Sao Paulo: please forgive all the bad things I’ve ever thought about you! I take it back! You’re amazing!
And I have to admit, I did think bad things about the city. In my defense, I only saw it on my way from the airport, when I was tired after a ten hours flight, but the entire city seemed to consist of high risers, and the only colours were off white, beige and sand. I didn’t get any sense of an actualy city centre, which probably was because there isn’t one. “People always ask me where the city centre is”, said Matthew Shirts, formerly of National Geographic in Brazil, who’s lived in Sao Paulo for twenty years. “And I always tell them that there isn’t one centre, there’s many. It’s a city of twelve million people.”
Matthew used to write a column about daily life in Vila Madalena, and probably single handledly turned it into the charming bohemian quarter it is today. It’s an abslutely lovely area: the houses are small and individuals, painted yellow or pink or clear blue or covered with street art. There’s art galleries, small shows, and bars. Plenty of bars. And a coffee shop named the Coffee Lab, so you see what kind of area it is. Unlike Santos, Sao Paulo are built mostly of hills, so the steep streets remind me of San Francisco. The area reminds me of San Francisco before the tech guys. I was there for an event in a great bookshop, and afterwards we walked slowly to a restaurant a block or so away, where a jazz band was playing inside and people were having dinner or a few beer with friends. When we left them at midnight the band was still playing and people were still hanging around.
A normal Monday evening in Vila Madalena.