Monthly Archives: January 2018

What is Fado?

Our second night in Lisbon a waitress in a fur coat standing at the door of her establishment lured my husband inside.  We had been walking in a giant circle for quite some time, with Dave trying to pick the perfect restaurant and so he was feeling pressure to make a choice.  I think he might have been a little relieved that the decision was out of his hands when the woman almost pushed us through the front door, and seated us at a table.   A singer and two instrumentalists were performing.  “This is fado,” our waitress whispered.  I wasn’t sure what fado was, but the singer looked like he was almost in pain, his eyes closed.  Although we didn’t understand the Portuguese lyrics it was obvious whatever he was singing about was of a dramatic and sad nature. 

The prices on the menu were a little dramatic too, so we opted for bread and cheese, and a bowl of vegetable soup and another of spaghetti, which we shared.  The food was excellent however and while we ate a young woman came up and did some more fado singing. Her performance was just as dramatic as her male counterpart’s.  

As we left the restaurant the waitress in the fur coat stopped to talk to us.  She told us fado is a kind of music unique to Lisbon and directly translated means ‘fate.’  The songs are always melancholy in nature and singers are accompanied by different kinds of guitars .  The origins of fado are difficult to trace with possible sources being Brazilian slaves, Portuguese sailors or the Moors. 

The waitress said she hoped we’d come back. I’m not sure we will. I was glad to have been introduced to fado but I’m thinking it won’t become a new music interest for me. 

Other posts……..

A Little Pizza With Your Organ Music?

A Fun Evening in Toronto

Six Cool Things About Lisbon

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Filed under Music, Portugal

A Fascinating Conversation in a Tiny Wine Shop in Lisbon

We were winding our home after our walking tour of Lisbon when Dave decided to pop into a little wine shop.  He had been wanting to buy some port in Portugal. We had heard Lisbon was also famous for a cherry liquer called Ginja and Dave wanted to try that too. The wine shop we entered advertised free port tastings and the owner quickly cleared a table for us to have a sample.  It wasn’t long before before we were joined by a father and daughter from Utrecht, Holland and an American psychiatrist from the midwest. The ensuing conversation was marvelous.  We started off chatting with the people from Holland about how our ancestors had originally lived in their country and they told us a little about the weather and culture of their home and the family holiday they had been having together in Portugal.

Then Dave, ever the history teacher, asked the Dutch folks from Utrecht about The Treaty of Utrecht which they had never heard of.  The psychiatrist knew all about the treaty though and chimed in with his insights and that got a conversation going about the relationship between Portugal and Holland. Eventually I got up to take a photo and said, “Isn’t this great? People from three different countries all in this tiny place in Lisbon sampling port and visiting.” The owner of the wine shop piped up and added, “Four countries.  I was born in Mozambique.” 

After a while the Dutch pair had to leave to catch their plane home but by this time I had gotten into quite the conversation with the psychiatrist who had stopped off in Portugal on his way back to the United States from Berlin where he’d been working on a paper about the similarities between psychotic and religious experiences. His side trip to Portugal was to help him get over the break up with his fiancee, a Luther scholar, which led me to tell him about the paper I wrote in college comparing Luther and Loyola and how students at that college shared their written opinions on a bulletin board called The Wittenberg Door.

The psychiatrist had been to Wittenberg with his former fiancee, and for some reason decided to pour out his heart to me.  I heard a long story about his mother’s cancer diagnosis, his fiancee’s sudden change of heart about ever having kids which led to their breakup, his former romance with a professional musician who plays in a Central American symphony orchestra and his worries about getting older and now needing to find a new partner who would want to start a family with him. After the psychiatrist went on his way, the shop owner helped Dave pick out his port and Ginja liquer and told us about his family’s experience being expelled from Mozambique after the country declared its independence from Portugal. Most people lost everything as they fled the country. You never know who you will meet or what stories you will hear when you step into a little wine shop in Lisbon!

Other posts……..

The World is Full of Interesting People

Four Interesting Couples

Our Guides in Asia

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Filed under Portugal

I Recline With Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure at Lisbon’s Museu Coleção Berardo and Connect With the Winnipeg Art Gallery

“It’s a Henry Moore.  I am certain,” I said as I approached a sculpture on the grounds of Lisbon’s Museu Coleção Berardo.  “How do you know?” my husband was skeptical.  “We have a Henry Moore sculpture on display on the roof top of the Winnipeg Art Gallery every summer,” I said.  It’s called Reclining Figure . I always get the kids on my tours to lie down and try to copy the statue’s form with their own bodies. “

Sure enough when I showed my husband the didactic panel on the sculpture at Lisbon’s modern art gallery it was a Henry Moore and it was called Reclining Figure too.  My husband insisted on taking photos of me with the Moore sculpture his way!

I told Dave there was a Kent Monkman painting currently on display as part of the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg gallery that includes a reference to Henry Moore.  

Death of The Female by Kent Monkman- Notice the reclining figure like Henry Moore’s on the front yard of a house in Winnipeg’s north end

Inside the Lisbon art gallery I found another Henry Moore piece. 

Stringed Figure by Henry Moore

The Henry Moore connection was just one tantalizing tidbit of the absolutely wonderful afternoon we spent at Lisbon’s Museu Coleção Berardo. It holds such a rich cache of modern art and on weekends which is when we visited it was FREE!  I’ll share more in future blog posts.

Other posts……..

Matching- The Winnipeg Art Gallery and The Nelson Atkins Museum

Whale Bone Sculptures

Kirchner- Finding An Old Friend


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Filed under Art, Portugal, winnipeg art gallery

From Brazilian Coffee to a Portuguese Surfer-Six Interesting Things About Lisbon

Yuri, a former top three national surfer in Portugal, performs the ten minute speed version of Portuguese history.

  1. Cool people from all over the world visit Lisbon. We went on a free walking tour of Lisbon with a curly haired fellow named Yuri a surfer/business student/music entrepreneur/tour guide who provided us with a ton of interesting information about the history and culture and geography of Portugal in a dramatic way. We were joined on the tour by parents from Poland and their two young children, partners our age from Brighton, England who were on their way home from a trip to Senegal, a recently married couple originally from India but living in Paris, and a single woman who was a petroleum engineer from Kulala Lampur, Malyasia. 

    A statue of Fernando Pessoa in Largo Chiado in Lisbon

    2. Lisbon’s most famous poet had multiple personalities.  Fernando Pessoa(1888-1935) assumed many different personas and wrote poems under more than 80 names.  

    This statue outside Pessoa’s Lisbon home,  illustrates how he assumed multiple identities. He was recognized not by his face but by all the different things he wrote

Quote from a Pessoa poem..
I don’t know how many souls I have.
I’ve changed at every moment.
I always feel like a stranger.
I’ve never seen or found myself.

3. Lisbon has the oldest continously used book store in the world. The Bertrand Bookstore was opened in 1732 and has never closed. It has been a meeting point for Lisbon’s intellectuals and writers for centuries. There are 53 branches of the store throughout Portugal.

4. There’s a fake castle in Lisbon. Our guide showed us Castelo de S. Jorge up on a hill.  He said it was once a real castle but was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1775 and the walls have been reconstructed in modern times to attract tourists. But it’s just a facade. There is no actual castle inside the walls. Reviews online agree. Being up at the castle gives you a great view of the city but there’s nothing much inside it to see.  It costs 8 Euros to tour the castle.  I’m happy with the view I got of the fake castle for free. 

5. The women you see begging at all the cathedrals in Lisbon belong to the same extended family. According to our guide they are professional beggars. He said there is no need for begging in Lisbon because more than 50 different places offer folks free food. I am not sure if I believe him because a Portugal News story I read said there 2.5 million people in Portugal at risk of poverty, although the rate is going down. 

6. There are multiple reminders in Lisbon that Brazil was a colony of Portugal from 1500 to 1822.  Exports of gold, coffee, sugar and cotton from Brazil were great contributors to the Portuguese economy.  Coffee shops like the Brasileira near Largo Chaido where we had breakfast just before our tour provide lasting reminders of the Portugal- Brazil connection.

I am sure we will learn many more interesting things about Lisbon during our time here, but Yuri’s tour gave us a good start. 

Other posts……..

Plumb Tuckered Out in Lisbon

My Husband Has Great Instincts- First Supper in Lisbon

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Filed under Portugal

First Supper in Lisbon- My Husband Has Great Instincts

which restaurant lisbon

Dave checks out one of the many restaurants he considered for dinner.

It took Dave a long time to decide where he wanted to eat supper our first night in Lisbon. He checked out a whole bunch of places but finally decided on a small restaurant near our house run by an elderly couple. restaurant owner lisbonThey couldn’t really speak English but we managed to communicate quite well with hand gestures and pointing to menu items and the owner helped us pick out what to have after supplying us with a plate of olives and a tray of bread. 
making our sangria lisbonThe owner left to buy the tuna and sea bass we had ordered from a nearby fish merchant. We watched his wife prepare our pitcher of Sangria step by step. She chopped oranges, splashed in wine, added other fruits she had already diced, threw in ice cubes, and then tasted the Sangria herself to be sure she’d got things right. Just then the owner  returned with our fish and his wife took it and bustled into the kitchen to cook while the man chatted with all kinds of people from the neighbourhood who stopped in to visit. 

restaurant lisbonThe meal was AMAZING!  The fish was flavorful and the homemade potato fries done to perfection.  

tuna steak lisbon

My tuna steak was so spicy and tender

There was a plate of salad for each of us included as well. We ordered a carafe of white wine for our meal. The portions were so hearty we simply COULD NOT find room for dessert although our host really wanted us to. 

restaurant owner and marylouBefore we left I asked our host if he would take a photo with me.  I wish I had taken one with his wife too. She came out of the kitchen just before we left and we told her how great the meal had been and she smiled and said some stuff in Portuguese that sounded happy and pleased. 

orange tree lisbonWe did stop on the way home to get a bag of oranges.  There are orange trees everywhere in Lisbon. oranges lisbonThe man who sold us the oranges told us they’d be sweet and was he ever right!  He also taught us to say obrigado which is thank you in Portuguese. 

little restaurant lisbonLater I looked up the restaurant which was called O Tasco Do Vigario on Trip Advisor and everyone just raved about it saying what a fabulous full course meal they’d had with cocktails and wine for two people for only around 20 Euros. Everyone gave it four or five stars! Our experience exactly!

Kudos to Dave for choosing the perfect place by instinct!

Other posts……..

Plumb Tuckered Out in Lisbon

Home Grown in Newfoundland

Meet You At the Folio

Celebrating Our Marriage History in a Historical Building



Filed under Food, Portugal, Restaurants

Plumb Tuckered Out in Lisbon

The door to our apartment in the Alfama area of Lisbon

How should we get to our place?  When we arrived in the Lisbon airport after being en route from Winnipeg for nearly 24 hours Dave asked me if I thought we should take a taxi or the metro subway to the little apartment we had rented in the Alfama area of the city. I suggested a taxi since we were tired and had hardly slept on the plane…. and I had a fractured wrist in a brace……….……and Dave had a 40 pound golf bag in tow…. and I had a large suitcase filled with materials for writing and sketching projects….. and we each had a back pack.  

Dave decided it would be more of an adventure to take the subway.  And was he ever right! We got lost in metro stations twice but a couple of extremely nice people including the young man in the photo above helped us out, steering us in the right direction and even carrying my suitcase for me.  

When we got off the train in our neighborhood we still had a long walk ahead of us to our apartment.  Dave had downloaded a route for us in Google maps but it wasn’t very helpful.  Many of the streets in the Alfama are  VERY STEEP and covered in cobblestones.  It was hard to push luggage up those stones slick from an afternoon shower  and it wasn’t long before we were lost and Dave wasn’t at all sure where to go.  I was plumb tuckered out.  So when we got to this lovely little church and I saw a park bench beside it I told Dave I was going to sit down and just enjoy the sunny afternoon while he looked for our place.  He could come back and get me once he had found it.  

I had a lovely time people watching and pigeon watching on my park bench

Dave was gone a LONG time and I thought he might have forgotten me but he finally showed up. He had found our place and the actress who owns it and he would take me there. He carried my suitcase up the narrow steep streets but…………halfway there he was plumb tuckered out and had to stop for a drink. He told the woman in the shop, “I’m thirsty.”  She thought he was saying ‘whiskey’ instead of ‘thirsty’ but he finally explained he wanted orange juice.Dave carried my bag up the three flights of outdoor stairs to our apartment and then up another four narrow flights of stairs inside since we were on the top floor.The actress had just finished cleaning our apartment and Dave asked her if she was in a play that evening we could attend. She just laughed and said she wasn’t.

By the time we got into our cute little apartment, Dave was plumb tuckered out again and he needed to have a nap, so I explored our place while he slept.  

Our cozy bedroom

Our tiny kitchen

Dave woke up refreshed and we hit the streets of our cool neighbourhood.

People in the Alfama hang their clothes outside their apartments to dry just like in Hong Kong

The Alfama got its name during the time the Moors occupied Portugal beginning in 1249.  There was a huge earthquake here in 1755 and the Alfama was the only area in the city to escape unscathed so it is very old and the architecture is just lovely!

We stopped to have a drink at a street side establishment and listened to a guitarist.  We were both feeling better and no longer plumb tuckered out  so we drank a toast to our Portugal holiday. 

Other posts……..

I Got Lost Twice Yesterday

Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

Up To Weaver’s Needle


Filed under Portugal

The Things We Keep

The story in The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth reminded me of the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova because it is also told in the voice of a person being effected by Alzheimer’s, although in this case it is not a fifty-something college professor but a thirty-eight year old motor cycle riding paramedic named Anna. Anna’s brother arranges for her to live in a care facility after it is no longer safe for her to stay with him and his young family. Here Anna meets Luke a man about her age who is also suffering from dementia.  They develop a romantic relationship that brings a momentary escape from their situation and adds meaning to both their lives.  But their families and the staff at the care home aren’t sure how to handle their relationship.

The Things We Keep has a second narrator, a young woman named Eve who is trying to start life over as a cook in the care facility where Anna and Luke live. Eve’s husband has died, leaving her and her young daughter Celementine destitute. 

The book made me think about how important it is to live in the moment, to enjoy and appreciate the here and now and to relish whatever love and happiness and meaning it brings. It also made me think about what life is like for people in institutionalized settings.  There is a whole network of relationships to navigate and a power imbalance to be handled with responsibility.  There are opportunities for caring and love but also hurt and harm. It made me think about the people I know who live in such settings and wonder how I might feel if I have to live in that kind of a facility someday. 

Other posts…………

Feeding My Mother

Where I Live Now

I Don’t Like Murder Mysteries but………

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Filed under Books, Health

She’s Making Jingles

barry ace winnipeg art galleryA jingle dress is featured in an artwork by Barry Ace in the current Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  As I’ve been touring groups through the exhibit I have had quite a number of indigenous young women tell me they own a jingle dress.  One of them said she and her mother were just in the process of making hers.  I asked her where they got the jingles that adorn the dresses. She said shops in Winnipeg sold them. The jingles are metal cones that make a distinctive sound as the dancer moves. A typical jingle dress can have 300-400 of them. 

creative commons jingles on a dress at the glenbow museum in calgary

Jingles on a dress at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary

I was keenly interested in a CBC news story last week that featured a 17 year old  high school student from the Swan Lake First Nation in southern Manitoba named Émilie McKinney.  Émilie is an accomplished hoop and jingle dancer who has toured North America. While making a jingle dress for herself she found out the jingles sold in Winnipeg were very expensive and were manufactured in Taiwan.  

Émilie thought the jingles should be more reasonably priced and should be made by indigenous people right here in Canada.  So she decided to open a business that did just that. She hand rolls the jingles and stamps them with an emblem she designed herself that features a teepee, a feather, a medicine wheel and an open door.  Émilie’s jingles are already being sold in five different stores and online.  You can read more about her story here. 

Other posts……..

Ojibwa in Paris

That Looks Familiar

Gone But Not Forgotten


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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Packing From The Feet Up

empty suitcasesI’ve started packing for our trip to Portugal.  Whenever I am preparing for a journey words of advice from my mother come to mind.  During my childhood when Mom was teaching me how to do my own packing for family vacations or school trips she explained the ‘packing from the feet up’ technique.  Mom said I should start at my feet and think of everything I would need for them on my trip- shoes, sandals, runners, socks and perhaps a toenail clipper. She told me to move up my body section by section like that all the way to my head.  Did I have shampoo, conditioner, my brush, my pink foam curlers,bobby pins,hats, combs, bandannas and hair clips? 

I still pack using that ‘start from the feet up’ technique and it works! Thanks Mom!

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Technology Transforms Travel

Am I a Peripatetic?

Globe Trotting Vicariously

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Filed under Parenting, Travel

A Going Concern

oma and grandchild

My mother-in-law often referred to her grandchildren as ‘going concerns.’

When my sons were small they were active, curious, social little beings. They were interested in everything.  As my mother-in-law would watch one of them busy exploring their surroundings and interacting with people she would often say, “He’s a real going concern isn’t he.”  I was never quite sure what she meant by that.  Until I married into my husband Dave’s family I had never heard the phrase ‘going concern.’ 

Over the Christmas holidays I watched my one year old grandson have a fine time exploring every corner of our condo, doing puzzles, singing, interacting with family members, laughing, opening presents, learning new words at a rapid rate, and playing little games like peek a boo.   I almost said, “He’s a real going concern isn’t he.”

grandparents and grandkids

My mother-in-law thought her lively crew of grandkids were ‘going concerns’ -happy, healthy kids with lots of potential.

It made me decide that finally after all these years I was going to find out if ‘going concern’ was a recognized phrase and see if I could figure out what it meant. I learned it is actually a term used in the business world to refer to a company that is doing well.  It is healthy financially, can honor its commitments, and has good future prospects.

But I also discovered the phrase in a 1949 BBC broadcast script in which a psychologist refers to children who are happy and bright and developing well as a ‘going concern.’ He tries to reassure parents they shouldn’t get overly anxious about doing everything ‘exactly right’.  Most children are a ‘going concern’ and will develop in a healthy way if they are loved and their basic needs are met by caring parents.  

driedger grandchildren

Oma’s ‘going concerns’ pose for a photo with her and Opa on their 50th wedding anniversary

The 1949 date of the BBC broadcast made me realize that ‘a going concern’ was a term people of my mother-in-law’s generation would have used and also helped me understand she was actually paying my husband and me a compliment when she said our children were ‘going concerns.’ She thought our sons were happy, healthy, bright and developing well and we were doing our best to parent them.  

Thanks Mom!

Other posts……..

What’s the Best Way To Raise Children?


What Will Our Grandchildren Think?

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Filed under Family, Health