Sao Paulo Sucked – Until I Ate Something

Greetings from abroad! or

Greetings! From: A Broad!

I’m currently holed up in Guarulhos Airport in beautiful Sao Paulo, Brazil on my 14 hour layover between New York and Santiago, Chile.

First of all, the layover was intentional because when I told people I was going to Brazil these were the exact 3 reactions I got.

  1. “Rio for Carnival?! I’m so jealous I wish I could come.”
  2. “You have to go to Bahia!”
  3. “Sao Paulo sucks. Don’t waste your time.”

Accordingly, we figured a good way to get to see the city without having to waste time and money was to schedule a layover so we could pop out for a few hours. Thank you TAM Airlines for the otherwise completely inconvenient 14 hour layover which suited our needs perfectly.

Of course, nothing goes that smoothly, so when we got to the gate the attendant made us check our luggage (NOT BECAUSE I OVERPACKED THANK YOU VERY MUCH) even though we ended up seeing several people with similarly sized bags on the plane. I call discrimination against Americans. The stewardesses also told us in broken Spanish that we weren’t allowed to leave the airport during our layover. FUCK MY LIFE. This was followed by, “or maybe you can leave but you might have to pay $40 to leave and come back.” …or maybe she just hated us or had no idea what she was talking about since we had to do no such thing.

We caught a cheap bus into the city, and then in our dazed confusion of non sleep for the past week (no seriously I haven’t gotten more than 3 hours of sleep a week and am also a brat who can’t sleep in coach) we walked up and down the stairs for the metro literally 3 times trying to figure out where we wanted to go and how to buy/use a ticket for the metro. (Spoiler: you give the attendant 3 reals and they give you a ticket)

The original plan, after I had caught an episode of “The Layover: Sao Paulo” was to check out a street art district (whose name I copied down wrong) and then go to lunch at a restaurant that Bourdain had eaten at that served traditional northern Brazilian cuisine. However, since there was no free wireless at the airport we had no idea where the neighborhoods were or where the restaurant was.  Plan B was take the metro to the stop that had the most connecting trains and assume that its a bustling city center. Fortunately at least that worked out and as soon as we got out of the train we were greeted by the gorgeous Cathedral de Sé.

Cathedral de Se

After that we opted to walk around the area of Sé which has a lot of small shops, and cafes where Mark and Aracely stopped in for a ridiculously fresh mango smoothie and the worlds tiniest cup of cafe con leche. We also quickly learned that while some people do speak broken Spanish, English is absolutely fucking useless. Charades, hand gestures (except Mark’s use of the “A-OK” signal) and maps with pens turned out to be our best forms of communication.

Post coffee when Aracely still had her head down on the table, we realized that none of us were in any kind of shape for tourism.  Plus my gigantic carry on that was the approximate size and weight of one of those babies on Maury whose mothers let them eat whatever they want, was quickly getting to be a giant pain in the ass.  We agreed the best plan was to just head to the restaurant, which I had gotten just enough stolen internet to pull up the address on my phone, and then go back to the airport to take a nap or do our nails or whatever.

Obviously, easier said than done. As we had no idea where we were heading, we ended up going through a quarter mile street (or avenida or whatever) of car part shops followed by what I can only describe as Chinatown on crack. We walked for 20 minutes through never ending streets of relentless merchants selling everything from massage balls (which they were not shy about rubbing on Mark as he walked down the street) to nose hair trimmers (unfortunately he didn’t get a free sample of this one) to sneakers, clothes and lingerie while they followed you down the street literally yelling in your ear in Portuguese. I mean come on, my curveless Asian body is not going to fill your Brazilian butt lift and plastic surgery capital of the world bras and panties. It’d be like putting Barbie’s swimsuit and a paper doll.

Somehow, we eventually made our way back to the train station, at which point I could barely stand up let alone carry my purse.  Basically I was sweaty, exhausted, worn down and hated Sao Paulo.  And after inadvertently walking into a pay by the hour hotel, which I’m sure looked completely innocuous with an American dude walking in with a silent South American and Asian, I gave up and let Mark and Aracely  ask one of the dozens of cops how we could get to Vila Medeiros.

Cop Set A: laughed in their faces when they asked if they spoke English.
Cop Set B: broke out their GPS and then told us to take the metro
Military Police Set A: spent 20 minutes trying to communicate with us in Spanportugueselish as to where the restaurant was ultimately walking us out of the metro, across the park and to the bus stop to show us how to get to the restaurant.

Yes. We are in fact that much of stupid fat Americans that we spent a legit hour asking cops and military police how to get to a restaurant and practically got our hands held walking to the bus stop.

Vila Medeiros

An hour bus ride up a mountain with spectacular views of Sao Paulo later, we arrived at Mocoto. By the time we got there, I had already passed out a bit, and was feeling much calmer than my “I’m going to sit here on the ground with my heavy ass fucking bag with the homeless people in the park while you guys search out how to get to the restaurant” attitude. The town where the restaurant was located was serene and had gorgeous view of the city, the sun was shining, the weather was warm, and bless our lives the host of the restaurant spoke English and the staff spoke Spanish.

Mandacaru: cachace, lime juice and Cointreau rimmed with salt

A round of amazing drinks (caipirinha, caipirissima and salty, limey cachaca martini) later I was feeling much better. By the time we were seated and had ordered three bowls of soup, chicharon, heart of palm salad and Carne de Sol Assada later I was no longer a miserable bitch and had 180’d my attitude towards Sao Paulo.  You can’t talk to some people before they have their coffee.  For me, I guess I’m not a human until I’ve eaten a ton of pork and had at least 2 cocktails.  Regardless, it’s amazing what some awesome food can do for my shitty attitude.

(clockwise from top) Feijao de Corda: cowpea prepared with sausage, bacon, jerked beef and ghee. Sarapatel: pork offal soup. Mocofava: bone marrow soup with favada. Chicharon!
Hearts of Palm Salad
Carne de Sol Assada: homemade salt cured beef served with ghee, toasted garlic, sweet pepper and manoic chips.  Hands down the best dish of the meal.  The garlic was roasted so soft that you scooped it out of the clove and spread it on the beef like a rich garlic butter and then topped it with the pickled pepper.  Heaven on earth.
Carne de Sol Assada: homemade salt cured beef served with ghee, toasted garlic, sweet pepper and manoic chips. Hands down the best dish of the meal. The garlic was roasted so soft that you scooped it out of the clove and spread it on the beef like a rich garlic butter and then topped it with the pickled pepper. Heaven on earth.


Caju Amigo: cachaca, cashew compote and fresh cashew juice

Two hours later, stuffed and tipsy the restaurant called a cab for us back to the airport, during which I promptly passed out and then spent the next few hours waiting for our flight.

Next stop – Santiago, Chile!

Sao Paulo, Guarulhos Airport

7 thoughts on “Sao Paulo Sucked – Until I Ate Something

  1. A) you are an amazing writer and I thoroughly look forward to keeping up with your trip via blog!
    B) painting your nails is the best way to spend a layover, aka DC on the way to Paris!
    C) who CAN sleep in coach? Weirdos, I guess.
    D) cocktails and pork solve all problems in Latin America.

    I love you and I’m going to miss being your travel buddy! Keep solving all problems via police and broken language/A-OK hand gestures. Xoxo

    1. Love you Keri! Wish you were still traveling with me, we’d really wreak some worldwide havoc, but of course the invitation is open as always. And nailpolish is clearly an entertainment necessity.

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