Not having visited Sao Paulo before, I thought a tour would make sense. Carte Blanche was recommended by a colleague of mine who had just taken a tour days before mine. I shot off an email and within hours, Mark had outlined a custom tour based on what I mentioned I was interested in. He connected me with his colleague, Grant (who is about as cool as they come!).
Grant met me at the hotel a few minuted early, took me on the metro to churches, museums and the Mercado Central. We had lunch there where I learned more about the culture of Brazil (Don't eat that pastry with your hands - use a napkin!) and sampled some amazing fruits. So fun.
From there, we headed over to an open-air market where I was able to pick up some really cool souvenirs for the kids and art for the grown-ups. Grant was super patient, answered all my questions and made sure that I had a great time.
At the end of the day, we went to a bar and had drink - a Caipirinha (SO tasty, but just drink 1!) and then to a corner restaurant where we had a bit of the local food, called a Coxinha and topped off with a Brahma beer. It was about as local as it gets, which is exactly what I wanted.
When I got back to my hotel, I thought "That wasn't a tour...it was like hanging out with a cool friend!" which was perfect for me as I "hate" being a tourist. Despite that I scheduled my tour on a Sunday (some things are closed), I had a great time in the amount of time I had.
Now about Grant - this guy is unbelievable! He speaks Portuguese like a native (although he's a Brit) but also speaks, French, Spanish, English and sign language! The cool part for me is whenever he'd have a conversation with a local, you could tell that they thought he was "the real deal" - no repeating phrases slowly for him! He made me feel right at home, told me what I could do on my own on the metro and what I should take a cab for, and built my SP confidence for when I come back next time.
So no, you don't tour around the city in a double-decker bus with 50 strangers you don't know - you get a tour made just for you that was worth every real.
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