There was a time when C and I were living in Mexico City that we felt the need to flee. Run away from the noise, hide from the crowds and shun the traffic – just for a few days, just to get our breath back.
Every couple of months, we would pack our bags, throw them into the boot of the car and head out of town for the weekend. We would explore quaint colonial towns such as Guanajato, San Miguell de Allende or Malinalco where we could walk undisturbed on the cobblestoned streets, and enjoy good tequila while watching the world go by. Or we would go riding for the weekend at a wonderful ranch we discovered outside of the city.. These little getaways were essential, and allowed us enough breathing room to really enjoy living in such a colossal city.
However, here in Brasilia we do not have the same big city stress that we experienced in Mexico. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Life in Brasilia is simple. It is peaceful. It is quiet.
All the aspects we desperately needed in Mexico to keep our sanity are what we need to escape from today. To leave our little Brasilia bubble. Now, we long for the buzz and life of a city, the noise, the excitement, the people!
Actually I should correct this – WE don’t need it, I need it. I need these breaks. With C’s work, he is constantly hopping from one Latin American city to another, constantly stimulated, constantly on the go, so when he is back in Brasilia he enjoys the tranquillity. I on the other hand crave for a little bit of energy every now and again.
Hence when an opportunity arose for me to go visit my friend and her lovely boyfriend in São Paulo for the weekend while C was travelling, I grabbed it!!
São Paulo…..what a city! There is such a vibe and energy that just pulsates throughout its streets. Everywhere I looked I saw life, I saw people, I saw art, I saw individual forms of expression – not always pretty mind you, but it was there!
What I love about staying with friends or family when you are visiting a place, is that you not only get a glimpse into their lives, but you also get to see the city through their eyes. You become part of their day-to-day, even something as mundane as going to the supermarket is exciting! Admittedly – going to the supermarket in São Paulo was quite sobering for this budding ameture cook, as I saw lots of products that I could only dream about getting in Brasilia! I was walking around Casa Santa Luzia an upscale grocers, looking with wide eyed amazement and envy at their isles; horseradish, creme fraiche, fresh dill and real Gruyere cheese are just some of the gems that caught my attention!
Naturally it is not only the mundane that I find exciting when visiting friends – but the opportunity to see things that a normal tourist might not be able to. So when Maggie asked if I would like to go to the stables on Saturday morning and hang around while she had her riding lesson – I jumped at it. I love horses and I used to be a very keen rider when I was young, so being around the stables and the horses was bliss. As luck would have it, Hipica Paulista, the riding club was having a competition. So after her lesson, we spent the best part of the afternoon watching some pretty incredible jumping…it really made me itchy to get back into the saddle!
Although horse riding may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of São Paulo – but food certainly is. With two restaurants featured in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, São Paulo is increasingly recognised in Latin America for its culinary expertise. Although we did not set out to go to any restaurants in particular, I ate very well! My first morning in SP was spent at a lovely little cafe that not only served a wonderful cappuccino but some pretty darn good eggs benedict – a luxury I have yet to find in the capital.
Another pleasant surprise came on Sunday afternoon. After a long leisurely stroll in Park Ibirapuera, Maggie and I made our way to Vila Madalena – an incredibly chic little neighbourhood teaming with cafes, restaurants and bars. It was late in the afternoon and we were looking for a nice spot where we could have a bite to eat, when we came across Restaurant O.
What initially attracted us to the restaurant, is that we saw a table for two by a large open window in the sun, it was only once we walked inside, that we saw how light and airy the interior was. Almost Scandinavian in it’s design with wooden tables and distressed white wooden panelling – there was something immediately inviting about the place.
The waiters were attentive and polite – making us feel welcomed. This was the perfect place to order a large glass of wine, sit back and enjoy the atmosphere and chat!
For starters we shared fresh grilled sardines that was recommended to us by our waiter. This is something I don’t think I would have chosen myself – but I am glad we listened to him, because it was delicious.
As you can see – I was a big fan :)
For my main I ordered the grilled trout – again, a dish I don’t normally choose, but as good seafood is relatively hard to come by in Brasilia, I thought I would give it a go. It was cooked perfectly and with the side of mushy minty peas – giving it a bit of a British twist, it was the perfect meal to end my weekend in São Paulo.
With no real city centre and a city comprising of almost 20 million people, I understand that São Paulo may not be high on your list of must-see cities in Brazil, but there is something about this place that excites me – and for that São Paulo will be my city refuge for when I need a break from the suburbs of Brasilia.
Note: Restaurant O was so new, that I am unable to find any information about it whatsoever on the web – however I have included the address below:
321 Rua Harmonia, Villa Madalena.