On Tuesday I said goodbye to the Amazon jungle & Manaus and travelled the 1,700 miles south to the concrete jungle that is São Paulo.

On Tuesday I said goodbye to the Amazon jungle & Manaus and travelled the 1,700 miles south to the concrete jungle that is São Paulo. The first thing you notice when you land is the change in temperate, the 18 degrees at the airport feels freezing compared to the stifling 38 degrees in Amazonas region. I reach for my coat. This is my first visit to Brazil's biggest city and it offers a different challenge to where I've been before. São Paulo is a monster and can be a violent one at that. I've known 3 people who have had guns pulled on them, 2 of them whilst visiting Sampa, as the city is known. 

From speaking with locals ahead of the tournament, the advice I was given is that it is better to have an average hotel in a nice district than a great hotel in an average district. I have opted for Paulista, an up market area just off the centre with plenty of bars & restaurants.

Having not been able to see any of the group games since Saturday I want my World Cup fix. Finding a place to watch the first of the games involving Belgium is easy, it seems like everybody in São Paulo is football mad, TV's showing the game are in every shop, every cafe and every bar. It is also evident how many fans from all around the world are here, either using the city as a base to see games or a quick stop over. For me, I'm here as England's next game versus Uruguay is in the 60k seater Arena Corinthians later this week. Tickets are scarce, this was one of the first games in the World Cup to sell out. At the airport when I landed there were plenty of England fans on the search for a ticket and willing to part with big money. The contingency for those unable to get into the game is to go to the fan zone, it provides a decent atmosphere as tens of thousands will be there to watch the game. Today, you can't even get into the fan zone, the second game involves the home nation and the country will stop for the game.
The country literally does stop for the game. The infamous traffic congestion of the city is non existent, mysteriously the airport has a power failure and no planes are able to take off the whole time the game is on. Yellow is visible everywhere, children, mums and office workers alike. The bars over flow into the roads with people transfixed on the screens. I find a bar around the corner from my hotel to eat, drink, watch the game and even better than that, watch the expressive locals head & kick every ball. It's noticeable the number of females watching the game, over 50%. Compare that to your local pub back in England and I'd imagine that there would be three times less women watching. The Brazilians are a passionate nation, I don't need to be able to understand Portuguese to see their frustration with Fred, their love for Neymar and their complete bewilderment at the performance of the Mexico keeper Ochoa. At the end of the 0-0 draw the bar falls flat for 15 seconds, samba music comes on and suddenly everybody is up dancing & chatting. I've not seen a bed since Saturday night, today has been the perfect reintegration back into civilisation.

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