Every now and then my better half lets me contribute to her platform. I must say the stats have not been that good. Still, the power of nepotism is strong and despite the low participation I still get a chance to flex my creative muscles as a sort of self-appointed travel blogger. In all honesty, I don’t get to go to all the fancy destinations. I go where my work takes me and being an engineer, it’s not usually to any of the beautiful resort islands or holiday spots. I like to think of it as off the beaten track…
I found myself in Sao Paulo, Brazil for a week at the end of February. Flying SAA after a very long time was a real eye-opener. The financial woes that this airline has been under is really showing. The service was lacklustre, most likely a result of seriously demoralised staff. The Moslem Meal both ways was rather average. Having flown Turkish Air and Emirates in the last few months, I couldn’t help thinking that our national carrier needs to up their game. Someone needs to tell them that a Moslem Meal doesn’t have to be butter chicken and rice and that Halaal food can be a little more adventurous. I have been told that in the case of Halaal meals on flights out of South Africa, all the meals come from the same source irrespective of the carrier. This being said I wonder if the meal options are the same or vary depending on the requirements of the airline. This may be worth investigating and could probably make an interesting blog post on its own.
I stayed at a boutique hotel in Jundiai, a block away from one of the better shopping malls in Sao Paulo. Breakfast was a treat, quite literally. When you can smell the coffee wafting into the lift, floors above the restaurant you know you’re in for something special. The coffee was amazing, and it accompanied a rather unusual breakfast. Never before have I had chocolate cake or jelly in a breakfast buffet. There was the usual hot breakfast, none of which I could eat, but the different breads, rolls, cheesecake, chocolate cake and jelly hit the spot. Okay so not all rationality was thrown out, the jelly did have slivers of fruit just to make it legal.
You may like: Halaal travel in Germany
The mall near our hotel, I rated to be in line with Canal Walk or Fourways, with a food court that took up almost the whole floor of the three storey mall. A lot of variety but unfortunately nothing halaal so not much I can write about. My week consisted of some amusing interactions with baffled cashiers trying to take my order on either vegetarian or fish options. Interestingly the fish was limited to tilapia and prawns. I struggled to find anything more exotic than salmon, which is strange, I was hoping to find local dishes like Bacalhau (a dish made with cod) or some other Brazilian dish. Let’s put it down to communication issues.
At work, in a place called Cajamar, a solid forty minutes travel each way every day, is in a business park with a common canteen serving three factory type businesses in the park. The staple diet is rice and a black bean curry which reminded me of a Kokni dish called Tsole. This was served with meat, chicken and fish options and an egg type lagan as the vegetarian option. And then of course the coffee…
We got to visit a specialised coffee shop called Octavio Cafe. Established in 1890, picture a chic modern coffee house with a look and feel like Kahve Road or Coco Safar. Waiters in linen and add of course the amazing aroma of freshly ground beans.
Our driver ensured we got an English speaking waiter who walked us through an extensive menu. For me, the interesting part was how many different ways of preparing the coffee there were. I considered myself a coffee snob before this trip but now realise I am truly inexperienced in this arena. After much deliberation, I tried an orange Coffee with orange juice and lemon juice and my colleague tried a tonic espresso, tonic water lemon and ice. We also tried two different espressos uniquely prepared. First, you chose the beans, and then they advise you on the different methods of preparation. The most intriguing being the Aram pressure extraction technique. The effects of the coffee only wore out some ten hours later when we were on the plane back to South Africa. Cost wise in Brazilian Real it is comparable to coffee in South Africa but at an exchange rate of almost 4 to 1, these coffees were between R80 and R90 each.
After buying a number of different beans and ground coffee to bring home, we were able to have a quick stop at Santos Stadium where they have an interesting Football Museum. This Stadium was the home ground of the soccer legend Pele and other football heroes from the days when stars had more ball skill then falling down skills. But that’s a discussion for another day. Muito Obrigado for reading this far, I only wish you all one day get a chance to taste coffee the Brazilian way.
Contributed by Zulfikar Umar