to over 19 million people. Of the 19 million people there are countless artists making their mark on the city... literally. There isn't a single building without some kind of graffiti on it, except for government buildings.
Our first stop was the sight of the first high rise building in Sao Paulo. The Predio Martinelli building was built 1924 and was originally 12 stories tall, but Mr. Martinelli want to go bigger and eventually expanded until the building was 24 stories tall. At this point the Sao Paulo government would not allow him to go any higher. In a demonstration of the building's safety and a bit of an "I will do what I want" attitude Martinelli built a penthouse above the capped building and made sure that it reached the equivalent of a 30 story building.
During a our tour of the building we were able to see quite the view of the city, and hear some of the history of the building after Martinelli had passed. In the 1960s it became a home for the homeless, prostitutes, and drug users/dealers. As the decade neared a close the mayor of Sao Paulo used military force to clear the building and once cleared the clean-up and remodel could begin. The clean up required a lot of work to remove all the dirt, pieces of wall left over after the building had been looted, drug paraphanelia and not to mention the dead bodies. As it was removed from the building the "trash" that was pile towered over 9 stories tall in a 24 story building (something could have been lost in translation).
The entire history of the building isn't quiet so grim. Since seizing back control of the building Sao Paulo has turned the building into a tourist destination and refurnished all the marble, chandeliers, and everything else that was stolen by looters. Now Heineken rents out the penthouse and throws a huge party every year. After finishing our tour we got on the bus and headed to the next destination.....
Our second stop was an open market in the heart of Sao Paulo, it was filled with salted fish, spices. meats, and kiosk after kiosk of food. Starting from the top my first stop was the second shop inside the door where I got lunch, Lunch consisted of a Brazilian dish called, bacalhau. Bacalhau was described a salted fish stuffed inside a fried bread, and let's just say that it was not a disappointment. The one that I had resembled a giant crab rangoon with it savory puffed bread shell, and then was filled with flaky fish. Other foods I was able to sample today ranged from guava juice to espresso, but probably the most interesting items I was able to taste were the fresh fruits that Brazil had to offer. Many of the names I either missed or I would be unable to spell them even if I did remember so instead I will describe their appearance and taste.
The first fruit resembled an artichoke is size and color but had tighter petals to almost the point it looked more similar to GIANT green blackberry. Don't let the green color fool you this fruit tasted similar to honey. Eating its slimy yet gritty texture the only thing going through my mind was, "I bet this is giving me cavities right now."
Another fruit that wasn't terrible was a fruit that was the hybrid between an apple and a mango both in appearance and taste. It had the texture and sweetness of an apple, but with the added twang of a mango.
The third fruit that was chopped up for us to try was actually the fruit of a brazil nut. Everyone seems to think Brazil nuts are delicious so you would expect the fruit to be delicious as well correct? Well then you would be mistaken. Just the initial feel of the sliced fruit reminded me of a dressed wild turkey, where it is firm over the muscles but still a large number of tiny bumps similar is size to buckshot BBs. Now the flavor of this particular fruit was something else. As soon as it touched your tongue it dried out your mouth and the fruit suddenly feels fuzzy. I would have to say this is a hangover fruit, not in that it cures a hangover, but instead gives all the sensations of a hangover for a relatively brief moment.
The last fruit was most likely the inspiration for or actually the first maraca. It is about the same general size and shape of a lemon, maybe slightly larger, has a stiff outer edge, and a large stem that sticks out like a handle. While the inside is very hard, the inside of the fruit has the relative consistency somewhere between a pomegranate and tapioca pudding. The frogegg-like fruit surrounds the seeds, of which, are meant to be consumed with the rest of the fruit. But its not my favorite due to the huge texture change from slimy fruit to crunchy seeds or the fact that I still had the taste of the Brazil fruit in my mouth.
Outside the fruit many other foods were tried, probably the most surprising was Brazilian bologna. Surprisingly enough Brazilians love bologna and I won't name any names of my fellow travelers, but a few traveled over 5,430 miles to eat a fried bologna sandwich. Bologna was just one of many different meats and cheeses just hanging out on unrefrigerated shelves, and no one seemed to care. So far this was my favorite stop, but we needed to leave in to go to our next stop, this time we were able to enjoy a nice hike through the city.
Our hike took us to monument in front of the first church of Brazil and the starting point of Sao Paulo. The point was chosen because it is the highest point in the area so everyone would be able to look up to the church also it was easier to defend from the native people. This meant it was quite the incline for our hike to get there. Once inside of the first church, which is now a museum, we were not allowed to take any pictures. The church museum was filled with interesting oil painting most of which was the painting called 40 martyrs. Collectively every member of the group counted the all the faces and the highest number found was 39 we never actually found all of them. Additionally there was a beautiful garden outside filled with "exotic" plants included coffee trees. Dr. Skaar was quickly disappointed when he approached and read the sign that prohibited picking the bean/fruit.
Once we concluded the tour of the first church we then took a short walk over to a large Cathedral with a 6 pointed star in front that served as ground zero*. The inside of the Cathedral was massive and made me feel small and insignificant from the shear size and volume of the hall. There was also an organ that had pipes that wrapped all the way around the front altar. Please see the ppt. below for full pictures.
*ground zero for elevation
Best regards from Brazil,