Visiting Mercados in Portugal as a Tourist

Mercado Municipal de Viseu in 1992

What fascinates so many travellers about markets? I know that here, in Toronto, the St. Lawrence Market is also a favourite tourist destination. Markets allow us to enter the world of the “locals” and see people at their most relaxed; usually on a Saturday morning, as they browse through farm-fresh fruit and vegetable stalls or pick out flowers for a weekend dinner party, excited to interact with the people who actually grow the produce they bring to the city to sell.

I have experienced the St. Lawrence Market as a “local,” not as a tourist. As a “local,” I am absorbed in my purchases; as a tourist I am focused on observing my surroundings. The tourist is still the outsider, taking photographs of oranges and lettuces as if they were some exotic things.

So, when I have visited markets in Portugal, I am the outsider taking the photographs of oranges and lettuces. I enjoyed walking through the mercados in Viseu, Porto, Vila Real de Santo António, as well as Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

But it’s not so much the produce of the mercados that entices me to linger just a bit longer than necessary for someone who is just looking; it’s hearing the cacophony of people’s voices speaking in a language I love.

Viseu, 1992

Viseu, 1992

Porto, 1984

Vila Real de Santo António, 2009

Vila Real de Santo António, 2009

Vila Real de Santo António, 2009

Mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores, 2000

Outside mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada, 2000

Mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada, 2001

Mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada, 2001

Mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada, 2008

Mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada, 2008

The middle box contains grosselhas, tart yet delicious. Mercado da Graça, Ponta Delgada, 2008

Old mercado de Viseu, 1992

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A window in Óbidos, looking out into Óbidos

It was such a very long time ago when I had the pleasure of staying for several days in Óbidos, one of Portugal’s most charming medieval walled towns.

The memory of walking its quiet deserted streets in the early morning hours before the arrival of the thousands of people who descend on Óbidos daily is one that has stayed with me ever since that visit.

These photographs were taken in 1992. I haven’t been back to Óbidos since then. I hope the town has retained its look and that it still delights those who have the pleasure of walking through its streets where flowers adorn walls with such abundance.

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Nazaré beach is famous for its powerful waves, but I remember a quiet day of walking along the shore when the waves were gentle.

June 10th is Portugal Day, Dia de Camões, de Portugal e das Comunidades Portuguesas. I wish I was celebrating by showing photographs of places in Portugal I could be visiting this year instead of having to rely on the memory of visits of long ago. Here’s a very small sample of some places I am grateful to have seen while travelling through Portugal.

Wishing everyone a Feliz Dia de Portugal, wherever you are.

The town square in Évora

Lovely architecture in Portalegre

The charming streets of Marvão on a sunny day




The magical Palace Hotel do Bussaco

Palace Hotel do Bussaco


Sunlight splashing colour brought out the beauty of Évora Cathedral

Lift up your eyes to the elegant dome of the Basílica de Mafra

The Cistercian Mosteiro de Alcobaça (below)



 Unfinished Chapels at Batalha Monastery

This is one of my favourite photographs because it tells a story. The woman walking with a red bag says so much.

I end with this photograph taken at Lagoa do Fogo in São Miguel, Azores

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Rosetta McClain Gardens, After Rain

There is a wonder to the garden that only comes after a rainfall while the mist lingers. I went back to Rosetta McClain Gardens once the rain stopped and took these photos. Some will be similar to the sunny shots I posted yesterday, but the after-rain gives the same flowers and plants a special look which makes it worthwhile to include them here again. I hope you enjoy looking at these June flowers and plants as much as I enjoyed photographing them.

Soon there will be peonies in full bloom for my friend Ilda Januário.

How easily yesterday’s poppies are taken by the rain, yet beautiful in their falling apart.

Lucky squirrel to live in such a great garden but even he must be careful of the hawks that fly over Rosetta Gardens looking for tasty snacks!

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Rosetta McClain Gardens in Early June

The best time to walk through Rosetta McClain Gardens is early morning.

June is here and so are June flowers. The tulips of April and May are gone from Rosetta, replaced by mostly purple and red flowers. On yesterday’s walk I didn’t have my camera with me so I used my IPhone to take these photographs.

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Cherry Blossom Time at the Aga Khan Park

It’s not a cherry blossom competition but just across the street from the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre you can also enjoy visiting the extensive grounds of the Aga Khan Park in Don Mills, Toronto,  where more cherry trees abound. It’s now almost the end of May and the cherry blossoms are long gone and replaced by green leaves. But you can still enjoy seeing them in these photos.

I am looking forward to visiting the Aga Khan Museum once it opens again.

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Cherry Blossom Time at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre

Visiting gardens and parks that have cherry trees is a popular thing in Toronto and, during cherry blossom time, normally in the month of April, people enjoy their ephemeral beauty. These photographs were taken in April while visiting the grounds of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.

Even the parking lot has cherry trees so you can just stay in your car and enjoy them! 

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Dying in this Time of Pandemic Living

The virus finally came to my family after fourteen months of our pandemic living. All the social distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitizing, avoidance of gatherings, all of it, turned out to have no power to protect and keep us all safe until this plague comes to its inevitable end.

The dreaded virus, whose scientific name I refuse to write down here, fooling myself that I can give it less power by not naming it, took away one of my family members, only after a few weeks of ICU and all the attempts of hospital staff to save his life.

The cruelest part of this pandemic is not only the lives it has, and continues to take, but it’s also how it’s taken away our human social life: it’s destroyed all our rituals around grief and our ability to come together as family and friends to be with each other at the most vulnerable time of loss.

We said our goodbyes on Zoom; we visited the funeral home in carefully selected small numbers, unable to offer an embrace to our dear cousin who lost her husband, as she and her son sat roped-off, and we, her cousins and friends, could only gesture our grief from afar; we watched the funeral Mass on live stream and couldn’t be there for the interment. We live in the same city but we might as well have been living across an ocean.

All of this is a sadness that will forever have changed us.

We all die. This I do accept and am at peace with. It’s our human condition: we are born and we eventually die.

But dying because of this virus, or even just dying during this time, is a wretched thing because we have also had our collective humanity taken away. We must grieve alone. Grief is ultimately a private experience and we can’t take away the pain of loss felt by those who grieve, but our normal attempts to offer comfort and support to the bereaved have also been taken away and we grieve in ways that don’t offer healing to the wounded heart.

I know that we must not give in to despair and remain forever devastated by grief and loss. After a time of feeling that your world has ended and changed forever, human experience shows us that we do go on, that we rebuild a life for ourselves without our loved one, but right now it’s a time of grief for my family, and we need to be with our loss.

There’s an absence now of someone loved, whose time perhaps came at the wrong time, and whose smile we won’t see again except in memory.

I hope this pandemic ends soon but the damage it has done will always stay with us, with all of us around the world who, in one way or another, are touched by it.

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Slowly, Spring Comes Again to Rosetta McClain Gardens

A welcoming forsythia bush cheers up the walk along the path

It’s almost the end of April and we are still waiting for warm weather. However, it’s typical of this month to be cold and wet (with the occasional snow). So while we wait for the sunny days ahead, here’s some photographs of the coming of spring to Rosetta.

New photos added after a morning walk on April 30

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Magnolia Stellata

Royal Star Magnolia, Magnolia Stellata

Rosetta McClain Gardens, a place I like to showcase on my blog from time to time is, as far as public gardens go, a modest place. It has no showy or spectacular plants and flowers. Yet what is there, delights the eye with simple beauty. Like the small magnolia tree, a Magnolia Stellata, also known as Royal Star Magnolia, native to Japan, which lives close to the edge of the garden near the bluffs with views of Lake Ontario.

Every year, I like to go see it unfold in early spring.  Last week it was doing well and I photographed the beauty of its new flowers. A few days later, we had a heavy snowfall which smothered the delicate white blooms.  The day after, the snow melted, and I went back to see if it survived unscathed. Unfortunately, it did not. Yet, there remains a gentle beauty to these weather-beaten flowers that painfully reminds me of the fragility of life. They are still clinging to the branches, not willing to let go just yet, wanting to stay for as long as they can, even if bruised.

Such resiliency encourages me to do likewise, and carry on during these difficult times.

Before the snowstorm

During the snowstorm


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