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Rio and Sao Paulo: Try both for the World Cup

By John Bordsen
Travel Editor
John Bordsen
John Bordsen is the Travel Editor for The Charlotte Observer.

Patricia Ribeiro, 50, is the Texas-based author of “About.com Brazil TRAVEL” (gobrazil.about.com). She was born in Brazil and raised in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Q. For the 2014 World Cup, Sao Paulo is hosting a semifinal and Rio is hosting a quarterfinal and championship. What will the weather be like?

A. Be aware that the events will be held June through July – fall and winter in Brazil. While Rio has beach weather in the winter, you’ll definitely need a hoodie and long pants. Everything south of Rio, including Sao Paulo, will be cooler. Porto Alegre, the southern-most World Cup host city, can get very cold. It had a record chill this July of 4.4 Centigrade (about 39 Fahrenheit).

Q. What are some key differences between Rio and Sao Paulo?

A. Besides the fact that Rio is by the ocean, one of the most clear differences is Rio’s samba culture – the music of Carnival, which you can enjoy even during other times of the year. Sao Paulo has excellent samba as well, but that type of music is more easily associated with Rio, and is what tourists expect. There is great nightlife with live music and samba parties in Rio’s Lapa District.

Sao Paulo has a wide range of nightlife choices for very sophisticated travelers looking for upscale places – bars, restaurants and so on. The emphasis is on gourmet food and upscale nightlife. Rio has that too, but Sao Paulo is famous for it. Sao Paulo also has some of the best museums in Brazil.

Q. What is literally between the two cities?

A. A little over 400 km (249 miles). Both have frequent flights to each other that take about an hour; several companies offer flights all day long. If you take a bus, the drive will be a little over six hours.

Buses are comfortable and a little cheaper. Buses also run all day long and into the night. A good choice is taking a night bus. Pay for the best seat, one that reclines all the way.

Q. What are your suggested ideas for getting away from the crowds?

A. Your best option would be try to plan for after the final World Cup game. I expect things will quiet down. July is the high season there; kids go back to school in August. If you’re going to be in Brazil for a bit, know that prices drop in August and it’s much more quiet. I actually stayed in a hotel where I was the only guest.

But if it’s July and you want to get away from Rio, one of my favorite cities nearby is Paraty, a colonial town with beautiful beaches, cobblestone streets and quaint architecture. The only thing to keep in mind is that Paraty has a literary fair that’s very popular. It usually happens the first two weeks of August, so time your visit.

Near Sao Paolo, my favorite getaway is the north shore of Sao Paulo State. There’s a string of beautiful beaches, and some are very pristine. Because it’s winter, they won’t as be crowded as in the summer. And it’s easier to stay in a charming pousada – Brazil’s version of a B&B.

Winter in Brazil can be so romantic, with long walks on the beach. You may get lucky and have some warm weather, but to me, there’s nothing wrong with being at the beach and wearing a long-sleeve shirt.

Q. Best photo op in Sao Paolo?

A. One is the Martinelli Building, a 360-degree view of the city. Another amazing place is the Italia Building. The rooftop restaurant is good, but you can go up and enjoy the view for free from 3 to 4 p.m. weekdays. Close to the Martinelli Building is another famous skyscraper usually known as the Banespa Building. However, there’s usually a line for the rooftop view.

As far as dining and nightlife with a view, nothing compares to Skye, the rooftop bar and restaurant at the Unique Hotel. They have this pool deck surrounded by glass. The bar and restaurant are excellent, and the view is fantastic.

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