Postcard from Lisboa: Final Random Souvenirs


Promise. This is it. The final photographic scraps from our month in Lisbon.

Which reminded me that jacaranda trees should be added to the prior list of things I’d like to see more of in San Antonio. Lady Bird advises no, but their lavender blooms are so beautiful in Lisbon, as in San Miguel de Allende. Plant them right next to those luscious orange tulipan trees from Oaxaca. Or maybe with a wild olive tree or two in between.

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Neighborhood memories embedded in the walk

dances-at-auditoriumDances at Municipal Auditorium They’d

bring a rope down the middle and

blacks would dance on one side

whites on the other side

Sometimes the rope would fall down

and no one said anything

Varied our morning walk and was reminded of one of my favorite sidewalk-art sites in Southtown – neighbors’ remembrances embedded around the pocket park on South Presa. This one seems appropriate with the completed transformation of Municipal Auditorium into the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

The walk also took me by an old haunt, the un-graves of the Meier Brothers.

And here’s the transformation of the auditorium to the Tobin Center as viewed from the offices of Marmon Mok. No rope down the middle.

Postcard from Portugal: Lessons for San Antonio?

This popped up on my facebook page right after I finished this post, thoughtfully provided by Mark Twain.

Whenever you travel, you always come across things you’d love to see at home. These are listed randomly, not ranked. Click on the photos to see larger images or the highlighted links if you would like to see additional related photos.

  1. tables under giant rubber trees at Esplanada Cafe

    sandwiches served under giant rubber trees at Esplanada Cafe

    Huge multi-grain sandwiches oozing with melted cheese served under towering rubber trees in a park. This was the easiest of things to adapt from Portugal. Panini(tost)-maker purchased. How did I live without one? It grills veggie burgers, Greek cheese, eggplant, zucchini, naan bread, pineapple, French toast. Anything and everything.

  2. DSCN0748Robert H. H. Hugman designed the River Walk  in San Antonio with varying designs of sidewalks underfoot, but Portugal takes such artistry a giant step farther, and the results are striking. Every step you take should be memorable. Maybe we need a non-slick surface, though. But, it all goes back to something we haven’t quite embraced in Texas. Park the car. A city should be walked to be appreciated.
  3. DSCN0692Statues should be statuesque, or not at all. Poor Henry B. by the Convention Center, wherever he ends up relocated, is rendered too petite. He seems less than life-size. Statues should be awe-inspiring (The exception: Keep oyster-shelly Gompers small and hidden under overgrown trees.).
  4. DSCN1349DSCN1350Festival beer booths do not have to be hideous. Lisbon utilizes these little self-contained booths with several different designs for their special events. Some have homey images, such as a cat in a window or a friendly dog at the door.
  5. DSCN1163Tiles. We have the tradition here. Wonderful tiles from Ethel Harris’ San Jose Pottery. Or those colorful tiles Marion Koogler McNay installed on the risers of her patio stairs. Susan Toomey Frost donated a San Jose tile mural for the Museum Reach of the river to add to the original ones along the downtown river bend, and there are the incredible ones at Alamo Stadium. But we need more. They are such an enduring form of art.
  6. DSCN1200Promotional banners and advertising for festivals do not all have to be identical. Maintaining integrity of logos is one thing, but succumbing to boring repetition renders the message meaningless. Love the way Lisbon engages several artists each year to interpret their marketing materials for its month-long festival in honor of Saint Anthony.
  7. Sardines are a good thing. When they are fresh. Grilled street-side. Just before we left for Portugal, Central Market had a few laid out for the media preview of their Ciao Italia. Then we left, and dove into the land where they were in abundance. We’d like them here, please.
  8. DSCN1214DSCN1216Love our San Antonio Book Festival. But how in the world does Lisbon keep Feira Livro up and running for two weeks? Self-contained booths that can be locked up securely each night help. The sheer number of booths and books made me feel downright illiterate, particularly since the books were in Portuguese.
  9. DSCN0582Inner-city parks are filled with activities on a rotating basis. Farmers’ markets. Regional gourmet food festivals with vendors and tastings. Mini-book fairs. A once-a-month antique fair that would be great some place like Travis Park.
  10. DSCN1316The San Antonio Missions are crying out for intimate, customized tuk-tuk tours crisscrossing the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River. The tuk tuks of Lisbon had different designs on the outside. My favorite one, not pictured, was covered with a skin of images of some of Portugal’s distinctive blue tiles.
  11. DSCN1229We now have food trucks, but what about little portable craft beer carts, perfect for sampling new beers on tap in park-like settings. This cart was parked outside the botanical garden. We also encountered wine trucks for sampling Portuguese wine, complete with bar stools for sipping at the wine truck counter. Oh how I would love it if Texas wines were as inexpensive as Portuguese.
  12. DSCN1160Portugal seems to have more than its fair share of parts of saints enshrined in reliquaries. I always thought American Catholics were too squeamish to even want to know how far one saint could be spread, but I was wrong. We just don’t have many saints and parts to fight over. Archbishop Fulton Sheen has not even been beatified yet, and New York and Peoria are fighting over his body and whether he should be exhumed for obtaining some first-class relics to disseminate. I wonder if Portugal would share some modest little second-class relic of Saint Anthony with this city bearing his name….
  13. DSCN1248And about Saint Anthony. He is ever-present everywhere in Portugal. This city named after him needs to pay more attention to him, particularly on his feast day in June. He is a really useful saint.
  14. And, finally, although this blogger might prove the exception….DSCN1257

Note Added: The featured photo strangely popped up on my facebook page immediately after I posted this. Thanks to Mark Twain for providing it.


Forget Lawrence Welk: Accordions speak many languages.


Posting after an event, after I’ve been there and have taken photos, is much more enjoyable than writing about it in advance. But this is important.

You would be angry with me for not alerting you ahead of time because this is San Antonio’s best festival. Well, second best. Right after the San Antonio Book Festival. And that says a lot in a city known for non-stop-fiesta-ing.

(Pause here and scroll to the bottom first if you would like a soundtrack to get you in the mood for this post.)

The International Accordion Festival takes place Saturday, September 13, from noon to 11 p.m., throughout La Villita. And it’s admission-free.

Expect a United Nations of sound. Some traditional. Some contemporary. All highly addictive. And it’s admission-free.

Expect the unexpected.

Accordion with a dizi, Chinese bamboo flute, and a pipa, Chinese four-string lute, employed by the Cross-Strait Trio. Chinese and Taiwanese musicians who collided while studying ethnomusicology in Texas.

The New York-based Matuto. “Appalachia-gone-Afro-Brazilian sound.”

Tsuumi Sound System. “Finnish Urban Ethno?”

The Italians, Canzionere Grecanico Salentino. With their traditional drum, the tamburello, that “sounds like a beating heart:”

The style is based on the ancient ritual of healing a dangerous tarantula bite called pizzica tarantata and a local cultural phenomenon called tarantim. Their music includes frantic strumming and mad trance-inducing dancing.

And on a much slower note, the lyrics of one of the Cansionere Grecanico Salentino’s more serious songs translates as though written to apply to immigration politics in Texas:

…we children of the horizon, washing us up, spilling us out.
No police can abuse us more than what we’ve suffered already.
We’ll serve as your servants
the children you never had
our lives will be your adventure tales.
We carry Homer and Dante, the blind man and the pilgrim, the smell that you’ve lost
the equality you’ve repressed.
No matter the distance, millions of paces,
we will come,
we are the feet
and we carry your weight.
We shovel the snow, comb the lawns, beat your rugs,
collect your tomatoes and insults….

Find the entire schedule here, and more about the artists here. And it’s admission-free.

And, how incredibly generous. Blue Squeezebox of Austin allows me to embed a whole soundtrack….