While I was watching the Grand Prix yesterday and seeing the cars racing round the chicane, I remembered my short visit to Sao Paulo more than forty years ago.

I had been lucky enough to get a fantastic job on a Norwegian cruise liner, The Bergensfjord of the NAL line, and we were on the last leg of a long cruise from New York. We had cruised through the Caribbean, Panama Canal across the Pacific to New Zealand and back across the Pacific and round the coast of South America.

There were 400 passengers, mostly elderly Americans (average age 75 but very active and very friendly) and about 400 crew. We had docked in Santos early that morning and most of the passengers departed either onto a conventional  coach tour or some other activity on land so my friend Sheenagh and I, who were free until the evening, decided to go to Sao Paulo using the local bus.

We arrived at the bus station and, despite neither of us speaking Portugese managed to find the right bus and with much arm waving and miming  conveyed the fact that we wanted to go to San Paulo and back. The conductor /driver accepted a dollar bill and gave us a roll of Brazilian notes in exchange. He and the other passengers took a great interest in us and chattered away to us. They seemed to be quite satisfied with our smiles and nods in response. Once out of Santos the road climbed steeply and every twist and turn produced spectacular views. When the passengers saw Sheenagh trying to take photos through the window they called out to the driver, who obligingly punctuated the journey with stops for us to jump out and take our photos. No one appeared to mind their journey time being prolonged like this!

When we arrived in Sao Paulo the driver pointed out on our watches the time for the return bus. We spent the intervening time shopping for the moderately priced leather goods and semi precious jewellery.

On the way back when we saw the driver putting some large flasks into a locker by his seat Sheenagh joked, “Looks like we are getting trolley service on the way back.” It turned out not to be a joke when he brought us each a cup of very strong coffee  followed by ice cold water!

We arrived back in Santos still elated from the splendid day we had had for the magnificent fare of 50 American cents!

We felt even more elated when we found that the expensive tour the passengers had been on had been spoilt because the air conditioning had been broken, and their driver had been reluctant to stop for them to take photos.

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