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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Dgé is a neighborhood gastropub/burger joint on Al. Campinas, 1021, in Jardim Paulista – about 10 minutes walk from my second hotel which is located downtown (near the junction of Pamplona and Jai).

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While there are a few street-corner lanchonete (diners), they did not look particularly appealing. So I was happy to find Dgé on my first night in the area. I was hungry and it was getting late.

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Friendly staff (no English), a few patrons – not crowded but not too quiet.

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Relatively simple menu (some English), fair prices. Started with a traditional black bean soup (Caldinho de Feijao preto) and cheesey bread. Soup was great.

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After days of beef à la churrascarias, Filet de Pintado (Grilled river catfish filet with mashed pumpkin and cashew nuts, biju flour) sounded good.  It came as a dish of muddy brown colors, unlike the soup and bread. This was just average.

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Brigadeiro de Colher (sweet condensed milk with chocolate, Cupuaçu fruit chantilly) – the condensed milk part is traditional. Very tasty.

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It was a Wednesday night so the place was relatively quiet after 9pm.

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It has a open air terrace for drinks on the first floor above street level.

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Highly recommendable if you are in the neighborhood.

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I stayed at two hotels while in São Paulo. The first was the Estanplaza Funchal Hotel located in the business district, Faria Lima.

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Originally, we were booked to stay at the famous watermelon, i.e., Hotel Unique. But it turned out to be far from our meeting venue (remember the traffic congestion, remember here).  So we decided to book a hotel across from the building where we would have our meeting, and that’s how we ended up at the Estanplaza Funchal at Faria Lima.

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It is not a fancy hotel but it has a rather interesting style.

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Retro but what years?  The wall paper behind the bed and particularly the rotating TV stand reminded me of antiques I saw in Vienna but  …

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The circle seems to be a recurring motif throughout the hotel from the TV stand to the desk. I think the circular mirrors and blackmetal handrails with a rectangular motif (see the staircase photo above) is very oriental.

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Clean but stark bathroom. Never saw a large circular mirror like this before.

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The room could be used as the setting of a scene in a Wong Kar-Wai’s movie. Well, Happy Together (春光乍洩) was filmed in Buenos Aires.

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The experience was a bit like time travel – there was hardly anything in sight that would suggest the present 2010’s (except the flat panel TV).

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After checking in, it was close to 11pm – my colleagues and I went next door to The Fifties – a chain of up-and-coming high-end burger joint in Brazil – so my colleagues advised me.

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The time travel continued … a jukebox would have completed the illusion.

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We had burgers, fried onion rings (their claim to fame), caiparinhas followed by beer (which were served in an ice bucket typically reserved for champagne). I was so tired that day I fell asleep immediately despite having devoured all that greasy food and alcohol.

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Stayed in that hotel for a total of about 6 hours. When I pulled open the curtain the next morning, it was sunny Brazil and high-rise apartment buildings – we were back to 2013. And off to work we go …

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More to come.

I was on a business trip to the south of Brazil including São Paulo. Out of Zurich, it was a 12-hour non-stop overnight flight. Arrived at GRU, Sao Paulo’s international airport from the 70’s.sp traffic-2

São Paulo is notorious for several things – one of which is the traffic jam.

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I walked around the city and can generally confirm the widespread traffic congestion.

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Taxi is useless if you are in a hurry.

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The city is huge and gritty, not a pretty place, and does not have much to offer in terms of tourism.

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The heavy traffic problem is fueled by a rising middle class who can afford a car, and the lack of an efficient mass transit system in this city of 10+ million people.

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And the rich 0.1%’s solution to this traffic problem ?  The city apparently has the highest per capita ownership of personal helicopter. There is an article by BBC news on this topic – here.

Ignore the airplane in the photo below – see the helipad on top of the left building.

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There are air taxi services that ferry the rich or busy between helipads at the top of high rises. See the flying saucer-like thing on the right (photo below). It is a common sight in the downtown or  business districts.

The view from a helicopter flying above this city at dusk must be incredible. My business was not important or urgent enough to commandeer a helicopter. Must work harder to find another deal here.

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In parts of the city, there was a constant drone from helicopter taking/dropping off, it was loud, which made the streets which are full of cars and people felt like a war-zone (think Vietnam era war movies). There was a helipad that I can see from my hotel room and I heard the drone of helicopters many times while I was in the room.

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It is on top of a fancy hotel – The Tivoli – which is a block away.

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When I walked by the Tivoli on my last day there, a large group of teenagers were waiting outside and screaming for, what I presume, their pop idol. I guess this celebrity wanted the crowd scene and chose not to travel by helicopter.

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There is another concern beside bad traffic that led to the growing use of helicopter – it is the fear of crime. My local colleagues all warned me about the danger of being mugged and every one seemed to know someone who had been robbed at gun point.  Don’t worry about the pickpockets, they said.

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Every night (while I was there) around dusk, the police assemble themselves with riot shields on the main street in the center of Sao Paulo – Avenida Paulista – apparently ready for action. I did not see any crime but this daily show of force suggests the presence or history of crime in the city center. I saw something like this in New York too, NYPD does the same thing on 42nd street once in a while but they are there  to make people feel safe from terrorism, not crime.

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While Sao Paulo is not exactly welcoming for tourists, as a prosperous big city (often compared with New York), it does have lots to offer in terms of the arts, shopping and restaurants. More posts to come.

Marché aux puces – flea market –  the concept is ancient and universal but the origin of the term is disputed. Who started the term Puces ?

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We went to the biggest and probably most historical one in the North of Paris – 18th arrondissement – just outside the Porte de Clignancourt – Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen. Find their web site here.

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IT who comes to Paris regularly and knows this place was our guide. We got there by Metro – last stop on Ligne 4 (I think). It claims to be the 4th most visited tourist spot in France (?) with 5 million visitors per year.

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At first, we thought it was just one market. But it turned out to be a whole area – a cluster of 15 markets located in warehouses, arcades and buildings, as well as pedestrianized streets.

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There is something for every one … from seriously warm coats …

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puces-7to fun costumes for boys …

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and girls …

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We saw a couple of Mandarin-speaking men wandering the stalls with another French-speaking Chinese asking for oriental ceramic pieces and looking closely at them with a loup – obviously treasure-hunting for the auction houses and the nouveau riche back in China.

Furniture from every period and style imaginable …

puces-619th century …

puces-420th century …

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and even religious art.

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There were just too many shops and stalls to peruse. We have to come back and focus on things that really interest us, we might even buy something – otherwise it is just overwhelming.

While we were visiting Interlaken, we went on a cruise around Thunersee and posted about it here and here. We have so many pictures to post because the cruise took about two hours each way, a total of four hours  round trip. We sat lazily on the top deck, Sue staring into the distance and me snapping these pictures. Quite a carefree way to spend an afternoon.

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The boat has a restaurant that seats 100’s – dinner cruise must be popular here …  but at night, I suspect there is hardly anything around the lake that is lit enough to be seen from the boat.

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The views around Thunersee during the day are stunning – sky, mountain, boats, and water. The boat shown below is powered by steam. Ours run by diesel, I think.

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There were many lake houses – all size and shapes – from huge modern homes to quaint little shacks. This is a beautiful home – lots of glass but no curtains, even the bathroom on the top floor!  It looked more like a furniture showroom. But the boat and canoe launches underneath the house are neat.

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We wondered if some of these houses are only reachable by boat.

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Just imagine spending a stretch of summer days here with a vineyard behind and the lake out in the front.

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A shuttered lakefront hotel – the Hirschen – near one of the cruise stops.  The perfect haunted house – must be spooky at night … a party space for Halloween?

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This is strictly speaking not a lake house because it sits next to the canal in Thun.

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Some looked like toy houses.

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Others are just traditional-looking.

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Heading back home. We moved to the bow to see the entrance into the Interlaken canal. The wind picked up a bit and dark clouds appeared.

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Back in Interlaken – end of cruise. The building on the left has something to do with hydroelectric power.

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Now we want to try cruising on the other lake – Brienzersee. Next time in Interlaken.

These are the photos I (Chris) took and posted on Facebook. The series was started in March of 2013. There is no theme – just something random and visually interesting. We gave each photo a title and noted where it was taken (to the extent we could remember).

#11 –  the sky  –  Madeira

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#12 –  complexities  – Milano

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#13 –  creature  – Boston

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#14 –  stormy  – Christchurch, UK

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#15 –  “Meet our Graduate Students”  – Las Vegas

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Continuing with our long weekend in Interlaken …

Interlaken’s hotels are expensive and they are often fully booked. Our hotel is BeauSite located in the next town – Unterseen.

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It is a family-owned hotel which has a nice little seating area in front and ample parking spaces. It was impossible to find parking in Interlaken … we tried.

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Unterseen is really about 5-10 minutes walk from Interlaken’s main drag – Höheweg – and just because it is situated across the river Aare – there is hardly any tourists.

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The River Aare connects Lake Thun and Lake Brienz – the “inter” part of Interlaken.

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We joined a free walking tour and the guide took us treking across the river and up onto a trail just above the town. Poor Sue, her feet suffered for not having the right shoes.

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The trail offered wonderful views of Interlaken – it was not so far up where everything appears tiny. One can just see Lake Thun in a distance
in the above photo – looking west – just when sun was setting.

Looking just across town – the backs of the old grand hotels on Höheweg are visible in the middle.

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And looking east,  Höhematte (the big lawn in the center of town) is in the foreground (of the photo below).

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Our little tour looped into Unterseen via a riverside walk before crossing the Aare and then turning back into the town center.


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So peaceful.

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Our walk around town took us near the funicular that connects Interlaken with the nearest summit – Harderkulm at 1323 meters (4341 feet) – which affords one a bird’s eye view of the town. Didn’t go there, we were quite happy with what we saw already.

interlaken-29Near the funicular station is a small zoo – better described as a fenced-off area – where a few mountain sheep/goat is kept.  What puzzled me was the height of the huts – are there two floors inside ?

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As expected, the town is full of restaurants including many ethnic restaurants – for the home-sick tourists who cannot deal with daily European meals.  Well, we had a Korean dinner one night (Sue cannot resist it) and a generic “middle-eastern” on another. The best dinner we had was Italian at Citta Vecchia just down the street from our hotel – simple risotto con porcini and pasta alla vongole – it tasted great!  It is one of those mythical little Italian restaurants which every couple knows at least one.

interlaken-20 Another restaurant that was recommended to us by our guide was the “Bear” which serves traditional Swiss fare and is also just down the street. We did not have a chance to try it and we avoided all the steak places and continental restaurants in the town center.

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Our hotel room has a direct view of the famous Jungfrau – 4158 meters (13,641 feet).  But on the first day, visibility is zero.

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On the last day – the day we went up there, the weather was cooperating.

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More pictures on our trip up Jungfrau to come …