Tuesday, January 02, 2007

More Sao Paulo

Aside: Found a GPS reference for the City of God in case you're interested. Google Earth: [GPS: 22.949910S, 43.359962W]

Not the famous Paul Smith

Another afternoon dipping our toes rather enthusiastically into the local beverages (this has to stop as soon as he leaves!), then back to the same churrascaria with some of Paul's BA 747 crew. This time couldn't be more different from New Year's Eve - it's almost empty, which is a good thing - straight to our table and almost before we've had time to grab some salad the meat starts flowing, and flowing is the word to use! The way the system works is that everyone has a little "traffic light" disc by the side of your place, and if this shows red, they will leave you alone. Flipping it over to green, on the other hand, is an invite to have a chap wander up to you every couple of seconds with enormous perfectly-cooked hunks of meat on a large skewer, which they slice off as you grab the piece with tongs provided for the purpose. We are all equipped with pamphlets explaining what all the bits of the cow are, and which are the best. Numbers make the language thing easier - "What is that, please?" "Blah blah blah blah blah". "Oh. Okay. Erm, what number is that?" "21". "Right, hand it over, and don't worry about slicing it, I want the lot!". This carries on, and we begin to slow. Richard, another First Officer, does us proud, particularly with the tenderloin. Always good to have friends who can put it away on an "eat as much as you want", you feel you're getting better value for money - although Paul did point out that the flipside is you're funding others who eat much more than you. Either way, the meat is delicious. No photos I'm afraid, as I didn't have my camera, and probably wouldn't have remembered to take any anyway. Plus I'd only make you jealous!! They tend to bring the meat out with the inside still pink, and the outside just cooked perfectly. They shave a slither off, then if you want more they'll take it back to grill the next layer. And if you want slightly rarer, you tell them this and they'll just keep cutting it off. Marvellous, especially washed down with a very nice South African wine, and for some round the table, dessert! I do not want a repeat of my Marseilles Bouillabaise (is that how it's spelled?) avaricious illness, so I declined. Given how much meat is flying about, I do wonder how many cows are out back. I have visions of an huge line, stretching round to the front of the restaurant. Think bovine version of a central London club! The conversation flows happily, and I must say all of the BA crew I've come across so far are a thoroughly nice bunch. Wouldn't swap them for an Air France crew any day :)

Oooh, sister company of COLT! Gimme a job!

Following morning and I'm still not feeling hungry. Paul and I go for a walk into the centre [GPS:23.54786S, 46.639473W] - along ConsolaƧao, round Anhangabau, Republica then back again. It's not a very interesting walk in terms of scenery. Sao Paulo is just all high blocks. We search for a nice-looking coffee shop, but don't really find anywhere (until we're not looking any more, of course!). I must say, there are probably lots of very nice bars and restaurants tucked away if you know where to look, but I don't, and the city just doesn't do it for me. We get back and it's time to say farewell to Paul, and the Renaissance Hotel (listed as a "LL" by my book, i.e. $150 and up)! Well I could always check in there I suppose, but this would probably be a bit extreme after "Alpha Hostel" in Rio! I have also never seen so many "Do not disturb" signs as this hotel on New Year's morning. On Paul's 8th floor, every single (no exceptions) room had the tag on the door. Every one! Paul is flying back to London this afternoon, and I have this feeling, as I always have whenever exposed to BA around the world, how nice it would be just to pack it in and head home. Paul's Captain gives me a copy of the Telegraph, which makes me very happy - only an hour before I had remarked how much I'd give for a Torygraph! Plus when I do the shuttle with BA down to Buenos Aires on Thursday I'll stock up on British newspapers again, my last chance till Oz presumably! Would have hoped for an upgrade, but the guys doing my flight only got in at the crack of dawn this morning, so no chance to meet them. No matter, it's only for a few hours, and I'll be able to use the lounge at SP with my silver card (yay!).

I've spent the last few days with Paul catching up, but also quizzing him on all aspects of flying. It's great having someone who is prepared to explain all the things you wonder about but never know - the intricacies of flying, and what it feels like to be up in the cockpit of a 747. I remarked that if I'm watching it (as opposed to inside it), despite knowing all the Physics, I just cannot believe that a 747 gets off the ground. Every single time I see one take off, I think "wow"! He says that even with the pilots, there are times with certain airport approaches when you think "Did I just fly that?". Good to know that it doesn't just become a job - all the BA guys seem to really enjoy what they do. Today I asked him whether they take their shoes off on longhaul flights. I'll leave you to speculate on the answer. It's worth noting that lots of people get angry with the staff when they suffer delays, regardless of whose fault this is - remember that these guys are in the same boat, or plane as the rest of us, and find taxiing around Heathrow for 45 minutes on landing as irritating as you or me. One thing that kinda made me feel proud the last few days is that several of the pilots said to me that they envy me and what I'm doing - these are the best commercial pilots in the world, flying longhaul for a job, and they would like to be doing something like this RTW! You would never have thought it, but I suppose there are lots of limits to what you can do in a regular job, even as a longhaul pilot. For instance it occurred to me that BA only ever hit Rio, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires in South America. Of the whole continent, seeing just those places, whilst all great experiences, leaves out so much. Sure they have holidays too, but do they want to be flying longhaul when it's their job? Probably not. I wouldn't blame them if they settled for a nice pub on the river in South West London. I'd certainly not turn away from one myself now!

We conclude the deal

With Paul gone, I effectively do the walk we did earlier again, half an hour or so, down to the centre, to the LAN office to try to buy my Air New Zealand flight from Tahiti to Auckland. I'm a bit dubious as to whether they'd sell it to me anyway, as Air NZ is not OneWorld, and I'm right. They say they don't, but Qantas do? Where are Qantas? Back next to the hotel! Dammit! I decide to be clever and try American Airlines, who are close to here - it's too late to get back to hotel before 6pm. AA can't sell me the ticket because I'm not flying with them for any of my RTW. Crap. Next? I have an address for the Air NZ reps here locally. I go there. They can't sell me tickets, and apparently they think as I'm not Brazilian I wouldn't be able to buy it in this country anyway. What is it with this damn ticket, why is it so hard to buy?! Why can't I buy it on the net?? I am of course childishly associating this hassle with NZ itself, and early did cross my mind that I would just give up on the damn place and go straight to Oz. Toys > Pram! Next I'll try Qantas, which is LAN's suggestion, and if not, well, I don't know what I'll do. Mail Air NZ and moan about how difficult it is to give them money!

They don't do low-rise here...

Tonight will hopefully get to try some restaurant selling anything but meat - I have had my red meat quota for the month in two days! Full report later peeps.

1 comment:

pine-cones said...

gah! he has not aged one day. ONE DAY.