Saturday, June 21, 2008


We all flew through the night into Sao Paulo for our first day in Brazil. There was a thick blanket of fog in the morning as we landed, which gave everything a bit of a surreal quality. Seeing it lap against the base of the mountains around the airport, I really had no idea how close to the ground we were until we broke through and landed seconds later.

As we arrived downtown, the air cleared and we made our way through the hills of the city. Someone later remarked that parts felt like San Francisco--the topography is really quite dynamic, with steep inclines everywhere and pockets of unfamiliar vegetation breaking through the pavement. The city sits at a high altitude relative to its surroundings, and many of the highrises downtown have steel broadcasting antennae on their roofs which seem to be taller than the buildings on which they rest.

For the next few days, we would wander the city. The time went by in a satisfyingly slow pace despite all that we did. We got our first taste of the concrete gymnastics that Brazilian architects have occupied themselves with since Modernism's first landing in the mid 20th century, including Lina Bo Bardi's Sao Paulo Art Museum, Paulo Mendes da Rocha's Brazilian Museum of Sculpture and the gridded open-air monstrosity (monstrous in a good way) of the local University's Architecture building. We also saw several older structures, like the Neo Gothic Catedral da Se and many other Baroque and colonial era facades nestled into the more contemporary fabric of the city. Tried a few staples for the first time as well, including suco (fresh juice) and pao de queijo (cheese bread). Our first forays into Portuguese were greeted with polite amusement. The remaining hours were spent on the roof of our hotel, which featured a pool and an amazing view of downtown.



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