Favourite Canadian Albums of 2011

on 7:36 pm

And yet another year comes to a close, one that was undoubtedly full of great music coming out of the Great White North, aka Canada.

And so for the second year running, I give you my 20 favourite Canadian albums of 2011. Without any further adieu, here they are with myspaces, bandcamps and soundclouds for your further listening if you're interested.

1. Sam Roberts Band – Collider http://www.myspace.com/samrobertsband

2. Cuff the Duke – Morning Comes http://www.myspace.com/cufftheduke
3. Elliott Brood – Days into Years www.myspace.com/elliottbrood
4. Sloan – The Double Cross http://www.myspace.com/sloan
5. Matthew Good – Lights of Endangered Species http://soundcloud.com/matthew-good
6. The Sheepdogs – Learn & Burn www.myspace.com/thesheepdogs
7. Hooded Fang – Tosta Mista www.myspace.com/hoodedfang
8. One Hundred Dollars – Songs of Man www.myspace.com/1hundreddollars
9. Dog Day – Deformer http://www.myspace.com/dogdaytheband
10. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing www.myspace.com/theraa
11. The Flower City 3 – Brampton Comes Alive! http://theflowercity3.bandcamp.com/album/brampton-comes-alive
12. The Deep Dark Woods – The Place I Left Behind www.myspace.com/deepdarkwoods
13. Sun Wizard – Positively 4th Ave http://sunwizard.bandcamp.com/album/positively-4th-avenue
14. Sports – Sports http://sports.bandcamp.com/
15. Hey Rosetta! – Seeds www.myspace.com/heyrosetta
16. Arkells – Michigan Left www.myspace.com/arkellsmusic
17. Chad Vangaalen – Diaper Island www.myspace.com/chadvangaalen
18. Dark Mean – Dark Mean http://darkmean.bandcamp.com/
19. Dinosaur Bones – My Divider www.myspace.com/dinosaurbonesband
20. The Dears – Degeneration Street www.myspace.com/thedears

Compilation: Have Not Been the Same - Vol. 1: Too Cool to Live, Too Smart to Die, tribute album based on the book: Have Not Been the Same: The Canrock Renaissance, 1985-1995. http://www.zunior.com/product_info.php?products_id=3362

So there you have it. For any of you out there who check in from time to time, we thank you and all the best in 2012 to everyone.

Boxing Day in Canada

on 10:33 pm

Today is Boxing Day in pretty much all countries that were once, or still are, part of the British Empire. In Portugal, nobody has faintest idea what Boxing Day is, mind you in Canada, many don't really know what the day is all about either. Apparently there are two stories that somewhat serve to explain how Boxing Day came about. First, back in feudal England, it was common for the lord of the manor to provide his servants with a gift the day after Christmas, a gift that was, of course, given in a box. The second story, also dating back to the same era in British history, relates to servants being allowed to take home a portion of the food leftover from the Christmas celebrations in a box to their families, this in conjuction with the distribution of alms from the church collection boxes to poor parishioners.

Of course today, the term Boxing Day makes very little sense. If anything, in todays day in age, the name can be best applied to us boxing up unwanted Christmas gifts and returning them. Boxing Day, however, very much like Christmas in general, is a day that's become wrapped up with the culture of consumerism where 'mad prices' are abandant, where everything is 20, 40, 50, 70 per cent off, and where all stock must go - it's the Boxing Day sales! Images such as these have become synonymous with this day.

People lining up at dawn in the freezing cold outside of a Best Buy waiting to get a deal on the latest technological gadget.

Once the doors are open, it's the mad, crazy rush to be the first to get their hands on what they've come for, or to buy as many as they can, or to get their hands on the limited stock of merchandise, or perhaps a combination of any of these. With this tradition having become what it is, many stores have even gone on to apply special opening hours on this day.

Now although Boxing Day is a Canadian federal holiday, it is not uniformly observed in all provinces and territories. It is not an official holiday in Quebec, for example, nor is it a statutory holiday in Alberta and British Columbia. As well, in some provinces, namely the Maritime provinces, stores are not open on Boxing Day which means that all Boxing Day sales actually start on December 27th.

Ok, sofar I've made it sound like Boxing Day in Canada is all about people getting their greedy hands on products made available at incredible discount prices all in the name of satifying their needs for pleasure and consumerism. Yes it may be true, but Boxing Day also goes beyond that. Also synonymous with Boxing Day in the Northlands is ice hockey (we are after all talking about Canada) as every year, on the 26th of December, Canadians gather around their newly purchaced 64 inch televisions to watch the kick off of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Very much ingrained as a holiday tradition for millions of Canadians, the World Juniors brings together leftover turkey, qualify family time and the red and white of Canada, all in the name of cheering on the Canadian kids in a tournament they are expected to win every years. In the picture below, Portuguese descendant John Tavares celebrates after helping win gold for Canada in 2009, something he had done the year before as well.

Here in Portugal we have no Boxing Day, we have no mad rush to buy the latest cheap products (especially this year) and we don't have a major hockey tournament the whole country can rally around. As Boxing Day is non-existent here, this day is simply the day after Christmas Day. Still, it was good to see Canada beat Finland 8-1 in their opener today. It's great that some Canadian Boxing Day traditions can follow us around even when we're far away. Thanks internet!

Christmas ... again it's all about food isn't it?

on 11:45 pm

Well Christmas is fast approaching and with that, here's our Christmas post with all kinds of interesting facts about Christmas and about Canada and about Portugal and about eating and about doing nothing and about waiting for it all to be over and done with.

So if you're here in Portugal, when the 24th roles around, I'm sure you'll be slapping the good old bacalhau (or cod) on the table for all to enjoy, I'm I right? Or maybe if you're in northern Portugal you might be having polvo (in English that would be octopus) instead. In Portugal, Catholicism is to thank for the tradition of eating bacalhau and polvo, as back in the day the church would particularly not permit meat eating on those days of fasting. Bacalhau was particulary the common mans food, and in most of Portugal the tradition of eating it on Christmas Eve has remained. And so has the way it is served up; the easiest and simplest way possible: boiled and served up with potatos and coves (Portuguese cabbage). Here's what we'll be eating on the 24th:

Of course the next day we're back to good ol'fashion meat: goat, lamb, pork and of course, turkey.

Ok now lets look at Canada. When it comes to Christmas Day, we all know that Turkey is king. When it comes to Christmas Eve, however, there is no specific food typical to that night - there is no Canadian version of bacalhau. So what is a typical Christmas Eve diet in Canada? Well, in my house growing up it was bacalhau just like it was meatballs in Swedish homes or borscht in a Ukrainian home. In other words, Christmas Eve is all about ancestry when it comes to the 24th. The following day, however, for all of Canada, Christmas is synonymous with this:

Tasty butterball with all the trimmings, and that includes the stuffing as well. Of course in Canada you might get regional differences to boot. For example, don't be surprised to find your turkey accompanied with either fresh or smoked salmon if you're out in British Columbia, for example.

And then comes desserts. Well in Portugal we have sonhos, rabanadas, filhós and then there's the bolo rei, the Christmas cake I'm pretty sure the whole world shares; in Canada better known as fruit cake, mind you in Canada they don't look quit the same as they do here in Portugal. Here's the very lively and always colourful Portuguese version to the right.

So now if you're a Canadian here in Portugal missing certain aspects of Canada this Christmas, we offer you these down below to help put a little bit o Canada into you Portuguese Christmas this year. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Fado from its peripheries - Regressa Urgente / Return Urgent

on 11:03 am

As I mentioned before on this blog and on the Facebook page as well, as part of my research on Luso-descendant returnees, I recently put together a documentary with a colleague of mine by the name of António João Saraiva. After spending the Summer editing the film will Neel Naik of Ra Atelier, we are now ready to show the world the fruits of our labour and to show this little snippit of life taken from the journeys of Marta Raposo at a critical time in her life as a fadista (or fado singer) in the Portuguese world of fado.

That said, we kick off with the documentary's official launch which will take place on Friday, Dezember 9th at 9:00PM at the Fado Museum in Lisbon. We couldn't have asked for a better location and we thank the Fado Museum for having us for this one night.

As almost everybody knows by now, Fado is now on UNESCO's Intangible World Heritage list. The Portuguese music of fado has been reaching the four corners of the world of late. We are undoubtedly happy as well as lucky to be putting out our film at this time, riding the coat tales of fado's current success. Marta's story, however, is a little different from the stories often associated with fado, tied to Lisbon's traditional neighbourhouds such as Alfama and Bairro Alto. Marta's fado is peripheral in every sense of the word, and, above all, in her geographies (from the Margem Sul of Greater Lisbon or Lisbon's South Bank to her ancestral village to Montreal, land of emigration).

We started following Marta 5 years into her journey in Portugal, at a time when she was again preparing to return to Canada; a pivotal period that ended up triggering divided feelings of belonging, carrying with them doubts and regrets. The desire of wanting to succeed in the 'land of fado' was now to be left suspended, but the question that arises is why. We are inviting one and all who may be interested in this story to join us at the Fado Museum on Dezember 9th at 9:00PM. Seating is limited so we are doing a first come first serve. E-mail me at jmssardinha@gmail.com and we will put you on the list. Here's an invitation to all.

The eléctricos of Lisbon and the 28

on 7:09 pm

One certainly can't say that trams, or eléctricos in Portuguese, are a comfortable means of transportation; quite the contrary in fact, and this is particularly the case if one hops on a tram and can't grab a seat, having instead to enjoy the ride grabbing on to something during the ride. If you've ever been on one of the old eléctricos in Lisbon, you'll know that they are neither fast, agile nor flexible. If you're in a hurry, take my word: unless you have no other alternative, don't take one. On the other hand, the old eléctricos of Lisbon are unique and full of charm; true symbols of gone by days. They are representatives of a city that have managed to stay unique and equal to itself in a world that all too frequently has been taught to discard, ignore and devalue what is old. If only there were more examples like the eléctrico, mind you not everything old is viewed with such romanticism. In Lisbon there are still five old tram lines that have stood the test of time (the 12, 15, 18, 25 and the 28). Classic tourist trams also travel certain lines showing visitors and locals alike the beauty the city possesses.

Now when we get into one of these old trams, it's a lot like going back in time. The fact is the first eléctricos actually began circulating in 1901 and were pulled by horses. These can now only be seen at the Carris Museum in Alcântara. The ones we see on the rails around the city today are from the 1960s and they look like it too - wood and metal and plastic free.

Out of the aforementioned tram lines still running, as any Lisbon eléctrico aficionado will tell you, there's one line in particular worth riding - the number 28 which runs from Martim Moniz to Prazeres in Campo de Ourique (or vice versa, depending on where you start, mind you you can also hop on anywhere in between as well). The travel publication Rough Guide calls the n. 28 line one of the 1000 most important trips to take on the planet with plenty to see along the way. Just to give you an idea, starting at Martin Moniz, as you travel on eléctrico 28 you'll go by Feira da Ladra (fleamarket), Portas do Sol (viewpoint), Castelo São Jorge (castle), Sé de Lisboa (church), the neighbourhoods of Alfama, Graça and Mouraria, this before going down to the baixa (centre of Lisbon) and then back up and crossing the neighbourhoods of Bairro Alto, Bica, São Bento and up to Estrela stopping in front of Basílica da Estrela (basilica) before advancing to Prazeres where one of Lisbon's well known cemeteries is found. Here are a serious of images featuring the eléctrico 28 line:

So even with all the innovation, modernity and ribbon cutting in certain parts of the city, the eléctricos of Lisbon have stood the test of time. They're very much a part of the visual landscape of the city. Poetically speaking, if I may, it's like they're the blood running through the veins of the city ... or maybe that's the subway? Not too good at waxing poetics.

One train ride may be worth a thousand

on 10:18 pm

In my 18 years of living in Canada (from 1979 to 1997) I only rode the train once.

As we all know, Canada is a vast country. Getting from one place to the next can take hours on end if not days or even weeks. Flying is most definitely one of Canada's best friends. Here in Portugal, to get around the country, you can opt for the Rede Expresso (buses) or CP (trains) as far as public transportation goes. In Canada you can take Via Rail or the Greyhound bus. For those living in the northern outreaches of Canada, however, seldom do rail or 'the dog' become travelling options. And this is the very reason why in my 18 years living in Prince George, B.C., I only rode the train once.

It was on a trip to Vancouver in 1991. On the way down, the bus ride lasted (and still does) 12 hours. On the way back, as I ended up sleeping in, I also ended up missing the Greyhound back up north. My only option was Via Rail, a ride that would take an extra 2 hours compared to the bus. The first few hours on that Via Rail train provided some amazing scenery. The ride through the Coastal Mountains (before and after Whistler) was truely beautiful. The closer I got to Prince George, however, the less exciting things got. No knock on the scenery (although not as breathtaking), more like the fact one gets a little sick of being on a train.

Jump forward to October, 2009. A couple of years ago I spent 33 days travelling to Toronto, Ottawa-Gatineau and Montreal to carry out fieldwork with Portuguese-Canadian descendants. From Ottawa to Montreal there I was again for the second time on a train in Canada.

I thought back to that Vancouver to Prince George trip 18 years earlier and thought about how distance truly makes Canada different. Not only different in comparison to a country like Portugal, where bus and train and getting around is a lot easier, but also different within itself. I mean Ottawa to Montreal is a couple of hours on the train. Rail travel around Ontario and Quebec is a lot more common; locations a lot closer. And for this very reason there are a lot of Canadians that also don't 'get Canada', at least not the complete package. In Vancouver they say "there's no hope beyond Hope (the town)". That's because many have never gone beyond Hope (outside Vancouver's Lower Mainland). For these folks, Canada is truly not the vast country those in rural communities and far off towns know. But then again, maybe this is common to big city folk in general. Surely for us who live in the metropolis, we may ride a lot more trains and buses, but the truth is we ain't getting far. God only knows how many times I've ridden the Lisbon - Cascais train line, for example. Equally beautiful - as much as I try not to take it for granted - but the truth is there are times when it feels like we're approaching Prince George on that line as well.

Our Good Canadian Swastikas

on 7:47 pm

When we think of the swastika symbol, we thing hate mongering Nazism. If you go to wikipedia and punch in 'swastika', however, you'll soon find out that the swastika has actually been around for over 12,000 years and actually has other meanings that completely oppose hate mongering. To give you an example, the swastika remains widely used in Indian religions, especially in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, primarily as a sacred symbol of good luck. Puch it up on the net if you want to learn more.

Ok so at this point you might be asking yourself, what is a blog calling itself Canadians in Portugal doing writing about the swastika? The answer's easy. The swastika is also part of Canadian culture, history and geography.

Swastika, Ontario. ... Ever heard of it? A mining town founded in 1908, today Swastika sits within the municipal boundaries of Kirkland Lake, Ont. Interesting to note, during World War II the province of Ontario sought to change the town's name to Winston in honour of Winston Churchill, but residence refused, insisting that the town had held the name long before the Nazis co-opted the swastika symbol.

So geographically, the swastika sees its presence in the form of a town. Culturally, however, the swastika found itself ingrained in Canada's sporting past time - hockey. Did you know that Canada possessed 3 teams all of them calling themselves the Swastikas and, unsurprisingly, all existed before the Second World War? Let me tell you a bit about them.

The first Swastikas team played out of the town of Windsor, Nova Scotia, ironically also known as the birthplace of hockey. The Windsor Swastikas existed from 1905 to 1916 as a touring hockey club playing up and down the east coast of Canada. The picture below are the 1912 Swastikas.

As the Atlantic coast Swastikas were coming to an end in 1916, across Canada in Edmonton, Alberta, a ladies hockey team came together calling themselves ... yes, you guessed it, the Swastikas. Little is know about the ladies Swastikas out of Edmonton. Their games were limited to the city of Edmonton with the exception of Winter Carnivals in places like Calgary and Banff. The harsh Prairie winters were certainly not permissive of long road trips for any team in those days. These are the 1916 ladies of the Edmonton Swastikas:

Half-a-dozen years after the coming together of the Edmonton Swastikas, just a little further west, another lady Swastikas team was coming together in the town of Fernie out in Kootney region of British Columbia. The lady Swastikas from Fernie would go on to have plenty of success in the 4 years they were together winning the 1922 Calgary Winter Carnival, beating the hometown Calgary Regents in the final; the 1923 Banff Winter Cup, beating the Vancouver Amazons to again become champions; and in 1926, where runners-up at the Banff Winter Carnival losing to the Edmonton Monarchs in the last game they would play. The Fernie Swastikas below.

And so there you have it, Canada's relation with the Swastika. An international movement calling themselves Reclaiming the Swastika makes reference to Canada's past relations with the symbol as a strategy to reclaim the swastika. Surely no matter how much they try, any guy you see with a swastika tattoo on his body, who among us will not be thinking: neo-Nazi hater. It's sad but it's true.

Regressa Urgente / Return Urgent

on 2:09 pm

About a year and a half ago I carried out an interview with Marta Raposo, a Portuguese-Canadian fado singer, for a project on the return to Portugal of Portuguese emigrant descendants. Marta's story and reflections on her return experience were very interesting, so much so that I decided to approach my fellow CEMRI, Universidade Aberta researcher and filmmaker António Saraiva (his works include: Gente de Fajãs, Orlando Ribeiro, among others) with the idea of filming Marta. After selling the idea on António, we appraoched Marta to see if she'd be interested in being films for a possible documentary, only to find out that she was contemplating another return, back to Montreal, Canada. This added a new twist to the story, one we definitely wanted to capture. We filmed Marta for nearly two months, leading up to her departure.

We are now happy to show the fruits of our labour in the form of Regressa Urgente (Return Urgente), a documentary on the the final days of a dream chasing emigrant descendant returnee in Portugal.

Here's the film's synopsis:

Marta Raposo emigrated to Montreal, Canada with her parents at the age of 9. Possessing an enormous passion for singing and the Portuguese language, at the age of 16 she initiated her musical career, becoming the lead singer of a Portuguese popular music group. Early on, however, Marta quickly discovered that her true musical love lied not in popular music, but instead, in the 'Portuguese national song' - fado. Thus, at the age 18, Marta stepped on stage at the Portuguese Club of Montreal to perform fado for the first time, never to look back. Since that performance - with every song, with every ovation, with every word of encouragement - her passion for the 'Portuguese national song' grew, as did her ambitions. As a result, in 2005, after 8 years of singing fado in Canada, Marta set out to accomplish a dream - to record and launch an album and make it in the world of fado in Portugal.

We catch up with Marta 5 years after her arrival in Portugal. After numerous adventures in the Portuguese fado world, including the launch of her first album in 2009, we follow her steps, observe her relationships and capture her last performances. We collect her thought, her doubts and regrets, exploring her sense of belonging and the reasons for once again emigrating, revealing that not even the strongest desires are enough to sustain this 'fadista' (fado singer) in the 'land of fado'.

And so now it's our goal to get the film out to as many people as we can. The first official showing will take place in Toronto at York University Wednesday, Oct. 12th at 17:00 (http://porcansymposium.eventbrite.com/). Future showings will be posted. Any questions, suggestions, or simply interested in finding out more, please let us know either here on the blog or on our facebook page.

September used to mean homemade wine

on 7:14 pm

Ok so here we are nearing the end of September. Drawing back on my days of youth in Prince George, B.C., this time of year reminds me of three things: yellow leaves, chopping and stockpiling lumber for the winter ahead, and making wine. It's this last one I'm going to talk about today. The Portuguese love their wine, it's a matter of fact. But the Portuguese also believe they shouldn't have to pay a lot for their wine. Most Portuguese emigrant men in Canada will tell you that they will drink 3, 4, 5 glasses of wine a day, yet most have never purchased a bottle at the liquor store. How do they do it? They make it at home.

Now having grown up the son of Portuguese emigrants in Canada, and as many like me will attest, this time of year was often a messy time of year. Making homemade wine never was and probably never will be a clean process, yet everyone had to help with one thing or another. So in our house, every September, from one day to the next, unannounced, my dad would receive boxes of grapes, often brought to our place of residence by another member of the Portuguese community. The grapes, whatever the variety, would either came from the Okanagan region of British Columbia or from California straight into our backyard and ready to be turned in the nector of the gods.

Boxes of California wine grapes ready for the wine press

Now the crushing of the grapes, of course, was the messy part, be it the crushing (crusher on the left) or the pressing (presser on the right).

The end result, however, made it all worth it - to see the juice flowing into the pail, the first signs of what would be on the table every night for the year(s) to come. I guess it made it all worth while.

So skipping ahead a few steps in this winemaking adventure, a few weeks or months after fermentation would come the bottling. Now bottles often came in two sizes. On one hand, there was the popular five litre bottle (see below) which was robust, heavy (once full) and awkward to put on the table during dinner.

On the other, there were the unreturned 1 litre Pop Shoppe pop bottles (on the Pop Shoppe see www.canadiansinportugal.com/2011/09/pop-shoppe-memories.html). Whenever my non-Portuguese friends would come over, if we would go into the garage for one reason or another, a common question posed would often be: What's the deal with all the empty Pop Shoppe bottle cases piled up one on top of each other? Why don't you return them? It's for bottling wine. Explaning it would bring a smile to my face as well. I guess it was a bit of a way of bringing a bit of Canadiana to Portuguese winemaking. Go ahead, imagine one of these here to the left full of tasty homemade wine on your table though...

Now by the 1990's, this whole process of making wine right from the grape got replaced by the buckets of grape juice ready for fermentation. Everybody got into it. Surely the cutting off of certain steps made things cleaner, even cheaper, but the replacing of the wooden grape boxes with white plastic buckets left something to be desired, this beyond the fact that such a "new" method seemed to be serving up a slap in the face to the old, more traditional means these Portuguese emigrants adapted upon settling in Canada. Now is there hope of the grape making a comeback among Portuguese winemakers in Canada? I like to think so. After all the Pop Shoppe bottles are back.

The bastardisation of the pastel de nata

on 7:01 pm

If one were to say that the pastel de nata (or the pastel de belem) is Portugal's most well known sweet or cake, my bet is on the fact that not too many would put up an arguement. Anyone who knows Portugal, or has any affiliation to the country, knows how delicious these soft and creamy on the inside, crispy on the outside custardy cakes are. Just seeing them leaves your mouth watering, am I right? Just look at all of them ...

Surely the pastel de nata is synonymous with Portugal, but you may also be interested in knowing that its populary is world-wide. If anyone has been a great embassador of our little custardy cake, it's the 5 million Portuguese throughout the world. Myself personally, while growing up in Prince George, B.C., Canada, I certainly didn't have the pleasure of going down to a local Portuguese café like our Portuguese-Canadian friends residing in Toronto or Montreal who have their Little Portugal's. We in Prince George were fortunate enough, however, to have among our community, a baker from the Minho region who had worked at the Pasteis de Belem Factory in Belem for 10 years before having moved to Canada. Every Christmas and Easter he made a killing making and selling his pasteis de nata to the community and believe me, they were just as tasty as any you'd find here in Portugal.

On the issue of the globalisation of the pastel de nata, however, if there's one place our custardy representative has really taken off, it's in Asia, especially in countries like China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malasia, among others. It's introduction to the Orient was, unsurprisingly, through the former Portuguese colony of Macau, having then made its way into China where the pastel de nata is know as 'dan ta' or pastel de ovo (egg tart). Today, it is quite common to find 'dan ta' as a dessert option in many fast food restaurants in these East Asian countries. They do look a little different from the Portuguese version but not too far off. Here's what they look like:

Now what is interesting about the globalisation of the pastel de nata is that as this Portuguese sweet starts making in-roads across different parts of the globe, it also starts taking on regional characteristics, even flavours. Again, in Asia, one can now find various 'bastardisations' of the pastel de nata, ranging from coffee, to caramel, to brown suger to mochi (rice cake) pasteis de nata, for example. Have a look at what the mochi pastel de nata looks like:

Interestingly, however, this trend (if you can call it that) is not unique to East Asia. Recently, while in a Portuguese café in the heart of Little Portugal (in the Plateau-Monte Royal neighbourhood) in Montreal, I came across what undoubtedly best fits the description of a 'Canadian pastel de nata' - a maple syrup pastel de nata - certainly a fitting symbol of the Luso-Canadian presence, bringing the two worlds together. Have a look at the maple syrup pastel de nata (which I thoroughly enjoyed right after taking this picture):

Ok now certainly we can look at this and think that it's just not right to be taking something that is so typically Portuguese and making it something that it is not. Well certainly the Portuguese are not too worried. Just recently at this years Chocolate Festival in Obidos they were selling these tasty little morsels - that's right, chocolate pasteis de nata.

So as we can see, in this globalised world we live in today, everything is everywhere and everything's up for grabs. One thing I could certainly grab right now...? Yeah that's right, you guessed it ... a pastel de nata; but I think I'll stick with something a little more traditional, as in a pastel that comes via Belem.

The Pop Shoppe memories

on 9:01 pm

Do you remember the Pop Shoppe? I sure do. For those of us who grew up in Canada during the 1970 and early 80, Pop Shoppe pop, in fact, was a major part of our lives. Out of London, Ontario, the Pop Shoppe was more like a ma and pa business that quickly grew and grew and grew. Founded in 1969, by 1972 there were over 500 Pop Shoppe outlets in Ontario alone. Pop Shoppe grew to be as popular as cigarettes back in the day. The company always avoided using traditional retail channels, selling its pop instead through franchised outlets and through its own stores, using refillable bottles that came in cartons of 24 for the stubby bottles and 12 for the 1 litre bottles.

Now my fondest Pop Shoppe memories were the Pop Shoppe flavours, which numbered nearly 30 in total by the 1980's. I certainly loved the grape soda, the cream soda, the black cherry, the lime rickey, the grape, the orange, the blue raspberry and not to mention pink (whatever that was) as much as the next guy, but my favourite was definitely the root beer. The cool thing was that if didn't want an entire crate of just one flavour, you could pick and chose from the vast variety and take home a rainbow crate of pop.Then, after a week or two of sucking back all that pop, you'd put the empties back into the crate and return those empties to the Pop Shoppe outlet. As I remember, no visit to the Pop Shoppe shop was free of the clinking and clanging of returned bottles.

So while the 1970's put Pop Shoppe on the pop map, by the early 80's due to competition coming from the big boys of the pop world (yeah you guessed it, Coke and Pepsi, among others, after all they did have the advantage of selling ther products in every single grocery store on the face of the planet), the Pop Shoppe closed the pop shop doors in 1983.

Jump forward 11 years to 2004 and the Pop Shoppe is re-established. Basing their marketing and sales strategies on nostalgia, a number of flavours were brought back and a couple of years ago even the stubby bottle was re-instituted. So anyone having a hankering for a cream soda or grape pop can now kill that hankering, but is that magic still there? Well one thing that's no longer there is the Pop Shoppe shop itself as the new Pop Shoppe pop is now sold through regular retail grocery stores using conventional retail distribution; long gone are the clinging of return bottles and the rainbow coloured cartons of pop. They say you can never go back. Well fair enough, after all the business went down in 1983 due to the competition.

So in the end you can have your nostalgia back but those precious moments (as reflected below) remain in our memories.

Festas do Emigrante, 2011

on 7:52 pm

As it was written a few post ago on this blog, the current month here in Portugal - which we are now seeing come to a close - is synonymous with the homecoming of Portuguese emigrants. From all over the world they fly in and from European countries they drive as well. The month of August, as many emigrants will tell you, is the month of complete and utter happiness, when the yearning to return, if only for a few weeks, is finally realised; when family and old friends are again seen; when senses, smells and visions of other times are re-encountered; and when spirits are renewed. Many are the songs written about Portuguese emigration, but arguably non capture this sentiment (as simple as it may be stated) as that of the song Voltei, Voltei by Dino Meira. If you don't know it, it goes like this: "Voltei voltei, voltei de lá; Ainda ontem estava em França e agora já estou cá. ... Vale mais um mês aqui do que um ano inteiro lá", or in other words: "I came I came, I came back from their; I was in France yesterday and now I'm here. ... One month here is more valuable then an entire year there".

And so every year during the month of August, villages, towns, municipalities through parties, or festas, if you will to commemorate the homecoming of its son and daughters. The Festa do Emigrante serves up food, drink, live music, folklore, games, fireworks, dancing, and many other things. In some towns they are the biggest parties of the year, prepared for ahead of time and in some cases even payed for by the emigrants abroad.

With this post we pay homage to this tradition by showing posters from some of this years Festas do Emigrante from different parts of Portugal. At the same time we take this opportunity to wish all emigrants who have been here during this month of August safe journeys "home". Hang in there during the Fall, Winter and Spring as next year there'll be more. Here are some posters from this years festas.