Seeing Plácido Domingo in Havava, Cuba

The Great Theatre in Havana, Cuba

Havana’s grand Great Theatre has amazing architecture

Havana is a special city in which anything can happen.

On Thursday, 24 November 2016, Rocío’s and my first full day in Cuba, we were walking along Paseo del Prado, the border between Old Havana and Centro Havana. Coming to the Great Theatre (Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso), we saw a crowd near the entrance. Just as we get there, modern Mercedes Benz sedans (a rarity in Cuba) arrive and out step opera singer Plácido Domingo and wife Marta Domingo.

Plácido Domingo and his wife exit the car in front of Havana's Great Theatre

Plácido Domingo and wife Marta Domingo get out in front of Havana’s Great Theatre

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Deliciousness and Australian Songs at Festi Sabores 2016 – Arequipa’s Food Festival

Festi Sabores, Festival of Flavours in English, is southern Peru’s most important food festival and a highlight of the Arequipa calendar. With free entry, Festi Sabores is held at Plaza Yanahuara over multiple days around October-November each year. Rocío and I enjoyed the 2016 festival enough to attend two days.

Cuyassic Park, guinea pig stand, Arequipa Food Festival, Peru

Cuyassic Park: like Jurassic Park but selling roasted guinea pigs instead (cuy in Spanish is guinea pig) Continue reading

The First Festival of Esquilaya Coffee, Ayapata, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

2016 Ayapata Festival of Esquilaya Coffee poster, Macusani

A poster in Macusani promoting the 1st Esquilaya Coffee Festival (I Festival de Café Esquilaya) held in Ayapata on 25 September 2016

Peru is a significant producer and exporter of coffee, with its crop primarily grown on the Andes’ eastern slopes. At 3,475 metres, the town of Ayapata is too high to grow coffee. Why then does it have a coffee festival? Continue reading

Moray Circles and Maras Salt in Cusco’s Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley’s unique Moray archaeological site and Maras salt mines (Salinas de Maras) make a popular day trip from Cusco. I visited in August 2016.

At the tour’s first stop ladies demonstrated how llama and alpaca wool was traditionally dyed using naturally sourced ingredients and spun for weaving.

Incan Textiles, Maras, Cusco, Peru

Ladies in traditional clothing demonstrate how alpaca and llama wool was dyed and spun Continue reading

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, part 1

Salvador is the capital and largest city of Bahia state, Brazil. Salvador was Brazil’s first capital and a major historic destination for slaves, particularly from the region now encompassing present day Nigeria. These influences are reflected in the city’s historic Pelourinho district, named after colonial pillories used for slaves. I have previously blogged about a Salvadorian festival and the city’s golden Sao Francisco Church and Convent.

Seated next to me on the two hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador was an interesting French-Colombian woman. She had lived in three South American countries and recommended a diving school in Colombia, Peruvian cuisine and to take the bus from the Salvador airport.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Salvador’s towers and favelas from the aeroplane Continue reading

Festival in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

After a short stop in Rio, I flew north to Salvador, to catch up with Arnina and experience the city’s amazing culture. I will write more about this later.

In Salvador on the last Friday each month there’s a festival in a town square 15 to 20 minutes walk north of Pelourinho district. Hostel Oh Meu Rei manager Lidia kindly advised she and fellow manager Andrea were going and invited guests to come.

Salvador Festival

First stop was at this drink stall for a R$5 (~AUD$1.80) caipirinha. The round container on left contains a local fruit Spondias purpurea (seriguela) that makes a delicious caipirinha variant

Salvador Festival

A seven-piece band played under a marquee in the centre of the square. Locals grooved to the African-inspired music, particularly the guy in the white t-shirt in the left background

Salvador Festival

For food and watching the locals go by, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant on the town square edge

Salvador Festival

Drink and other vendors brought their goods in wheelbarrows, eskys and carts. The sign is advertising Skol Beats alcopops (R$5) and Skol beer, water and Schin soft drinks (R$2; ~AUD$0.70)

Salvador Festival

The town square is faced by a church (is there a Brazilian town square without a church?)

Salvador Festival

I doubt this vendor sold any Pepsis

Salvador Festival

Towards the end of the night

I loved the evening and thank Lidia and Andrea for the opportunity.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Rio de Janeiro was Pearl Jam’s fifth and final Brazilian concert destination of their 2015 Latin America tour. Fittingly, the band partied tonight like it was their last night. After Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, this was also my final tour concert.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Pearl Jam performed at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Maracana Stadium

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana metro and train station

I caught the metro from Ipanema to Maracana, changing trains at Estacio. The number of people wearing rock t shirts increased with each stop until hundreds of us exited at Maracana Station. A short walk from the station was tonight’s host and one of the most famous venues in the world: Maracana Stadium.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Big Rock burger voucher

Before the concert I wanted to eat something. At the food booth I chose Big Rock, not having a clue what it was. Big Rock turned out to be a burger with two meat patties. The burger was edible but not much more. The Big Rock’s name and format is similar to the Big Mac’s so I guess this was its inspiration (if a dull burger could be inspired).

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The crowd filling up the Piste Premium section in front of the stage, Maracana Stadium

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana crowd

After what seemed like forever, eventually the band came on stage. Following a brief stop-start, the band launched into Oceans, the only song I had not heard off Ten, their first album.Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The moon shines brightly above stage

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The crowd shining their mobile phones lights

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Singer Eddie Vedder entering the crowd

After putting on a fantastic concert, towards the end Pearl Jam began partying. Eddie invited Edu, a Brazilian fan onto the stage to sing the start of Porch. Eddie then Jeff wrapped themselves in a Brazilian flag. Mike ended up topless and Eddie smashed a guitar.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana Stadium filled with Pearl Jam fans

Maracana Stadium in its usual configuration holds over 78,000 people. I expect about that many attended this night.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The band towards the end. Topless guitarist Mike is on the left and next to him is bassist Jeff wearing the Brazilian flag

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The band farewelling both the audience and Brazil

The concert finished at midnight due to a curfew but in three hours Pearl Jam still managed 34 songs. This was an awesome concert and a fitting way to end the Brazilian stint. One of the only ways it could have been better was if people refrained from smoking. It felt there was always someone in my immediate vicinity smoking, exacerbating my headache and putting a small downer on the night.

Even though this was my eleventh Pearl Jam concert, they still played five songs new to me. The band also played four songs from No Code, my favourite album. And, for my fourth consecutive concert, Pearl Jam played Rearviewmirror, the best song in the world.

In my three Brazil concerts Pearl Jam played 103 songs, including 63 unique songs (54 originals, 9 covers). This tour I saw the band play 22 songs for the first time.

In eleven concerts I have seen them play 116 unique songs (98 originals, 18 covers). Only two songs, Even Flow and Do The Evolution were played at all eleven gigs.

Rio’s Sunday night metro and rail services usually end at 11pm. Tonight, trains from Maracana were extended to get the concert audience home. I did not linger in the stadium afterwards as I wanted to ensure I got back to Ipanema. Maracana metro station heaved with people and I eventually boarded a train. At Ipanema’s General Osorio station, only exit A was open. Instead of walking a few metres from exit C to my accommodation, I enjoyed a more scenic route, arriving home after 1:30am.

Farewell Pearl Jam, you were awesome!


All the Pearl Jam concerts and songs I’ve seen:

The full Rio de Janeiro set-list and other fan-views:

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Belo Horizonte, 20 November 2015

Pearl Jam performed a fantastic concert in Sao Paulo but Belo Horizonte’s performance was amazing!

It rained consistently the concert afternoon and evening. Rain combined with peak-hour in Belo Horizonte leads to crawling traffic. My taxi to Isabela’s apartment (R$25.10 on meter; R$30 including tip) experienced some delays. However, this was nothing compared with the drive to Mineirao Stadium.

Bruna drove admirably for over two hours to cover the limited distance (as short as 13.5km according to Google Maps). To dodge the worst of the traffic we took many side roads. We even went up a road too steep for the vehicle and had to delicately turn around to go back down.

We eventually arrived to the stadium around 8:30pm, the time Pearl Jam has previously started. Pete, Pearl Jam’s head of security was viewing proceedings at my entry gate. After seeing how many people were still lining up, I expect he advised the band to start later. Although my ticket wouldn’t scan, entry staff let me through. After a quick toilet stop and water drink I was on the ground, ready for the band.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Entering the stadium Pista Premium section

Within minutes, Pearl Jam came out and gave an epic performance, starting with a song I didn’t recognise (The Beatles’ Rain). The rain had stopped by now and hardly a drop fell during the concert.

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A partial video of Even Flow from the night. Even though I have seen this song played at every Pearl Jam concert, in Brazil the audience participation never makes Even Flow boring

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Singer Eddie Vedder talked about the mining disaster in both English and Portuguese during the night. He expressed his sympathy with locals and slammed the operator. A crowd recorded video of Eddie saying this was shown on the news with the next day. Eddie also said concert proceeds would support the families hurt by the disaster.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The crowd lights up during Imagine (Lennon)

In tribute to the terrorism victims at the concert in Paris, the band covered Eagles of Death Metal’s Want You So Hard (Bad Boy News).

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Tonight the band played 36 songs in just less than three hours. Even in my tenth concert, I still saw eleven(!) songs for the first time. Personal highlights included Sometimes, Rearviewmirror and  Mankind, the latter sung by guitarist Stone Gossard.

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Singer Eddie Vedder at the side of the stage

Mineirao Stadium’s seating is largely covered and the covering helped keep the sound in, creating an amazing atmosphere. Even though the crowd wasn’t as into the concert as in Sao Paulo, the atmosphere was better. It appeared that many of the attendees in my section came to concert for the ‘event’ and not for the music. People lined up for beer throughout the concert and I’m sure Heineken and the promoter made massive profits. Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The lights are on near the concert end

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

Pearl Jam band members waving good night

Pearl Jam Belo Horizonte

The crowd exiting the ground

Once out of the stadium I caught up again with Bruna, Bruno and Isabela. We all agreed that Pearl Jam put an a fantastic show. Thankfully, the Uber ride home did not take two hours. Not that I would have noticed, as I slept most of the way back.


For the full set list and more fan views:

Pearl Jam nerds, here are the songs I’ve seen live:

I’m about to catch the metro to Maracana for tonight’s Rio de Janeiro gig, Pearl Jam’s fifth and final Brazilian concert of their 2015 Latin American tour. Stay tuned for my report on this as well as a write up of my time in Belo Horizonte.