Street Art and Unpronounceable Parks.

São Paulo, Part 2.

My lasting memories of São Paulo will be the street art, Ibirapuera Park, and the gorgeous family I Couchsurfed with for my final week in Brazil.
On my first night in the city I had asked the guys at my hostel if I had just one day in São Paulo what should I do? and a visit to Ibirapuera Park came top every time. It took me far too many attempts to be able to pronounce the name, but it wasn’t my failing Portuguese! I was told that the name of the park was indigenous and so I felt relieved as I repeatedly tripped over the word and it’s sixteen syllables.
The name aside, the park didn’t disappoint and I can see the attraction. Even on a week day, (I actually went down there a couple of times) the park was full of life. Families having picnics, couples holding hands, groups of friends hanging out drinking beer, people playing Ultimate Frisbee. I sat by the lake to finish off the podcast I had been listening to on the walk, and was approached by two black swans who assumedly were disappointed to discover that I wasn’t sat waiting to feel them bread. That is if swans are capable of feeling human emotions, and if Brazilian swans share the British palate for bread. I hadn’t ever seen a black swan in the flesh, or I guess the feathers, and while I guess if I were younger or more cool my first thought would be the Darren Aronovsky film of the same name, I my thoughts turned to the larger my dad used to drink in the 80’s, if you can still get in, and if it is 0.0% session… although I think that’s the white swan. I felt the reference date me.


Black Swans in Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo.

At the time of my visit there was an art exhibition in the centre of the park. An Urban Zoo with animals, real and imagined, made from recycled material. I also managed to wander across a drumming circle, which I found was part of a festival de amor, that the local hippies had organises. Who would have thought that São Paulo was such a hippie hot bed?
Having said this, one of the things that first struck me about São Paulo is how much it felt like Berlin. A European Utopia where punks, hippies, artists and entrepreneurs live together harmoniously. The people and the street art. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was about the street art that made me feel so much like I was in Berlin. Perhaps it was that the first time I walked out of my door I passed a mural of the Ramones. Yeah I guess that will do it. I’ve included some of my favourites frescos bellow.

Street Art and Unpronounceable Parks. São Paulo, Part 2.
Street Art and Unpronounceable Parks. São Paulo, Part 2.

Do you remember Rock and Roll Radio?


When Bowie met Pele.


Graffiti vs Street Art.


Sign for the women's toilets, Ibirapuera Park.

The family that I was staying with for this final week were amazing. I met Rici and his family at 9:30am and 15 minutes later I was at an open day at the children’s school looking at an art exhibition about Brazilian history and culture. Another 2 hours later a carload of us were having a day out at the beach. I was very much a baptism of fire, but the warms and hospitality that they continued throughout my stay.
On my second night with Rici and his family he had had a Brazilian BBQ on the patio, Ciaprihana and everything! Although having drank my fill in Rocinha, I decided to stick to the beer. They had invited family and friends and all their kids, there was even a dog running around. One of the families at the BBQ were from Lisbon, Portugal and so we were able to share stories about our times in Baco Alto, Figueira da Foz, and Montemor o Velho … I’d forgotten how nice it was to have people who share your reference points.


The gorgeous family I stayed with in São Paulo.

This was my first true experience of sofa surfing, sorry I mean Couchsurfing. We had been chatting for a couple of weeks before I had arrived, and so I didn’t feel like I was meeting a complete stranger. On one of my last nights we went to a Reggae Night on the other side of the city. I cooked us all a typical British meal (meatloaf and potatoes) before we headed out. I was told that the night started and 10pm, and had assumed that this would mean a couple of band until around midnight and possible a DJ…

In the UK live music is curfewd at midnight, but recorded music and Djs can play until the small hours, and so I was surprised to find out we were leaving at 10pm and relieved to see that there was still a band playing when we arrived at around 11:30pm. The Bob Marley Experience! I assumed these were the headline act with a DJ set to follow. This was not the case, they were in fact the opening act, and there were four more bands to follow. No DJ.


Shortly after we arrived at the Reggae Night, before all my drunken antics.

We rolled out of the venue at 5am, some of us more literally with others, having dances our socks off and made a handful of new friends. It was the perfect swansong to my stay in São Paulo Paulo and my time in Brazil.
Thank you Brazil for the amazing memories, and massive hugs to everyone that I met along the way. I’ll be coming back for more... one of these days.

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18 Comments on “

  1. Oh you make Brazil sound like so much fun. I never would have considered couch surfing in Brazil. But you make it look really safe and a whole lot of fun!

    Did you ever learn how to pronounce the names of the park?

    1. Haha! Yes I managed to pronounce the name, EVENTUALLY! I couchsurfed all over South America. Only had one odd experience when I stayed with a millionaire who wanted to take me and my sister to expensive resturants and pay for everything, but nothing unsafe.

  2. When I read Black Swan I thought of the Nicholas Taleb book about randomness…. Does that make me a nerd? Love the picture of Mona Lisa twerking too. I am beginning to think that every country enjoys their parks more / better than Americans. In Tucson I always wanted to (and eventually did) live next to the city’s premier park – Reid Park. As far as parks go, it wasn’t world class. It had a zoo, a pool, weekly fireworks and a small fishing pond. Still, I got to go out and explore it almost every night. What I realized is that the Hispanic community loved and cherished this urban park and the Anglos almost took it for granted. Every weekend there were multiple barbecues with thumping Tejano music that filled the park with energy and exuberance. Great post about a truly authentic Brazilian experience.

    1. Thanks Jen and Ed! Brazil was absolutely amazing, it is one of the places I really hope to go back to one day. I live in London now, and they really do make the most of their parks. Mainly, I think, because no one can afford a garden. And that doesn’t make you a nerd! I guess it makes you random… haha

  3. I loved the title to your blog – Unpronounceable parks. The swans look beautiful. I am new to the concept of couch surfing but it seems interesting and I would definitely like to couch surf. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Couchsurfing really did make my travel experience, I would thoroughly recommend it, not just for a place to stay, but it’s a nice way to meet people and generally hang out.

  4. I have never really considered couch surfing while travelling, not sure if I will be comfortable living with strangers. But its great read about your lovely experience in Brazil. I will it in mind next time im planning a trip. I love the Bowie meets Pele art, looks amazing!

    1. I know most people have reservations about CS when they first hear about it. If you’ve stayed in hostels, it probably a better version of that. I even couchsurfed with my 60 year old mum while we were travelling in Peru.

  5. This looked to be a fantastic couchsurfing experience. It must have helped you so much with planning being able to contact them for 2 weeks in advance. Did they enjoy the English food you cooked them? The street art in Sao Paulo is quite unique too.

    1. I’ve done some last minute CS-ing, but i find its always nice to have a bit or rapport before you go and crash with people. I can report that they did enjoy the English food – I make a mean Meat Loaf.

    1. The first few times I CS-ed on my own, but I’ve done it since with my sister, and even my mum – so maybe try with a friend. I would 100% recommend it. I’ve met some amazing people that way.

  6. Lovely post. I like that you asked your hostel guys if you had just one day in São Paulo what should you do? That’s exactly what I do on my trips. I think locals are the real Heroes who turn your good trip into a great one. Good know you had a great couch-surfing family. Your graffiti pictures are lovely too.

    1. Thanks you Archana. I’m always asking local people what they woudld recommend, what I should eat, drink, dance… Glad to see you do the same!

  7. It looks like Berlin’s urban/street art. I am also fascinated how artists make use of the space and create unique art. I haven’t experienced couch surfing yet. I might try in the future so that I can save myself some money. I wonder how to pronounce Ibirapuera Park. I think you need to translate it in Portuguese first?

    1. There isn’t a Portuguese equivalent of Ibirapuera. It’s almost phonetic, with a little bit of latin american accent and flare… As you can see I’m doing as good a job of explaining it as I did at pronouncing it! Thanks for your comment.

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