Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rolezinho da gringa - São Paulo

Walking along the Pinheiros club (parked cars, not traffic, okay?)

 Today I am going to take you on walkabout with me. My personal "rolezinho" or little stroll through São Paulo. I love walking around in this huge city where almost no one walks if they can drive. I can drive, and I like to drive but walking is still my favorite. 

This morning it took about 45 minutes for me to cover the 2.2 kilometers/1.3 miles from my kids' school in Pinheiros to a little French bakery in Itaim.  I was in no hurry. 

The walk starts along a leafy road that has a name impossible to pronounce--it must have eight syllables. I can almost see the Tupi native folks smirking as they made it up to confuse the newcomer Portuguese. Most likely it means "road really close to the river but not so close that you can smell it." That probably was true 200 years ago, but not as much today, in the heat of summer.

---wait, croissant break--this is crumbly stuff--

Okay, so long-named street is a lovely one--filled with huge trees and and well-tended homes and buildings. It has great sidewalks which is a huge compliment coming from someone used to Chicago sidewalks. I cross gingerly at pedestrian crosswalks: Brazilian drivers are definitely unreliable on stopping for you. I feel like a deranged chicken turning my head this way and that to make sure I don't get clobbered by an out-of-nowhere motoboy.

Ah, must digress for a moment. No, not for a croissant, that's done. For walkabout, I normally dress in exercise clothes with good running shoes. But today I have a meeting of the gringa group (hence a French bakery and not a down-and-dirty padaria) so I must try to look less rough than my usual costume. So I'm in khaki shorts (agh, so gringa!) and a flowery blouse . I would look right on a cruise ship but on these streets filled with ladies in nice dresses and men in trousers and button-down shirts, I fit in not at all. 

I pass by maids walking small dogs, yakking earnestly, and I hear one exclaim "but does she pay well???" The doormen are sweeping the sidewalk and a van from a pet shop passes by on its way to pick up a fluffy to be fluffed. As I turn down the next street, the sound of running feet makes me turn. But its on the other side of the metal fence--I see two male runners running/chatting on their way around the track that is the outside barrier of Esporte Clube Pinheiros, one of the largest clubs in the city.

As I walk along, I note how many people are walking with their eyes glued to their stupidphones. I want to shake them and point--"look at this wonderful day! Look at the building with its hanging plants, that geometric walkway, the hustle and bustle, the energy of São Paulo life."  But apparently something incredibly interesting is happening elsewhere through the texting of their phones.

I have to tell you, without sounding like I've had my third cup of highly caffeinated latte, that I am in love with this city. At 8 am. In the middle of the morning commute. In the middle of a lovely neighborhood.  I am undoubtedly smiling like a lunatic as I walk down the streets and I suspect that is why more than a couple of people cross the road to the other side as I come near.

The city is cool at this time, the people bustling to work, or already at work, the bicyclists zoom by in the new bike lane, the ugly heart sculptures that were placed to commemorate the 460 year birthday of the city last week--well, no, they don't look good, but everything else does. 

Bike lane Avenida Faria Lima
 Crossing busy Avenida Faria Lima, I look down at one business man's Keds and look back at him--he has caught me being impressed by his fashion and smiles. I smile back. The buses stream down Faria Lima, two men in tank tops and shorts and flip-flops greet each other with slaps on the shoulder and a handshake--"e aí mané?" At a street corner, a vendor sits in the middle of two rows of flowers, a woman sells parking cards (zona azul) from tupperware bins. 

As I cross into treeless Itaim, the free paper vendors (Destak and Metro) hand out papers to everyone, pedestrian and driver alike. The Metro vendor says good morning, good morning, don't worry you can open the paper today, it is full of good news. Don't be afraid to look. 

Finally I turn into Le Pain Quotidien and order the biggest breakfast they offer. It's going to be a good day. I love São Paulo.

Great risk brings great reward. Le Pain Quotidien

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