Sao Paolo – Brazil

Hello!

We left the island life of Florianopolis and headed for Brazil’s biggest city; Sao Paolo. We opted for the bus company Catarinense for the 11.5 hour trip costing us BR$260 (£62) each. We didn’t know what to expect of our first big Brazilian city, particularly in terms of safety. I think our brains had been seriously warped by the media, stereotypes, friends and family’s experiences etc. In reality, we felt really safe in Sao Paolo. Perhaps due to the area in which we stayed; Vila Madalena. It is considered the ‘bohemian neighborhood’ and there seemed to be quite a lot of cafes, hostels and restaurants so we didn’t stray too far from our area given we were only in Sao Paolo for 2 days.

We went to Beco do Batman, a famous alleyway/area full of street art murals. Whilst some artwork was undeniably extremely impressive, we thought it was a bit over-hyped. Also perhaps because we are spoilt and have recently been to Valparaiso, Chile which is essentially a street art city. In the evening we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy meal out. Sao Paolo notoriously has a large Japanese community and thus Japanese food influence – sushi! Though we’re 24 & 26, neither of us had ever properly eaten at a sushi restaurant before! We found a fairly well rated one near us called Tanuki, and we just went all out and got a sharing platter. Whilst we did enjoy the food, I can’t see us rushing back, especially with the sushi price tag.

For our only full day in Sao Paolo, we decided to spend it in the park Ibirapuera. It was a 5km walk from our hostel in Vila Madalena to the park, plus walking round the park and back made it quite a big loop. The park is rated the number one thing to do in Sao Paolo on trusty Tripadvisor. We did really enjoy strolling around the lakes full of bird life and just relaxing on the grass reading our books!

Perhaps we could have done with a day or two more in Sao Paolo to explore further.

Join us next time as we head to Paraty!

Thanks for reading,

Sophie & Dave

Valparaiso – Chile

Hello!

We decided to do a little weekend trip to Valparaiso after our Spanish course. The bus from Santiago was a pleasant surprise; super cheap (£5pp) and quite fancy with the bus company Turbus. Valparaiso is a seaside city, formerly the main port of Chile. Now it is infamous for its coloured houses on steep hills, street art and being a UNESCO heritage site.

We’d been told to only stick to a very small area because Valparaiso is supposedly very sketchy, but we didn’t really stick to that. I was a little cautious and didn’t walk around constantly with my DSLR round my neck but other than that, it was fine for us and we felt quite safe. Even our hostel was a little bit separate from the normal ‘safe zone’ tourist area and it was lovely. The woman who runs it was so kind and helpful and really patient chatting with me in Spanish. We also became best friends with the cat, literally the nicest cat in the world that only wanted to sit on our laps and have cuddles. We were also fairly high on a hill so we had an impressive view of the port and surrounding hills from our window.

We arrived fairly late in the afternoon, so we just pottered around our area, starting to take in the magic of the street art and went for dinner at Cafe del Pintor. It had the most impressive art murals of any cafe/restaurant we’ve ever seen (see photos below). In Chile, most places offer a set menu of starter, main, desert and drink for a fixed price, this is ‘menu’ in Spanish as opposed to ‘Carta’ which would be our version of a menu with all options. Not only the art but the food was great too.

The next day, we headed to the house of Pablo Neruda, a world renowned Chilean poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. We rode the number 612 bus to get there; notorious as an experience in itself because it goes at break-neck speed through the windy hill roads of the residential section of Valparaiso. The bus driver had one hand on the steering wheel and one on the pole to support himself when he turned corners. Pablo Neruda’s house can only be described as quirky. The shape of the house, the rooms, the furniture; everything was quirky. They had an English audio guide which was a little disappointing as I was expecting more information about his actual poetry but the tour focuses on the design of the house, how he chose to decorate it etc. It was still interesting nonetheless and had some of the best views of Valparaiso from its’ different floors. After the house, we walked through ‘the dodgy’ part of town (perfectly fine) to get back to the city centre.

In the afternoon, we did the 3pm walking tour with Tours 4 Tips. Our guide spoke perfect English and was really passionate, one of the best walking tours of this year I think. We hadn’t yet rode any of Valparaiso’s infamous funiculars that take you up to the top of various hills. Throughout the tour, we stayed predominantly on Cerro Alegre (happy hill) & Cerro Concepcion. Just like Santiago, there are so many stray dogs and cats, there were even 2 stray street dogs that followed us for the whole 3 hour walking tour. Our guide led us down some beautiful alleys where every inch was covered in some sort of art. He was knowledeagble about the street artists names though I can’t remember them now. He led us to one of the more recent murals created about a month ago which depicted all the different types of people/professions/influences in Chile – there’s even a Donald Trump in it. What was most interesting though was the firefighters at the top; apparently they are regarded as the most valiant among the Chilean people as in Chile, it is an entirely voluntary service and given that Valparaiso is a city very prone to fires, they are all the more important. He said the firefighters raise funds through raffles and that nearly everyone always donates to it.

We ended our time in Valparaiso with empanadas and tea in hand, sat on the steps of a hill with a view of the sun going down over the port.

Join us next time as we fly from Santiago up to the driest place on earth; the Atacama desert in the North of Chile.

Thanks for reading,

Sophie & Dave

Melbourne – Australia

Hello!

Melbourne was so cold! Apparently it has one of the most unpredictable weather patterns in the world, but we successfully predicted every day we were there to wear a shit load of layers because otherwise we’d freeze. We were staying at a hostel called The Nunnery, we were unsure whether it was a past or current nunnery because our email confirmation was signed ‘The nuns’. When we arrived, we soon realised it most certainly was not a current nunnery and I’m pretty sure any actual nun would be royally offended with the imagery and nun puns throughout the hostel. The hostel was in Fitzroy, an edgy suburb of Melbourne with lots of cafes and street art.

The number one thing to do in Melbourne is eat good food and lounge in cafes, definitely no complaints with that. We went to quite a few cafes, all with great coffee, chilled music and comfy sofas. The Black Cat was my fave because I had an amazing hot chocolate with marshmallows (because I’m an adult) and Dave’s fave was Newton Speciality Coffee for the best coffee he’d had in Australia!

In terms of more cultural things, our first visit was to the Melbourne Museum, right opposite where we were staying. The museum is huge and we probably could have done with allowing ourselves a whole day rather than just the afternoon. They had some really fascinating exhibits, we both really enjoyed their ‘Human mind’ section where they gave a lot of information about the historic to current treatment of mental illness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen much information about mental health in a museum before, really interesting. We also had a look round the dinosaur bones and the evolution section with loads of creepy taxidermy specimens. I think there’s something for everyone in that museum, its quite like the natural history museum in London, worth a visit.

We also did a city walking tour of Melbourne. This was my first ‘company’ walking tour (I’m free tours), free but based on tips, as opposed to just hostel run walking tours. It was definitely the best walking tour I’d done in terms of actual historic information but the delivery was perhaps a bit too cheesy and pantomime-esque for my liking. The tour starts at the State Library and then goes on to the Melbourne jail, infamous for where Ned Kelly was hung. We also visited Parliament Square, China Town, the Royal arcade (posh shopping centre), Carlton Gardens and a myriad of street art lanes (personal fave was children fighting back against a Trump tank – see below). Throughout the tour, the guide pointed out landmarks and buildings and talked about the Melbourne gold rush in the 1850s. The most interesting thing I learnt was that Melbourne was the first place in the world to start (and win) the 8 hour movement (8 hours work, recreation and rest) in 1856. The tour ended near the Arts centre (supposedly shaped like a tutu, but sort of resembles a crap Eiffel Tower) where we got a nice view of the city skyline.

We also visited the Ian Porter Gallery (free), but were perhaps a little underwhelmed after seeing it had glowing reviews. Maybe we weren’t in an art appreciative mindset when we went. We much preferred going to the State library to read about Ned Kelly. They hold the suit of arms he came out in to confront police in 1880. The last totally touristy thing we did was ride the number 35 city tram. Trams run all over Melbourne but this line is circular, has a basic audio guide and is most importantly, free! Most trams look fairly modern apart from the number 35 which reminds me of the American original San Francisco style trams; very quaint!

Melbourne has concluded our 5 weeks in Australia, but join us next time for our trip to Fiji!

Thanks for reading,
Sophie & Dave