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Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, August 2005 Issue


Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
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ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright © 2005 
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In This Issue:
Sao Paulo's Endless Skyline

Sao Paulo Skyline

  • Best of Barbados Deals
  • “Fr-eedom” Rate for America's Heros
  • Zippo Lighters in Checked Luggage
  • Go Chicago Card
  • Hotel Rapist Caught
  • Summer Deals Extended Stay Hotels
  • £16 to Paris, Amsterdam
  • Radisson Aruba Fall Sale
  • Tips for Reducing Identity Theft
  • Fewer Miles - United
  • Fewer Miles, American
  • 7 Nights for the Price of 3 at Club Med
  • Fall Savings to France
  • Kids, Teens Learn to Sail Fr.ee
  • Picasso Prague Package $399
  • Surprising Sao Paulo, Brazil by Nicki Chodnoff
  • 50% Off Hotel Hassler Fall Package

  • Best of Barbados Deals

    "The Best of Barbados," program returns this fall, providing savings and tangible added value. The program offers U.S. travelers savings on flights, accommodations, dining, and car rental.

    With 26 hotels participating across the island, the program offers a wide range of accommodations to suit any traveler's budget and special interests. The program is available for travel from the U.S. only. Passports are required for travel to Barbados.

    Details for 2005 include: The first night fr.ee when staying seven nights or longer at participating properties; fr.ee daily breakfast for one or two guests; a $250 airfare credit per person (maximum two persons per room), a savings of $500 per couple; one fr.ee day's car rental ( Drive-A-Matic Car or Stoutes) with a minimum three-day paid rental.

    The combined savings translate into more than $900 per couple.

    Extra savings are available for activities. When you purchase one activity ticket, you get 50 percent off a second ticket for the same activity. Activities include a submarine ride, rounds of golf, and a Mount Gay Rum tour. You will also receive a "Best of Barbados" shopping card offering 15 percent discounts in participating shops when making purchases of $25 or more.

    Barbados Tourism Authority or 800/221-9831.


    “Fr-eedom” Rate for America's Heros

    San Francisco’s Handlery Union Square Hotel offers a special room rate to all active duty military currently serving America. The “Fr-eedom” room rate is $75. Valid through Dec. 30, 2005, the offer is based on availability, double occupancy, and does not include tax. Those eligible for the “Fr-eedom” rate must show active duty military ID or overseas orders.

    The family-owned hotel is located in the heart of Union Square at 351 Geary Street. Hotel amenities include a restaurant and bar, an outdoor heated swimming pool, a sauna and wireless internet. Shopping and entertainment are steps away.

    Handlery Union Square Hotel or 800/995-4874.


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    Zippo Lighters Permitted in Checked Luggage

    When packing for your next flight, you can now pack a filled Zippo pocket lighter in your checked luggage, provided the lighter is placed in a Zippo Cargo Case by OtterBox, as specified by the Department of Transportation (DOT). This development follows the ruling by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) that new, never-filled pocket lighters require no special packaging and may be stowed in checked luggage. The new ruling allows passengers to pack up to two Zippo pocket lighters, each placed in an approved case, in checked luggage aboard all commercial airlines.

    The Zippo Cargo Case, by OtterBox, is an airtight container specifically designed to fit a single Zippo-brand pocket lighter. As the only storage container with an exemption from the DOT, the cargo box offers Zippo owners convenience when traveling by air.


    Go Chicago Card Unlimited Admission to Attractions

    Go Chicago Card, the all-inclusive attraction pass, offers an introductory price of $39 per adult, per day. Go Chicago Card visitors have unlimited admission to the city's most well-known attractions and hidden gems, including: Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, The Notebaert Nature Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago.

    With the Go Chicago Card, you can travel around Chicago fr,eely without having to reach for your wallet at each attraction. It's like a theme park pass to the city," said Cecilia Dahl, president of Smart Destinations, provider of unlimited admission attraction passes in major U.S. travel destinations..

    Card holders have access to more than 25 destinations with express entry to many of them. The card also includes savings of up to 20 percent on shopping and dining.

    Click here to purchase the Go Chicago Card


    Hotel Rapist Caught

    Hotel workers in the tourist area of Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, are talking about the hotel rape cases, but do not want their hotel identified fearing booking backlash.

    The rapist used the same modus operandi-- he tricks hotel guests into letting him enter the room by posing as a hotel staff member.

    Based on reports by the victims, the suspect approaches victims in the hotel lobby or entrance and introduces himself as hotel staff. Security officials believe the suspect monitors prospective victims before trailing them to their rooms. Posing as a staff member, he gains entry into rooms.

    In the first incident, a 43-year old Irish woman at a five-star hotel claims she was tied, raped and sodomized repeatedly by the suspect for four hours in her room. The hotel’s security guard stationed in the elevator thought the suspect was a hotel guest because he dressed smartly and looked decent, say hotel sources.

    “We note the particulars of any person who behaves suspiciously. If he or she claims to be a hotel guest we will ask for the room number and key, but this procedure was not applied to the suspect as he looked like a hotel guest,” added the spokesman. “It has been the hotel’s practice to station a security guard in the lift at night as a security measure.”

    The hotel confirmed it is tightening security to avoid such incidents. Close circuit cameras will be installed at several strategic areas and the elevator entrance on every floor.

    The second incident involved a 24-year old South Korean tourist at a budget hotel. The suspect gained entry by bringing a flask of hot water to the room and insisted she had asked for the water earlier. In her police report, the victim, on her first visit to Kuala Lumpur, claimed she was assaulted and raped by the man. Based on the description given by the victims, police believe the same suspect committed both crimes.

    A 10-year-old Kuwaiti boy, on a tour with his classmates, is the rapist’s latest victim. Reports claim the alleged rapist waylaid and sodomized the boy in the bathroom of a hotel. Closed circuit camera footage from the reception counter of the budget hotel where the boy was staying led police to the suspect and police have him in custody.

    Advertisement
    Fun, Fr-ee Things, San Diego
    This savings-packed FR.EE brochure features Almost 40 Fun, Fr-ee Things to do in San Diego. When heading to Southern California, attend summer concerts or visit a State Historic Park and keep that cash in your pocket. $1 handling fee.

    To get your Fr-ee Fun San Diego brochure, click here to send us an email Order Free Fun San Diego in the subject line.


    Summer Deals From Extended Stay Hotels

    Don't let the high cost of gas get in the way of your vacation. Extended Stay Hotels make it easy and affordable to take the whole family, including Fido and Fluffy with their summer rates.

    Extended Stay Hotels operate hotels in 43 states under the following brands: Extended Stay America, Homestead Studio Suites Hotels, StudioPLUS Deluxe Studios, Crossland Economy Studios properties and the new Extended Stay Deluxe.

    Extended Stay's 74,500 studios and suites feature a fully equipped kitchen, wireless Internet access, on-site housekeeping and guest-laundry facilities. And, there's no need to leave the family pet at home. All Extended Stay Hotels are pet-friendly.

    Samples of summer rates from Extended Stay Hotels include: Boston or Tampa from $58.99; New York from $84.99; Washington D.C. from $88.99; Atlanta from $34.99; Orlando from $54.99; Chicago from $44.99; Las Vegas or Seattle from $38.99; Anaheim from $68.99; Los Angeles from $53.99 and San Francisco from $78.99.

    You can get the inside scoop on last-minute deals and save an additional 20 percent when you join Extended Stay Hotels' "Suite Offers" program.

    Extended Stay Hotels or 800/EXT-STAY.


    £16 to Paris, Amsterdam

    Eurolines, the low-cost scheduled international coachline operator is giving thousands of seats away at bargain prices this summer. Its Best Value Fares to some of the top destinations on the continent are available online until Sep. 6, 2005, putting Paris, Brussels, Bruges and Amsterdam within reach for £16.

    Eurolines Best Value Fares are restricted in numbers and advertised for up to one month ahead of travel dates. If these special fares are already booked, Eurolines 30 day and 15 day Promo Fares can be purchased online.

    There are bargain fares to 30 destinations in Europe. The deals are only available online where they can be booked at any time, even on the day of travel. Fares are subject to availability.

    Unlike most airlines there are no hidden extras, fuel surcharges or taxes to factor into the actual cost of travel. For the listed fares, add the booking fee of £3 which is charged per booking, not for each part of the journey.

    Eurolines operates services to more than 500 destinations across Europe and takes you from the heart of London to the heart of your destination. If you are traveling from other parts of mainland Britain, there is a special add-on fare of £15 return using National Express to connect with Eurolines services in London.

    Sample Best Value fares: The fare to Paris, Calais, Poitiers, Tours, Nantes, Rennes, Strasbourg, Lille, Montpellier, Perpignan is £16 and £19 to Dijon and Lyon.

    £16 to Brussels, Mons and Bruges, Belgium and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

    £17 to Dusseldorf, Dortmund, Munster, Osnabruck, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Hanover and Berlin, Germany.

    £26 to Barcelona, Spain.

    Eurolines Fares.


    Radisson Aruba Fall Sale

    HURRY BOOK BY AUG. 5 -- The Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino again offers its fall sale with 30 percent off room rates for travel Sep. 4 to Dec. 21, 2005, if booked by Aug. 5, 2005.

    With the sale, room rates start at $179 per night, based on double occupancy, for garden view, partial ocean view, and deluxe categories. Additionally, when you stay five nights or longer you receive a $100 food and beverage credit, per room, that can be used in any of Radisson's restaurants or bars. The food and beverage credit is limited to one credit per stay. Black out dates apply.

    The resort also offers a guest enrichment program with many fr,ee activities, while others require a nominal fee. Activities include Sunrise in Aruba with a visit to Alto Vista to watch the sun rise with mimosas and a continental breakfast; wine tasting with the resort's sommelier; and massage instruction.

    Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino or 800/333-3333.


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    A Face-It Luggage tag makes it less likely for a stranger or thief to walk off with your luggage and helps you recognize your luggage at a glance in hotels or airports. Face-It tags are also available for briefcases, portfolio books, backpacks, sporting equipment, musical instruments, bicycles and more. Face-It Luggage Tags
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    Tips for Reducing Identity Theft

    If you are one of the 328 million Americans planning to travel, be sure to take steps to ensure your financial privacy and minimize your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission reported that at least 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft in a recent 12 month period.

    Here are seven safety tips to consider before heading off to your vacation spot:

    • Pack the items needed. Only take the identification and credit cards you will need for your trip. Leave your checkbook and cards showing your Social Security number at home.
    • Use prepaid or stored-value travel cards. Using prepaid cards allows you to plan your travel expenses and put the amount you plan to use on the card. If stolen, thieves can't access your account and the issuers replace your money. Keep issuers' phone numbers in a safe yet accessible place.
    • Take an extra credit card for emergencies -- in case your main card gets lost or stolen. Large charges or non-local transactions can cause your account to close temporarily for fraud detection until you verify the charges are legitimate. Notify issuers there maybe heightened card activity in your destination cities before you travel.
    • Keep track of your receipts. Never leave receipts from ATM machines, credit card purchases or gas stations.
    • Remain alert. High traffic areas, such as airports, train stations and theme parks are busy venues that attract thieves. Keep cash and credit cards in a travel pouch inside your clothes.
    • Safeguard rental agreements. Never keep this information in the car, since it contains personal information that thieves can use.
    • Lock your laptop. If you are traveling with your laptop, store it in a safe place. This makes it harder for thieves to steal or hack into personal financial information you have stored.



    Get Out of Town on Fewer Miles, United

    Taking a weekend jaunt is easier for United Mileage Plus members through Dec. 31, 2005. During this time, you will need up to 40 percent fewer miles to get an economy frequent flyer award ticket on nonstop flights no more than 750 air miles each way, booked online. No stopovers are permitted.

    Only 15,000 redeemable miles gets you a roundtrip Saver Award ticket in United economy, which normally requires 25,000 miles. Flying first- or business-class is 30,000 miles which normally requires 40,000 miles. The offer applies to qualifying travel within the 48 contiguous states and between the U.S. and Canada.

    Qualifying sample flights to and from United's hub cities include travel between: Chicago and New York; Washington, D.C., and Toronto; Denver and Las Vegas; Dallas and Phoenix; Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Reno, and Phoenix; San Francisco and Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, or Seattle; and Washington, D.C. to New York, Philadelphia, or Boston.

    United Airlines.



    Shorter Flights for Fewer Miles, American

    American Airlines makes it easier to take to the skies when booking your award trip. With short-hop MileSAAver(SM) awards, you can fly roundtrip on nonstop routes under 750 air miles one way within the continental United States and Canada for a reduced number of AAdvantage miles when booking award travel online.

    Economy Class roundtrip awards are available for 15,000 miles, a 10,000-mile savings.

    First- or business-class roundtrip awards are available for 30,000 miles, a savings of 15,000 miles. Short-hop MileSAAver awards are available for travel through Feb. 28, 2006. Awards are valid for nonstop short-hop flights operated by American Airlines, American Eagle or AmericanConnection carriers.

    American Airlines.


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    Protect Luggage with Baggage Guard Seals

    The pre-numbered, one-time use plastic padlocks are the perfect way to protect your luggage since they cannot be reinstalled once removed. That feature lets you instantly know if someone tampered with your luggage. Yet when TSAs at airports need to inspect your luggage, Baggage Guard Seals can be easily removed. A package of 10 Baggage Guard Seals is still only $9.95.

    Click Here to Order from On The Go Publishing.


    7 Nights for the Price of 3 at Club Med

    Club Med offers value this fall. For a limited time, you can head to one of eight Club Med villages in The Bahamas, the Caribbean, Mexico, United States, or French Polynesia and stay seven nights for the price of three.

    This promotion is available for select travel dates Sep. 3 through Dec. 16, 2005. This offer applies exclusively to seven-night, Total All-inclusive Vacations. Prices are per person, double occupancy in a minimum category room, based on three-night peak rates. Adult prices apply to guests 16 and older. Seven-day weekend rates are combinable with American Airlines and US Air fall sale promotional airfares. Reservations must be paid in full at time of booking confirmation and are completely non-refundable once confirmed. A seven-night minimum stay is required.

    Seven-day per person weekend rates, which do not include airfare, are as follows: Ixtapa, Mexico $630 (Nov. 5 to Dec. 16, 2005); Caravelle, Guadeloupe $630; Sandpiper, Florida $690; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic $690; Cancun, Mexico $720 (must be 18 or older); Bora Bora, French Polynesia $765; Turkoise, Turks & Caicos $810 (must be 18 or older); and Columbus Isle, Bahamas $840.

    This offer is subject to capacity control and may increase at any time. Holiday blackouts may apply. Club Med Membership fees of $55 per adult and $25 per child are additional.

    Club Med or 800/258-2633.



    Fall Savings to France

    1800 Fly Europe offers savings to France this fall. Airfare from New York starts at $320 roundtrip. Once in Paris, there are many hotel options to choose from. In addition, 1 800 Fly Europe offers a selection of packages including air and rental cars, from $384 for air and a three-day car rental. Travelers can enjoy the French countryside, including the Loire Valley or the beaches of Normandy. A seven-day rental is only $30 more per person.

    Travel is valid for departures Sep. 1 to Oct. 31, 2005. Prices are based on midweek departures and two people traveling together. Weekend surcharges apply. Car rental is based on an economy car with manual transmission.. These offers are available from more than 50 cities in the U.S.

    1800 Fly Europe or 800/359-3876.



    Kids, Teens Learn to Sail Fr,ee

    Offshore Sailing School's Florida summer getaway attracts families looking for a learning vacation. Kids ages 11 to 17 get fr,ee tuition through Sep. 30, 2005, when accompanied by a paying adult at any Florida location. "Essentially, this is a two-for-one deal," explains Doris Colgate, CEO and president of Offshore Sailing School.

    Cruising courses are also applicable. Family members who wish to be certified gain U.S. SAILING certification at the Basic Keelboat level during the Learn to Sail course, and at the Basic Cruising and Bareboat Cruising levels during the cruising courses. All Offshore instructors are U.S. SAILING certified.

    Packages which include tuition, accommodations and applicable taxes are available for all three Florida locations. Accommodations include: the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa on Ft. Myers Beach; Hawk's Cay Resort on Duck Key, midway between Key Largo and Key West; and the Mansion House B&B in the heart of St. Petersburg. There is no charge for kids under 16 sharing a room with parents.

    Offshore Sailing School or 800/221-4326.



    Advertisement
    Cheap Tix Chart
    Buy Tickets at a Discount -- Special ticket outlets sell discounted day-of-performance tickets to theater productions, films, and sporting events. Discounts can be 50 percent or more. On The Go Publishing’s Cheap Tix Chart, still only $14, lists outlets in the U.S. and eight foreign cities that sell discounted, day-of-performance tickets. Click here to order the Cheap Tix Chart from On The Go Publishing.

    Picasso Prague Package $399

    Picasso Tours offers a value package to Prague, the Czech Republic capital, from $399 per person double occupancy. This package, priced$100 less than comparable offerings, is for travel Nov. 1, 2005 through Mar. 31, 2006, except Dec. 15, 2005 through Jan. 2, 2006, when rates are higher.

    This non-refundable package includes roundtrip airfare to Prague from New York or Newark, four nights’ accommodations with additional night stays and upgrades available, daily breakfast and all local taxes and service charges. Airport transfers at $20 per person and sightseeing tours at $30 per person are optional.

    Prices from other U.S. gateways includes: $449 from Boston and Philadelphia; $499 from Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC; $599 from Atlanta, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Indianapolis, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Raleigh/Durham and Tampa; $649 from Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul and San Francisco and $749 from Phoenix, Portland and Seattle.

    Picasso Tourst or 800/995-7997.


    Surprising Sao Paulo -- article and photos by Nicki Chodnoff

    Sao Paulo Skyline Marlene Dietrich, the famous actress of the 1930s and 1940s said it succinctly, “Rio is a beauty. But Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo is a city.”

    Dietrich was right. Sao Paulo is indeed a city and can be intimidating for first time visitors. Home to nearly 20 million people, Sao Paulo is the planet's fourth largest megalopolis, its sprawling east/west axis spanning a full 50 miles.

    There’s no way to pretty it up. As any big city, Sao Paulo is an incubator for pollution, crime, and poverty. Traffic easily becomes grid-locked and four million cars spew pollution into the air. There is only about 13 feet of vegetation per inhabitant, three times less than recommended by the United Nations. More than half the families in Sao Paulo survive on less than $150 per month, crammed in favelas, shantytowns on the outskirts of the urban sprawl.

    But that’s not to say Sao Paulo, Brazil's center of commerce and the largest city in South America, can‘t be enjoyed. In this age of packaged, plastic tours, unlikely destinations can be the most interesting. Part of Sao Paulo‘s appeal is that so few people consider it a destination so it’s an ideal place to escape the tourist trail. It’s also a place to see how real Brazilians live.

    Praca de SeSao Paulo doesn't focus on tourism. Many points of interest are not listed in guide books or promoted by tourism agencies. This information can quickly be had by turning to Paulistanos, as the locals are called. I turned to Michael Gonsalves, manager of the newly opened Sonesta Sao Paulo Ibirapuera where I stayed. Located in the Moema District, a fashionable business and residential area with shops, boutiques, cafés and entertainment, the hotel proved well located: close to points of interest so you don’t spend all of your time commuting. Michael and his staff were experts in unearthing the best their city offers. They gladly share this information with any guest interested in the city they call "Sampa".

    Peel away Sao Paulo’s cement and asphalt, and a rich plateau of fertile earth would be exposed. This topography attracted the Portuguese in the early 16th century, who started a small permanent camp. Jesuit priests followed, journeying inland from Portugal's first coastal settlement near the modern port city of Santos. These missionaries founded a school on January 25, 1554, Saint Paul’s Day. It is this date that residents commemorate as the Aniversário de São Paulo and how the city got its name.

    For the next 300 years, Sao Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga, as the settlement was known, remained an outpost leading into Brazil's uncharted interior. With 1,500 inhabitants and no access to the sea, the Portuguese Crown considered the fledgling village unimportant. When Brazil gained its independence in 1822, Sao Paulo's population had grown to 25,000. The shift from rural to industrial began in the late 1860s, when the railway linked Sao Paulo to the coastal port of Santos. With transportation in place, and large coffee plantations nearby, the region's economy began to boom. Coffee required labor and foreign workers poured in from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Japan. By 1920, Sao Paulo was Brazil's second largest city.

    The coffee boom subsided in the 1920's, but Sao Paulo's momentum didn't. Many immigrants became industrialists and investors. During the 1950s, heavy industry was promoted with car factories, steel plants, hydro power plants and roads. Rising foreign debt stagnated the economy. Yet workers still poured in from the northeastern coast, increasing overpopulation and economic hard times to generate the poverty, crime and pollution that plague Sao Paulo today.

    "Sao Paulo works so that the rest of Brazil can play," said Gonsalves, quoting the popular Paulistano saying. But when the day's work is over, the residents of this city of trade and industry like to play as hard as they work.

    Sao Paulo has its attractions. The city has long surpassed Rio as Brazil's cultural center and is home to a lively music and arts world. The city's food is excellent and varied, thanks to immigrants from so many parts of the world.

    My first taste of Sao Paulo, literally and figuratively, was Casa da Fazenda, a restaurant in a former coffee plantation in the ritzy Morumbi district. The restaurant, in a restored house surrounded by gardens, the plantation’s slaves’ quarter and chapel, gives you a feel how the elite lived. It's good advice to eat where the locals do. Casa da Fazenda's Sunday buffet attracts families to dine on national and regional dishes on the coveted veranda or inside the dinning room. After your meal, there are crafts for sale in a small artisans’ shop and paintings displayed in the foyer. Casa da Fazenda revealed some of Brazil’s delights. That’s where I first tried guarana, a local soft drink that tastes like an apple juice-ginger ale blend and caipirinhas, a cane rum with sugar and lime drink that's thought of as the national beverage.

    Sao Paulo's Stock ExchangeTo see what the city looked like in its colonial glory, start at Praca da Se square with its recently restored gothic Metropolitan Cathedral and the Patio de Colegio, where the original Jesuit mission landed in 1554. The cathedral took 40 years and 800 tons of Italian marble to build its stained glass, statues and majestic pillars. Palm trees enclose a flagstone-covered courtyard at the heart of Praca da Se with a sundial at its center. This is the nucleus from which Sao Paulo grew. In this gathering spot, people stroll, sit or stop and listen to the ever-present street preachers.

    The nearby Pátio de Colegio complex sits on the original Jesuit mission site. An accurate reproduction of the original, simple Anchieta Chapel was built in 1896. Next to the chapel, the Museu Padre Anchieta holds a substantial collection of ancient maps and important documents. Limited displays include clothing from the founding Jesuit priests.

    Around the corner from the Pátio do Colégio is the Solar de Marquesa de Santos, the 18th-century manor house of an important Paulistana noblewoman rumored to be the king’s lover. The Solar is also home to the small City Museum with fascinating photographs of Sao Paulo before and after it spread nearly everywhere.

    Life in Sao Paulo is vertical. The best view is atop the Banespa Tower. Started in 1939 and completed in 1947, it was the highest building in South America for many years. An elevator brings you to the 32nd floor. Your own foot power gets you to the 35th-floor observation deck. Here's your incredible view, a 360 degree concrete jungle of high-rise apartment and office buildings, filling every inch of land for as far as the eye can see. Weekdays, you'll likely have the observation deck to yourself. The only other people there were from Iowa visiting their son, who recently was transferred to Sao Paulo.

    "Sao Paulo is the business engine that runs South America," Gonsalves kept saying. So it seemed natural to go to the Centro downtown district, the financial and cultural center that's still home to the stock exchange and many banks. Urban renewal around Praça da Sé is breathing more life into the historic financial district. Like the New York Stock Exchange, the Brazilian stock exchange or Bolsa Abera, the largest in Latin America, allows visitors to watch the action. Don’t expect yelling, gesturing or frenzied people in the pit. Odon do Valc, a private investor, satisfied my curiosity on why it was so quiet here. "It's all computerized," do Valc said. From a glassed-in second level gallery, traders and visitors observe as shares are bought and sold watching transactions on the electronic ticker. In a mini economics lesson, Do Valc expressed confidence and growth in the Brazilian economy. In the past year his favorite stocks of Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company, and Vale do Rio Doce, a mining stock, have increased 860% and 600% respectively.

    Products at Mercado MunicipalIbirapuera Park is to Sao Paulo what Central Park is to New York. Inaugurated in 1954 to celebrate the city's 400th birthday, it was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer and landscape designer Burle Marx. “Ibira puera means rotten wood in the local Indian dialect,” said Rosana Ribeiro, our guide. “This was all swamp land and eucalyptus trees from Australia were planted to drain the water.” This was quite a feat as the park covers an area of almost two million square yards. Its facilities are open to the public and include the Modern Art and Contemporary Art museums along with the planetarium and the Japanese Pavilion. It is also home to many of the city's best known monuments, such as the 234-foot-high obelisk honoring the heroes of Brazil's 1932 Civil War. There are sports grounds, a jogging track, a children's playground, a restaurant and a snack bar. There’s even free internet access, housed in empty buses. Every two years a huge exhibition hall on the edge of Ibirapuera Park is transformed into the largest visual arts exhibition in Latin America. Most countries sponsor work by one or more of their best artists; curators choose selected others. Called the Sao Paulo Bienal, the event takes place in September and October of even-numbered years.

    Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo or MASP, is considered one of the most important art museums in Latin America. Opened in 1958, it contains works mainly by European artists from the 13th century up to the present. Among the most significant works are paintings by Rembrandt, Goya, Matisse, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Renoir, Tintoretto, Botticelli, Manet, Monet, Dali and Picasso. Among the sculptures are a rare Renoir and works by Degas and Rodin. The museum also has an auditorium, movie theater and restaurant. Sundays, the courtyard space beneath the MASP building, on Avenida Paulista, is the scene of an antiques fair. Dealers are registered, and the quality of the wares is often good.

    North of Praça da Sé, the Mercado Municipal is an imposing neo-Gothic hall built in 1933. This elegant building houses 300-plus stalls that sell an enormous variety of Brazilian and imported fruits, vegetables, cheeses, spices and other foods to the 20,000 or so daily customers. I sampled achai charu, a fruit from Recife that tastes like litchi and mangostin from the Amazon, a fruit that looks like cloves of garlic but is sweet and juicy. The hall is noted for its huge stained-glass windows depicting scenes of coffee growing and cattle ranching. On the second level, you’ll find a food court with small luncheonettes. One of the most popular dishes is Pastel de Bacalhau, dried salted cod fish with potatoes, along with feijoada or black bean stew that’s considered the national dish and Mortadella sandwiches.

    Imagine walking down the streets of Japan without leaving São Paulo. You only need go to Liberdade district, Sao Paulo's Japanese town in the heart of the city. In the early 20th century thousands of Japanese arrived to work in the coffee plantations and soon established Liberdade, meaning liberty in Portuguese. It is now home to some 600,000 Japanese descendants, considered the world's largest Japanese community outside of Japan. Some claim Liberdade is more Japanese than excessively Westernized Tokyo. The district's main street, Rua Galvão Bueno, is adorned with red Oriental arches. Store fronts advertise herbal cures and classes in meditation. Even the McDonald’s sign is spelled out in Japanese characters.

    LiberdadeLiberdade is also famous for its annual festivals. On the evening of Dec. 31, the streets fill to commemorate the New Year in true Oriental fashion. In April, traditionally dressed children carry statues of the Buddha, in honor of his birth. The largest celebration is in July, when more than 100,000 people gather for Tanabata Matsuri, a folklore event known as the Festival of the Stars. Travelers visiting São Paulo outside of these times have an alternative. Every Sunday, an Oriental street fair is held in the Liberdade Square.

    A little further afield, you can briefly escape frenetic Sao Paulo and wander the cobblestoned streets of the village of Embu, 16 miles away. Portuguese Jesuits founded this colonial town of Baroque churches and whitewashed houses in 1554. Today, Embu, also called Embú das Artes, is a retreat for urban artists. Paulistanos in search of handmade objets d'art and antiques make the hour-plus trip for the weekend market. Consisting of a square and three parallel cobblestone streets, you can browse the stones, wood carvings, paintings and woven crafts created by the artisans. On the square, artists actively carve or paint and there is plenty of food.

    Given Sao Paulo’s size, it’s not surprising to learn there are roughly 30,000 restaurants and you’re sure to find one open at 3 a.m. With so many Italian immigrants, it’s no wonder Paulinistas developed a passion for pizza. There are an amazing 5,000 plus pizza parlors in the city. Sunday is go out for pizza night. Families flocked to Pizza Braz, in the Moema district. One of the oldest pizza parlors in Sao Paulo, dating from the 1920s, the restaurant reminded me of the mom-and-pop Italian restaurants I knew so well as a child in South Philadelphia: White tile walls, waiters with white flowing aprons and brick ovens. All that was missing was Mario Lanza singing. Elbow-to-elbow diners devour Pizza Braz’s delicious pizzas in this distinct and homey atmosphere. Before the evening was over, there were long waiting lines.

    massive fig tree at Figueria RubaiyatA good friend of mine always said, “Rich or poor, it’s nice to have money.” That’s especially true in Sao Paulo, where a privileged few reap the rewards of Sao Paulo’s enormous financial and industrial wealth. So it is no surprise that Sao Paulo is home to a spectacular restaurant: Figueira Rubaiyat. Near swank Paulista Avenue, it appears as if you dine al fresco beneath the limbs of a huge fig tree (figueira). The reality is you dine under a Plexiglas roof, sheltered from the heat, cold and rain. A place to see and be seen, it’s no wonder that an open kitchen is part of this theatrical setting. Service is attentive, swarms of waiters anticipate your dining needs. Fortunately, for visitors spending dollars, you can indulge in posh food and superlative service for little more than the tab at Olive Garden. Here’s a chance to see how the other half lives.

    To feel more like a Paulistano, discover the famous Brazilian soft drink, guaraná. A berry from the rainforest in northern Brazil, the guaraná plant (pronounced gwa-ra-naa) is a woody vine that can reach 30 feet and snakes up trees. The soft drink has a distinctive taste and even comes in a lite, low-cal version. Many describe it as fruity, but not too sweet. To me, it tastes like a blend of apple juice and ginger ale.

    Chances are shortly after you arrive in Brazil, you’ll encounter a caipirinha, the Brazilian national drink. Caipirinhas (pronounced ky-pee-reen-ya) are everywhere, on the beach, in exclusive hotels or at a local bar. The bartender at Tabu, the notable restaurant in the Sonesta Sao Paulo Ibirapuera made a wonderful caipirinhas. Be warned these drinks pack a punch. They go down easy. Caipirinhas are made with a sugar cane rum called Cachaça, sugar, lime and ice.

    To replicate caipirinhas back home, you can pick up a bottle of cachaça at any supermarket from R$4 and up, which translates to about $1. Outside of Brazil that same bottle of cachaca may set you back $20 or more.

    For more informationcontact Sonesta Sao Paulo Ibirapuera or the government of the State of Sao Paulo.


    50% Off Hotel Hassler Fall Package

    With the Hotel Hassler's "Early Bird" fall package, savor Rome, minus the crowds. The luxury hotel, owned and run for a century by one family, sits atop Rome's Spanish Steps in the heart of the city.

    Book a two-night minimum stay by Sep. 30, 2005 for travel Oct. 30 through Dec. 29, 2005, and you will receive a discount of more than 50 percent off regular room rates. Reservations are non-refundable and reserved dates can be changed once providing the new dates remain within the promotion period and space is available. A second change is not possible.

    The "Early Bird" rates, which do not include a 10 percent VAT, but do include daily breakfast and service charge, are Euro 240 for a single room, Euro 290 for a classic double/twin room, Euro 370 for a deluxe double/twin room, Euro 440 for a deluxe double/twin room with extra bed, Euro 490 for a grand deluxe double/twin room and Euro 560 for a grand deluxe double/twin room with extra bed.

    Hotel Hassler or booking@hotelhassler.it.



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