Month: March 2017

Hiatus

Due to computer problems and an upcoming 2-week vacation, I am taking a hiatus from blogging. A tech has been working on my computer for 3 days trying to upgrade it, but apparently with little success. It looks as though I will be buying a new computer when I return home!

On top of all this, we are leaving tomorrow for a 2-week cruise! As a result, I will have more travels to write about when I get back!

I do hope to check in with you while I’m gone. I will have my cellphone and tablet with me and hope to be able to read my email, update my Fitbit, and chronicle our trip on Facebook. Without my laptop, though, I will have to wait to blog. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avenida Paulista on a sunny Sunday, Part 1

November 20, 2016

The day dawned bright and sunny – for the first time since we got here!

Having obtained a map at the art museum on Friday, I studied it to figure out how to get to Av. Paulista and where to get off the metro. To get to Avenida Paulista, one can take the metro green line either to MASP-Trianon (next to MASP – São Paulo Museum of Art) or, even better, to Consolação/Paulista right at the north end of the avenue. The entire avenue stretches about 2 miles and MASP is close to the middle of it.

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We got off at MASP-Trianon but then decided, instead of going into MASP right away, we’d set off toward the southern end of the avenue.

The street was full of people, and the ones you had to watch out for were those on wheels – bikers, skateboarders and roller bladders.  Most were bikes.  In fact, we’d seen a whole group of them in front of our apartment building earlier that morning, so when we saw large groups of cyclists on Av. Paulista we assumed it was some sort of race – perhaps a marathon.  However, we were told there was no race – every Sunday there are lots of people on bicycles, utilizing the bike trails, which are actually quite numerous.  What we saw earlier was probably a cyclist club.

And here it was no different – an orange-colored divided lane in the middle of the street that was just for bicyclists.  In fact, we saw some people wearing vests with neon strips on them directing bike traffic – holding back cyclists to let pedestrians cross and vice versa.  Even so, we narrowly missed colliding with people on bicycles occasionally!

The atmosphere on Av. Paulista was relaxed and festive.  There was lots of music being played so I made that one of my “themes” for the day – videorecording snippets of the various musicians and musical groups.  I also began taking pictures of tall buildings, especially unusual ones.

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A carnaval-type band passed by dressed in blue and white costumes with a variety of percussion instruments.  I took a still picture and a short video.

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We came to a man who was selling a happy face stick figure whose movements he controlled via remote control – the little guy jumped up and down, crumpled to the ground, got up again, always with a wide grin and tears.  I took a video of that too, since the man was playing recorded music to accompany his puppet’s movements. (Note the white strip in the middle of the sidewalk in the picture below – the raised sections help blind people with walking sticks feel their way down the street.)

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I had read online to watch for the series of bronze bass relief plaques illustrating various medically-related themes of life, on the side of Santa Catarina Hospital.  I’m glad I read this, or otherwise might have missed them completely.  I was looking for them! A informational plaque at one end told about the exposition, starting with:  “The work explores the phenomenon of art and medical science with human intervention in the natural cycle of life and death.” Dale started at one end and I at the other, taking pictures of each one until we met in the middle.  Below is a sampling of them. They represent medical history, humanism, and contemporary questions.

Lots of interesting wall art, too – including a wall of blue and white tiles with identical side views of a breast!

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Christmas tree ornaments painted on the side of a building
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View of a mural from the gardens of the House of the Roses

We came to a collection of food trucks.  Behind them on an adjoining street was a beautiful façade of convex glass windows surrounding a large, beautiful clock with Roman numerals and small circles showing the month, day of the week, and the phase of the moon.

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At almost the far end of the avenue was the Casa das Rosas (House of the Roses), a historical Victorian-style house so named because of its extensive rose gardens.  It was free to go in and look around and to wander the gardens.

Below: Two views of the Casa das Rosas.

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Beautiful undulating stairway in the House of the Roses

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More beautiful features of the house:

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Balcony and floor tiles:

View of the gardens from the balcony of the house:

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Interesting modern ‘art deco’ building behind the House of the Roses:

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Other historical buildings stood side by side with modern, glass skyscrapers reflecting the sun,  with modern art sculptures in front.

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We stopped for lunch somewhere along the way, at a cluster of food trucks.  It was extremely crowded and there was no place to sit except on ledges surrounding trees. We managed to find seats at the end of a long table when Dale came back with the food.  Next to us was a couple speaking English. They were British and it was actually a father and daughter.  The father had come with his daughter to Brazil, but he was going back home and she was staying for several months.

Crowded, narrow lunch spot and our food!

Next: MASP and Siqueira Campos-Trianon Park

A day wasted? But an awesome pizza!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I should have remembered: doing routine errands in Brazil is much more complicated than back home!

We had a couple of pressing priorities today: 1. Replenishing our rapidly dwindling supply of reais, and 2. fixing our phones to be able to make calls within Brazil.  Our host suggested we go to Santa Cruz mall, about a 10-minute walk from the apartment building, where we could take care of both of these things.

Santa Cruz mall was bustling with Christmas excitement, as young long-haired women dressed in mini-skirted Santa outfits handed our blue balloons to everyone who walked by.

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Balloons on the ceiling!
Some balloons ended up on the ceiling!

There was a large glittering Christmas tree festooned with shiny balls and bows and a Santa’s Village where the old man himself was taking children – both young and grown up! – onto his knee.  The man in the suit was just as I pictured Santa:  a kindly man with white whiskers and round, wire-framed glasses.

We went to the electronics store, Saraiva, to take care of our phones where we were attended by a tall young employee who bent over backwards to help us, to the point of making me suspicious of him! He took our phones and began clicking here and there and looked things up and I didn’t know what all. I worried later that somehow he stole information from us that he would use in the future…but so far (five months later), nothing has happened!

Here’s what we found out:

Using your cell phone in Brazil:

If you have Sprint as your cell phone carrier, you are in luck! You do not have to buy a SIM card or as the Brazilians call it, “chip” (pronounced “sheepee”). Before you leave the U.S., have your phone “unlocked” and check to see what plan you have. If it’s an international all inclusive plan, you can dial from your phone directly while you are abroad. Start by pressing the zero key on your phone and hold it down until the plus sign (+) comes up. You must do this or it will not work! Then dial the country code (even to dial a Brazilian number, because remember your phone is from the U.S.), city code and number. (Needless to say, we didn’t know that Sprint offered this service until my husband called them later that day.)

These chips are easy to obtain in Brazil and only cost R$16 (as of Nov. 2016) which is R$1 for the actual chip and R$15 for credits that allow you to make fee-based calls. The problem most people run into is that the vendors will ask you for your CPF number (sort of like a Social Security number in Brazil). You may have to rely on the generosity of a Brazilian friend to let you use theirs. When you get the chip, (which generally they will install for you) it will come with its own phone number. That is the phone number assigned to you as long as the chip is installed in your phone. When giving out your phone number, that’s the one you should use.  Having the chip installed in your phone, however, might cause you to lose your Internet service, as it did my husband.

Our next task was to withdraw money from an ATM or currency exchange. Our friendly Saraiva employee took us downstairs to show us where the currency exchange place was. We had no cash, and they would not exchange using a credit card, so we were obliged to return to the apartment to get some, as well as our debit cards…

Left: Church on Rua Domingos de Moraes en route to Santa Cruz mall and metro.
Right: The apartment building where we stayed in São Paulo

Withdrawing money from Brazilian ATMs:

You should use your debit card whenever possible. In Brazil, the ATMs ask for a PIN number for both debit and credit cards. Since as far as we know, we don’t even have PINs for our credit cards, we had to return to the apartment to get my debit card in order to withdraw cash, which wasted about half an hour.  There are also currency exchanges, but the rate of exchange is not favorable, usually R$1-3 per dollar under what it should be.

Because we spent practically the whole day on these errands, there wasn’t time to go downtown as I had planned. We’d have to do that on Monday, and go to Av. Paulista on Sunday, when it was closed to traffic. The weather forecast for Sunday was sunshine and warm temperatures.

That night we went to a sensational pizza place for dinner. Quintal do Braz is famous because of the variety and creativity of its pizzas. The one we ordered and shared had an egg sunny side up and asparagus, among other ingredients! It was also just a short walk from the apartment building.

The pizza was excellent and full of good things, like asparagus and an egg!
The pizza was excellent and full of good things, like asparagus and an egg!
Quintal do Braz ovens
Quintal do Braz ovens
This is sangria, I think...not very good, weak.
This is sangria, I think…not very good, weak.

Quintal do Braz is always crowded. The first night we went, there was a line of people waiting for a table. It was about 8 pm!  One way to find out if a restaurant is good is to see how crowded it is with locals. This popular pizzeria definitely passed the test!