Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Notes from Sao Paulo, Brazil

This is my first time in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In fact, it is my first time in Brazil. Why not throw in the fact that it is my first time on the continent of South America? Some quick notes/observations:

  • The people are toothsome. I’m told that lots of Miss Universe/World’s come from Brazil, and its possibly quite true. You’re also told to explore areas like bars/clubs and drop in “where the beautiful people are”.
  • Sao Paulo is very multi-cultural. Its very easy to blend in, till someone speaks to you in Brazilian-Portuguese.
  • In this market, you need Brazilian-Portuguese. The bookstores are filled with titles. Going to large malls and speaking to wait staff is a challenge if you only speak English. Taxi drivers speak no English, so be prepared ahead of time.
  • The language is important, so there are always simultaneous translators when you give presentations.
  • Traffic jams are redefined here. Sitting in a car for two hours, when the journey really should take fourty-five minutes is quite common. Helicopters are generally available (as are helipads), and there are plenty of options for getting armored cars are.
  • There’s plenty of Brazilian fashion brands that we never see overseas.
  • I had a meal at Bob’s. It reminded me of a local McDonalds. Their website points to Twitter, Facebook and Orkut. Yes, Orkut is still a fairly used social network in Brazil. Only in Brazil (previously also in India, but I think Facebook has killed it there).
  • Nokia’s are big in Sao Paulo. Followed by Android-based devices. There are plenty of accessories for iOS devices (iPhones/iPads) in higher end malls (I noticed 2 push carts in one mall, for example), but they don’t seem as prevalent in terms of usage. There are Apple Premium Resellers as well.
  • K-POP videos are being used to sell TVs here in Sao Paulo.
  • There are really good concert acts happening in Sao Paulo (via Time Out Sao Paulo). Cities like Kuala Lumpur/Singapore can learn a lot from them.
  • HSBC is really here.
  • The Interlagos F1 Grand Prix happens here too. It is a pity I’m here a week earlier and won’t get to catch the F1.
  • Sao Paulo will be one of the host cities for the World Cup 2012 while Rio gets the Olympics in 2016 (save for some soccer matches which will also be in Sao Paulo). Infrastructure and language is going to be interesting for this.
  • People are very civic conscious and clean up after themselves (in fast food joints, after their dog poos, etc.).
  • Jardines area is definitely very pet friendly — see plenty of dogs walking around. It is also human friendly, less cars on the street. However it is hilly, so if you have a pram, it is not impossible but you have to be careful with negotiating the sidewalks.
  • Cycle friendly Sao Paulo is.

Food in Brussels

Barbar at Delirium in Brussels. Thousands of beers in-store! It was my first time to Brussels, Belgium. I found some amazing food that I’d go back to on a regular basis on future trips to Brussels. Most of everything is in the Grand Place area.

Scheletema has been around since 1972. They serve high quality food. Try their steak (filet mignon). Try their tuna. They have awesome scallops for a starter. Their menus can also be relatively good value for money.

Brussels is famous for “moules et frites” (mussels & fries). Visit Chez Leon. Its always crowded, has been around since 1893, and they have excellent mussels. Their Leon beer isn’t too bad either.

Want beer? Check out Delirium Cafe. Its in the Guinness Book of Records for holding over 2,000 beers in stock. Their tap beers are awesome too. I’ve quite enjoyed Barbar.

Waffles are available everywhere. For tradition, visit Le Funambule Waffles, which is near to Manneken Pis. They’ve been around since 18xx.

Fries are also everywhere, be sure to try out many of the sauces.

La Fourchette du Printemps

Beautiful quaint little restaurant at Rue du Printemps, nearby the Wagram metro station. It has one Michelin star. Lunch tasting menu is 45 euros a pop (February 2012) – starter, main course, desert. They also give you a pre-starter (free) plus a pre-desert (free). They close for lunch at 2pm, but entertained us right till 3.30pm – brilliant service. Chocolate desert for presentation was absolutely amazing – worth taking a video snapshot in-memory. Main course was out of this world. Definitely worth paying a visit; all credit cards (visa/master/amex) accepted.

Pierre Hermé Paris at Selfridges for macaroons

Pierre Hermé Paris recently opened at Selfridges in London (400 Oxford St – get out at Bond Street tube stop). The shop is rigid – you can either pick a few, and if you want packs, they recommend it to be pre-packed. Heritage from about the 1970s, with each macaroon setting you back about £2 or so.

Unless you get one with white truffles (pic). These are rare, and when they exist, they fly off the shelves. You don’t get them in pre-packaged gift boxes because it would overwhelm the other macaroons. They really taste good, heavenly even. I never figured truffles would go well in sweets, but its clear that this pâtissier has figured it out.

The Guardian wonders if they are the world’s best macaroons? For me, they definitely are.

Berthillon ice-cream

One of the best ice creams in the world is by Berthillon. Get it exclusively in Paris, France. Get a few scoops if you happen to be there. The ice creams are truly luxurious (never bothered with the sorbets). Many shops on the “island” sell it, and its got heritage — started in 1954. Google Maps link.

The iPad as a camera

I’ve been walking around Paris recently and it’s becoming quite common: the iPad is used as a camera. I’ve seen tourists do the same thing in Munich as well, but not as common as in Paris.

Beyond just taking photos with a larger screen, people are doing entire tours, with video and audio. I’m unaware if there are such guides, but people are walking around with the iPad 2 in portrait mode and are recording their experience. There are so many experiences to be had in Paris, so it is not surprising that people want to take it home and their iPad’s have become the device they turn to for it.

I’ve always thought that the large screen on the iPad makes a perfect “back” for a camera. When I first started carrying my Canon G10 (a point&shoot, with zoom, that has controls like an SLR to some extent) I was always trying to use the viewfinder. A trait from shooting with SLRs and dSLRs all the while. Today I’m quite happy to use the larger LCD display to compose my photos (largely out of frustration of not having a viewfinder that covered more of the frame).

I notice LCD composition generally becoming the trend. Many cheaper digital cameras don’t even come with a viewfinder any longer. People are used to using larger LCDs for composition with their touchscreen phones (like iPhone’s, Androids, most of Nokia’s touch devices, etc.)

So why does the iPad 2 come with an inadequate camera/video camera? The iPad 3 will definitely improve on this, as will future revisions. I think Apple just had no idea that people would take on using such a device as a camera…

FWIW, around conferences, I’ve seen people use Playbook’s and Xoom’s to do the same thing (but that, I’ve always presumed is the alpha geek crowd using their devices).