If one thing is good, are not two twice as good? Just so, Day #4 proved to be a repeat, in style, of Day #3. Except that today both of us – Dr. A and I – were better equipped with city and metro maps at the ready, thereby smoothing the travel waters. And pretty much those who had NOT come on the previous day’s excursion were now present and accounted for, whereas for the most part those who had accomplished yesterday’s grueling journey made their own plans for the day. There were two prominent exceptions, though: – both Jeremy Emmert and Justin Oge made both trips both days, so kudos to them!
Now once again a large Wesleyan group (18) began to snake its way uphill on the mile-long trek up Rua Teodoro Sampaio to metro stop Clinicas. By now everyone was familiar with the process and method of gaining access to the metro: purchase at least 2 one-way tickets [going and coming] from the clerk behind the bullet-proof glass booth and use them to access the turnstiles. Cost of a one-way ticket: 3 reais ($1.50). We could see the students becoming more confident about reading the metro directional signs and symbols, and eventually some would later that day leave the “shelter” of the group and make their own way around the city and back home to the hostel. We did experience one little test of that confidence, however: as we were boarding the last leg of the subway ride, due to the heavy crowds at that point, 3 of our group – Hayley, Ashley and Julia – did not make it onto the metro car. We watched their very serious faces go by as the train left the station – and them not on it with the rest of us. Dr. A said in a way she was glad it happened, because it was a good test of whether the instruction we had given them would now serve the students. In other words, the group would wait at the next stop for them to catch up. Which is exactly what happened, and no psyches were permanently damaged, as far as I can tell!
We exited the metro at Avenida Paulista, the so-called “5th Avenue of SP,” near the MASP, to again change and adjust money. From there it was a nice, downhill excursion on Rua Augusta to check out the many now-open shops, restaurants and businesses in the area. It should be said that the streets and sidewalks of SP are, as in many other cities of the world, on the surface constructed with individual small tiles and cobblestones which eventually become uneven. This requires constant vigilance in a constantly-changing environment.
Next stop: Japanese Town, in the Liberdade area. SP has more ethnic Japanese than any other city outside Japan, due to the steady immigration which began after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Almost all the first arrivals disembarked at Santos, a port city S of Sao Paulo, and went to work right away in the coffee plantations. By the end of World War II, almost 150,000 had arrived. Japanese Town today is small and easily manageable on foot, and the streets are lined with shops and restaurants selling everything, from woks and manga comics to sushi and sashimi. We had our lunch at a nice restaurant in the area, some choosing from the great variety of sushi dishes, others not. All were grateful for the chance to stop, sit and refresh. The dish Dr A and I ordered was brought in a boat-like container called a “barco” (Eng. bark, a type of ship). We enjoyed every one of its 27 sushi pieces. Afterwards, we continued our walk, soon trying out the one of the local ice-creams-on-a-stick called Melona – with a flavor much like honey-dew melon, and very smooth.
The day’s last stop turned out to be, much like the São Bento (St. Benedict) monastery the day before, a wonderful serendipity. First catching just a glimpse of it, then watching it come more and more into view, we marveled at the beauty and size of the Catedral Metropolitana. Built between 1912 and 1954, it sits next to the Praça da Se (Se Square), a place famous for protests, and where indeed a man with a bullhorn was holding forth against – what else? – taxes. Inside, the cathedral was breath-taking, with its overly narrow nave, 318-ft spires and bulbous cupola. It can seat 8,000. European in almost every other way, the only obvious local influences were visible in the capitals, delicately carved with distinctly Brazilian flora and fauna. Our good luck – after leaving the church, we heard the organ begin to play, so back in we went. There was definitely mixed opinion in our group about whether it was a true pipe organ, an electronic instrument, or a hybrid (my choice). Anyway, certainly we had had plenty of good travel experience for another day, so a tired but happy crowd completed another edition of Ilka’s Great Adventure!