São Paulo, Brazil: Day 5

Rain rain go away come again some other day! I have been chanting this over and over in my head for days! Suffice it to say, sometimes things just don’t go our way and my father always says thats okay as it’s just another adventure. I say “God’s will not my will” but I love my dad’s upbeat take on life hence the name of the blog. But, as I am human, I get disappointed too sometimes – not very often – but every now and then. Between the constant rain, suspension of the Grand Prix race and closed temples, things haven’t gone my way the last few days but repeat after me the more appropriate chant, it’s just another adventure, it’s just another adventure, it’s just another adventure.

Today I was disappointed once again by the non-stop rain but also because I so wanted to visit the two temples Leonardo suggested (Templo Espirita Kardecista and Templo Espirita Umbanda) and participate in the rituals that are alleged to take place there so I could share my experience with all of you. Leonardo told me stories about how  the masters, as they are often referred to, can evoke good spirits during the rituals and I could possibly talk to someone on the other side if the master could incorporate one i.e. if one possessed him or her.  Unfortunately, they were closed yet again during the day today and the masters couldn’t see me until 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., respectively but my flight was leaving at 8:00 p.m. for Rio. I might have extended my stay again for this but honestly I was ready to leave São Paulo as it was a difficult city to maneuver in, expensive, wet and its charm, I’m told, is overshadowed by that of Rio de Janeiro’s. But, I must say, I was highly intrigued by participating in one or both of the rituals and experiencing the religious, spiritual and cultural nuisances of the area. This is especially the case since the third temple and ritual I was specifically warned against going to is said to have masters who conjure up both good spirits and evil ones and the practice includes sacrifices of animals and sometimes humans and is illegal. This warning  made the first 2 sound incredibly enlightening but in a conscionable way. I, of course, would never want to participate in or witness anything like human or animal sacrifice or risk the entry of evil spirits into my world but between the descriptions of the first two rituals, the earthquakes rocking New Zealand and Argentina on completely opposite sides of the world at the exact same time and the super moon tonight which was last seen this close to the earth 69 years ago and won’t come this close again until 2054 the experts say, today seemed like the perfect day to do some spirit seeking. I have, however, been told there will be an opportunity at a temple here in Rio this week so we shall see. Having said all that, unlike in May 2012 when a version of a super moon (not nearly this close) did appear behind the Christ Redeemer, tonight the Brazilians and I would miss such an auspicious event as the clouds and rain again had their way in as disruptive a fashion as they interfered with the Grand Prix yesterday.

I did, however, get an opportunity to visit São Paulo Catedral and Praça da Sè (the square) before catching my $87 USD flight on GOL to Rio. The walk up to the cathedral in São Paulo is lined with large palm trees that swayed slightly seemingly beckoning you to enter. The neo gothic cathedral with is its matching St. Patrick-like spires took 4 decades to build which is not astounding given its size i.e. allegedly the largest cathedral in Latin America and the 4th largest in the world seating over 8,000 people. The height of the ceilings and wall to wall stained glass is worth a visit to the inside if you are in the area. I, myself, like to step inside and kneel in prayer (especially given the many hours wasted attempting to be introduced to another form of spirituality or religion depending on who you ask) just so I could spend a few moments giving thanks for all my blessings. I do this each time I visit a church despite the fact that I know God is everywhere and hears all my prayers regardless of where I am when I say them and he’s not just in churches, temples, mosques and other infrastructure built for homage and prayer. I do it because I like to soak up the history and feel the energy of all the people who kneeled in that spot before me reaching for their own higher power.

I also learned a few new things today as well as I always do which I like to share with everyone. While Uber is in Brazil, there is also a competitor which may have even better rates and gives many promotional discounts rather than just the first ride free and it is called Cabify. I tried it today on the way to the airport and it was significantly cheaper than Uber at 29 reales rather than the 150 I paid coming in. I also learned how incredibly helpful and kind the staff are at Royal Jardins Hotel in São Paulo when I had difficulty booking my flight online as despite my advanced years the online booking site repeatedly indicated that I couldn’t fly alone as I wasn’t twelve years of age. This made me laugh. I also learned that sometimes, especially when you use Claro as your internet provider, you get spotty wifi down here so be prepared for that. Moreover, GOL appears to be not only an affordable airline that flys throughout Sude America, it has a lot of leg room even in economy, is on time for the most part and has some incredibly kind and helpful people working there.  Finally, I learned that day after day of the rain impeding my plans can cause a slight depression as my expectations about beautiful Brazil may have been too high as I expected only sunshine. Remember expectations lead to resentments so clear your mind of them and just go with the flow. We do have the capacity to change our thinking by staying in gratitude rather than sinking into the downward spiral caused by dashed hopes. Alternatively, check the season’s weather before making any plans. I thought I was coming here at the right time i.e. summer but so far I have been wrong about that. Now I’m focused on accepting things and the weather as they are because, well, it’s just another adventure.

So that’s all for now with love and gratitude from my bed in Rio and obrigada to São Paulo for hosting me this past week.

São Paulo, Brazil: Day 2

In a big metropolis the best thing to do is just start somewhere anywhere. I akin it to picking up that heavy bowling ball putting your fingers in the tiny 3 holes, walking up to your lane and just rolling. I started with the one place in São Paulo I knew for certain I would like to see on this beautiful day – Ibirapuera Parque. And the ball started rolling and in a big way.

First I walked from the hotel a couple of miles to get to the park just so I could look around and get a feel for the city. Plus I need to start getting back in shape if I’m going to do the Gringo Killer a/k/a Machu Picchu in Peru next month. At the entry of the park, I came upon an enormous statute in front of Gate 9 called the Monumento às Bandeiras meaning monument to the flags. It is massive at 50 meters long and 16 meters high and was unveiled in 1954 as part of the opening of Ibirapuera Parque. The sculpture pays tribute to the bandeirantes who shaped São Paulo’s culture. It reflects the diversity for which Brazil is so well known. It includes sculptures of Portuguese settlers, blacks, indigenous men and even women all working side by side in harmony to pull a canoe. This is said to be a common portrait of Brazilian’s ubiquitous river expeditions.

After taking in this grand monument, I continued my walk through Gate 9 of Ibirpuera and there was my first tickle of excitement about Brazil. The grandeur and beauty of this park was limitless. Lakes surrounded by lush green grass you just want to sink your toes into and every color of flower I could think of starting with yellow, then blue, pink and purple. Black and white swans dawdling about on the green grass before sliding back into the water. Children playing, teens skateboarding, twenty somethings running and adults cycling and everything in between. I, of course, was desperate to find the bike rental place myself which one of the policia indicated was at Puerto Cuatro and so I made my way there. For five Real per hour, I rented a bicycle and rode for several hours and would even have been blissfully ignorant of the afternoon bath I received from the monsoon-like rain showers if it hadn’t been for the fact I wore my glasses today. Suffice it to say I was drenched but loving it!

It wasn’t long before I met my first local – the charming Leonardo – on the beautiful bridge separating the two sides of the park. He rode along with me and told me a litany of things to see, do, eat and experience in his city and that is when the bowling ball for this leg of my trip increased speed and in one fell swoop and with one incredibly cool Brazilian at my side knocked all the pins down. Now I knew what I had to do here. For starters, Leonardo told me about some spiritual and religious customs that I must experience. He told me what restaurants and coffee houses to go to, what food and juices to try (note Brazil is well known for its juice bars), where to see panoramic views of the city, among many other things, like Samba Saturdays and weekend markets to check out. Turns out that Leonardo (who I can’t help but call Leonardo DiCaprio in my head) is also a lawyer like me and he introduced me to two other lawyers he went to law school with who live in Rio and who agreed to escort me through the ins and outs of my next big city including one – Lucas – who can hook me up with paragliding around the Christ Redeemer…yes another dream about to come true! Don’t you just love the locals!!! Meeting them is my favorite part of traveling as you may already know about me and should be key to any travelers wish list if you want to connect and engage in foreign countries and if you want to get the birds eye view and if you want to know what not to do and how to stay safe.

After our long walk and talk from the bike rental shop, Leonardo delivered me straight to the elevators leading to the Sky Bar on top of one of the coolest hotels I’ve seen throughout my travels which rightfully earned its name – Hotel Unique. The Sky Bar provides a huge outdoor terrace for drinks and a spectacular panoramic view – first of the city at sunset and then the city at night. I’ve never seen a city change so drastically right before my eyes – Ciudad Maravilhoso is its new name for me! Moreover, Sky Bar has a  rooftop pool lit up like the red light district in Amsterdam adding to the light show I was already experiencing from the city itself. Rafael, the supervisor at Sky Bar and Bruno and Gustavo his staff, were yet another wonderful addition to the evening and made sure I had everything I needed in order to enjoy this lovely place including my own special mocktail (a cocktail with no alcohol). Moreover, my friend, Tony who I met in Austin, Texas a couple of weeks ago and who was the one who invited me to my first Formula One Grand Prix Race at Interlagos here in São Paulo, joined me for a drink there before we headed out to find authentic Brazilian cuisine for dinner.

Tony and I took an Uber to a place recommended by Leonardo DiCaprio called Consulado Mineiro – and yes Uber is here in Brazil too and it was a mere $3.41 USD to our next destination. Tony and I inadvertently stumbled into Cozhina 212 instead of Consulado Mineiro which was next door and what a fortuitous mistake that was. My best friend Liz may have a run for her money when it comes to the best steak I’ve ever eaten. The Brazilian Chorizo Angus was perfectly seasoned and grilled to my liking and was simply mouthwatering. And despite how good that steak was it didn’t come close to the charm of the bartender Gorgine who was like a young Brazilian Santa Claus! He had the jolly down to a tee and generously wrote certain words down phonetically for me so I could pronounce them correctly, introduced Tony to a delightful Brazilian drink called Cynar and Tonic and was all around yet another delightful companion to share the evening with.

Obrigada Sao Paulo. I began to fall in love with you today.