Porto’s Market

Markets are my favorite places to visit in European cities. Except for a few places in America (Philadelphia and Seattle come immediately to mind) we don’t have the traditional large markets that are found in Europe. Porto’s marketplace is unlike any other I’ve visited.  It is a covered (indoor) market, a city block long and three stories high.

As in many markets, shoppers can find a wide variety of produce and goods in the marketplace. The photos below give you a good example of what’s on offer there.

One of the most interesting sights I found there yesterday and again today was a man playing an old organ-grinder’s instrument. He was accompanied by his young daughter who sits beside him patiently biding time. Look closely at these photos to see the three birds they bring with them including what I believe is an albino chicken.

The produce in this market looked especially appealing. I suppose that has something to do with the time of year it is now.  It made me wish for a kitchen.

More tomorrow,

Libbie

 

 

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Exploring Porto, Portugal

Porto is a town with a reputation for being lively and fun and that it is. It’s also very historic, filled with beautiful buildings that are centuries old. People have lived in Portugal since before history began. The Porto cathedral was begun in the year 1110 AD but there may have been a bishop here since the 6th century.

Although the exterior of Porto’s cathedral is a plain, romanesque style, the interior has many areas covered in gold, such as the main altar and the choir, shown here.

Porto lies on the river Douro a few miles inland from the Atlantic, in the northern part of Portugal. Port wine is made up-river and Porto has been its trading port for hundreds of years, making it sometimes a very rich town. But not always.

Boats made for tourists today are modeled after the very old small craft used in centuries past for bringing port wine to ships bound for Britain and the rest of the western world.

The 20th century wasn’t so good here, it seems. Many — perhaps a majority — of the old homes and business buildings are derelict and abandoned.  There are workmen and cranes to be seen everywhere, but I think for every old beauty being brought to life again there are many who are still neglected and empty.

A typical narrow, medieval street in the oldest section of Porto, near the river.

There’s a wide variety of ways to spend time in Porto. I’ve been walking all day, every day, seeing all I can. Many people spend the day at the nearby beaches and the evenings in the city. It’s a very affordable place to visit.  I’ve been paying just €1.50 for a glass of wine and no more than €10 for dinner in a nice restaurant.

My birthday delights!

I’m staying in one of the best AirBnB rentals I’ve had, located just off a main avenue about a mile from the river. Yesterday was my birthday (one of those terrible ones for an age ending in zero!) and my lovely “landlady” brought me a box full of delicious Portuguese pastries.  That was so nice.

More to show you and tell you in the days ahead.

Libbie

These 70-year-old feet have walked 30.6 miles in the past seven days according to my iphone and boy, are they tired!!!

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Oxford University

Today I concluded my personal walking tour of Oxford. The weather has been fine but is now threatening rain. In the course of my walks around the town I believe that I saw and photographed many of the 38 separate colleges that make up this, the oldest English university in the world. (Only the university in Bologna Italy is older of those which have functioned continuously; it was founded in 1088. There is no proven time of origin for Oxford University but it is known that some people were being educated in 1096.

This view down High Street in Oxford shows some of the oldest colleges all in a line.

Oxford’s organization and method are quite different from universities we know in the United States. Each of the colleges is self-governed. Students live, dine and study in their college’s enormous, ancient buildings. Each year around 20,000 students apply for admission and fewer than 3300 are admitted. I noticed a varied student body representing all parts of the world, based on the many languages and accents I heard. My timing was off when I chose to be here this week because this is the week when prospective students and their parents are invited to tour the colleges, meaning tourists weren’t allowed into the college grounds at all. (Normally tourists can enter the “quads” for a few hours each week day.)

One interesting thing I learned and then observed is that to be awarded a degree students must pass one last final exam and that is given only in one building called the Examination School. Students are traditionally required to wear black suits with white shirts and bow ties. The young women are dressed in much the same fashion. Yesterday I witnessed many of them flocking into their exams. A little later I learned about a tradition for those who pass: they are sprayed with whipped cream and sticky stuff and then have large pieces of confetti thrown on them. Many of the streets in the middle of the town had lots of confetti piled in the gutters.

The entrance to Christ Church College and the “closed” sign.

I learned why I was finding all the colleges closed to visitors when I went to Christ Church College this morning. I had planned to visit that one today so I’d have lots of time there.  In addition to the beautiful building and the green quad each of the colleges has, Christ Church has two other sights visitors enjoy. The cathedral of Oxford is literally attached to the college. The dining hall of Christ Church college is the one seen in the Harry Potter films. It was a bit disappointing, then, to learn that all of it was closed to tourists until Friday (when I’ll be gone).

The memorial garden at Christ Church College and the cathedral in the rear.

There is a war memorial garden next to the college which affords nice views of the cathedral and the college buildings. I was allowed to enter that today and found some lovely gardens. I also happened upon one college, the one named Jesus College, when the guard was not at his post. I sneaked in and took some pictures so I can show you at least one “inside the walls.”

The only picture I got of a “quad” — the center enclosed by the four wings of each college.

I’ve enjoyed my time here. The city is well-run, with excellent bus transportation and lots of activities of all types offered to residents and visitors. There were loads of visitors this week including many school groups speaking a variety of languages. (Teenagers are the same everywhere, aren’t they?)

Tomorrow I’m off to Porto, Portugal. The two cities I selected for this trip are quite different from one another. I haven’t been to Porto before. I’m excited by all I’ve read and heard about it. I’ll be sending photos and reports so come back soon.

Libbie

P.S. Besides the colleges I saw many other interesting things in Oxford. Old churches, beautiful displays of flowers on many buildings, lovely gardens, the “punts” lined up in the river by “gondoliers” offering romantic rides. Here are a few other pictures I took this week.

Flowers gracing City Hall’s old formal windows.

Punts lined up early in the day.

Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s article about Oxford University.

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Images of Oxford

Today began with a walk down High Street in Oxford, where many of the most famous and oldest colleges are located. The photo above shows the ca. 1200 a.d. church of St. Mary which is now the chapel of University College.

Having worn myself out today I’m going to post photos of some of the places I saw instead of writing about them.

This is an entrance to Magdalen College. Note the detailed carving which is centuries old.

This picture taken at the entrance to the Botanic Garden in Oxford shows the tower of on of the college churches in the background.

A gentleman eating his lunch in the quiet beauty of the Bontanic Garden. I like to think he’s an “Oxford don” (a professor).

 

On my way out of the Botanic Garden I found this beautiful lily pond.

Later in the day I wandered around the Bodeleian Library, tge Sheldonian Theatre, the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs, show here. It’s modeled after and takes its name from the real Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

All the colleges I found today were closed to tourists. I had read that they were often open for quick tours in the afternoon but there are a great many tourist and tour groups in Oxford at this time. I’m sure that had something to do with the closing. I was sorry not to get even a peek. This photo represents the many closed entries I passed.

At this college entrance I told the guard to “smile!” He did, as you can see, and I got a quick view inside the walls but I didn’t get in!

Very near all those famous places I listed I found a row of houses painted in pretty pastel colors. There are more than this picture shows — the row bends away.

I was delighted when I read this plaque on the blue house in the center of this row. I honors one of my heroes.

This sculpture on a doorway is centuries old. Evidently Oxonians looking down their noses at the world is an old custom too.

More tomorrow,

Libbie

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Oxford, England

I made a good choice when I decided on Oxford when choosing an English city to visit. I love history and Oxford is filled with it. Stories about “old boys” (as the grads are called). Buildings that are hundreds of years old. Not just the “colleges” (the various entities that make up the university) but churches, houses, cemeteries … the majority of buildings in the center city it seems are very, very old. The university buildings (some dating back to the 13th century) are the show pieces, of course. Huge buildings made of the golden stone of the nearby Cotswolds and decorated with sculpture, the colleges are the place where students live, dine and study. In a “college town” we would expect shops, bars, restaurants and they are here in vast numbers. But Oxford isn’t just about history – it’s about the future too. There are some very striking new buildings as well as the old. I titled the picture above “Three Centuries” because it shows an old building in the background, a 20th century British phone booth (now nearly obsolete) and 21st century bikes which are found by the thousands all over town.

This church named for St. Giles was built in the 1200s and is still serving its parish today.

I was intrigued by this lane, leading to a very old building and surrounded by two others.

I wandered for hours but didn’t take very many pictures.  The weather was cloudy most of the day and there were crowds of tourists surrounding everything I wanted to “shoot” – or so it seemed. I’m posting a few and hoping for good ones tomorrow.

This painting of St. Catherine by Vittore Crivelli, painted in the 1490s, is beautifully done.

I stopped briefly at the Ashmolean Museum. I particularly like the painting shown above.

Tonight I had dinner in a pizza & pasta restaurant called (what else?) Mama Mia’s. Lots of young families there.  A dozen 11-year-old boys were celebrating a birthday. I was there when the cake made its appearance and they all sang: “Hoppy berthday to yew, Ollie!” That’s how it sounded to my American ears anyway. We had a British friend who liked to tell us that England and the U.S. were two countries separated by a common language. It sometimes seems that way!

Libbie

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The Towns of Marshfield and Duxbury, Massachusetts

Marshfield is a collection of villages. It’s a beach town – but only in a couple of those villages. It inherited – but not officially – a piece of Scituate. One village called Marshfield Hills is an old, charming place centered around a small store cum post office. The Marshfield fair is the equivalent of a county fair for the South Shore, and everyone goes there, at least on fireworks night.

Scituate and Marshfield are separated by the North River. The picture above is the scene near the mouth of the river. One part of Scituate, called Humarock beach, is only reachable via Marshfield. In 1898 a gale moved the mouth of the river over night from the south side of Humarock to the north. Although it makes perfect sense to incorporate Humarock into Marshfield, so far it hasn’t happened.

This classic old home in Marshfield Hills serves as the home of the historical society.

Wikipedia says, “Native Americans lived in Marshfield for thousands of years before the white settlers came. These people included members of the Wampanoag Tribe of the Algonquin nation and members of the Massachusetts Tribe. Evidence of Native American habitation extending back to 9,000 to 10,000 B.C. has been found extensively in the area.” This is true of all the South Shore towns. Like the other towns, Marshfield’s first white settlers were transplants from Plymouth. It was first established as a separate settlement in 1632. It became a town in 1640.  There’s an extensive Wikipedia article about the history of Marshfield here.

Daniel Webster lived in Marshfield in his later years and died there.  Steve Tyler and two other  members of the rock band Aerosmith have live in Marshfield. (Steve Tyler came into my store once, and I had no idea who he was, but my son was very excited about it!) Steve Carell and his wife Nancy live there (according to the web).

Duxbury is the southernmost town of the South Shore and is adjacent to Plymouth. A number of the best known members of the original Pilgrim party that settled Plymouth later lived in what is now Duxbury, among them John Alden (whose house survives) and Myles Standish, who is said to have named the town. There is a very large, very old cemetery adjacent to the first church in Duxbury named the Mayflower Cemetery. Members of the Alden family and other original pilgrim settlers of Plymouth are buried there.

The original church in Duxbury is, of course, long gone but this replacement has been standing for nearly 200 years. The graves of early members of the Alden family are marked by stones facing the church.

The old Boston Post road, now known as Route 3A, runs through the center of Duxbury. It’s the site of three impressive white buildings: the first church, the old town hall (now a meeting hall) and the newer town hall.

Duxbury is a wealthy Boston suburb today.  It’s always been a well-to-do community and many large, colonial era homes are found there today.  They were built by merchant whose ships sailed the world, creating great wealth for their owners, some of whom became ship builders – by 1840 there were twenty shipyards in Duxbury.

A miles long beach extends as a peninsula along Duxbury’s shore.  It’s reached by a long wooden bridge. It’s one of the most popular beaches in Massachusetts.

This concludes our virtual tour of the South Shore. I hope someone will be inspired by these posts to drive the slow road through these beautiful towns while making the trip from Boston to Plymouth and Cape Cod. If you do (or if you have) I’d love to read your thoughts about it in the comments section below.

Libbie

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Scituate, Massachusetts

I love the small New England town called Scituate – pronounced Sit-chew-it, said very quickly).  It was home to my family during the years when our sons were growing up. Looking back, I think I probably didn’t appreciate it then as much as I do now. We moved away nearly 20 years ago and I don’t return often, but recently I spent a week there and enjoyed every moment.

Scituate lies at the corner of the Atlantic Ocean and the North River. It is exposed to the worst Nor-Easters (bad storms) because it’s on the southern point of the large “C” formed by Boston Harbor. You may have seen it on television – the Weather Channel seems to always post a reporter in Scituate when a big storm threatens New England. Some of the storms have been very destructive and occasionally deadly.

The 18th century Cudworth house and barn (shown here) are part of the Scituate Historical Society’s property and are open often for touring. They abut the town green and are across the road from the Unitarian church, Scituate’s first church.

Scituate was settled not long after Plymouth. It’s famous “Six Men of Kent” England arrived in the 1620s and settled near Satuit Brook, which gave its name to the town. Satuit is a Wampanoag Indian word meaning “cold stream” – the water here is chilly indeed! The town became a legal entity in 1636 and is said to be the second oldest town in Plymouth Colony.

A typical old but updated home in Scituate. The tumbledown stone wall, like the one in the foreground, is commonly found throughout the town.

Once called the “Irish Riviera” Scituate in the late 20th century was home to many large Irish Catholic families. One British newspaper called it the “most Irish town in America.” It’s a small town with a year-round population around 18,000. Geographically it seems larger because it’s spread over several miles. Gently rolling hills are laced by very old roads with names such as “Country Way.” The town is graced by many homes that date from the 1700s and 1800s. The oldest house in town, built in the 17th century, has housed an excellent restaurant called the Barker Tavern for many years.

Scituate is lined with beaches. The best, shown here, is probably Minot beach in North Scituate. Great for sunbathing but the water is icy! Minot light is shown in the distance.

There are two principal commercial areas. The larger one lies at the water’s edge and so is referred to as “Scituate Harbor.” There are several good restaurants there as well as a good small hotel. The northern end of town has its own small business district with a number of shops and eateries. There are two lighthouses. Scituate Light is on the beach at the entrance to the town harbor while Minot Light stands on a rock in the ocean about where Scituate meets Cohasset.

Commercial fishing was one of Scituate’s main industries for centuries. The picturesque fish pier still serves a small number of fishermen.

 

Today Scituate is a mix of new and old. Many new streets have been created to accommodate large new homes.  In recent years the commuter train from Boston was rebuilt (the original having been closed in the 1950s). One rail line now ends in Scituate. It’s brought new residents and increased real estate prices.

The beach areas are lined with old summer cottages that have been “winterized.” Many of them are available for rent and made a good base from which to explore the South Shore, Boston and Plymouth. I found a good place to stay on AirBnB.

We have one more stop to make on our South Shore tour: Marshfield and Duxbury are next.

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