The Last Time I saw Lisbon: Graffiti

I can’t say that I like graffiti very much but it also tells a story. There are many photographs of graffiti and street art in Lisbon available for viewing on-line. It’s perhaps redundant for me to add a few more to the mix, but this is what I saw in 2011.

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The Last Time I saw Lisbon: Alfama

The Alfama is one of the oldest areas of the city and you can easily get lost in the maze of steep narrow streets and alleys. A perfect place to lose yourself in Lisbon.



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The Last Time I saw Lisbon Gardens

Jardim Botânico da Ajuda

Lisbon has so many great public gardens. I had a wonderful time meandering through the Jardim Botânico da Ajuda, Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Lisboa, Jardim da Estrela. I had hoped to see them again this year but since I can’t, here’s some of my photos from my 2011 visit:

Jardim Botânico da Ajuda


Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Lisboa

Jardim da Estrela

To end this post, I couldn’t resist adding one  photo of the Fronteira Palace garden:


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The Last Time I saw Lisbon

View of Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora and the National Pantheon dome 

I should be in Lisbon right now. That was the plan. But like everything else these days, the trip had to be cancelled.

The last time I saw Lisbon was in 2o11.  I stayed in a rented apartment in Largo de Santa Marinha in Bairro da Graça, with a view of São Vicente de Fora at the end of the street. It was a time of reconnecting with family I had not seen for years and of exploring the city on my own.

I don’t feel inspired to write many words these days. Instead, I will just post over the next few days some of my favourite photographs of the last time I saw Lisbon.

Castelo S. Jorge

York House, 2006

Castelo S. Jorge, 2006

Statue of poet António Ribeiro Chiado

Bairro Alto

Cemitério dos Ingleses



Centro Vasco da Gama, Parque das Nacões


Amália in Bairro da Estrela

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Remembering the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo in the Azores

The Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres has been celebrated since the year 1700 in the city of Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores. This is the first time it has been cancelled in its 320 year history.

I am grateful that I went in 2017 to experience the celebration. I already posted my impressions and photos of that visit but I am wanting to remember it again and so I share with you once more:

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Remembering the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo in Toronto

The Azorean Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres has been celebrated in Toronto since 1966. Last year I went to see the procession and now I’m glad I did because the celebration that was to be held this weekend has been cancelled. All I have is the memories of 2019 that I shared on the blog last year. I now share it again with you:

Revisiting the Festa do Senhor Sando Cristo dos Milagres in Toronto.

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Rosetta McClain Gardens in an April unlike any other April

Rosetta McClain Gardens in an April unlike any other April. An April when the garden starts to come to life on its own but with less people around to appreciate it. There are signs that the city garden workers come by, but I never see them. Perhaps it’s because I only walk through the park infrequently now. The benches are sealed off, so there is no stopping to visit with nature. The view of Lake Ontario, although so close by, feels closed off, too.  Everything feels like it’s in suspended animation, in quarantine, complying with the signs put up by the entrance gates. Yet the daffodils have started to bloom and their yellow flowers are a hopeful sign of better days ahead.

Thank you to the City of Toronto for allowing us to walk through the park as long as we practice safe social distancing.

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The Self-Isolating Heart

I have seen this suspended heart many times on my walks through Rosetta McClain Gardens. I thought it endearing and sweet to see how it hung there between a thin branch and a wooden post. But when I came across it this week, because we are still allowed out for short walks, it had a new meaning for me. This plastic heart reminded me of our own self-isolating, suspended hearts in this new age of Covid-19.

Even as we are self-isolating, distancing, quarantining, staying away from each other, until this health crisis is under control, we are longing more deeply for our human connections. We can’t take each other for granted any longer and as we sit isolated in our homes, we are reaching out. Thankfully, in this age of social media, we are connecting with each other more mindfully than ever before.

Some of us have been good at maintaining relationships with family and friends without being physically with them. For those of us who are introverts, who love solitude and seek time alone, I think, it’s a bit easier, because we have practiced disembodied communication; we know that reaching others by our words, our minds, and our hearts, can be a deeper connection than being physically present.

But even we, the introverts of the world, still crave human touch and presence: to see someone we love; to read their emotions; to react to their smiles; to see the joy or sadness in their eyes; to give them an embrace; and to touch their hands. These are the most human ways of fostering love and connection with one another.

It is my wish that once this health crisis is over, as all things do eventually come to an end, that we remember to keep reaching out to one another.

I am thinking of my family and friends throughout Canada, Portugal and the Azores, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe and I am wishing them love.

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Visiting Fronteira Palace in Lisbon

Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira (Fronteira Palace)

A few years ago, I had the great pleasure of meandering through the Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira gardens in Lisbon. I took these photographs to remind me of the magnificent azulejos that adorn the garden.

I highly recommend the book Portuguese Decorative Tiles by Rioletta Sabo for beautiful photographs of Portugal’s azulejos.

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Finding His Way Home

Vladimir’s House

Vladimir was a good neighbour. A stout short man with a full, round jovial face covered in a beard and bushy eyebrows that framed his bright blue-green eyes. Vladimir was born and raised in a small town in Finland. He immigrated to Canada as a young man where he married and raised two daughters. By the time we knew him, he was living alone in retirement after an amicable divorce. Occasionally we would see him walking his ex-wife’s dog.

A master gardener by trade, he had worked as a groundskeeper for the former Scarborough Board of Education (now the Toronto District School Board) and he took great pride in his own garden. Every time he stopped for a chat, he offered us good advice on how we could take care of ours. We even hired him once, to create a new flower bed in our front garden.

In summer, while my partner and I weeded the front garden, we looked forward to seeing him walk up the street, stop in front of our house for a greeting and a brief conversation about the weather, the state of our garden, or to admonish Stephen about not becoming a school administrator.

One day, Vladimir was involved in a car accident while turning onto our street which ended his ability to drive; but he was an avid walker and we would see him most days walking to and fro to the bus, always clutching a bag containing gardening tools. Eventually the bag was replaced by a cane after two knee replacements made walking more difficult.

In recent years, we began to see him less often and his greetings eventually became vague as if he wasn’t sure who we were. I remember the day when Stephen came home, troubled by a strange encounter he’d had with Vladimir who had asked Stephen what towns were east of here and then inquired if this was the way to Vantaa.

Confused but sensing something was off, Stephen replied, “No. We are in Toronto and the towns east of us are called Pickering, Whitby and Oshawa.” And then it occurred to Stephen that Vladimir might be lost in memory. He asked him if Vantaa was a town in Finland, to which Vladimir said, “Yes. It’s where I’m from and I’m trying to get there.”

We learned a few months later that Vladimir had Alzheimer’s Disease and his daughters had moved him into an assisted living facility.

I was quite moved by this story of Vladimir’s search for a way back home, just when his mind stopped living in the present. Although he had his house and family here, in a country he made home, his memory clung to the faraway place of childhood where he had lived.

I hope Vladimir finds his way home.

The Train Station in Helsinki, Finland

I am grateful to Stephen for telling me the story of his encounter with Vladimir. It touched me as much as if I had been the one who had spoken to him that last time on our street.

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