Saturday, December 30, 2017

Steve McLean’s favourite music of 2017

My favourite 10 albums
1. Guantanamo Baywatch - Desert Center
2. J.D. McPherson - Undivided Heart & Soul
3. Cowbell - Haunted Heart
4. Low Cut Connie - Dirty Pictures (Part 1)
5. The Orwells - Terrible Human Beings
6. Lowest of the Low - Do The Right Now
7. Fastball - Step Into Light
8. The Rubs - Impossible Dream
9. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Damage and Joy
10. The Len Price 3 - Kentish Longtails

The next 10 albums
11. The Discarded - The Discarded
12. Old 97’s - Graveyard Whistling
13. Hollerado - Born Yesterday
14. Dropkick Murphys - 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory
15. Drew Beskin - Cha-Ching Machine
16. Chuck Prophet - Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins
17. Liam Gallagher - As You Were
18. Dan Auerbach - Waiting on a Song
19. Pokey LaFarge - Manic Revelations
20. Robyn Hitchcock - Robyn Hitchcock

The next 10 albums after that
21. White Reaper - The World’s Best American Band
22. Jon Langford - Four Lost Souls
23. The Strypes - Spitting Image
24. The Stanleys - The Stanleys
25. AJ Davila - El Futuro
26. Thelonius Hank - Walk Between the Raindrops
27. Wyldlife - Out On Your Block
28. The Mavericks - Brand New Day
29. Spiral Stairs - Doris and the Daggers
30. Mark Lanegan - Gargoyle

My favourite EPs
1. The Surfrajettes - The Surfrajettes
2. Lily Frost and the Gentlemen Callers - Rebound
3. Goodbye Honolulu - No Honey

My favourite compilations, reissues and live albums
1. Lydia Loveless - Boy Crazy and Single(s)
2. The Rolling Stones - On Air
3. Teenage Head - Fun Comes Fast
4. Frank Turner - Songbook
5. The Northern Pikes - Big Blue Sky (Super-Sized)
6. The Replacements - For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986

My favourite concerts (chronological order)
The Sadies - Jan. 1, Horseshoe, Toronto
The Gabba Heys! - Jan. 21, Shacklands Brewing Co., Toronto
Handsome Ned tribute - Jan. 29, Horseshoe, Toronto
Dwayne Gretzky - Feb. 3, Horseshoe, Toronto
The Arc Sound - Feb. 4, Duggan’s Brewery Basement, Toronto
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Arkells - Feb. 10, First Ontario Centre, Hamilton
The Tailbreakers - Feb. 11, Cadillac Lounge, Toronto
Whiskey Jack’s tribute to Stompin’ Tom Connors - Feb. 12, Cadillac Lounge, Toronto
The Del Fi’s - Feb. 18, Cameron House, Toronto
Dead Souls, The Crooked Beat, The Gabba Heys!, Amy Gabba - Feb. 19, Horseshoe, Toronto
Locomotive 8, The Discarded - Feb. 25, Duggan’s Brewery Basement, Toronto
Ferraro - March 3, Cameron House, Toronto

Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express
Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express - March 21, Horseshoe, Toronto
The Screwed, Mr. Pharmacist - March 23, Horseshoe, Toronto
The Discarded, The Tailbreakers, The Sonics - March 25, Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
The Cliff Divers, The Millwinders - April 1, Cadillac Lounge, Toronto
Ferraro - April 3, Horseshoe, Toronto
The Harmoniums, The Slackers - April 8, Horseshoe, Toronto
KOLARS - April 18, The Rivoli, Toronto
Dentist - April 19, Monarch Tavern, Toronto
Early Hours - April 19, Nightowl, Toronto
Punchline 13 - April 20, Bovine Sex Club, Toronto
The Velveteins - April 20, Cherry Cola’s Rock ’n’ Rolla Cabaret & Lounge, Toronto
Bueller - April 21, The Silver Dollar, Toronto
Early Hours, Devin Cuddy Band - April 21, Cameron House, Toronto
Twist, Casper Skulls - April 22, Lee’s Palace, Toronto
Ferraro - April 22, Cameron House, Toronto
The Millwinders, Lilly Frost and the Gentlemen Callers - April 27, Lula Lounge, Toronto
Elliott Brood - May 20, Fort York, Toronto
Midnight Oil - May 20, Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
The Rheostatics - May 26, Horseshoe, Toronto
The Arc Sound, Simply Saucer - June 3, Duggan’s Brewery Basement, Toronto
The Calrizians, The Surfrajettes, Champions of Justice, Ninth Wave - June 3, Cadillac Lounge, Toronto

The Specials
The Specials - June 7, Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
Ethel and The Mermen, The Discarded - June 10, Duggan’s Brewery Basement, Toronto
The Inquisitors, Muck & The Mires - July 14, Trinity Common, Toronto
Lisa LeBlanc, TUNS - July 15, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
Royal Headache - July 16, Horseshoe, Toronto
Elvis Costello & The Imposters - July 20, Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto
Cockney Rejects - July 21, Velvet Underground, Toronto
Sloan - July 29, Toronto’s Festival of Beer, Toronto
Dropkick Murphys, Rancid - July 29, Echo Beach, Toronto
The Abruptors - Aug. 12, May, Toronto
The Classy Wrecks, Skaface - Aug. 18, Lee’s Palace, Toronto
Scott H. Biram - Aug. 20, Horseshoe, Toronto
Robyn Hitchcock - Sept. 22, The Drake Underground, Toronto
Billy Bragg - Sept. 27, Horseshoe, Toronto

Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul
Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul - Oct. 9, Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox (with Marshall Crenshaw) - Oct. 10, Horseshoe, Toronto
The Arc Sound - Dec. 2, The Artful Dodger, Toronto
The Rheostatics - Dec. 8, Horseshoe, Toronto
C + C Surf Factory, The Surfrajettes - Dec. 21, Cameron House, Toronto
The Skydiggers - Dec. 22, Horseshoe, Toronto
Lowest of the Low - Dec. 28, Horseshoe, Toronto
Jon Langford, The Sadies - Dec. 31, Horseshoe, Toronto

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Time to unwind in Tigre

The Delta of the Parana, commonly referred to as Tigre for the former jaguar population that used to inhabit the region until 1900, is a popular weekend and vacation spot for Buenos Aireans looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

A commuter train on the Mitre Line that costs just 10 pesos (approximately 70 cents Canadian) will take you for about 45 minutes from the heart of Buenos Aires north to the end of the line in Tigre. It’s a city of about 380,000 people that has a charming riverfront area along Rio Lujan that I’m hoping to return to later in the month to explore further.

This trip, however, was about getting further into the delta — which is comprised of a labyrinth of dozens of islands and interconnected small rivers bounded by the much larger Rio De La Plata to the east and Rio Parana De Las Palmas to the north.

A map of the area.
Anyone who lives in the area already has a boat of their own because that’s the only way that places in the delta are accessible, but there are a variety of options for those not lucky enough to own property there, which can be compared somewhat to Ontario’s cottage country.

The great crew from Unsettled, which essentially acts as a concierge service with multiple added benefits for myself and 30 other nomads from around the world in Buenos Aires, arranged this mini adventure. 

This included a 170-peso (approximately $12 Canadian) round trip ticket for the comfortable boats run by Francisco Bugatti Hijos S.A. that essentially act as water buses for some of the rivers extending from Rio Lujan. The main terminal is in Tigre, but people along the route can stand on docks and wave down the boats, which will stop to pick passengers up or drop them off where they want.

China Town
Our trip started on Rio Tigre before a quick left turn on to Rio Lujan, so we got to see some of Tigre’s main tourist attractions — including the Museo De Arte Tigre, the National Navy Museum, China Town and the Parque de la Costa amusement and water park — and several impressive buildings while in transit. Just when we came to larger freighters docked to our left we turned to the right and entered Rio Carapachay.

The Museo De Arte Tigre.
This narrower river featured private homes and cottages, small resorts, a few restaurants and a school. Some were in great shape, others not so much. Some looked like they could have been primary residences while others seemed better suited for weekend getaways. All had docks and almost all were elevated so, even if river levels rose, the water wouldn’t affect the interiors. As I found out later in the evening, water will also seep up from the ground, turning formerly dry grass temporarily swampy.

It was a pleasant and relaxing hour-long journey, though larger or fast-moving boats can cause reasonably large wakes that add to the challenge for the kayakers, rowers and canoeists who also frequent these waterways.

One of the houses at Poema.
We eventually arrived at our destination, a compound identified as Poema on its dock. We’d been warned that the accommodations (which Unsettled paid for but apparently cost about $50 Canadian per person per night) would be spartan, and I brought ice packs to keep my drinks cold thinking there would be no refrigeration. But while the two houses that would be our home for the night were far from luxurious, they had electricity and fully functioning kitchens and toilets. I’m fine with rustic and basic and got more than I expected.

The other house at Poema.
As people scrambled to the cramped bunk rooms to claim a bed, I’d noticed that the large games room had a fridge and bar as well as pool, ping pong and foosball tables — and two beds in the far corner. I immediately claimed one of them and it took a surprisingly long number of minutes before someone else twigged in to take the other bed.

My Poema bedroom.
The extensive property was fronted by the river and surrounded by trees on every other side. It featured: a decent-sized swimming pool that proved to be a much more popular swimming location than the murky brown river; lawn volleyball and paddle tennis courts; a large outdoor grill; outside dining areas; three kayaks; and a hiking trail.

The Poema pool and some of my new Unsettled friends.
After walking for about 15 minutes through forest on the trail on Sunday morning, I still didn’t have a destination in sight and no one knew where it led to so I returned the same way. I spotted a few different types of scat that belonged to smallish but decent-sized animals along the way, but saw no wildlife aside from some birds and large but empty snail shells.

My new favourite dog, Tigre.
Perhaps best of all, the property came with its own dog — appropriately named Tigre. He was constantly running all over the place, acted as my guide on the hiking trail, and would often swim long distances in pursuit of kayakers. But he always returned and, when he tired, would casually ease himself on to a friendly and accommodating lap to rest or sleep on.

If there was one thing better than Tigre, and it was a tight competition, it was Ben — who Unsettled had hired as our personal chef for the weekend. We all contributed 250 pesos (approximately $17.50 Canadian) and he brought and prepared all the food — which was more than we could eat.

Lunch was a delicious curried chicken salad that could be added to hummus, shredded carrots and cabbage and eaten as a wrap.

But that was nothing compared to dinner, which was a traditional Argentinean parrilla (a meal featuring a lot of grilled meat) with a lot more extras than you’d get at most restaurants. There were staggering portions of steak, beef ribs, sausage and pork shoulder as well as cheese and a variety of salads and sauces that were a welcomed accompaniment to all of that protein.

Later, as many of us were sitting around a bonfire talking and drinking, Ben brought out crepes slathered with dulce de leche, a favourite Argentinean confection that’s like a very sweet caramel, for dessert.

Breakfast consisted of leftovers from the previous day as well as heaps of scrambled eggs, homemade bread with jams, and coffee. No one should have gone hungry during their 24 hours at Poema.

The garbage we created was bagged and hung off the dock, where a trash boat would apparently come by later to pick it up.

While I’ve been trying to put in my normal work week while also endeavouring to cram in activities to help me discover a new (to me) part of the world, Buenos Aires isn’t stressing me out. I don’t anticipate that it will either but, should such a thing happen, spending more time in the Delta of the Parana around Tigre would provide a quick antidote.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Getting into the green in Buenos Aires

The Palermo neighbourhood that’s become my Buenos Aires, Argentina stomping grounds has an excellent tree canopy on most of its streets, providing attractive greenery, shade and a positive environmental impact that adds to the pleasure of wandering around whether you have a destination in mind or not.

You’ll also find several small parks with more green space, benches for people to sit and chat, playground equipment for kids and, at a few of them — like at Plaza Immigrantes de Armenia — a carousel for the young ones.

The Plaza Immigrantes de Armenia carousel.
There’s a much more extensive park system closer to Rio de la Plata, however, and I took advantage of a beautiful Friday afternoon to take a long walk through a large segment of it, beginning near Plaza Italia and moving north from Avenida Santa Fe.

I took in the 17-acre Botanical Garden, which is home to approximately 5,500 species of plants, trees and shrubs from around the world, as well as a number of sculptures, monuments, greenhouses and a beautiful building housing the Municipal Gardening School. I also walked through the nearby Parquet Las Heras and Plaza Sobral.

The 44-acre Buenos Aires Zoo, which housed more than 2,500 animals, was closed down last year amidst complaints of cruel treatment of its 89 species of mammals, 49 species of reptiles and 175 species of birds. It’s supposed to be turned into an ecopark, but it’s still locked up tight and it doesn't look like there's a lot of work happening there. Walking along its perimeter, you can occasionally see inside through fences and I spotted what looked like a young capybara wandering around on its own. I didn’t spot any other signs of life, but some of the buildings looked intriguing.

Galileo Galilei planetarium
One of the observation towers around the planetarium.
Renzo Baldi and Héctor Rocha's monument to General Justo José de Urquiza.
Continuing northward on Agenda Sarmiento past Avenida Del Liberator towards the water and the city’s domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newberry, I came upon several more interconnected parks and gardens as part of the 989-acre Parque Tres de Febrero that's more than 140 years old. 

You’ll find the Galileo Galilei planetarium, commonly known as Planetario, as well as several statues — some of monumental size — in this area. There were also four observation towers, covered in astroturf, surrounding the planetarium for reasons unknown to me.

While roads run through this park system, on this day at least there were more walkers, runners, rollerbladers and bicyclists using them than cars, which was a nice respite from the busy streets not far away. You’ll also find lots of water, and can even rent paddleboats to leisurely take in some of the sights and get up close and personal with the abundance of waterfowl in the area.

Moving further west, I encountered the lovely rose gardens of Rosedal and the ornate Eduardo Sivori Museum, where I checked out the lobby but didn’t pay the entry fee to see more.

Eduardo Sivori Museum
For the sportsmen (and women), there was: a horse-racing track; the polo grounds where the Argentine Open (the fifth-oldest competition in the world and one of the most important international championships) begins later this month; a golf course; and a tennis club. I even stumbled upon the Buenos Aires Padel Master, a tournament stop on the world paddle tennis circuit (which I had no idea existed), that attracted thousands of fans to La Rural, Predio Ferial. I watched an outside practice court and bought a super poncho (that's what they call hot dogs here) with mustard, ketchup, bacon and potato sticks, but didn't pay to get inside to see the main event.

There were also several less official games of pick-up soccer and Frisbee taking place in some of the open grass areas.

The Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires also has a very large park that I’ll check out before my time in the city runs out on Dec. 2, and I’m sure I’ll continue to keep discovering smaller green spaces throughout the city as I walk around it and get to know it better.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian side

My original plan for Thursday was to walk around Foz do Iguacu and get a better idea of what the Brazilian city of 260,000 people had to offer, and maybe make a return to a great beer shop called Cerjevario where I had two pints on Wednesday night, and then do the same on the other side of the border in the Argentinean city of Puerto Iguazu so I could have a full day on Friday exploring the side of Iguazu Falls I hadn’t seen yet.

However, a check of the weather forecast revealed rain all day Friday (and as I sit here writing at 2:30 p.m. it’s been coming down in torrential amounts since it first woke me up at 6:30 a.m.), so I changed my plans and left for Argentina on Thursday morning. It was a bit of a complicated procedure, and my lack of knowledge of Portuguese didn’t help, but after taking two buses, having my passport stamped twice, and spending about 2.5 hours and R$5 (about $2.50 Canadian), I found myself at the end of a 15-kilometre journey at the Puerto Iguazu bus station and a short walk (if I’d been given proper directions) from Nomads Hostel, home for the next two nights.

I gained an hour since Brazil and Argentina use different time zones, found a bank to obtain some Argentinean pesos, and was ready to return to the bus station to buy a 150-peso (about $10.50 Canadian) round-trip ticket for the 18-killometre drive to Iguazu National Park.

Unlike the Brazilian side, there’s no shuttle bus to take you in further. You’re ready to go as soon as you enter and pay the 500-peso (about $35 Canadian) admission fee. There are four main trails that go through Atlantic forest, sometimes on the ground and sometimes on elevated catwalks, to take you to various locales and observation points in the park.

I first took the 655-metre Green Trail through rain forest wetland to the Cataratas Train Station, where a small open-air train takes you for a 10-minute, 3,700-metre ride through more forest to the beginning of the 1,100-metre Devil’s Throat Trail. The ecologically friendly-designed train runs on liquefied petroleum gas, travels at a maximum speed of 18 kilometres per hour and can hold 250 people.

An environmentally friendly gangway crosses the Iguazu River, in sight of some of its small islands, until you reach a balcony just a few metres from the largest and most important of the Iguazu Falls: the 80-metre Devil’s Throat. The turbulent water, rock-crashing flow and blowback will spray you with a mist that’s refreshing on a 30-degree Celsius day.

You return along the same route to the Cataratas Train Station, where a short walk takes you to the entrances to both the Upper Trail and the Lower Circuit. I began with the 1,750-metre Upper Trail, which offers panoramic views of a semi-circular chain that begins at Dos Hermanas Waterfalls and goes through Chico, Ramírez, Bosetti, Adán y Eva and Bernabé Méndez waterfalls before ending at the Mbiguá Waterfall lookout.

The gangway then crosses the Superior Iguazú River to reach the edge of the second largest falls of the system, San Martin Waterfall. This balcony provides the best and widest panoramic view of Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian side. You can see the Hotel Das Cataratas and elevators on the Brazilian side as well as the Sheraton Hotel, the old water tank tower, balconies of the Upper and Lower trails, San Martin Island and the gangway to Devil’s Throat on the Argentinian side.

The gangway then snakes back through islets and forest back to Cataratas Station. From there, it’s a short walk to the 1,700-metre Lower Circuit.

Footbridges through the forest foliage take you to Dos Hermanas, Chico, Ramírez and finally the bottom of the Bosetti Waterfall. It’s at this point that landlubbers looking for a soaking can venture to the closest point of the observation balcony to feel the immense power of the falls.

You then descend stairs to a short rockier trail that provides more stunning views of both waterfalls and cliffs. This trail also leads you to the embarkation point for a boat ride to San Martin Island. Unfortunately, the last boat leaves at 3:15 p.m. and I arrived 30 minutes later. Had I known that schedule in advance, I would have taken the Lower Circuit first so I could have experienced the steep climb to the top, forest walk and observation point of San Martin Island.

From the same spot where the boats to San Martin Island leave, it’s possible to pay an additional fee to take a jet boat excursion through the rapids and to the base of the Three Musketeers and San Martin falls. I was already pretty wet, and didn’t know if the ride was worth the cost, so I passed on the opportunity.

The final portion of the Lower Circuit takes you through the Lower Iguazú shore and provides access to the Alvar Núñez, Elenita and Lanusse waterfalls before returning you to Dos Hermanas Square. On the walk back to Cataratas Station, I encountered more of the omnipresent quatis as well as a couple of lizards.

I caught the last train to Central Station as the park’s closing time neared. Had I had more time, I would have liked to have taken the 7,000-metre (round-trip) Macuo Trail, which runs through thicker forest and is home to cai monkeys, before ending at the edge of Iguazu Canyon and the Arrechea Waterfall.

Iguazu Falls has been named one of the natural wonders of the world, and viewing them from the Brazilian and Argentinean sides was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll forever cherish. And instead of satiating my life-long desire to see waterfalls, it’s intensified it. 

While South Africa is high on my list of countries to visit, knowing I can include a trip to Victoria Falls as part of that itinerary (while also seeing some friends I made earlier this year) moves it up the pecking order.

Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side

I was wowed the first time I saw Niagara Falls as a child, and have been lucky enough to see them regularly ever since as I’ve always lived within a three-hour drive of them. 

That experience also sparked a life-long interest in waterfalls that I’ve pursued to this day. Any chance I have to see or visit a waterfall, I try to take advantage of it.

So when I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to rent an apartment and co-working office space in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a month, I knew I couldn’t travel all that way without seeing Iguazu Falls. That spurred my decision to visit Rio de Janeiro as well since, if I had to buy a visa to see the falls from the Brazilian side, I might as well get more for my money than just one day’s use.

So I flew from Toronto to Rio, spent three days getting to know one of the most geographically blessed cities in the world, and then caught a two-hour flight south to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. I stayed a night at the clean, efficient and modern Concept Design Hostel, but was quick to dump my bags off and catch the city bus to the falls -- about 17 kilometres outside the city -- as soon as I arrived in the late afternoon on Wednesday.

The falls are located in Iguacu National Park, which was created in 1939 and established as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. It’s part of the largest remaining Atlantic forest of southern Brazil.

Iguazu Falls extend in a semi-circular pattern for 2,700 metres, of which 800 metres are on the Brazilian side. The number of falls are variable, depending on the river volume, and range in height from 150 to 270 metres. The falls have names including Floriano, Deodoro, Benjamin Constant and Devil’s Throat.

The water was more brown than I anticipated, but that’s owing to the large amount of deforestation which has taken place over the past 50 years, which causes soil to erode and flow into the river — causing turbidity.

The general adult entrance fee to Iguacu National Park’s Brazilian side is R$63 (about $25 Canadian), which includes a shuttle bus that takes you from the entrance farther into the park to where a walking trail begins north of the Iguacu River.

The relatively short trails and catwalks provide great panoramic views of the Argentinean side, including some of San Martin Island that are unavailable from across the border. 

Just watch out for the quatis, a raccoon-like animal that can grow in size to 113 centimetres and 7.2 kilograms. They're even more annoying than raccoons, however, and less afraid of humans. They’re commonly on the trails and I saw one jump on a picnic table to try and take a woman's food as she sat there. They’ll scratch and bite if provoked, and some carry rabies. Just walk by and don't eat or open any food around them and you shouldn't have any issues.

Probably the most famous of the Iguazu Falls is known as Devil’s Throat, and a catwalk allows you to go right out to it, while an observation deck and tower are right beside it. Wherever you choose to view from, you’re going to get wet, it’s just a matter of how much. If you didn't have time for a shower in the morning, spending time in Devil's Throat will quickly solve that if you walk into the heart of it.

I spent two hours exploring the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls and caught the second last shuttle bus back to the entrance. The experience was so exhilarating that it was difficult to leave, but I still had the Argentinean side of the falls to look forward to on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Free Walker Tours shows me Rio’s history

Part of my first day in Rio de Janeiro was spent with Free Walker Tours and I was impressed enough that I decided to spend my last full day in the city with the group, too, and was pleased to have Clara as my guide again.

This tour covered Rio's historic downtown section, and Clara told us about the development of Rio, how it became the capital of Brazil for more than 200 years, the Portuguese connection and the key players in the city's history.

We started just outside the Carioca Metro stop and took an early break so walkers could sample the wares at the very elegant Colombo Confeitaria. My free Discovery Hostel breakfast had me full enough that food wasn't on my mind.

We passed many charming old buildings, some dating back to the 1700s, and stopped at the childhood home of Brazilian entertainment legend Carmen Miranda.

The Imperial Palace was relatively spartan from the outside and time constraints didn't permit an interior visit. The legislative assembly of Rio building's exterior looked much more majestic.

The legislative assembly of Rio.
We stopped in front of the Municipal Theatre, where there was a protest of government funding cutbacks. The Swan Lake ballet was cancelled because of them, so dancers, musicians and singers showed their worth by performing on the theatre’s front steps to an appreciative crowd.

Artistic Municipal Theatre protesters.
On other sides of the theatre in Cinelandia Square were the National Library and city council headquarters. I took a brief look at the regal interior of the library after the tour.

The exterior of city council headquarters.
The interior of the National Library.
From there it was a short walk to Lapa, which is one of the hubs for Rio’s nightlife scene. But since we arrived before 1 p.m., none of that was to be had.

Instead, we took in the Lapa Arches, a former aqueduct built in the middle of the 18th century to bring water from the Carioca River to the centre of Rio. Since the end of the 19th century the arches have served as a tram bridge. 

The Lapa Arches.
The tour ended at the Selaron Steps, which lead from Lapa to Santa Teresa. They were created by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron, who worked on them from 1990 to 2013. He died on the steps in that last year under suspicious circumstances. The steps have become a tourist attraction in Rio because of the colourful and often whimsical use of the ceramic tiles that decorate them. Snoop Dogg shot a video here, which gained them more notoriety. 

The Selaron Steps.
I was pleased with the tour and again tipped Clara R$50 (about $20 Canadian).

My electrical converter was too heavy for the wall socket at the hostel and wouldn't stay plugged in, and I'd been in search of a lighter one for two days. I received a number of tips on where to find one, none of which paid off, and my last resort was walking to a street well off of the traditional tourist path that had several electronic shops. I finally found what I needed and was happy to pay R$19.50 (about $8 Canadian) for it.

I took the Metro back to the hostel to charge one of my camera batteries, and everything seemed to work fine. While that was a relief, the quest wiped out a few hours of my afternoon so I couldn’t see as much of the city as I had hoped to.

I had time, however, to climb up a steep street near my hostel to visit the Santa Teresa neighbourhood. It was a formerly wealthy enclave that these days is more of a bohemian artistic centre. A lot of places were closed so I didn’t get a good taste for it, although a $R7 (about $2.80 Canadian) bottle of Brahma Extra Weiss tasted good as I walked around the streets with it.

I was lucky to catch the Santa Teresa tram at the top of its journey in Largo Dos Guimaraes (with none of the usual lineups even) and take it down into the central part of Rio near the Carioca Metro station. The tram started running in 1877 and is one of the oldest street railway lines in the world. Its route has been cut back from six kilometres to two and it's now used more by tourists than locals. It costs R$20  (about $8 Canadian) to take it up the hill to Santa Teresa, but it’s free coming down, so I didn’t have to pay for my short but enjoyable trip that included passage across the aforementioned Lapa Arches.

The Santa Teresa tram.
I had about R$10 (about $4 Canadian) left on my transit card, enough for a return trip somewhere, so I elected to take the Metro and go back to where my Rio wandering began at Copacabana Beach. The caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail and it’s sold at beachside stands for $R10 a glass, and I had to have one while in the city. It’s made with Cachaca, which is somewhat similar to white rum, as well as limes and sugar. It’s delicious and made a nice accompaniment for my walk down the beach.

I traversed Ipanema Beach again and returned to the neighbourhood for more wandering and dinner at Gourmet Girasol. The very casual restaurant was hardly gourmet, but I got two veal cutlets, French fries, rice, black beans and a salad for $R19 (about $7.75 Canadian), well below my $10 daily food budget for Rio.

I'm not sure why, but I found these statues on the steps of an Ipanema church interesting, and a bit freaky.
I’d been walking for about 10 hours at that point and elected to return to the hostel, have three beers, write and prepare for my morning departure to Foz do Iguacu.