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South America, Pt. 3: The Two-Caipirinha Screamer

Moving on from Peru to Brazil.

  • Just a quick heads up — I started writing this weeks ago, but thanks to the hassles that came with packing to leave New York and unpacking again when we arrived back in Singapore, plus dealing with jet-lag and working, it’s been difficult to find the time to continue this post until now. Never fear, I haven’t changed anything from what I originally wrote. The details after the first lunch in Lima bit might be a little sketchy though, because I’m trying to recall things that happened about six or seven weeks ago. Instead, there will probably just be a lot of photos.

“No can do! I got an eight-thirty res at Dorsia. Great sea urchin ceviche!”

– Paul Allen, ‘American Psycho

Clearly this is the time that everyone leaves or moves to New York right now, it’s not just us going home. Just from what I have seen on my walk home from work and from looking out the living room window over the last couple of days, it appears there is a mass exodus, whether it is students that have graduated or workers whose contracts have finished. How can you tell? The sidewalk is littered with old furniture that can’t be sold, broken microwaves, old magazines bundled together with string, broken mirrors, bags of old clothes that had to be sacrificed due to lack of luggage space, the list of crap outside is endless. It’s a goldmine out there for the homeless and for the influx of people moving to the city if they feel like picking through it.

Anyway, in my last post we had just looked through some traditional Peruvian houses and climbed Machu Picchu with me injuring my wrist pretty badly. In fact, it’s still really painful and hard to use, but enough whining, on to the fun stuff:

We caught a train from Cuzco back to Lima, Peru, on June 22nd and were flying out to São Paulo, Brazil, the following night, so most of the 23rd was spent strolling around Lima.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
We had to check out of our hotel at about 11:00am, but our flight wasn’t until around 10:30pm, so we had a lot of time to kill, time we spent going back to the places we liked when we were there a few days earlier and trying to find stuff we wanted to see properly when we would return in about a week. On our stroll around Lima we also went into the countless pharmacies to try and buy a wrist brace. There are pharmacies everywhere in this town, there was one intersection where three of the four stores on the corners were pharmacies, but none of them sold wrist braces. We couldn’t ask because we can’t speak Spanish, all we could really do was gesture, but that didn’t help either. In fact, one of the women working in one of the pharmacies we went to thought I was trying to tell her that I wanted to get my hand waxed!

Anyway, one great thing about Lima is that there is a lot of cool street art around. Some of the sights we stumbled across before lunch (and an awesome kombi van from the previous night):

After all of that walking around Anna and myself both had the same thing on our minds; ceviche and one of the ceviche places that was constantly being recommended was Canta Rana, so we pulled up a seat and ordered. This place is an old joint filled with soccer memorabilia and old newspaper articles, but decor aside, the food was incredibly good. We ordered one sea urchin ceviche and one mixed seafood ceviche. I’ve mentioned previously that the portions in Peru are enormous, but rather than huge portions, they just went with generous amounts of seafood. Case in point; sea urchin. Sea Urchin generally costs a fortune, but we got a ton of it in a dish that cost the equivalent of US$15.00. This place was pretty impressive!

We would need to walk off that seafood so we went for another hike around the town. Regular readers of this blog would be aware that Anna likes to buy a ring whenever we visit a new country and Peru would be no different. I don’t know how she found it, but we came across an extremely bizarre art gallery in a back alley and to say this place was a little odd would be somewhat of an understatement. “Why?”, I hear you ask. Well, for starters they made sculptures using real human skulls. Yup, this was now the second time on this trip that he we had stumbled upon the remains of the decapitated. They also made jewellery there, so Anna was happy. Let’s take a look inside…

Okay, we got the ring, saw a zippered vagina and Marilyn Monroe hangin’ with Chairman Mao. We still had a lot of time to kill and there is a ton of cool stuff to see in this city, so let’s do a bit more walking and then maybe pull up a seat in a bar for a while.

Just looking around here is always a good option, some sights around town:

Finally it was time to start heading to the airport for our flight to São Paulo. Brazil is a place I’ve always wanted to visit so I was super-excited for this leg of the trip. Getting to the airport in Lima is a bit crazy due to the traffic, plus everyone was a little preoccupied with Peru playing in the soccer that night. Seriously, it was hard to achieve anything at all! Our taxi had to pull into a service station to fill up and the customers were all in line to pay, but nothing was happening, because everyone, staff and customers, were watching the game on a small TV at the counter.

We got to the airport fine, flew to São Paulo, found our hotel and got a good night’s sleep. We’d need it, we had a few big days ahead of us and even bigger nights as Anna would find out.

Thursday, June 23, 2016
I was excited when we got up, this was our first full day in Brazil. Sure, Brazil had been getting a fair bit of negative publicity leading up to the Olympics, but everything you heard about was in Rio. So, what’s the story behind São Paulo?

São Paulo  is a municipality located in the southeast region of Brazil. The metropolis is an alpha global city — as listed by the GaWC — and is the most populous city in Brazil, the Americas, and the Southern Hemisphere. The municipality is also Earth’s 12th largest city proper by population. The city is the capital of the homonymous state of São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous and wealthiest state. It exerts strong international influence in commerce, finance, arts and entertainment. The name of the city honors Saint Paul of Tarsus. The city’s metropolitan area of Greater São Paulo ranks as the most populous in Brazil and the 11th most populous on Earth.

São Paulo is a cosmopolitan, melting pot city, home to the largest Arab, Italian, and Japanese diasporas, with examples including ethnic neighborhoods of Mercado, Bixiga, and Liberdade respectively. São Paulo is also home to the largest Jewish population in the country and one of the largest urban Jewish populations in the world. The city, which is also colloquially known as Sampa or Terra da Garoa (Land of Drizzle), is known for its unreliable weather.

Sounds like a bit of fun and besides, I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia. I’m more than familiar with unreliable weather.

We were staying in a really cool neighbourhood, or in this case sub-prefecture, called Pinheiros, an area with tons of great restaurants and cafes, as well as heaps of markets and museums, so it was time to hit the town and one of the first things that struck me was the sheer amount of Japanese people and restaurants where we were staying. I obviously hadn’t done a whole lot of background research about the place before we went, I was just excited to be going, but this was truly surprising.

We had some lunch and Anna decided to get a haircut, as you do. She figured we had been in Brazil for a morning, why not do what the locals do and get a ‘Brazilian blowout’. I know, I thought she was just making shit up too, I never would have guessed it would have had its own Wikipedia page. Boy, is my finger not on the pulse of keratin-based hair straightening procedures. This was going to take her a couple of hours so I walked around for a bit, checked out some markets and music stores, then I stumbled across a barbershop/tattoo store like my friends own in Singapore and decided I could do with a trim myself. The second I walked in the door I had a bunch of new friends who all wanted to check out my tattoos and have a chat with me, but the only problem was they spoke very little English, only Portuguese, but they tried their best. I was wearing my Adventure Time cap and all of the guys there started laughing and getting excited to the point where one of them started to undo his belt to pull down his pants. I thought I had left all the strange men that felt the need to publicly crank it while I’m in their immediate vicinity back in New York, but this guy was fine. He just wanted to show me his tattoo of the Ice King from Adventure Time that he had on his inner thigh.

I got my ‘do done and Anna was finished with her blowout, so she messaged me to meet her in a bar near our hotel and when I got there she was drinking a caipirinha, the Brazilian national cocktail. Caipirinhas are just cachaça, a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice, some sugar and some lime. She seemed a little hyperactive, was babbling a bit, but I thought she was just happy with her new hair. She went into great detail about how the chemicals from her hair treatment made her cry and they were ripping her hair out in different directions. She even had to go into a different room to have her hair blow-dried because nobody else could handle the fumes. Her hairdresser told her that, “After this, you won’t want to come back to Brazil again.”
We had another drink each and soon it was time for dinner.

We went to Mani, a Michelin star restaurant and the food was spectacular, but Anna was now at the stage where she was acting like she had motor-neurone disease; Not too steady on her feet and slurring a lot! It didn’t matter, though, because we both loved this place. Here’s how it looked, from the bar to the restaurant and then back to apartment for Anna to crash. Unfortunately, I can’t recall exactly what we ate and the menu on the website isn’t working:

Dinner’s done, now time to go back and let someone sleep this one off.

Friday, June 24, 2016
We got up completely hangover-free and it was time to eat again. This time we’d be venturing into town to a huge, bustling food market called the Mercado Municipal. I think wikipedia knows more than I ever will, so I’ll just let them do the explaining:

The Municipal Market of São Paulo is a large public market in São Paulo, Brazil. It was designed by the architect Francisco Ramos de Azevedo and inaugurated on January 25, 1933 as a wholesale and retail post specializing in fruits, vegetables, cereals, meats, spices and other food products.

The first floor of the market is occupied by retailers, and the second floor mezzanine serves as a restaurant. The Mercadão occupies 12,600 square metres (136,000 sq ft) and has 1,500 employees working at various in the building. 450 tons of food passes through the market per day in more than 290 boxes.

We went to a stall called the Hocca Bar, a place famous for the mortadella bellissimo, a huge sandwich filled with mortadella and cheese oozing out everywhere. It would be a bit of a challenge to finish one of these things, so we shared one and still barely managed to pull it off! We started chatting with some guys on the next table, one local and the other from the south of Brazil, and ended up hanging out with them while we had lunch.

Looking around the market:

There wasn’t so much that we wanted to see around the market, plus we kind of felt like we were always on guard there, watching for pickpockets, that kind of thing, so we decided to head back to our end of town. We got into a taxi and maybe five minutes into our journey we hit a guy who was looking at his phone as he was crossing while he had a red light. We didn’t completely run him over, but we were going pretty fast. He just bounced off, plus he was kind of short so the taxi hit him in the upper thigh. The guy looked more than a little shocked when he stood up, but was more worried about his phone than his own wellbeing. When he saw that his phone was fine he smiled, gave a little wave and walked off, however, he’s going to feel it tomorrow.

We had a reasonably quiet afternoon, just walking around, checking out the shops, doing our usual thing. It was still quite early, but we were both a bit hungry and we just happened to stumble upon a place called Peixaria Bar e Venda (Fishmonger Bar and Sale). If you’ve made it this far through this post you may be noticing a bit of a trend — Yes, I’m writing about food a lot, but when you go to South America, you eat particularly well and this place was no exception. Peixaria Bar e Venda was a fish market/seafood restaurant/dive bar and I could happily eat there every meal.

We pulled up a seat and ordered some food and some drinks. I got a beer and, unfortunately for me, Anna got back on the caipirinhas, however, she was eating with them this time, so perhaps she might be able to last a bit longer tonight!

Dinner was fantastic so we then pulled up a seat in a bar, as happens most nights when we’re on holiday. We were sitting back, relaxing, just chatting, but Anna’s eyes started to close. Yup, it was 7:15pm and it wasn’t even a school night, but we were losing her. It was those caipirinha’s again. We had to get this woman to a bar with a bit more action and fast!


How hookers get the word out

One thing that we noticed was that although São Paulo didn’t always feel super safe, it never seemed as seedy as I would’ve expected. Hell, Orchard Towers and almost all of the bars in its immediate vicinity in Singapore are seedier than anything that we saw in São Paulo. Sure, there is prostitution, but it’s not as in-your-face as it is in South-East Asia. One thing we saw, however, was that a lot of women put stickers with their name, phone number, description, etc. and paste them all over the phone boxes everywhere. There are still tons of phone boxes in Brazil because, due to the extreme poverty that a lot of people live in, many people cannot afford a phone. I guess this is actually a pretty smart way for the ladies to get their name out there.

Anyhow, we managed to find a bar with a live band playing and Anna was able to last a little while longer, perhaps another caipirinha or two, but we both knew it wasn’t going to be a big night. Those things just get the better of her. Still, it was a fun night while it lasted.

Saturday, June 25, 2016
This was our last day in São Paulo before we flew out to Rio de Janeiro, so we better make it a good one. Saturday is the main day for the giant flea market just down the road from our place in Pinheiros, but first, lunch. Anna wanted eggs, but by using my early morning logic, I suggested pizza. “Pizza has cheese on it, cheese is kind of like eggs.” I’m definitely not a morning person.
One thing we had heard a lot about but had yet to try was feijoada, but what is it? To wiki again!


Our feijoada

Feijoada is a stew of beans with beef and pork, which is a typical Portuguese dish. Feijoada is also typically cooked in former colonies such as Brazil, Macau, Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Goa (India). However, the recipe can differ slightly from one country to another.

Brazilian feijoada (feijoada brasileira) is prepared with black beans, a variety of salted pork or beef products, such as pork trimmings (ears, tail, feet), bacon, smoked pork ribs, and at least two types of smoked sausage and jerked beef (loin and tongue).

As a celebratory dish, Feijoada is traditionally served on Saturday afternoons and intended to be a leisurely midday meal. It is meant to be enjoyed throughout the day and not eaten under rushed circumstances.

According to legend, the origins of Brazil’s national dish, feijoada, stem from the country’s history with slavery. Slaves would supposedly craft this hearty dish out of black beans and pork leftovers given to them from their households.

How could we not have something like that while we were in town? We ordered one and it was really good, but the only problem was that it was super-salty and damn heavy! We spent the rest of the day feeling sluggish and thirsty, but we could handle that.

Almost the entire afternoon was spent checking out flea markets, looking through old records and secondhand junk while eating weird, phallic-shaped grapes. Generally in tropical areas, you get some unique strains of fruit, but neither of us had seen these elongated tubes of purple sweetness. They are impossible to describe without a double entendre, but they were the nicest grapes I’ve ever eaten.

After dinner we stumbled across a really cool dive bar in a building that had no roof. Luckily, they didn’t serve caipirinhas, so we were able to make a proper night of it. We had a ton of cheap beers, met a heap of cool people and listened to great music all night long. Not a bad way to spend our last night in town.

São Paulo was a ton of fun, even if, for some unknown reason, caipirinhas wipe Anna out in a heartbeat. Now onto Rio de Janeiro! Stay tuned for the fourth part of this story…

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