(to you from the Saint German Hotel – Central Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Unexpectedly on Thursday we were invited to join an old (long-time) friend of Camillo’s for dinner in Sao Paulo on Saturday Night. This is phenomenal to me, Camillo has known this man from Peru for 40 years. They had made contacted after a 10 year silence and took up the reins of their friendship like they see each other everyday. Anyway, the invitation came, the friend would be at a conference attended by several prior Presidents of S. American countries discussing the return of democracy for South America. He would be in Sao Paulo for four days and it was an excellent opportunity to meet, we made our plan and we went.
For the first time in my 15 or so years of knowing Brazil I was to go to Sao Paulo and I was to fly out of the downtown Rio Santos Dumont Airport and into the small Congonhas in Sao Paulo. The Santos Dumont airport on the bayside edge of downtown Rio has one runway. The planes come in over the Rio-Niteroi bridge and take off (what appears to be) directly into the Sugar loaf. Compared to the GIG – International airport - this little ‘local’ airport is modern, efficient and spotlessly clean.
The International airport in Rio is sadly in need of remodeling. The decor is bad 1960s and the bathrooms made of the cheapest possible materials. It is a shame because for most visitors it is the doorway to Brazil.
You can not imagine the size of Sao Paulo – I’ve been told but I still didn’t know until I saw the skyline as we landed, and from my little window I was only seeing a small slice of the city. The Santos Dumont and the Congonhas primary function is a commuter connection between these two major cities – it is like a connection between New York City and Washington DC. We traveled during non peak commuter times in order to have reasonable prices (R$380.00 per person on GOL) and are staying in a near empty business hotel two blocks off the main banking drag of Central Sao Paulo in order to pay R$140.00 a night (instead of the R$655.00 minimum at the Hilton)
We arrived at the airport, got our bags in a record 15 minutes, paid for a taxi and was at the hotel, unpacked and walking the famous Avenida Paulista within one hour – the marvels of small airports.