Sunflowers at Rosetta McClain Gardens

The Portuguese word for sunflower is girasol. I don’t remember seeing them when I was growing up in Ponta Delgada but I do know that they grow on the island of São Miguel. My mother tells me stories of how she loved them when she was a child, so I don’t know why she didn’t have them in our small garden.

Rosetta McClain Gardens has sunflowers in July and August. It’s a pleasure to see them on my walks and for some reason, when I see them, I try to recall the past. Surely I must have seen them somewhere back home, so my mother assures me, surprised that I don’t remember. Yet, I rely on her memory to inform mine. Which begs the question, do we always remember accurately or is memory-saudade-nostalgia seeking something else?

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My Summer Garden, Again

After all my recent posts reminiscing about long ago visits to Portugal, it’s time for me to get back to my Toronto garden and stay there as much as I can during these short summer months. Here’s some photographs from June and early July.

Hydrangea on the way

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Lisboa, 2006

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (detail)

Avenida da Liberdade

Café Nicola

Praça do Rossio seen from the Santa Justa elevator lookout

Steps leading to York House Hotel, Rua das Janelas Verdes

Window view from our bedroom at York House Hotel

York House Hotel patio

One of the many beautiful buildings on Avenida da Liberdade

Looking toward the Rio Tejo

Castelo de São Jorge above the city

Castelo de São Jorge

Castelo de São Jorge

On a quiet street near the castle

View from Museu Tesouro da Sé Patriarcal de Lisboa

The cruise ships have gotten bigger since 2006

City life

Another view of São Vincente de Fora and Panteão Nacional

All aboard to see the Lisboa of today


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Lisboa, 1992

Views of São Vincente de Fora and the dome of Santa Engrácia, Panteão Nacional

The elevador de Santa Justa for beautiful views of the city

Dome of the Panteão Nacional

Basílica de Santa Maria Maior, Sé Patriarcal de Lisboa

Basílica da Estrela

Basílica da Estrela dome

Basílica da Estrela

A certain beauty in the decay but I hope this building has been restored


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Lisboa, 1989

I have visited Lisboa five times. That may not seem like a lot for those who love to travel to Portugal more often, but I am content with my few visits. Each time, I do get something new out of my experience, even when I am revisiting favourite spots, curious to see if anything has changed since the previous visit. Of course, like all cities, Lisboa has evolved from the time I first saw it in 1984. I had a pocket camera back then and didn’t take too many photographs, which was a good thing because I was able to focus on the moment while exploring the city.

However, by the time of my second trip, in 1989, I had a good camera with me, and so I took more photographs. In the age of rolls of film, it was still a limited number of photos I could take but I always had rolls of 36 exposures rather than the modest 24 in order to get a few extra pictures! As it was, they took much space in my carry-on bag, something I don’t regret giving up once digital cameras became the norm.

These photographs are from my second trip. Back then, I was interested in finding an older Lisboa, the one in my imagination, and so I took many photographs of decaying buildings. I include them here, along with photographs of a timeless Lisboa.

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Sintra is the Romantic Heart of Portugal

I visited Sintra in October of 1984 and then in late-September of 1992. I mention the months because the fall light cast a spell over me and allowed me to experience Sintra as a magical place; full of early-morning mist moving over the castle walls, as we meandered in silence, taking in the peace and fresh-scent of the forest that surrounded us.  There is much that has been written about Sintra and its appeal to travellers, including the poet, Lord Byron, who praised Sintra in his famous poem, Child Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Rather than retell the stories easily available on-line, I prefer to share these photographs of a place and time that I am grateful to have experienced.

Me in Sintra, 1989

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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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