This weekend, Alexandre and his father had a medical conference in Ribeirão Preto, a city a few hours inland from Sao Paulo, so Alexandre's mother and I decided to tag along to have an excuse to see the city and stay in a hotel. (For those of you who thought that Caipirópolis was Ribeirão Preto, neh neh! Try again!)
We drove to the in-laws' house on Thursday night, and Alexandre's mom gave me the most awesomely awesome belated birthday present:
|A set of fancy dinner plates with BIRDS on them!!!! She knows me so well.|
I think they call for a change in the cooking blog's toucan napkin holder mascot.
Then we woke up at an ungodly hour on Friday morning to get on the road to get to the conference on time (of course we were still late-- you know how group road trips are).
Our reservation was in a hotel that I will name so that you do NOT stay there: The Taiwan Hotel of Ribeirão Preto. Really bad! We had a discount because of the conference, but the price on the wall was something like R$380 a night for 2 people! (Their site says it's R$195, but that's not what the wall said). It was pretty darn crappy, especially for a price that exorbitant. On the front door of the hotel, they had a little sign that said in Portuguese, "This hotel has been rated a 5-Star LUXURY Hotel by such and such Magazine", but instead of stars, they'd typed 5 little asterisks: *****. So we had the running joke over the weekend that it was the 5-asterisk hotel. Its only redeeming quality was its amazing hot chocolate at breakfast.
Anyway. Alexandre's mom and I went into the conference with the men to
Ribeirão Preto seems like a really nice place-- it's interior in culture, with lots of country-style bars and bad drivers all that, but it's a big city, and it seems really well-established, with lots of big companies and small stores alike. It apparently has 3 medical schools, which bring in a lot of people and money. While the MIL and I were walking around, something just felt so strange and different. For a few hours, I couldn't put my finger on it, but then suddenly it came to me: There were hardly any motorcycles!!! Imagine! It's worth visiting for that reason alone.
The MIL's definition of a good time is hours and hours of window shopping, so despite my suggestions that we check out the zoo, that's pretty much all we did. But she's good company, so it was fun. We checked out the mall close to the hotel, which had a Contem 1g store.
All right. Everyone has their "thing," right? The one consumerist thing that they just can't resist and therefore must avoid exposing themselves to? For some people, it's shoes. For others, it's purses. For others, it may be kitchen utensils, or fancy soaps, or well-intentioned sports equipment (I do not know or live with anyone who fits into this last category). My "thing" is Contem 1g, the best makeup line I've ever used, and the best makeup store I've ever been to, in Brazil or the US. The only problem is that I spend 15 minutes in there and spend 2 weeks' salary. It's like a vortex. You get sucked in and then spit out with a face covered in high-quality makeup, an empty wallet, and a little black bag full of said high-quality makeup: product ideas that you didn't know existed and suddenly realized you couldn't live without. But thanks to me, Alexandre's mother is a new Contem 1g convert (it's read "Contem um grama," by the way).
After our shopping spree in the makeup store, the MIL and I walked around Tok & Stock (Shout out to Ray and Gil! It was my first time in there! It's the store where dreams are made). Then we had lunch at the mall, and after that, we went back to the hotel for naps (we'd woken up at 5am, after all). By the time I'd woken up, Alexandre and his father were on their way back from the conference. We caught up on our days and then went out for some yummy Italian food (It was a place called Nelson's-- Amazing food, horrible service! Though it might have just been bad waiter luck on our part).
The next morning, we met up for breakfast (where I experienced the aforementioned hot chocolate of the gods). Then the gentlemen went off for a morning of classes, and the MIL and I got back to our exploring. We soon ran into a nice older man selling his own paintings in a plaza. I just LOVED them. You know how some art just comes at you, and suddenly makes itself at home in your heart? This guy's art did that for me.
|click to see a bigger version of the pic|
I know this kind of style is typical to the point of being trite in some parts of Brazil, especially in the northeast, but I thought it represented our life in the interior with a peaceful magnificence. The top picture is the exact type of landscape you see outside the city; the middle left is a Festa Junina party at a church, the middle right is a bustling feira (complete with the old women with their pull-carts), and the bottom is a family working on their sítio. I love the way the people are sharply and colorfully painted (though without faces), while the backgrounds are softer and less defined. As you can see by the links, the paintings gave me lots of things to remember fondly and relate to. They were certainly a far cry from the rest of the street art for sale, which largely consisted of affected images of children seeing Jesus in the clouds and crap like that.
If you liked the guy's work as much as I did, his name is Ademir Melo, and his phone numbers are (16) 3617-1956 and (16) 9114-3948. Trying to do my part to promote local arts and culture!
The MIL and I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Ribeirão's downtown areas and plazas. If you do not want to be heckled by various types of salesmen / evangelical Christians / political activists / penniless hippies peddling homemade CDs and jewelry, I do not recommend sitting on a bench to rest in one of these plazas on a Saturday morning. I tried to help out both the MIL and myself by utilizing my "Now faw-lou porchugueis" schtick, but she just couldn't resist hearing what the people actually had to say. Sigh.
Luckily, Alexandre and his father called to inform us that they were tired of conference shmoozing and wanted to call it a day, so we made our way out of the busy plaza and back to the hotel to check out.
We ate at an amazing churrascaria on our way out of town called Coxilha dos Pampas, and I think I put on like 15 pounds (or maybe the belly afterward was just that baby that the girl at the gym was referring to). So...much...delicious...lamb...(hey, lamb's a baby).
Hooray for Ribeirão Preto! Hooray for quick weekend get-aways! I could totally get used to this medical-conference-turned-vacation-for-me-and-the-MIL thing, especially when the in-laws pay for everything (except for the makeup-- I'll be feeling that later). No, but seriously. They're good company. :)