One of the most popular posts from my previous blog is a list of good things about living in Brazil. I set myself the challenge of ten which didn’t take as long as I thought it might and here it is, in the order it emerged from my subconscience. Looking back, I think if I were to redo the list now it would be almost the same.
I’m not a big fruit eater but whenever I’m asked what I like about Brazil, fruit is always my immediate response. Brazil is heaven for fruit lovers with nearly all the fruit we get in the UK plus a vast array of what we consider exotic fruits at a fraction of the price. Mangoes are particularly good in both value and taste and bananas come in several varieties: ouro, prata, nanica etc. Oranges are so cheap they’re priced by the dozen and a large sack can be bought for less than £3.
These are street markets of the kind we used to have in the UK but have now been firmly replaced by supermarkets. Every area of Sao Paulo has a street market at least once a week and one wouldn’t have to travel very far to visit a street market every day. Each of the markets sells all the fruit and veg one can dream of plus meat, fish, chicken, eggs, spices, shoes, hardware and most importantly a fried snack called pastel and caldo de cana, sugar cane juice. These last two are reason alone to visit a feira.
Perhaps what runs through the mind of the person at the other end of the phone in UK as their voice lifts when I tell them I’m living in Brazil is the thought of sunshine and granted Sao Paulo certainly gets its fair share of that. There’s about a week in July (still to arrive) when it gets a bit chilly which can be uncomfortable given that the houses have no form of heating except hot water bottles if you’ve brought one. And the summer arguably gets a bit too hot but if you like thunder storms you’re likely to get a great one everyday at about 4pm. For me the best weather in Brazil is during the winter. It’s dry and the temperatures resemble that of a British summer. Nice.
Imagine a cafe, albeit without fried breakfast and cups of tea, serving alcohol and you’ve got the basic principle of the boteco. They’re the closest Brazil gets to a wetherspoons and though the beer is much worse and the snacks considerably
more Brazilian they’re still great if you need a quick snack or a cheapish Brazilian lager. I’ll skip the toilets.
Every nation has it’s fancy drink. Cuba the mohito, Mexico the Margarita, Britain the gin and tonic (and Pimms), Germany schnapps, Japan saki, Korea soju and Laos lao-lao. In Brazil the homemade spirit is cachaça, otherwise known as pinga a litre of the cheap stuff can be picked up in a supermarket for about two quid. Like most spirits, with the notable exception of a good single malt, it tastes a bit ropey by itself to the unaccustomed palate but add shed loads of sugar and some lime and you have a caipirinha – nice.
Everyone loves a decent bakery, no more than the Brazilians who love to buy fresh bread daily along with a variety of baked and confectionary goods. Because of this padarias seem to be outnumbered only by chemists and perhaps botecos consequently fresh bread is easy to get hold of and most padarias also double as cafes so a slice of pizza and a bottle of cheapish fizzy lager is always an option.
It almost goes without saying that even the worst beach in Brazil is almost as good as the best beach in England (arguably Bournemouth). If you can ignore the fact of how filthy they get at popular times such as new year and carnaval Brazilian beaches are without doubt excellent. Apart from the sun, sea and sand, there is a kiosk at approximately every 100 metres selling resfreshments, snacks, caipirinhas and cheapish fizzy lager.
8. Mata atlantica
As it turns out the amazon rainforest isn`t in Sao Paulo, I`ve selected the mata atlantica which, although looks pretty big from the bus is only a fraction of the forest which used to exist before the Europeans arrived. Efforts are being made to reforest part of the deforested area and there is still a small reserve on the edge of the city which makes a great change from the concrete.
Here’s a novel idea that I’m surprised hasn’t caught on in the UK. Imagine a pasta restaurant where you choose the pasta, the selection of ingredients, the sauce and watch it being cooked in front of you. OK so it’s a bit like the mongolian barbeque with pasta but it’s a relatively simple idea and a very easy way for a vegetarian to get fed in a country that thinks ham is a vegetable.
10. atmosphere at football games
Pacaembu, where you’re always guaranteed a great atmosphere even if the football’s a bit rubbish
Finally, it would seem odd to have a top ten list in Brazil with no mention of football but football only just sneaks in because the truth is that the standard of football is not as good as the standard of football in Europe in so small part because all the best Brazilian footballers play in Europe. However, one of the good things about Brazilian football is that, no matter how bad the football gets, the atmosphere is almost always guaranteed to be good even at the most uninspiring of fixtures partly due to the inevitable presence of a samba band keeping the atmosphere ticking along nicely.
11. Street Art
I thought of an eleventh. Sao Paulo has some of the most incredible street art in the world which really helps to break up the concrete monotony. Sadly there is an enormous amount of tagging which makes many areas look really rubbish but there are also some great works of art and also many murals copying contemporary Brazilian artists such as Romero Britto who is a particular favourite at the moment.