Monday, July 6, 2015

Some Special Eateries in Braga

                                                                                                                                                             Well this post is mainly about some of our favorite eateries, but a later one will hit the highlights of some special places to see. (And then we'll move on to our nephew's wedding last week.)

One of our favorite hangouts when we go to Braga is Café Vianna, a café overlooking Praça da República (Republican Square). There are tables inside and out, but we sit at an outside table under one of their giant umbrellas sipping wine and people-watching.
Café Vianna used to be a
hub of political activity in
the years before Salazar.

Now it's just a popular place
for tourists to enjoy.


It's almost always busy.











The square is dominated by an immense circular fountain, and on a hot day it's refreshing just to watch the streams of water shoot up and splash down. (It was hot in early June!) The square was being decorated while we were there (as was the city) for the coming Festa de São João (St. John the Baptist), a very popular festival that occurs mid-June.

I was surprised by a rainbow!
The arches are part of the decoration
for the coming Festa de São João 
Two gracious women at
the tourist office, Márcia
and Cristina, have helped
me a lot with my research.











The eating places in Braga are quite interesting. Each of them has a unique flair. And I don't mean just what kind of food they serve. They combine ideas about eating. For instance, on our last trip, we discovered a wine bar called Copo. But Copo isn't just a wine bar. or a tapa bar, although that, too.
It's several things rolled into one. Here we are enjoying our favorite small table by the corner window. But this building -- which is really two -- is full of nooks and split levels. The room next door is a wine and gin bar (with an actual horseshoe bar.) Up a flight from that is a cocktail lounge. A stairwell off of that leads to a small restaurant area. From where we are sitting in this picture, stairs lead down to a little champagne nook, which leads up to another restaurant area, and also down to yet another restaurant area. Surprises abound everywhere. And Copo does serve great tapas.

A little dining hall.
Unless you prefer the garden.
Art on the wall, food on
the table, books to read.
What's not to like?






A favorite lunch place of ours is Centésima Página, The Hundredth Page, a unique bookstore and café housed in a Baroque building on Avenida Central. I can't begin to tell you how inviting it is. These pictures may help. There are numerous little side rooms, small indoor tables, a garden patio. And books, books, books, everywhere! They also offer art exhibits and guest speakers, and special kid programs at various dates and times. But the books and snacks are irresistible.


Exterior: The bookstore/cafe is on
Avenida Central, not
far from Praça República.
Books, books, books! What's not to like?

















Not far from Centésima Página is a remarkable place called Casa do Professor, a home for retired teachers -- at any level: elementary to university level. It houses a library and a restaurant and bar, among other features. The goal is to make the teachers feel at home. But the restaurant is also open to outside guests and parties. We didn't take any picture of it, but here is a website that can tell you more about it . There is a buffet dining room at street level, and both a cafeteria and a menu restaurant down a few stairs to the next level. The food was delicious and so reasonably priced. Being vegetarians, we had a vegetable-filled pastry for lunch that was so good I could swoon over it. And a party of teachers were at a group of tables near the far window, having a wonderful time.

Last spring, visiting the Museu Imagem for research, (Image Museum), a unique photography gallery, we were privileged to meet the director, Rui Prata, who introduced us to both the fabulous three day photography exhibit last fall, and also Casa do Professor, as well as two other noteworthy restaurants. The names of those two wonderful restaurants elude me, but we found two more in a little square (Largo da Praça Velhanear the museum: Taverna do Felix, and Anjo Verde.

Anjo Verde means Green Angel, and it's all vegetarian food that must be cooked by angels! Last fall we enjoyed a memorable lunch of eggplant parmigiana cooked just right. We split an order, and their portions are so generous we still were quite stuffed. I only have one picture to share, but this website can show your more of the interior, as well has samples of their wonderful food :

Right next door, in the same largo was a restaurant I'd been intrigued by online while doing research -  Taverna do Felix (Felix's Tavern). I want to place a scene in my book there. These pictures should give some idea of it's distinct ambience, which is both elegant and cosy.
A great selection of wines. 

Gray lace on white linen.
Combined with Marilyn!
There was a homey quality to this restaurant, established by all the antiques placed here and there, I suppose, and the soft lighting.

Little tables were also in clusters, here and there. We were among the early guests, but were welcomed in, and "Nina" the owner, explained the wonders of Port to me as she and a warm and friendly waitress named Sandra set things in place: White Port is an appetizer, and red Port is for dessert. (I knew about the red, but not the white, did you?) In the course of the evening, she gave us a sample of each. Here's a video that gives you more information about the restaurant and owner, and you'll encounter the beautiful Portuguese language as well. And here are some photos of the food: as well as more pics of the restaurant. Our meal was lovely. We do eat fish, and we had broiled sea bass beautifully presented.
Meanwhile, the restaurant had started filling up, and there were couples at various tables from all parts: Netherlands, Belgium . . .

The man from Belgium recommended a hotel to us, and it turned out to be where we were staying: Hotel Senhora a Branca, reflecting the name of the church - Igreja Senhora a Branca - and the name of the square  - Largo Senhora a Branca, where the hotel is located. We have stayed there all three trips and will again. It's a comfortable hotel, reasonably priced, with beautiful rooms and a friendly staff. And we made friends with a young intern who has received her Masters in cultural tourism and who took us on a tour of her Braga the last evening we were there. (Thank you, Ines!)

And then there is the mysterious young woman who is always playing her violin on one street or another: 

who is she? 

Her playing is haunting. 



Next blog will be about the Churches, Gardens, and Museums of Braga. Stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, what is the best restaurant meal you've ever had? Do you like to read while you eat? Are you a vegetarian? If so, what kind? (I have learned that there are quite a few.) 



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An Evening of Fado and a Fadista to Remember

 One of the great traditions of Portugal is the unique music called Fado. I first heard Fado two years ago in Galicia, when Maria do Ceo sang at a  restaurant in a casa rural. (I blogged about her singing HERE and HERE.)

My next Fado discovery was the great Fadista, Marisa da Luz, in Braga, Portugal.



By the time my husband and I went to Braga last year to do research on a book I am writing, we were both hooked on Fado, and we especially wanted to find a place where we could hear it. We lucked out! Mercado das Tapas offers Fado every Thursday evening and a wonderful selection of tapas, as well as that great potato and kale soup called Caldo Verde.

At Mercado das Tapas, various Fadistas perform, but when we went last year we were fortunate to hear Marisa da Luz. We liked her so much that, when we knew we were going again early this month, we requested her. There are many things that make her such a good Fadista: To begin with, she has a beautiful voice with quite a range. But she also pours such feeling into her songs, they wring your heart.





There are cheerful songs in Fado, but the majority of songs deal with life, one's soul, fate. Fado has been called the Portuguese equivalent of American Blues, and to some extent, that's true. But to me the melodies are more complex and take one by surprise. Some tell a story. Some are philosophical. Some simply express the sadness of loss at a high level of poetry. Some of the lyrics are taken, in fact, from the poetry of one of Portugal's greatest and most mystical poets, Fernando Pessoa. Normally a Fadista is accompanied by two or three musicians. One or two will play guitar, and the remaining one will play a Portuguese guitar, which sounds very much like a mandolin.

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Fado is an art form like no other, and Marisa da Luz's voice and delivery rise to the demands of it. We predict that she is a rising star Fado lovers will hear of more and more.

Elegant and dramatic
She was the main singer of the evening, but three men took turns singing Fado, too, as many Fadistas are men, and this seems to be tradition.

Beautiful voice.


Great feeling
The humorous one.
As it turned out, it was Marisa da Luz's birthday, and she was celebrating it with her friends and family. Graciously she shared some champagne with us, and she let us take pictures of the party, as well as a couple of pictures with them! And with her! A very cordial, down to earth lady.
The woman behind me on your
right is one of the owners.

She gave us champagne!

A wonderful group of people as
you can see.


I was really honored.

Thank you, Marisa da Luz, for an inspiring evening full of wonderful song.


Next week: Some of our favorite places in Braga, and a wonderful tour guide.

Meanwhile, what is your favorite music to listen to? Have you heard Fado? If so, do you like it?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Time Out for a Book Release!

Today was the big day!

I have so many things to blog about, but:


Hip Hip Hooray,
Caloo Calay!
My book was just released today!

Here are the links: Imogene and The Case of The Missing Pearls is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA,Amazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle and Kobo and will soon be on iTunes.


Please do check them out. 


Meanwhile, please come back Friday for the first of several blogs about the trip to Portugal.

A school visit,
arranged by my friend, Carla



A fabulous Fadista, Maria da Luz











See you Friday, if not before. Have a great week.





Thursday, June 11, 2015

All We Left Behind, by Nancy Herman

Virginia Reed and the Donner Party
Author extraordinaire 
For some time I have wanted to review this wonderful book, but life kept intruding (marketing my own book, travel plans, celebrations of important birthdays, a wedding.)

I’ve read many books about the Donner Party, but All We Left Behind has preyed on my mind like no other book about this tragic event. Told through young  Virginia Reed’s point of view, it traces the trajectory of what begins as a hopeful journey to a promising new life but ends in disaster.

Virginia is twelve when the story opens in Springfield, Illinois the day the family is departing, along with the extended Donner family and others, setting out for Independence, where they plan to meet up with a larger wagon train, the Russell Company. The trip has been James Reed’s idea all along, and he’s the leader of this small group.

The first few weeks of the journey seem like an adventure until they reach Independence, Missouri, and learn Russell has gone on without them. James Reed misunderstood the meet-up date. This is the first time Virginia realizes that “Pa”, her adoptive father, can make mistakes. Despite his autocratic nature, she has idolized him, feeling he can do no wrong. The family is Methodist, and earlier, after she visited a Catholic church with a friend, he made it clear Catholicism was the wrong path. (Virginia has guiltily been hiding the rosary the friend gave her in her pocket.) Now, she wonders if Pa can be mistaken about Catholicism, too.

This is only the first mistake James Reed will make. They meet up with Russell, but later split up, the larger wagon train taking the tried and true path; the Reed and Donner group and a few others taking the Lansing cut-off, a supposed shortcut that will make up for lost time. Reed has misplaced faith in the book by Langford Hastings, but he is a leader type with the ability to persuade, and this leads to one stubborn mistake after another. Reed is also a proud man, traveling with his family in the largest wagon with the most luxurious contents (dubbed later, by resentful fellow travelers, as “the palace car.”) 

Before the trip is over, the car’s contents will join the many things “left behind”. Virginia's grandmother dies on the the trail. Another old man is abandoned by one of the other pioneers. All along the way, they encounter household goods, wagon wheels, relics of earlier pioneers who had to leave so much of what they valued behind. 

One of the strengths of the author’s writing is the way she shows Reed through Virginia’s eyes: a man of flaws and redeeming virtues. Virginia’s hero worship wavers, but her loyalty never does. In the space of a little over a year, she matures from a pre-teenager torn between homesickness and adventure to a young woman with knowledge far beyond her years.

The author’s setting details plunge a reader deeply into the experiences of these hapless travelers. She has clearly has done extensive research that shows in the authority of her storytelling without ever intruding as "information dump". One of the most haunting scenes is when the Reed family and their three wagons are crossing the Great Salt Desert. They are crossing alone, because the heaviness of the “palace car” has slowed them down and the others have gone ahead. Patty, Virginia’s younger sister spies three wagons in the distance.
        
         “I wonder why they’re so far off the trail,” Mama said. She added in a puzzled tone, “Their lead wagon looks nearly as big as our palace car.”
         I waved just as the girl beside a pony waved back. Milt waved both arms over his head in unison with a rider in the other wagon company.
         “They’re our mirror images,” he said wonderingly. “Even the horses are identical.”
         A slow chill ran down my spine. “You mean they’re us?”
         “Don’t look. Don’t look!” Mama’s voice trembled. “They aren’t
real. They’re a mirage.”

The Reeds join up with the others, but before long, things worsen as tempers and egos flair – as of course they would among a group of travelers who once had high hopes but have to deal instead with unforeseen difficulties that terrify them.

As a reader I found myself experiencing so many emotions -- tension, relief, humor, sympathy, even tears – as the writing pulled me deeper and deeper into Virginia’s world. While the story of the Donner party itself is remarkable, the author’s telling of Virginia’s story is equally remarkable. This is a book that bears more than one reading and should have a place in school libraries, both middle school and high school.


Purchase Information (Click on the sites):

The author can be contacted at (Click on the sites):




Saturday, May 30, 2015

A One Week Blogging Vacation

Dear blog friends,

I'm taking a one-week blogging vacation on this blog (The Fourth Wish) for a trip to Braga, Portugal for research on my latest WIP and a school visit.  I'll still post next door on My Victorian Scribbles blog, where I've told a little more about the trip. I'll be back here next Sunday, so please come back then.

Have a great week and "see you" soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Guest Post and Give Away on Natalie Aguirre's "Literary Rambles"

I'm excited to have a guest post and a giveaway of my new book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, on Natalie Aguirre's wonderful blogLiterary Rambles. You can read the post and maybe win your free copy HEREPlease visit her site and check it out.

Here's a teaser of the book, a trailer a friend made for me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpBXxmTVdvM&feature=youtu.be

And at Natalie's blog, you'll find a wealth of information on agents and other authors.

Have you ever made a trailer for one of your books?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scrambling to Keep Up and Still Relax

Beautiful weather for driving along
 scenic roads from village to village.

We love going through these small
villages.
We arrived in Galicia exactly a week today, in the evening, and have fallen under its spell, as we always do. I'm behind in everything, including a book review I've been promising of an utterly wonderful book, Nancy Herman's, All We Left Behind. Be patient, folks, it's coming.


But it has felt great to just relax after the hectic days leading up to our trip -- the bathroom remodel, putting the house back together before our trip, the book signing at Time Tested Books (a delightful evening), and setting up other book signings after we return. When we got to Galicia, we just gave into the trance of taking long walks and long drives for photo shoots, visiting friends and neighbors. We've been blessed with beautiful sunny days, although it's been a little windy at times, and at times there has been the usual sprinkle of rain. And at this time of year, the countryside abounds with wild broom, whole fields of it.


More broom. Some of the bushes
grow tall, like trees.
Brilliant yellow sprays of it, everywhere. And on the roadsides, buttercups, Queen Anne's lace, small, magenta thistles, purple foxglove, fields of white daisies, tiny blue forget-me-nots, and rose-colored alfalfa, and the all pervasive greenery.


                                        Cuckoos call, and you see the flash of black and white wings of the magpies. And in Tuiriz, near the church, two stork nests rise atop poles that seem to be their designated area. Originally they built their nest on the church steeple. Meanwhile, nearby, around the corner from our house, Eva's chickens peck the corn she gives them that is responsible for the brilliant gold of their eggs.

Still, around all the tranquility, this is a working vacation for me, and I will be back to work on my cozy mystery re-write starting this afternoon, and a book review will soon follow this post.

Also, please check out Rosi Hollinbeck's interview with me, review of my book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, and a giveaway, on her blog, THE WRITE STUFF. In addition to interviews and book reviews of children's books, Rosi provides wonderful links to other blogs sites with information on the writing process, writing career issues, contests, etc. She offers a banquet of information at her site. Go HERE to see what I mean.

But for now, a second cup of coffee, and one last view out the galería window before I get to work.