I had the best time in São Paulo over the weekend. Last Thursday, I took the midnight bus from Rio and arrived early Friday morning. I could tell right away that I was going to like it. The pace and energy of the place reminded me of New York. Unlike Cariocas, Paulistas move quickly — like they have somewhere to be and something to get done. The trains come frequently, people exit and enter efficiently, and you don't use the left side of the escalator unless you are passing someone who is standing on the right.
I took the subway from the bus station to Vila Madalena. Vila Madalena is a bohemian-hipster neighborhood that reminded me a lot of the Mission or Potrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco. It's mostly residential, but there are pockets of trendy bars, restaurants, and cafes; vegan food trucks and farmers markets; and design shops and art galleries. The most famous attraction is Beco do Batman (Batman's Alley) — an alley that's painted with murals and street art. I spent the morning walking up and down the many hills of the neighborhood.
After an hour or two of exploring, I stopped for a coffee at what's supposed to be one of the best coffee shops in the world. It's called Coffee Lab. All of the coffees they serve are Brazilian and are grown in small batches called micro lots. They work directly with the producers to source the best beans from each crop and then they create their own blends in house. The kitchen (where you place your order) really does look like a laboratory. That day, each micro lot was from the state of Espirito Santo, which is the state just north of Rio de Janeiro. The coffee I tried was perfect.
After coffee, I went to Centro — the center of the city and the oldest part of Sâo Paulo. I only had two things I wanted to do: see a view of sprawling skyline and eat a famously-good mortadela sandwich from the Mercado Municipal. I did both. Plus, I got to walk around the narrow streets of the "old downtown" and take in the hustle and bustle of the city.
The rest of my weekend was spent hanging out with friends of friends. Luckily everything came together and I was connected with some amazing people who are really plugged in. They took me to the the best parties and the cool neighborhoods, restaurants and bars. I literally stayed out the entire weekend, only returning to my hostel on Sunday to collect my bag before catching the midnight bus back to Rio.
It was an intense weekend and I'm still recovering. But it was just the hit of fast city life I was craving.