Thursday, June 18, 2009

Campos do Jordão and São Paulo

To kick off our travel season, we drove down to the state of São Paulo on Thursday, June 4. Eric and two coworkers wanted to attend a big trade show in São Paulo City and they also needed to stop in Campos do Jordão to make some arrangements for an upcoming project. Eric was driving our car down and invited Gabriela and I to tag along and take in the sights.

I was slightly nervous about taking my 6-week old on her first road trip with two other people riding with us, but she did great. It was a 7 hour drive to Campos do Jordão on Thursday, 3 hours to São Paulo on Friday, and then 8 hours back home on Sunday. Gabriela was quite the happy little passenger; she only required a couple quick stops for diaper changes and never really cried at all in the car. (I took pumped milk and gave her bottles en route so everyone wouldn't have to wait on her to nurse.)

We arrived in Campos do Jordão early in the afternoon. It has the highest elevation of any city in Brasil, so winter time (our current season here in the southern hemisphere) brings some much cooler weather. It was about 50 degrees F when we arrived and dropped below freezing that night.

Eric and I became quickly aware of two things upon getting into town and checking-in to our hotel room:

1. We have really acclimatized to the mild/tropical weather of Belo Horizonte

2. We are seriously annoyed by the obsession with "fresh air" . . . especially when it's freezing cold outside and the inside lacks a proper heater. And even more so when we have our baby girl with us.

50 degrees didn't sound all that bad (I mean, we came here from Iowa for goodness sakes! I don't think it reaches 50 there until the first week of June or something) but the air certainly had a bite to it. I'm not sure if it quite warranted the scarves, gloves, stocking hats, and heavy down coats everyone there was wearing, but I'll admit that I could have used one more layer of clothes.

I thought the open windows everywhere in BH drove me nuts last year, but when I walked into my hotel room and it was even colder in there than it was outside (thanks to the windows being wide open, but no sunshine warming things a little like outside) I found myself asking por que? all over again. After quickly shutting the windows, I was excited to find that at least the room had a portable little heater in it. But my enthusiasm was snuffed out when after three hours of running the "heater" on high, the temperature in the room had only risen from roughly 45 degrees to about 50. As the temperature plummeted outside that night, our room never got warmer than 55. I dressed Gabriela in footed fleece pajamas and double swaddled her in an attempt to keep her warm. She survived, but her little nose and cheeks were cool each time I checked on her.

And the open-window phenomenon wasn't only limited to our hotel room. The doors to the hotel stayed open while the reception desk staff wore their winter coats; the doors and windows in the restaurant where we ate supper were letting in the nearly-freezing breeze while the waiters and patrons wore stocking hats and scarves. Everywhere we went people were shivering and putting on more clothes - and yet doors and windows remained wide open. I proposed a very simple solution to the two Brasilian friends traveling with us:
Shut the windows. And the doors.
They just sort of laughed and made some reference to my American-ness. Apparently I'm missing something about the benefits of open windows in sub-freezing temperatures.

But outside of wanting to ask everyone in Campos do Jordão if they were raised in a barn (since that is what you'd get asked back home if you left doors hanging open in the winter time), I enjoyed the quick trip to the town.

It didn't feel like Brasil at all to me. The architecture has a distinctly European-inspired style. And there was that whole part where I was freezing my butt off. (A bit different for my version of Brasil since I spent the previous weekend in the pool!)

Up at Pico do Itapeva, the elevation is over 5900 feet and the views are spectacular.

We left Campos do Jordão on Friday morning and headed to São Paulo. The guys went to the trade show while Gabriela and I took it easy hanging out at our hotel. Eric didn't get back until after 10 pm, so we didn't get to do any exploring of São Paulo until Saturday.

After doing some wandering around on Avenida Paulista, where we were staying, we met up with a new expat couple for lunch. I have been exchanging emails with the female half of the couple for about a year and they just got moved down to Campinas, SP recently. They are expecting a little girl in October so we had plenty to talk about!

Sunday we hit the tourist route. We did the walking tour of São Paulo as suggested in my Lonely Planet guide book. We got in a nice walk that morning before hitting the road at noon to come back home. A few pictures from our walk:

Gabriela's first subway experience. I was impressed with how safe, clean, efficient, and inexpensive the metro was in São Paulo!

The Cathedral Metropolitana at Praça da Sé was incredibly huge and pretty inside.

Beside Parque Anhangabaú with the Teatro Municipal in the background. (It was quite windy that day, so we kept Gabriela pretty much covered the entire walk which didn't bother her in the least since she napped most of the morning!)

Inside the Basilica of São Bento. (5 seconds before I spotted the sign indicating no photography allowed. Oops. At least I was courteous enough not to use my flash.) It was standing room only when we arrived as the monks were putting on a Gregorian-chant concert.

This was really the first time we had spent much time in the state of São Paulo. It was a nice trip, albeit a bit quick. There is a lot more we would like to see and do there if we get the chance. The thing that made the biggest impression on us: modern, well built, and maintained highways . . . that's one department that Minas Gerais (as much as I do love my state) could stand some improvement!

1 comment:

Rogério Penna said...

in the last weeks Ive seen at least 4 different blogs from americans complaining about the cold in southern Brazil... not because its COLD outside, but because its cold inside. Haha.

Even in Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, houses wont have proper insulation nor heating.

We have a "tropical" mentality even where the country is not tropical. Its funny, because you cross the border to Uruguay, and they have better insulation and heating there.

If you liked Campos do Jordão, wait to see Gramado, Canela, Nova Petropolis, in Rio Grande do Sul.