Monthly Archives: October 2020

Brazil ’78

Manchete Magazine cover Feb 18 1978

I first fell in love with all things Brazilian in 1978. My sister Kim worked for External Affairs and was sent on a posting to Brasilia the capital. I was living in Vancouver at the time and decided to go down for a visit. Our mother joined us from Ottawa. I flew via Los Angeles, Lima and San Paulo. It was a long flight – Braniff Airlines from LA – if anyone remembers them.

I was immediately impressed with Brasilia. It’s centre is shaped like a giant airplane pointed towards the Amazon region signifying development of the country. Completed in 1960, it is a masterpiece of modern urbanism and architecture thanks to the work of architects Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer. In 1978 there were no traffic lights in the city (well maybe 1 or 2) since roundabouts were used extensively. I found this amazing.

Brazil’s National Congress – photo Ben Tavener
Brasilia superblocks and W-3 Avenue 1978 postcard

Kim lived in a 2 bedroom apartment complete with paid maid and drinking water service. A 19 litre jug of purified drinking water was always on tap on a dispenser stand. I had never seen this before. We toured around town and visited the Canadian Embassy. I loved the musical sound of a Brazilian’s speech. Everything has an “ee” on the end of it e.g. “Kingy Kongy plays pingy pongy in Hongy Kongy”. Sandwich is pronounced “sandweeshay”.

Kim and Mom at the gate to the Canadian Embassy
Entrance to Oscar Niemeyer ‘s hyperboloid shaped Catedral Nacional
Inside (Brazil is the largest Catholic nation in the world)

I then flew to Salvador, Bahia for a sightsee of 2 days. It is on the coast north east of Rio. It has a fascinating culture known for its food and music. The island of Itaparica is a short ferry ride away and offers a superb beach. It was so hot there! The lady in the photo below accosted me right after I took this picture. I had to pay for the photo or buy some of the stuff she was selling – no problem.

Alto – Upper City view

Language was a problem. I did not speak Portuguese nor were there any English speaking people around. Pointing and use of facial expressions works but it was confusing at times for sure. I bought some nice painted wood carvings at the artisan market. I sampled the spicy food from the local vendors.

Wood cravings by Aquera

Next it was a short flight to Rio de Janiero to meet up with Kim and her boyfriend Andrew who worked in the British consulate there. Andy was really a nice guy and made me feel at home. He had a lovely large apartment overlooking Pria do Flamengo (Flamengo beach). He showed us around and was fluent in Portuguese.

Andrew and Kim
Pria do Flamengo from Andy’s apartment window

We toured Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Corcovado, a slew of bars and restaurants. What an incredible place.

Barril 1800 Pub on Ipanema Strip

But the best was attending the 1978 Rio Carnaval – one of the biggest cultural expressions on earth. Andy was able to get us good tickets in the Sambadrome – a permanent set of bleechers where the parade takes place every year. There are 10 or more Samba Schools who compete with costume, floats, music and dancing all night long to gain top honour for their community. It was an absolutely incredible show filled with colour, smiles, beautiful people and great music. It started at about 8 PM and ended around 6 AM!! There were thousands and thousands of dancers and singers. I think we saw Oscar Peterson sitting a few rows in front of us.

Rod Stewart was there too

Exhausted we went home in the morning to recuperate. I bought a cassette tape of the music that year and still listen to it from time to time. This started my love of Brazilian music. The video below is of the 1978 Beija Flor samba school who won the contest for the second year in a row. There were alligations the results were fixed but it was truly a great show!

On the radio was this wonderful voice of Roberto Carlos, the King of Latin music. With over 120 million records sold globally, I doubt you have ever heard of him right? His album Amigo was all over the air waves in 1978. Here is a live version of the title track.

We also listened to Radio Nacional FM (Efee Emee) from Brasilia. In those days there were no commercials and a deep Brazilian voice would announce the time every so often. They played Brazilian pop music (Musica Populeira do Brazil), samba, boss nova, jazz and other regional genres. Of course it is still on the air, try it here.

OK this is getting to be a long post. It was time to head home. I stopped in Guetamala City and Mexico City on the way home. Guetemala City was eerie as many buildings were still visibly cracked from a major earthquake in 1976. In Mexico City I could hardly breath as the air was so polluted with car exhaust fumes.

Guetemala City Catedral under repair
Paseo de La Reforma Mexico City 1978

That’s all for now folks. Thanks for travelling with me! Dave

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Lenine (leneenay) is one of my favorite recording artists. He is from Recife (resifi), Pernambuco, Brazil. In 2014 Marie and I went there.

It was preceded by a visit to the beautiful colonial town of Olinda (olide), where I bought a canvas ball cap which I still wear often.

We had seen Lenine at the FIJM in July 2000. It was a fab concert and a fab visit.

Good travel memories in pandemic times.

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The Small Faces

Described as the best British band that never hit it big in America – this is the Small Faces: Steve Marriott (lead guitar and vocals); Ronnie Lane (bass and backing vocals); Kenny Jones (drums) and Ian McLaglan (organ and backing vocals and guitar). Perhaps you remember Itchykoo Park too. Outside of Europe, this was the only song they were known for. In England they were one of the most extraordinary and successful mid-60s bands rivalling The Who and The Rolling Stones in popularity. I have become a fan of their great music. Itchykoo Park was hardly representative of what they could do. They were a unique very stylelish pop/rock band known for Steve Marriott’s powerful voice and their aggressive live performances. They were mods and wore dandified styles. In those days “face” was slang for a person of style known around town and since none of them were more than 5’6″ in height, they adopted the name Small Faces. Do you remember mods and rockers? They were the Mod band.

Their first hit – What’cha Gonna Do About It?
When they first came together in 1965, they could hardly even play their instruments. Steve Marriott had a background in stage and at their first gig, jumped up on the piano destroying it. A fellow named Don Arden started to manage them and got them their first record deal at Decca. Marriot and Lane did the bulk of the song writing and they soon had a string of five hits in England. They were exploited though by their manager who never gave them enough time in the studio to achieve their potential. So in 1967 they left Arden and Decca moved under manager Andrew Loog Oldham who managed the Rolling Stones.

Tin Soldier – my favorite song
Their music style then evolved into something amazing. Soft and explosive, subdued and over the top. Psychedelic yet folksy. They produced their signature album in 1968 Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. One of the songs on it Lazy Sunday was released as a joke but made it to number 2 on the British charts. Marriott sings in a cockney accent because one of the Hollies said he sounded too American. I love this song.

Despite the creative quality of their music it never connected well with fans in America. They were again short changed by their manager and their record label Immediate Records failed. Expenses rose and sadly they never got the chance to go on tour in America. In 1968 they recorded a song that did not chart well – The Universal – which to me sounds almost Bob Dylanish. Steve was discouraged by the lack of interest in it and left the band to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. The Small Faces became the Faces and invited a budding Rod Stewart to join them… Steve Marriott sadly died in a fire in 1991. Ronnie Lane died of MS in 1997.

The Universal 1968
The Small Faces – the best British band that never hit it big in America. In 2012 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I love them.

All or Nothing 1966 (Steve claimed this was his favorite song)
P.S. Their is a wealth of videos, music and information including documentaries on the Small Faces on Youtube. Allmusic provides a great biography and their discography. There is also a Facebook group. I am just getting into it all.

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John A. MacDonald – The Old Chieftain

This book written in 1955 by Canadian historian Donald Creighton is an absolute page burner! It is one of the most riveting books that I have read in a long time. Written in novel style, it tells the detailed story of the “architect of Canada”, our first Prime Minister – Sir John A. MacDonald – from just after he took office in July 1867 until his death in June 1991 at age 76. It is Vol 2 of a 2 part book that won the Governor General’s award for history and is considered a classic of Canadian history.

Why I like it is because the style of writing makes the history come alive. It is written as if John A. were writing his own autobiography except rather than in the first person “I did this or that or felt this or that” it is told in the third person “He did this or that or felt this or that” with all the intimacy of personal action. Somehow Donald Creighton is inside the head of Sir John A. and so are we the reader.

While this style of history writing may be somewhat discredited now as it can only present one side of the subject, it makes for a most entertaining and intimate portrait. I learned so much about Canadian history that I never knew before:

  • the long delicate balancing act to prevent the U.S. from annexing or attacking parts of the fledgling Dominion
  • the creation of a strong federal government in the face of demands for more power sharing from provincial governments
  • deft political integration and peaceful coexistence between English and French Canadian societies
  • the financial challenges of completing of the Canadian Pacific Railway which literally and figuratively knitted the county together
  • the need for tariff protection to build up a strong Canadian economy in the face of American bullying and self-interest
  • importance of the direct ties with Great Britain, Canada’s one and only ally during these critical birthing times

He was a nationalist like no other. Today many look back and say yeah, but he bulldozed the indigenous culture and had Metis leader Louis Riel executed. He was a colonial tyrant who destroyed everything that was not of the British culture or liking and furthermore he was white and Scottish. Yes but, IMHO, if he had not been so visionary, so persistent, so crafty and so indefatigable, we would not even have a country from within which we could look back to make such judgments. If it were not for Sir John A., we would most likely be casting votes in the upcoming American election!!!

Yes, he has his faults – he was a workaholic and never retired. He would not name or mentor a successor until his dying bed and he drank too much from time to time. His party and he personally accepted bribes from a Montreal business man who was trying to get the contract to build the CPR.

Perhaps in the book there is too much detail about proceedings in the House of Commons and the names of various ministers. Perhaps there is too much denigrating of American politicians. Perhaps we would like more discussion about his private life with his 2nd wife Agnes and their daughter Mary. But all in all, this book is a measure of the times that we know too little about – yet we think we do! Personally, I dropped out of history class as soon as I could in HS. If I had read this book back then, perhaps I would not have done so so quickly.

Whoever says Canadian history is boring should read this book. Highly recommended read – 5 stars out of 5!

Sir John A. – the man who made us

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Cruise Epilogue – Rome

That Eastern Med cruise we took in 2008 was probably our best cruise ever. You probably thought thankfully – it’s over….finally. But no!!! We tacked on a trip to Rome to make this into perhaps the best trip overall we ever had.

The bullet train from Venice to Rome

A group of 7 of us took the train to Rome for a 4 night stayover. It was an adventure. Most of the group were in different hotels in Venice and converged on the train station from different directions. One person in our party was tardy. We waited and waited and reluctantly decided to board without them. One of our party decided to give it one more try and got off to take a look. And there was the late person huffing down the walkway with their big suitcase in tow. Phew, we all made it aboard!

Our accommodations were… superb. We had booked the whole floor of a building with 4 separate 1 bedroom apartments which connected with each other through a central foyer. It was located only 2 blocks from the Vatican. We each would take turns hosting a party, and boy did we party! Being an older building, there was limited electricity capacity. If 2 of us put our toasters on at the same time, the master breaker would blow and we would all be in the dark lol. So we had a person shouting out “OK apartment 1 – you can put your kettle on now. Apt 2 – turn off your hair dryer quick. OK who needs lights?” You get the idea it was pandemonium! It was fun. We never stopped laughing the whole time.

OK back to Rome. We had 3 short days to try and see it all. This is far too short a stay folks! Nevertheless we packed in a lot of sightseeing: the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums (Sistine Chapel), Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant’ Angelo and some great delis, cafes and restaurants.

Now as to the partying. One night we went out to an innocent looking pizza restaurant for a group dinner. Naturally we had had a few glasses of great Italian wine before we got there.

The hostess saw (and heard) us coming and sat us down at a nice table outside. She said “I know what you want.” For the next 2 hours we never ordered a thing. They brought us wine, food, more wine, more food and we laughed and laughed. At one point our hostess brings out her mother and father the restaurant owners to meet us.

Meet my mom and dad.

Of course we laughed along thinking isn’t this great, what a nice family. Then she brought out her real father Pepi and they all had a laugh on us.

The she brought out her brother. By now we are all 3 sheets to the wind. We gathered that Italians like to laugh so we fit right in.

After this mayhem we headed back to the apartments where things got even crazier.

The two Davids
Oceania slippers

One day on a grocery excursion, Dave hid a huge block of parmesan cheese in our friend’s shopping cart. When the couple got to the cash, the wife erupted to her husband “What the heck is this? We rolled in the aisle laughing. To this day we still chuckle about our stay in Rome when we get together. What happens in Rome …. is fun!

In Rome with friends

So that’s it, for real this time. Fourteen wonderful places visited over 25 days. In case you can’t remember them all, here they are again:

Highly recommended cruise itinerary once the pandemic is over.

Bye from Rome with love

Dave and Marie

PS. The Oceania Nautica is currently safely riding out the pandemic in Genoa harbour.

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Venice was the final destination of our 14 day cruise on the Oceania Nautica. How enchanting the city without cars is! The highlights were visiting St. Mark’s square and Cathedral, the Doge (pronounced doji) Palace and an excursion to Lido island.

First day we took the Vaporetto public transit water taxi to Murano and explored the glass factory. We then walked to the Rialto Bridge and had a beer – 14 Euro each! We sauntered back through St. Mark’s Square. That night, we stayed on board Nautica the and enjoyed one last dinner in the Polo Grill.

Then it was off to our local hotel. We stayed 3 nights at the Alloggi Barbaria guest house with some friends from the cruise. It is in the east area of town about a 20 minute walk to St. Mark’s. Breakfast was included on the terrace. We had a small fridge and their was a grocery store nearby. Restaurants are very expensive in Venice so this place was great.

St. Mark’s was a very busy square. There were several cafes and we remember that if you made the mistake of sitting down to order your coffee and pastry, the price doubled compared to if you stayed standing lol!

St. Mark’s Square and Cathedral

St. Mark’s Cathedral was very crowded so we had to line up to get in. It was very hard to get good pictures because of the huge crowd. There was a tower in the square that we climbed so we could get a better look at things and enjoy the view.

The Doge Palace is just behind St. Mark’s Cathedral. It was the home of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Venetian Republic. It dates from 1340. It contains some magnificent paintings, institutional chambers, the Doge’s apartments and the Bridge of Sighs to the ancient prisons below.

On another sunny day we took the Vaporetto to Lido, a picturesque little island nearby and wandered around. We found some lovely gardens, a nice hotel and a quiet beach. It was a great place to visit.

On our last night we joined friends Bruce and Judy for a great fish dinner.

Our Eastern Med cruise with friends had now come to a beautiful end. This was indeed the best cruise we ever went on – 13 fab ports in 14 days. Thanks for cruising with us. To Canadian readers, Happy Thanksgiving!

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Leaving Kotor behind in the darkness we cruised north east about 100 km to Dubrovnik, Croatia. We had been looking forward to visiting one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea. We were not to be disappointed. Dubrovnik, pop. 43,000 is famous for its old city centre, surrounding city walls, several palaces and its cathedral. We made the most of it!

We were soon on our way again to our final destination Venice.

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