Florianopolis & Sao Paulo 5.22.17

Traveling in Brazil has been a language experience unlike in other countries. Everywhere else I traveled I relied on either English, my first language, or the native language of the country, Spanish, to communicate.

In Brazil, English is not widely spoken and the native language is Portuguese. Here, my interactions usually take place in Portuñol, which Wikipedia describes as a, “simplified mixture of the two languages, that allows speakers of either Spanish or Portuguese who are not proficient in the other language to communicate with one another.” This hybrid language is possible because Spanish and Portuguese are closely related with about 89% overlap in words and characteristics.

For a Spanish speaker, reading Portuguese is relatively easy. I can understand menus, websites, and signs even though I do not have formal Portuguese language training. The largest difference between the two languages is in pronunciation. The Portuguese spoken in Brazil, when compared to Spanish, is spoken with less enunciation and a looser tongue.

When I first entered Brazil I thought about which language to use every time I interacted with another person. Starting a conversation in English seemed presumptuous and felt like I was not making an effort to adapt to the place I was visiting. However, starting a conversation in Spanish felt silly because that is not the language spoken here. With time, I have learned a few helpful phrases including:

  • Nao falo portugués, falo ingles o español – I do not speak Portuguese, I speak English or Spanish
  • Tudo bem?/todo bom – Everything OK?/All good

With these phrases and the realization that most non-domestic tourists in Brazil are Spanish speakers, I comfortably begin conversations in Spanish. I am enjoying being immersed in Portuguese, a language that I think sounds beautiful, and learning new words each day.


The city of Florianopolis (Floripa, as the locals say) is a coastal city in the south of Brazil located in the state of Santa Catarina. There are two bridges connecting the mainland, where the city is located, to the island of Santa Catarina, where most vacationers visit. I traveled via overnight bus from Foz de Iguazu to reach Floripa.
There are 42 beaches, islands and lagoons in Floripa. I stayed at Barra da Lagoa beach, an area popular with surfers. The beach is 14km long. Sand dunes, instead of developments, line this stretch of beach because the area is protected by the government.
I spent 3 days at Barra de Lagoa. It rained daily. This rain, while not ideal for beach relaxation, made for lovely skies.
The hostel I stayed at in Floripa was a converted mansion. The back fence opened to the beach. This hostel is popular for surfers and there were a few Brazilians staying here who surfed each morning.
At the hostel I met Vivek from New Jersey. He was the only other guest who was not Brazilian. We ate lunch together and explored tide pools in the area.
Sights in Floripa. The tide pools and rock shoreline were about 2 miles away from our beach hostel.
From Floripa, I traveled 13 hours overnight to reach Sao Paulo. In Sao Paulo, the bus terminal is connected to the metro. I liked seeing the painted signs on the metro station floor indicating where bike commuters could board and find bike storage.
I arrived around 9:00am to my hostel in Sao Paulo. At breakfast I met Darren from Australia (left and wearing a hat), Liam from New Zealand (middle), and Uesley (right) a Brazilian working at the hostel. Together with these 3 and others from the hostel we visited the Museu do Futebol, which bills itself as the largest library for information about soccer.
My Birkenstock sandals reached a point of over-use. This brand is available in Chile but I did not decide to replace the sandals while I was still in that country. Birkenstocks are not imported into Argentina so Brazil was my next opportunity to search for replacement sandals. Luckily, Birkenstock came to Brazil about 2 years ago. I took a trip to the second most upscale mall in Sao Paulo, Iguatemi, to find the local Birkenstock store. Also in the mall were stores like Tory Burch and a Maserati car on display.
A successful sandal replacement! I left the old pair in the garbage at the store.
After the mall I re-connected with the group of sightseers from the hostel. We walked through the centro neighborhood to reach Edificio Italia. This building has 46 floors and is known for its panoramic views of the city. It cost $10 to visit the overlook. Included with the entrance fee was a glass of sparkling wine. Sao Paulo is a city of 11 million people with 20 million people in the greater metro area. The skyline appeared never ending.
With Giovanni, a staff member at the hostel, I explored the city center. We visited the Municipal Theatre, the central plaza called Plaza de Se, the Sao Paulo Cathedral, and the old downtown which includes the building that houses the BOVESPA stock exchange.
In Sao Paulo I ran into my friend Romain (from France). He and I first met in our dorm room on the Argentine side of Foz de Iguazu. Romain and I visited free art galleries including the Casa da Imagem housed in a restored colonial house downtown that features historical photos from their collection of more than 84,000 images.
Romain and I continued on to the Pinacoteca do Estado, a museum housing Brazilian art from the 19th century. Seeing art still feels new on this journey and I am enjoying time in museums. En route to the Pinacoteca we passed through a metro station.
Laura, an Irish woman living in Belgium and working in Rio de Janeiro who took advantage of the holiday weekend to vacation in Sao Paulo, and I went to a karaoke bar in the Liberdade district of Sao Paulo. At the bar, we made friends with two Brazilians.
On Sundays in Sao Paulo, the main road in the business district, Avenida Paulista, is closed to vehicle traffic. People come to this almost 2 mile stretch of road to bike, roller-skate, skateboard, stroll, run, people watch, and hang out. Along the sides of the street there were musicians and food stands. The Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra painted the Bob Dylan mural in Minneapolis located on 4th Street and Hennepin Avenue. He also painted this portrait of the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda Woessner says:

    Great update! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comments are getting shorter and shorter 😉


  2. Isadora Martinez says:

    Great Sarah! Was Florianopolis the first city you visited in Brazil? It isn’t the most commom destination between foreigners, but it is a beautiful and lovely city, especially if you enjoy beaches.

    How was getting there by bus? It’s possible to check the fares and schedules online: https://brazilbustravel.com/from-florianopolis-sc


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