I’ve been in Brazil for five weeks. This is either an extended travel update from, or a short travel guide to, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
Writing these personal updates is a tricky balance. I’ve made some amazing friends, but if I write too much about these personal events then the blog becomes too much about me and too little about the nomadic lifestyle. So, I’ll focus more on the cities than the friends I made as that is of more general interest. But, don’t mistake that for a flippant attitude to these wonderful new friends I’ve made!
Lufe Gomes is a famous photographer I met in London. He invited me to stay a week with him in São Paulo on my way to Belo Horizonte. Through him, I met several of his friends, and I adored each and every one of them! Funny, smart and engaging, the lot of them.
We had lunch almost every day at this little Brazilian restaurant. It is a buffet-styled restaurant where you pick whatever you want, weigh the food and pay by the kilo. This kind of restaurant is extremely common in Brazil, and a seriously smart idea I wish the rest of the world would adopt.
When we were not lunching, eating cakes, drinking coffee, discussing social issues or working, the boys showed me around São Paulo. With work eating up most of my time, I only scratched the surface, so I’ll focus on the Matarazzo museum as it blew my mind.
First, I’m sorry. You can’t see this exhibition, because it is gone by the time you read this. Too bad as it was the most significant artistic experience I’ve had, second only to Burning Man. Take an old abandoned hospital, leave it alone for twenty years then throw 100 artists at it, giving them free rein to turn it into art. And boy did they. See the pics below as well as this video and you’ll understand.
During the world cup, a Brazilian guy contacted me via The Modern Nomad and invited me to stay with him and his boyfriend for a few weeks. I had other plans, but now finally I was able to take Diego up on his offer, and I’ve just finished a four-week stay at his place.
Diego and Daniel were excellent hosts. Daniel worked from 7am-11pm, so I didn’t see him all that much. Diego and I formed a geek-bond over TV-series and board games. And on weekends, we tried to make some excursion to see something of Belo Horizonte and the surrounding area. (See the sections below.)
Of the city life itself, I didn’t see much. I worked too much to really experience it. The exception to this was our weekly Tuesday adventure at Soho Pub & Games. As the name suggests, it is a gaming-friendly pub, but on Tuesdays, there is an added twist! They have a bell. Three times during Tuesday nights, the manager rings the bell. When the bell rings, it is free beer for everybody! The beer keeps flowing until someone goes to the bathroom. That person ends the free beer and is universally booed by the entire pub. Pure evil genius!
Weekend 1: Museum Square
If you are both into museums and you are lazy, then Belo Horizonte is the place for you! It has all its museums conveniently packed into a single square, the Liberty Square. There are a few art museums, a museum for the local area and a mining museum (because mining was big here).
Weekend 2: Inhotim
Inhotim is a huge park located an hour and a bit drive from Belo Horizonte. Throughout this botanical garden is more than 500 pieces of art. Some are randomly out in the open, others grouped into large blocky galleries.
The art is a mixed bag. Half of it is total pants, modern crap which can only elicit an emotional response from the truly self-delusional. The other half is really good. Sadly, cameras were almost universally banned from the exhibits, so I don’t have many indoor pictures. And explaining works of art in words is worse than futile. But I’ll try with my favourite exhibit, a room with 40 speakers arranged in a circle. Each speaker carried the voice of a single person in a choir. Standing at the centre of the speakers, it sounded like a beautiful choir singing, but walking along the circle of speakers, you could really appreciate how single distinct voices build up the music.
Weekend 3: Caves
Belo Horizonte has three famous caves within the local area. I visited two of them, conveniently located an hour’s drive from each other, so you can do them both in a day. Their names are Rei do Mato and Lapinha. Well worth a visit. Lapinha is the better one, but it comes with … a problem. The cave is overrun by tiny little black spiders. Their bite is initially painless. You won’t even know you’ve been bitten. That is, not until the necrosis sets in, causing your flesh to rot and fall of your bones.
Weekend 4: Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto is an old mining town located high in the misty mountains. Well, rainy mountains when we were there, but who cares? This UNESCO World Heritage Site is beautiful in any weather. Thanks to the UNESCO protection, it has been spared the modern ‘architecture’, letting the baroque style shine along its many cobbled street. If you are into churches, Ouro Preto is for you! They are everywhere! But, if the depths of hell is more your cup of tea, head into crazily creepy Mina do Chicorei. You’ll get a yellow helmet and then off you go! No guide or safety video, just you and a deep pit to explore and crawl around in. Totally recommended!
On the way you Ouro Preto, make sure you stop by the Jeca Tatu cafe, a hoarder’s wet dream!