São Paulo is a never ending sprawling metropolis with some 18 million or so inhabitants. It is one of the big 5 cities that exist in the world. It is the business and commercial centre of Brazil and, of course, it has many of the down sides of any big city: pollution, crime, vagrants, traffic jams and from time to time, bureaucratic corruption. Being so big it's quite easy to get lost especially in some of the more outlying suburbs as I have done once or twice. Despite these somewhat negative aspects Sao Paulo is a city that will always have a place in my heart and Ibirapuera Park is a place that brings back pleasant memories.
If you want to get away from it all, if you've been walking around this town all day with your chest aching, the sweat dripping from your brow; you can escape from the swirling heat, the mad traffic and incessant pollution by taking a trip to Ibirapuera. The park was inaugurated in 1954 to celebrate the city's fourth birthday, and designed by famous architect Oscar Niemeyer together with landscape designer Burle Marx. Both were involved in the construction of Brazil's capital city; Brasilia, during the 1960s. Ibirapuera Park covers an area of almost two million square meters and is sort of like São Paulo's version of New York City's Central Park but it's by no means central. You will not be able to catch a metro train to take you there: it is an awkward place to get to - although this may depend on where you are based in the city. If you do speak a little Portuguese, the name of this park is so difficult to pronounce that any poor local will have difficulty understanding what the hell your on about if ask them for directions.
If however you do manage to find your way there you will be blessed with the beautiful release from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. Luckily I had a companion to show me the way. It was on Valentines Day some years ago now, that I wandered hand in hand with my besotted love Rosangela along the winding walkways before sitting down to warmly embrace beside pleasant lagoons. I can still recall the fragrance of her perfumed skin as we entered the Japanese garden.
At weekends in the summer (December to February), mostly on a Sunday morning, there's usually a free outdoor concert in the park's Praça da Paz. Here you might catch some of Brazil's most prominent pop/rock stars giving free performances. When I was there I saw the legendary Gilberto Gil perform some bossnova on his acoustic guitar. There are also major art exhibitions at the Museu de Arte Moderna (Museum of Modern Art); the most famous being the Biennale arts festival. Other things to see are the Ibirapuera Planetarium, the Japanese Pavilion, the famous obelisk and the Monumento às Bandeiras.
There is a popular exercise track in the park for joggers, but I would highly recommend that you hire a bicycle for about $2 per hour and cycle the pathways. On a Sunday morning you can even borrow magazines or books (including some in English) from the Bosque de Leitura. This is a kind of free outdoor lending library that lets you to read their literatura in the park for the duration of day. You will also find fruit juice and ice-cream vendors scattered everywhere about the park, but if you want something a bit more appetising you can make your way to the Green Restaurant which offers a good choice of food by the kilo (US$6 per kilogram).
So if you do happen to find yourself stopping over in São Paulo for any significant length of time then I would highly recommend that you visit São Paulo's Central Park. I intend to return the city later this year and I will certainly be returning to Ibirapuera.
© Zmugzy February 2007