Richmond Night Market (Richmond, BC)

If you’ve never gone to a night market, you owe it to yourself to visit Richmond’s (near Vancouver, BC). Distinctly an ethnic Chinese phenomenon, it is typically a temporary market of entertainment and food and merchandise stalls, extremely popular in Taiwan and other Asian cities. Here in North America, they are held on weekends, in summer or fall or both. Whether Richmond’s is the largest in North America, I can’t say, but it surely is among the biggest with approximately 400 stalls.

On our first night in Vancouver after Whistler, we drove down to Richmond to experience the market. To say it was an amazing experience would be an understatement. So much food, so many people. Luckily, the weather was great, not too hot. We got there before the official opening time to avoid the crush of people, which builds up really fast, easily averaging 30,000 per night.

You can quickly get overwhelmed with the choices of things to eat. At reasonable prices and small portions, you can try a plethora of things.

This is what we had:

Taiwanese chicken nuggets (great; taste of five-spice, sugar and salt with fried basil), easily the best dish
Pan-fried jalapeno peppers with fish paste (good flavors)
Sampler grilled lamb, spicy pork and rib-eye steak kebabs (so-so)
Fresh spring roll (good, fresh)
Fried baby octopus (my wife thought it needed some saucing but still tasty)
Korean kimmari (fried nori rolls filled with saifun)–very good
Passionfruit juice (excellent)
Soy sauce Hong Kong-style chow mein (so-so, not enough green onions)

Anyway, here are some pictures I took of booths, servers, and food, including dishes we purchased.

Wildflowers of the Great Smoky Mountains (NC)

I was surprised to learn that the Great Smoky Mountains have the most species of wildflowers of any place in North America. There are reportedly over 1,500 that bloom year-round, and all you have to do is take one of the many trails in the park to view them. Because my wife’s cousin and her husband live in Asheville, they take many of those hikes. They have become experts at identifying them and knowing what time of year the various flowers blossom. Since we were visiting them, they were happy to take us on a few trails.

Since we arrived in late April/early May, the literature points out that this is the time for what are called spring ephemerals, flowers that blossom as early as late winter and into early spring before the deciduous trees overhead leaf out, lasting only a month or two before they die.

The following are photographs that were taken on two separate hikes.

Desert Garden, Huntington Library (San Marino, CA)

Before our road trip to the Southwest in 2008, I’d not thought much about cacti or desert plants. Aesthetically, what I normally thought of as cactus plants did nothing for me. But, that changed in 2008. I began to appreciate how remarkable these drought-resistant plants are. They come in an astonishing array of shapes and sizes and remarkably can shows bits of color, too. Also astonishing are their flowers whose beauty contrast so sharply with their muted hosts.

I discovered that the Huntington Library had a world-renowned desert garden. Since I happened to be staying nearby, it was only a matter of driving a short distance to see the collection myself.

The garden has over 5,000 species spread over a 10-acre area, an important conservation collection that had me taking countless snapshots. I am not able to provide their botanical names but nevertheless include their portraits in the gallery.

Mercato del Pesce (Venice, Italy)

Within easy walking distance of our hotel were the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge. Also, it turned out to our surprise, was the fish market (Mercato del Pesce) and produce market. Here is where locals and restaurant chefs and buyers purchase fresh fish, crustaceans and mollusks, in tremendous variety. We made a quick trip through the markets before having to board the tour bus for Florence.