When it comes to the first few days after a major festival, I have just a few key priorities in mind: rest up, recharge, and reconnect to the world. The latter can be a serious drag when it means coming back to an overflowing inbox and a built up to-do list. But Heather and I knew exactly where to work on this trifecta of restoring our broken, depleted post-Tomorrowland Brasil selves back to normal: São Paulo’s vibrant, colorful, energy-giving neighborhood of Vila Madalena.
Our first stop? A nap! We knew without question that we wanted to be in an apartment over a hostel or hotel. We needed access to a washer and dryer, a kitchen, and a well-upholstered couch, and we needed them badly. Lucky for us, the Airbnb market in São Paulo is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world — it was literally overflowing with stylish digs at insanely reasonable prices. One local told me that when the World Cup came to Brazil, Airbnb did awesome outreach helping hosts get listed, and now they’re hooked!
I mean, can we just pause to admire the crazy amounts of style I see in every corner of this particular Vila Madalena apartment right now.
We actually had originally booked another place. Our original host cancelled at the last minute, however, and Airbnb did us a solid and told us they’d pay the difference between our original score and whatever we considered a commensurate replacement — which meant we got an even more spacious and luxurious pad for the same price we’d paid for our original booking (which was equally chic and well located). So in the end we were charged just $47.50 each per night for this gorgeous place — and you could get a similarly sweet deal considering it’s listed for just $115 a night and you can get $35 off your first booking by using my coupon link. Enjoy! (Actually, in reality we only paid about half that since I was able to use some the credit that I earn when you guys use my coupon link — we both win, so thanks!)
Not only was this apartment itself everything we dreamed of and more, the building was fabulous and featured a doorman, a rooftop pool (which tragically was closed for cleaning the day we tried to go out and use it, but ah well) and a sweet gym which I struggled through a workout in one day.
And our hosts were some of the friendliest, kindest people we met in our entire six week trip to Brazil — making an exception to their normal minimum stay because “we sounded like sweet girls” and they felt bad our previous hosts bailed, letting us stash the majority of our bags before the festival, and refusing to take money when we broke the fan because “it was going to break anyway.” Even if you don’t rent this apartment from them you should probably ask if they are accepting applications for new best friends.
There was even a secondary outdoor kitchen — be still my heart!
Truly, the location could not have been better. I was super eager to return to Vila Madalena, which I’d visited ever-so-briefly on my first few days in São Paulo on the way to Tomorrowland. If Vila Mariana is the Park Slope of São Paulo, than Vila Madaela is surely the Williamsburg. Or you know, whatever neighborhood in Brooklyn is actually hip these days, according to those that have lived there more recently than 2011. (Feel free to educate me in the comments section, New Yorkers!)
Our apartment was right in the heart of the neighborhood, and we only had to take a few steps outside the front door before pausing to fawn over creative street art, cute cafes, and chic-looking yoga studios. While we spent the majority of our first afternoon and evening holed up in our apartment, we did wander out eventually to gather snacks and get some fresh air — and to daydream about moving in permanently.
As you can see from the above photo, an important component of my festival recovery involved learning to wear MC Hammer pants in public, since actual pants and a complete program of relaxation simply do not mix.
Another important aspect of this restoration journey? Food. For our first night back in civilization, we went for quick, easy and close. It was a Sunday night and Vila Madalena was alive with Paulistanos toasting to the end of the weekend, and tired as we were we really did want to see the ‘hood at its most hopping.
After strolling up and down the main drag of Rua Harmonia we settled on Raw, a trendy cocktail and burger spot with vegetarian options and waiters willing to work with our pitiful grasp of the Portuguese language. Score!
After, we bravely tackled our goal of finding a bar that served caipicolés, on the suggestion of one of my lovely readers. Caipicolés are caipirinhas with fruit popsicles inside, and while I admit that alcohol was the last thing either of us were interested in at that point, our time in São Paulo was limited and we needed to make the most of it — , Heather reasoned, it was probably best to wean ourselves off slowly. (There was actually a huge list of bars we were dying to check out in the Vila Madalena area, so maybe it’s a blessing we were there Sunday through Tuesday, when many of them were closed.) After one drink, we crawled back to our home away from home and drifted off to dreamland.
The next day, we began a proper detox. São Paulo is known for having a vibrant vegan and vegetarian restaurant scene, and as I knew my vegetarian travel buddy Heather was going to struggle throughout most of Brazil I’d carefully researched so we could make the most of the meatless options available in Vila Madalena.
After a morning of laptop time in the apartment (and Heather geeking out over the espresso around the corner at Coffee Lab, a serious must for those with a lust for caffeine) we tackled chores like setting up an international SIM card and getting some festival souvenirs and supplies packaged up to mail home. Eventually, we wandered over to Maha Mantra, where we indulged in one of the most impressive and delicious vegetarian buffets I’ve ever come across. For a final bill of $11.14 each we had as much plant-based joy as we could fit on a plate, as well as specialty juices we ordered with only the faintest idea of what we were getting. We didn’t go wrong.
We also checked out the nearby Alternativa Casa do Natural, which is another option for vegetarian lunch buffets — buffets, we were learning, were quite the hit in São Paulo, along with trendy burger bars and traditional pizza places. Alternativa Casa do Natural also had a great selection of all natural toiletries and home products so if you’re on the road for a while and looking to stock up on chemical-free conditioner or hard-to-find vitamins, this is your spot!
Our final morning in the city, after more laptop time and before catching our bus, we wandered over to Biozone. This hidden gem specializes in raw vegan food, and rather than a buffet offers an entree of the day as well as plenty of juices, smoothies, and desserts. Again we each paid around $11 for a delicious healthy meal and a fresh juice, and left feeling fantastic.
Other local vegetarian spots we hoped to check out but ran out of time were Goa and Casa Jaya — I can’t wait to return and check them out someday!
But back to Monday. For those on a serious health kick, Vila Madalena also offers several workout options. I sweat out the weekend’s hedonism at a class at Yoga Lab, a Bikram studio owned by an American expat who teaches in — serious bonus — English! There were a few different studios I found that offered the occasional English language class, so just snoop around if you’re in the area.
A detox diet, a relaxing home base haven, a purifying work out routine… we were only missing one kind of therapy. Retail! And we found it at Farm, a line of Brazilian boutiques with a notable outpost in Vila Madalena: the store was the first fully energy self-sufficient building in São Paulo. The second story had a fabulous sale selection, and we picked up a few Brazilian bikinis in order to dress the part for the rest of our trip.
Our day ended with one last mission: exploring the infamous Beco do Batman mural alley right before sunset, as the crowds headed home — at least hypothetically. Beco do Batman is an open-air gallery that showcases the best of São Paulo street art. On my previous tour I learned that several of the artists live in or around the alley, and keep an eye on the work to make sure fresh works aren’t painted over or vandalized. An artist is considered to “own” his spot as long as she or he repaints it every year or so with a fresh piece. Any wall unattended to for longer than that is considered fair game to be taken over by a new artists.
Our plan worked and we lucked into having this beautiful street art playground almost entirely to ourselves. We were in our element comparing favorite pieces, swapping portraits, and pausing to contemplate the works that puzzled us.
Speaking of art, I’ve gotten a few questions about the jewelry I’ve been rocking in my last few posts (and in my homepage header!) Allow me to point you in the direction of Amy Jennifer Jewelry, helmed by one of my dear friends and a fellow creative mermaid. I’ve had two custom-designed pieces made for me now and I think I’m hooked. I can’t wait to see what we dream up together this year.
While she’s based in Thailand, you don’t need to book a plane ticket to score a set of your own as she ships internationally, for free. Check her out on Instagram and Etsy and send me pictures of anything you order — let’s be bling twins!
So I know what you’re thinking — once I’m done ordering a custom ring, I gotta get to this amazing neighborhood in São Paulo! I loved it so much that it was also my last stop again when I left Brazil. That time I was alone, and since I had nothing on my itinerary other than catching up on writing and emails, I found myself searching for a quiet local boutique hostel.
Personally I don’t like staying in Airbnbs when I’m alone — when I’m traveling solo, I just like the comfort and camaraderie of knowing other people are around me at a hostel or a hotel, even if I’m planning on working nonstop and avoiding eye with other travelers at all times. (Isn’t it cute how I said “if?”) I eventually settled on SP011, which was just barely opened when I arrived. It’s clean, new and obscenely stylish, though the location is a bit of a hike from the main attractions of Vila Madalena. Luckily Ubers are crazy cheap, and I felt very safe walking to and from the hostel during the day.
I know I’m jumping around a little here chronologically, but as I won’t otherwise be blogging about those last few days (unless you guys want a full blog post in which I eat takeaway in bed and explore how close to horizontal I can get while still typing coherently) and considering the lack of reviews on this place (which I paid for in full out of pocket!), I wanted to provide a few details for those who might be searching for them. Overall, I preferred my hostel experience in Vila Mariana, but if you have your heart set on Vila Madalena, this might be a good fit.
If it wasn’t clear already, I was completely smitten with São Paulo. Had it not been for the festival I may have skipped this city completely — and it turned out to be one of my favorite stops of the entire trip.
I found Vila Mariana and Vila Madalena both to be beautiful, inspiring neighborhoods and would enthusiastically recommend either to international travelers to Brazil. Forty-eight hours on each end of Tomorrowland Brasil was clearly not even close to being enough to explore each of them, but I can’t think of a better base for my first week in Brazil.
Next up, we begin our crawl up the coast in Paraty!