It was only a matter of time, after all. But when wandering around the Saturday market in Praça Benedito Calixto, admiring the variety and quantity of crap on offer – vintage telephones, ’80s toys, comedy kids’ bibs, fourth-hand handbags, artesanial bread, antique teasets, records upon records upon records, hippy-dippy clothing – surrounded by hungover hipsters in rainbow Raybans, I suddenly realised where I was: the Brazilian version of Broadway Market, Brick Lane, or any other of East London’s much-loved (by me) markets.
As I write, I’m sitting outside São Paulo’s Cafe 1001, beset by pungent, er, tobacco fumes on every side, as said hipsters around me move on from the restorative coffee and seco de guaraná to the first beers of the day. This place is jumping, tunes blaring, standing room only (I’m sitting on a wall, as my samba-tired legs have demanded time out) as the city gears up for Saturday night. I think my first beers are a while away yet, as I couldn’t persuade myself out of bed until midday thanks to the loopyjuice that is caipiroska: packed full of enough booze and sugar to keep you dancing until the larger of the small hours, it is only the next day that you realise that the energy was an utter illusion, and in fact that the end of my third decade is looming near enough to ensure I’m a little, um, vague today.
It was not too far away from here that we stopped in an equally-familiar bar for a (definitively wise) nightcap on the way home: an unmarked door in a graffitied wall led to a semi-rescued, semi-condemned house with a distinctly temporary bar and even less permanent toilets. I was immediately transported to any number of Hackney’s less salubrious nightspots, not to mention one hilariously illegal nightclub in NYC’s Brooklyn – and the hipsters were of course out in force. Having added beer to the mix and realised that bed in fact was a sensible option – and that we were the oldest people in this bar by a country mile – I headed home as the first glimmer of sunrise touched what I could see of the horizon (which of course in São Paulo is just the tops of distant tower blocks, as the city reaches further than the eye can see in every direction). Brilliant.
Of course, there are differences between the two Hackneys: at the centre of the market here is a samba band, which means dancing of course, and the design shops have a distinctly Brazilian edge – hard to describe but the furniture and interiors here are world-class and individual. I spent a very happy half an hour earlier watching a troupe practise the world’s best-humoured martial art, capoeira. The weather is not great but to me perfectly fine, but the stallholders are huddling under blankets in protest at the rigours of a temperature of 17 degrees. Honestly…(Yesterday I had lunch with a Brazilian who pointed at the hazy but sunny sky amid a 26 degree warmth and harrumphed, “This is the problem with this city – how can anyone live under this cloud?” I assume he’s never been to England.)
I don’t know if the familiarity of all this is a shrinking-world phenomenon – the Raybans must be, I suppose – or if the young and free naturally like to colonise neighbourhoods with bars, markets and coffee shops and then spend their lives there, with each other, being cool. Whichever, I like it – might start flathunting.
(But – and hat tip to my good friend Ron Knox here – nothing beats London humour.)