Class of Brazil - 5th Lesson: I Call Them Like I See Them

The change of cities - a couple of days ago I came from Rio to São Paulo - gave me a new perspective on things. I was thinking a lot: about travelling, about blogging...about travel-blogging. Why do I travel? Why am I blogging? What is my intention? What is your expectation? Are they always compatible? Do they have to be?

Streetart Brazil Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A son of Brazil - a mural dedicated to Brazil and its youth.

São Paulo

So after two weeks at Marcie's language boot camp in Rio, last Saturday I finally hit the road to get to know more of Brazil. As you know from Lesson #3, I've actually been to other places on my first weekend and regarding Belo Horizonte it was a huge disappointment; fair enough, Brumadinho and most of all the artsy botanic garden Inhotim had made up for it big time.

After that experience, I was a bit sceptical if São Paulo will not disappoint me, too. I knew that it's ironically being called Germany's largest industrial city since approximately 1000 (!) German companies are operating and producing in São Paulo - Volkswagen being probably the largest and most famous. Therefore I didn't expect to much glamour. Man, was I wrong. Whereby, São Paulo is not exactly glamorous, it isn't even particularly pretty. But it's cool; so cool!

Airview Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Bird's view of São Paulo - the city consists mostly of skyscrapers.

I'm staying at a great place in a great neighborhood: It's a hotel, but it's not rooms, but apartments. Small yet homey flats with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and of course a bedroom. Fully equipped and furnished - ready to move in and feel like a São Paulian from day one. On the roof there is a small pool and a gym and a sauna - very convenient, yet at a reasonable price (don't worry, you'll get all the info middle of March in the roundup of my Brazil trip - and this hotel will be included, too).

The neighborhood is a hip place with lots of bars and restaurants and shops and a crazy crowd parading up and down the street. Many gay couples. More gays than hets, actually.

Rua Augusta Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
At Rua Augusta even C&A becomes C&GAY...

My place is about six blocs from the Avenida Paulista, São Paulo's arterial road. Avenida Paulista is a bit like Manhattan's 5th Avenue, only not so richie rich, but the people are much more laid back, so they make up of the shortcoming of glitz - since many of them are very glittering themselves.

Rua Paulista Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
The Paulista is getting ready for the great Sunday brouhaha.

On Sundays, a big part of the Paulista - you see, by now I'm one of them, so I skip the Avenida and call it only Paulista; how cool am I?!? - is closed for traffic so that all the street hawkers can put up their little stands and sell all sort of original jewelry and accessories and nick nacks. And there are bands playing, mostly rock bands, at every corner. So halfway between corners there is a wild cacophony of smashing drums and weeping guitars and the crowds are cheering. At some spots people get together in flash mobs - hilarious. At the next corner, there is suddenly a checkered dancefloor on the road and traditional Rock'n'Roll is blearing from the speakers while couples just boogie away like coming straight from the 60s. It's a zoo - and it's great. Pure joy and fun and music and dance and peace and love. Far better than the hysterical carnaval.

São Paulo versus Rio de Janeiro

It's amazing how different these two cities are. I like them both in their own way. I think they are both not to be missed, whereby Rio has far more important tourist sights - the Cristo, the Sugar Loaf, the a matter of fact São Paulo doesn't have any of these.

Cristo Redentor - Christ the Redeemer - Rio De Janeiro: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Brazil's great ambassador.

And still it's a good place to visit if you want to have a glance at a different kind of Brazilian life.

Via Madalena Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A side alley at Vila Madalena, one of São Paulo's most bohemian and artistic neighborhoods.

At first sight, it might deem less 'Brazilian'. But what is 'Brazilian'? Dirt, poverty, violence, deliquency? Yes, Rio has far more of that, it deems more South American. São Paulo has parts that remind me very much of San Francisco - it's very hilly; and it's very hip and trendy.

Havaianas Store Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
In São Paulo even the Havaianas-stores are more exclusive,....

Havaianas Store Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels can even relax in a giant flip flop and enjoy the screening of a serene beach scene.

The old center is rather like other South American cities such as Lima or Medellín. Since it's in Brazil, it is Brazilian, I guess. Not stereotype Brazilian, but Brazilian just the same.

HIstoric Centre Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
São Paulo - that's where giants become gnomes: The building in the very middle used to be the city's highest skyscraper; look where it go him.

I personally like getting a glance on every day life when I travel and that's what I got. If you need 'typical', then São Paulo might not be for you - little Brazilian cliché here.

São Paulo's Art Scene

But São Paulo is not only a hip and very energetic place, it is also artsy, hence just right for me. Only that I had far too little time to get to see all of their great art museums plus all the murals - many of them by superstar Eduardo Kobra.

Eduardo Kobra: Altamira Belo Monte Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A very political mural by Eduardo Kobra - raising awareness for indigenous people being threatened by a factory being built in  the city of Altamira in Belo Monte.

His work is spread all over town so I did a lot of walking - and still didn't get to see all of them. Anyway, there is still so much left to come back for: The Pinacoteca, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, the Prefeitura de São Paulo with a botanic garden with over 400 species and an artificial lake on the roof top and much more. I'll be back, that's for sure.

Parque Tiradentes - Carlito Carvalhosa: Malacara Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
When I first saw this sculpture by local artist Carlito Carvalhosa, I thought it looks like a grumpy person. Then I read the title: "Malacara" which means long face; Carlito also tells it like he sees them.
It can be found in the wonderful sculpture garden surrounding the Pinacoteca at Parque Tiradentes. Since my guide book quoted a wrong schedule, I wasn't able to visit inside, but had enough time to enjoy all the impressive sculptures.

When in São Paulo do like the São Paulians do: I spent Sunday at Parque do Ibirapuera where everybody moves - from strolling to running, young to old - single to large family.

Parque Ibirapuera Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Of course the park is lush - it's Brazil, after all.

And what did I do? I walked - from sculpture to mural, from gallery to museum!

Eduardo Kobra at Parque Ibirapuera Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
I wonder whom Eduardo Kobra depicted here as his help. However, whenever he's in need of an elderly woman proceeding his art work, I'd volunteer in a blink of an eye!

Eduardo Kobra at Parque Ibirapuera Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
When you are such a recognized star like Eduardo Kobra, you even get away with painting public bathrooms - this is the ladies' room, the picture above is the gents.

Besides a planetarium, a Japanese garden house, one of Kobra's best murals, there are actually three of the best museums of São Paulo located on these 2 square kilometers / approx. 0.8 square miles: There is the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, housed in a building by Brazilian star architect Oscar Niemeyer, who i. a. designed the country's capital city Brasilia - and many, many buildings and complexes all around the country. The facade is painted by urban artists OSGEMEOS (actually Gustavo and Otávio Pandolfo, born 1974 in São Paulo) who regular and attentive readers of my blog already know from my post on Milan where they painted one wall of the Hangar Biccoca.

OSGEMEOS at Parque Ibirapuera Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Obviously the other street art stars' style differs a lot from Kobra's: OSGEMEOS (= the twins) are much more lyric, tender and ingenious. The MAM commissioned their mural in 2010.

There is also the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo where also the São Paulo Bienal takes place, so that it's stuffed with the leftovers from past exhibitions - art aficionado's paradise!

Museu de Arte Contemporanea Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
A very modern interpretation of martyr Saint Sebastian:
Sérgio Ferro: "São Sebastião"

The venue that exceeded my expectations was the Museu Afro Brasil housing an exquisite and very complete permanent exhibition on painting and sculptures by Afro-Brazilian artists. I awed and photographed until my camera's battery died!

M.C.M. (María Cãndido Monteiiro) at Museu Afro Brasil Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
There is a wide range of M.C.M.'s (short for María Cãndido Monteiiro) sculptured Brazilian scenarios on display like "Processão"...

M.C.M. (María Cãndido Monteiiro) at Museu Afro Brasil Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
...and "Banda"

Sidney Amaral at Museu Afro Brasil Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
To honor Sidney Amaral, who sadly passed away in 2017, the museum has a special exhibition of his best works on display.

Here I'd like to throw in that although Brazil, too, was built by Africans stolen by Portuguese from their homeland, first 'broken' on the islands of Cape Verde (actually, Cape Verde was populated on the occasion of slave trade!) and then forwarded to South America to do slave labor, I've never been to a less racist country than Brazil.

Museu Afro Brasil Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Obviously the Brazilian society hasn't always been prone
to equality: This is one of the old photographs on display
depicting black maids and nannies and their white little
There seems to be no tension at all between people of different skin color, there is an incredible number of mixed couples everywhere, even poverty and misery do not seem to have a color.
You think it's like this where you come from, too? Well, then you better take a closer look... Of course I didn't do any research, I don't know any statistics - I can only judge from what I see and that's far more relaxed than in other countries I've been to - whether the US, England, name it. Nowhere did the color of skin play a minor role than here in Brazil.

Travel-blogging: From Whom? For Whom?

The visit to the Afro museum made me reconsider why I am travelling and why I am writing about it; and also how I'm doing it. Another reason why I took a closer look at my readers and myself was a certain critique I got for posts that don't deal with a clearly tourist side of travelling but do focus on the country itself and my encounters with reality.

I'm travelling to see and experience as much as I can of a country. I'm not travelling for the beaches and for tourist attractions; at least not exclusively. I do enjoy a lazy day or two reading a nice book - that of course has to be by a local author and possible in the country's language - on the beach.

Copacabana Rio de Janeiro: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Being a conscious, observing traveller doesn't hold me back from spending a lazy day on the beach....

There is definitely nothing wrong with tourist attractions - I do visit many of them.

Cristo Redentor Rio de Janeiro: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
....or visiting some standard tourist attractions.

But that's by far not everything I want to see. I'm keen on getting an insight of how people live, where and what they shop. I love going to local supermarkets and drugstores. I'm not necessarily buying something, I'm just looking what they have in store and what people are getting and how much they are paying for it. I love getting a haircut at a local hairdresser since this is the most daring and un-touristy thing I can imagine; maybe a dentist would be even more to the core, but I leave that for another time.... I read local newspaper, watch a little local TV, talk to people, get to know what they are doing and even how much they are making. I like to leave the surface.

Street vendor in Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Fruit stand in São Paulo

And that's not always pretty and pleasant and when it comes to the history of many, many countries, it's even horrible and atrocious and casts a poor light on some European countries and the United States. But this is why I am travelling: To see a country's presence with my own eyes, to hear the people's history with my own ears.

Eventually I share my thoughts - and sometimes my feelings - in my posts. And I call them like I see them: The lovely sides, but also the dark ones.

I will never go to Florida without mentioning how amusement parks threatened and partly destroyed the region's flaura and fauna. I will not go to South Carolina without noticing and putting in writing the racism that I'm witnessing. I will not go to Viet Nam without pointing out the French's and American's verbrechen. I will point out many Thai's poverty - it's a nation, not a beach - and the censorship in Turkey. You cannot seriously expect me to be amazed by Cristo Redentor and the Sugar Loaf and ignore the incredible amount of homeless people squatting in Rio's streets. Their misery is simply heart breaking - especially next to the easy, good life along the Copacabana or Ipanema.

I came to this country to enjoy its beauty, yes, but I cannot just close my eyes before it's very ugly sides. And since I'm a travel blogger, I write about it. It makes me angry. When I'm angry, I tend to swear.  Suck it up: I don't think that my swear words are a bigger crime than what they are describing.

I do write for myself, too, but mainly I do write for readers. And I believe I owe them: I owe them thorougly researched background info, I owe them precise details on museums, restaurants, hotels when sharing touristy information. I also owe them a good style, correct spelling and pictures with descriptive captions. You do get all this from me: e. g. I've never ever posted a picture from an exhibitions not quoting the exact title and artist. Never ever. I owe you that.

Sidney Amaral at Museu Afro Brasil Sao Paulo: bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels
Calling them like seeing - or even only perceiving - them is an important part of my writing.
Painting by Sidney Amaral "Estudo para gargalheira ou quem falará por nós?" (Study of a gargalheira* or who will be speaking for us?)
* a gargalheira is the iron choker that was used on slaves

But I don't owe you the sunny side of life. You'll get sun when it's sunny, and rain when it's pouring. If you don't like it: There are so, so many bloggers introducing the glitzy hotel entrance not bothering you with the hotel's backdoor where the exhausted maids are having their cigarette between cleaning two rooms for less than minimum wages.

I am not travelling to dreamy destinations. I am travelling the real world.

Wanna know what happened before? Here are the previous lessons:

Class of Brazil - 1st Lesson: We Have it Good

Class of Brazil - 2nd Lesson: Danger Seems Closer from Afar

Class of Brazil - 3rd Lesson: It is a Hellish Path to a Heavenly Place

Class of Brazil - 4th Lesson: I Am What I Am

Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Cambodia, while travelling, I'll be posting little stories and reflections on my stay. At the end of the entire tour there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc. 
Until then, just enjoy some special moments with me.

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  1. This is great post and certainly gives different perspective of the places you visited. all your pics are great. thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanx for your comment, glad you like it 💗

  2. Great post about travelling in Brazil. Very helpful because am gonna visit Brazll this year. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Lucky you, there are great things to see and do. Check out my roundup including all info and links that will be published in about three weeks - might be helpful.

  3. First of all Sao Paolo...what a cool looking South American Metro city. I love all the murals and street art you found. I would love walking through the outdoor market on Sunday to see all the locals and their wares.
    As for you calling them like you see them...keep on keeping on! When we travel it is great to see the wonderful creations and sites people have created in certain areas. But I too love to learn more about the people. Why do they live there? What causes them to deal with so much and how did they overcome adversities if they have yet. I too love going in grocery & convenient stores to find local items that I have never seen before...especially in the candy aisle!

    1. Thanx so much for encouraging me, Eric. And yes, Sao Paulo is great, actually my favorite city in Brazil.

  4. I'm so jealous of your trip to Brazil. It is definitely on my bucket list! As for traveling and blogging, I totally agree that you need a balance between being a tourist and getting the chance to experience local culture.

    1. Thanx for your support. And don't be jealous, just pack your bags and follow my lead 😉

  5. I'll take gritty over pretty any day. I love doing what you do - heading to shops to see what they reveal about local life, talking to people, absorbing what makes a place what it is. We're planning a South America trip, and I think I'd love where you are now. Definitely adding this to the list - and the modern art museum too.

    1. Thanx so much, Bernie. If you need any sort of info - e. g. on Peru, Colombia, or Brazil, drop me a line, I'll be happy to share more info.

  6. Your trip to Brazil and your pics are looking so cool! I really love the street art - this kind of art is really amazing - very interesting blog post!

    1. Thank you, Martina, glad you like it. Yes, Brazil was really good to me and I'm very sad that I'm leaving 😪 But: more adventures to come 😊

  7. l have always wanted to go to South America it is a place that definitely intrigues me. Sounds like uou have a nice hotel/ apartment there. It can make the world of difference when your exploring a new city. l could do with a pool & gym too

    1. Yes, it's nice to come back after a long day of exploring to a place where you feel comfortable and even a bit homey. And I also enjoy my privacy and closed doors and silence after a busy day a lot. 🤐

  8. Sounds like such a fun place to be! Like you say, it seems more hip and fun and a better vibe to it. Loving the street art - that's very cool. And your apartment sounds amazing, really great place to stay. Such an amazing journey you are on!


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