Monday, September 30, 2019

Braga, Beautiful Braga

My apologies for having vanished from my blog for so long. When I said good things were happening, they really were, and I had to scramble to keep up. Every time I thought I would post, there was new work to do.

On return last June from our trip to Spain and Portugal, I learned my poetry collection, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, was accepted by Finishing Line Press. (Saudade is a very Portuguese -and Galician- state of mind, mixing nostalgia, longing, fate, in a complex combination.) Then I learned my cozy mystery, Deadly Vintage, was accepted by Belanger Books, LLC . Deadly Vintage  should be out by the end of November. Then I had the opportunity to write a short story, "What the Raven Knew," for a forthcoming anthology by Belanger Books, Sherlock Holmes: In the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe. (When I know the release date, I'll  post the info.) 

So, WHEW! Here we are back in Galicia, and I'm actually vacationing and not working for the first time in YEARS. This could grow on me . . . except that I have to finish Book 2 of my Portugal mystery series.

The beautiful scenery of Galicia
always takes my breath away. It
is so serene.
This is a charming restaurant up the
hill of the Parador which I will talk
about in a later post.

But it's wonderful to get back to blogging. I've really missed it. And, since Portugal is on my mind, I'll post about Braga for now, and return to blogging about Galicia in a later post.  

Okay, Braga is a two-hour drive from where we are in Galicia, which is why I chose it for my setting. Galicia is an autonomous region in Spain, and its culture is similar to  Portugal's. Even the languages are similar, going back in time, although Spanish has influenced Galegan quite a bit. The countries are divided in the north by the River Minho, but close to the border, people on both sides can speak with and understand each other. I read somewhere that they share 85% vocabulary.  

Portugal is also the birthplace of Fado, a haunting form of song that we love: It's entertwined with the concept of Fate — although there are happy songs as well. The happy ones are humorous; the sad are full of "saudade," that bittersweet sense of loss combined with hope. Two famous fadistas (fado singers) are Amalia Rodrigues and Mariza, our favorites, although we also like Ana Moura. Men can be fadistas, too: one is Camané. You can listen to any of them on You Tube. By tradition, the only accompaniment is an acoustic guitar and a Portuguese guitar. We've been fortunate to make friends with a wonderful fadista in Braga, Marisa da Luz. Rajan and I have heard her sing many times. It's always memorable. She's a fabulous person, and we feel lucky to know her.

Portugal also is a land of poets. Two of the most famous are Fernando Pessoa, considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, and the 16th century poet, Luis Vaz de Camões, considered one of the greatest poets of all time. Pessoa was quite unique, in that he wrote from four different literary personas he created. He also wrote in English as well as Portuguese. Camões was a sonneteer and wrote the great epic of Vasco da Gaza's journey to India, The Lusíads. I like to joke that I got my picture taken with Pessoa below. (Unfortunately, Camões was not available for a similar photo op. 😊) 

Meeting one of my favorite poets
Inside, at one of the cute tables.
Exterior for  Centésima Página which means 100th Page. you
can see the big "100" in the windows.

The Pessoa cut-out was in the lobby of the building that houses Centésima Página, our favorite book store, and one of our favorite eateries. Housed in an 18th-century mansion called Casa Rolão, they offer a great selection of books in Portuguese and English, a wonderful children's section, and a food bar that serves terrific quiche, sandwiches, and salads, among other things, and the most wonderful oatmeal cookies! (I'm a cookie freak. Forget chocolate.) They have tables in back, too, in an attractive garden. And they offer cultural events, evening programs, lectures, guest authors, etc. is also my MC's favorite eatery and bookstore  in Deadly Vintage.
Centésima Página ispart of the historic center that is on Avenida Central and leads up to Praça República. 


Praça República is a landmark that ends in an arcade (above) with restaurants, including the Café Vianna, which has been another landmark since the 1800s and used to be frequented by writers like  Eça de Queirós and Camilo Castelo Branco. Outside tables are near the enormous fountain that has water jets, lit at night. And Café Vianna, for us, has become a meeting place of sorts for connecting with many of the nice friends we've made in Braga.

This is walking along the avenida, which is
perpendicular to Avenida Central
This looks back at the Praça República 
There are garden spots everywhere  This is Avenida de Liberdade, a main avenue with the Teatro Circo & upscale clothing stores. It leads to the East River and a view of mountains beyond the city. I don't have pics of the theater or the mountains, but you can see how beautifully plants are gardened. 

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The Jardim de Santa Barbara is another beautifully gardened spot near the old Archbishops's Palace (which has become a library for the University of Minho's Archives). The flowers change from season to season, except for the hedges and roses, which  are year round.

This garden is in some important scenes in my book.

Two other locales that are in important scenes are the Arco da Porta Nova (the arch that marks one entrance to the historic center) and the Museu da Imagem (a photography museum that offers changing exhibits and also is involved in an annual Photography Show with dozens of participants from all over the world.) Their exhibits are placed around in other galleries as well. When Rajan  and I first went to Braga in spring five years ago, we met then director, Rui Prata, who showed us around both the museum and the town after hours and then invited us to the coming exhibit in the fall, which was fabulous. Since then, both he and his daughter have become valued friends.
The museum is on the other side of the
arch to the right, where you can't see it
at this angle. 
The red building is the Image Museum, fascinating inside
with stone walls and arches at one level, and changing
exhibits. Rajan's hobby is black and white photography,
so this was quite a discovery.

For my coming Book Two, I needed to talk to someone who could tell me more about the annual Book Fair, so we went to Camara Municipal de Braga (which is basically City Hall with its various departments.) Lovely building, as you can see — and example of the Baroque architecture made famous in Braga by Soares. Inside, as you can see, the stairs had wainscoting of the beautiful azulejo tiles that you find in all these old buildings.

The doorway really impressed me.
I wish the picture were better.

I want to close with the little story of how Rajan and I met our "Portuguese family." These are wonderful friends we feel privileged to know. On our first trip, we lost our way, looking for the police department for that area. Commander Jose Barbosa had said we could stop by and he would be happy to answer questions. We stopped by this little shop called Casa Stop, and the woman there (Carla) gave us directions. Even though there is little crime in Braga, she was worried that we'd had some kind of mishap. When she found out I was writing a mystery, it turned out that she loves to read mysteries, and we became instant friends. Since then, we have enjoyed many get togethers with her and her husband (Armando) and daughter (Beatriz)—lovely additions to our lives.

Rajan, Carla, me

Rajan, Carla, Armando, Beatriz

Me, Carla, Armando, Beatriz
I hope you enjoyed this little taste of Braga. There are so many more things to share. The churches deserve a post of their own, there are so many, and Braga has a religious history that reaches into Galicia! (More about the in the future.) But also other historic buildings.

When it comes to travel to other cities, what grabs you the most? The buildings? Their history? Events that take place? The people?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Been Busy with Good Things

No pictures, just information: 1. I've been busy with some paperwork for the poetry chapbook (mailing list, bio, blurbs, photos, etc.) and 2. I may have a publisher for my mystery set in Braga, so am doing one more read through for typos and the like.

But don't go away. I'm almost done and I'll be back and posting again, soon.

Meanwhile, hope each and all of you are having a good summer.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Sad News and Memories of a Good Friend & Neighbor

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I'm going to take time out from book and publishing concerns to pay tribute to a friend whom my husband and I will deeply miss. We received the sad news Friday from our village neighbors in Trasulfe (Galicia, Spain) that our mutual neighbor, Manolo, had passed away, and that the funeral would be Saturday. That has come and gone. If we were there, we would have gone. As it is, we can only send a card to his family, and then, on our next trip in August, go immediately to visit Manolo's widow, Eva, who has become like family. That is how we have always known them: Eva and Manolo. We have never even found out their last names. We first met them 14 years ago in spring of 2005, right after we bought the house. By our fall visit of 2005, we were friends enough to have them over to our house for snacks before leaving. Manolo looking devilish; Eva looking sweet and shy.

And they've always had a touch of elegance about them. This picture was in fall of 2006, when they returned from the bank in Monforte, taking care of some business. They kept a small garden and did some farming, kept vines, and, when we first met them, had a horse, a pig, and some rabbits. But they always dressed smartly for town.

Meanwhile, it became a regular thing to have them over for meriendas a couple of days we left to come home, and during our visits, we spent many a fine evening enjoying bread, cheese, and Eva's superlative home made wine in their galleria or in their dining room, where we sometimes watched comedy shows in Galegan on TV.
At the end of the day, we would often take a walk down the road with them, and then sit on the bench at the end of the lane, listening to all the village gossip in a mixture of Spanish and Galegan.

What happy days these were! In the first picture, Antonio (down the road) is on the right, laughing, and his wife, Maria-Elena, is holding their grandson, Daniel, in front of her. This was in fall of 2007. Daniel is college age now. In the second picture, The woman on the left is Raquel, Eva's sister.

Here is a picture of Raquel in spring of 2007 and one each of Manolo and Eva in fall of 2008.

This is how I like to think of them — so full of gentle humor and genuine good will for other people. Always full of laughter.

We used to go to fiestas with Eva and Manolo, too, and also to a couple of the ferias for pulpo (octopus), a great favorite in that area.

One of my sweetest memories of them is at a fiesta when their teen-age granddaughter, Lucia, danced with her grandfather. She doted on him. Above, next to the picture of Eva,  is a picture of Lucia a few years later (2013), after she finished beauty school and was a hair stylist.  (She had just finished trimming and styling my hair.) She was a beautiful teen-ager, but you can see she has grown into a beautiful young woman. In this picture she is in her 20s. (How time does fly.)

Then ill health set in, first for Manolo, who gradually had a combination of heart problems, diabetes, partial deafness, partial glaucoma. Before things got to such dire straights, he had difficulty walking uphill, and then later, walking very much at all. He was still able to make it to our house for meriendas in fall of 2008. But gradually, he stayed inside all the time, and by 2014 he only came to the window.

Meanwhile, Raquel contracted a lung disease that incapacitated her, and she moved in with them. So, Eva became the caretaker for a sick husband and a sick sister, which pretty much confined her to the house, as well. They had help come in, provided for by national health, but Eva was still his primary care-taker. I stopped taking picture of them. They all looked tired and worn out, and in recent weeks, Raquel was mainly bedridden.

Instead, we would go over and spend our free time with Eva and Manolo late in the afternoons, sitting in their galleria, discussing weather, the view, little things about life, just to keep them company. Sometimes I would take cakes, because — ever the gracious host, no matter how ill — Manolo would want us to sample Eva's wine.  On our last visits, four and five weeks ago, he could only whisper, asking Eva to get us some wine. We would head her off and tell her no, we didn't need wine, and she needed to sit down and rest. By then, he would be asleep again in his chair by the window and we would be mainly there for Eva.

We will miss him. Eva is devastated from what our mutual neighbors tell us. They were married over 60 years, and she had been taking care of him for nearly ten. RIP, Manolo. It was truly wonderful to know you. And it still is wonderful to know Eva, whom we will visit as soon as we return.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Great News, Which Explains My Slowpoke Posting

Wonderful news that I came home to: My chapbook, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, was accepted by a publisher. I have tons of pictures from our trip still not yet downloaded, along with brochures for a wonderful day we spent in Madrid. But I haven't had time for any of that, because there is lots to do to get ready for the publication of my chapbook. So everything is on hold for a few more days. Thank you for your patience! Please hang in there and don't go way. Eventually, I will be back to regular posting.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Wonderful School Visit in Braga, Portugal

Time has been flying, while I've been focused on writing a draft of my next mystery, based in Braga, Portugal. But I finally got time to download pictures and my first Braga post is about a wonderful school visit I had.

The school is Escola básica e secundária vale d'este, Viatodos. The students, ages 13, are learning English. Their English teacher, Alice Faria, is the friend who invited me. (Some of these pictures were taken by her and/or the other teachers who were present.)

 First, a sharp young man introduced me. He had memorized all my bio and author information, and I think he only had consult his notes once. I was really impressed. Then, I had to be wired up with a microphone,  since I have a very soft voice that doesn't carry well in large gatherings. (Each of two classes had about 60 students!)
The young man who introduced me.
Wired for action.
Reading from one of the books

                                            After reading excerpts from Carnival of the Animals and Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, I took questions, circulating among the students. I always like to circulate among students at a reading. It brings you so much closer to them, and in my case, I hear the questions more clearly and can repeat them over the mike for the other students, who often can't hear them, either.

Their teacher, Senhora Alice Faria,
(in the front of the room) was so
helpful at every turn. 
Some of their questions really made
me think: Example: "What is the most
unethical practice in publishing, in your
opinion?" I finally came up with "Piracy."

I must say, would that I were as fluent in either Spanish or Portuguese as they already are in English! They asked some pretty cool questions, too!
This young man wrote a story with
a surprise twist at the end that made
me laugh out loud. (Rajan, too!) 

  The students were wonderful. At the very end, Senhora Faria gave me stories they had written and printed up in the form of scrolls (which you can see below). The stories were really good.

Stories on scrolls. I read every one of them and
have them in a special place in my writing area.

Other teachers came in to listen, one an art teacher, another a French teacher, both warm and welcoming. The school also presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Believe it or not, that bouquet made it all the way back to Monforte, Galicia in our car the next day and has become a beautiful "vase bouquet" in our apartment.

Rajan, me, Alice Faria, art teacher, French teacher.
The bouquet in a vase after a 2&1/2 hour drive
the next day.

To the school, and to  the teachers  especially Alice Faria, many thanks for the wonderful opportunity to visit your school, and read to your students. They were just terrific. I enjoyed the morning so much. 

How about you? For those of you who write, do you make school visits? If so, what do you enjoy most about them? What is your favorite age group to read to? 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Concert by Singer, Armando Prada

Thanks to our friend, Mila Garcia, we heard this remarkable singer in concert last night at the Escalapios (where a lot of concerts take place in Monforte.) He sets to music poetry by Galician poets and then sings and plays the accompaniment.

You can go to YouTube (link here) for a sample of his singing but click to midway, as at first he starts off quoting the poetry and giving some background to it — all in Galegan or Castiliano — so unless you are fluent in either, you won't understand. (Although, his speaking voice is mesmerizing and is a true storyteller's voice. It can pull you in, anyway.) 

But do click to halfway through to hear his singing. 

This particular song — from a poem by Rosalia de Castro, a 19th century Galician poetess — is one he sang last night. 

He also sang two beautiful songs taken from poems by Federico García Lorca. One that especially moved me translates as "Nocturne for a Dead Youth".

We bought a CD for him to autograph, which we did very graciously.

The whole CD is of poems by Rosalia de Castro, and the songs are very haunting. She was born (and died) in Santiago de Compostela, so is definitely the poet for the area, although she is famous in Spain and worldwide.

I would love to post a picture of her, but am nervous about copyright in the US, so I will direct you to two sites that have pictures of her, one of which also has samples of her beautiful poetry.

The poetry site:

Wikipedia (which has a really good picture)

Do you like music from other countries? Do you prefer singing or instrumental? Who is one of your favorite artists?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Springtime in Galicia — Sort of . . ..

We are in Galicia, Spain, now. We arrived two weeks ago today, and for the most part, this is what springtime in Galicia has looked like this year. Still, no matter how cloudy and rainy, it's always beautiful. We've had rain every single day, but also we've had sprinkles of sunshine every single day. It's always that way in Galicia, although this year in April there has been more rain than sunshine. It does give a different aspect to things. I find that stormy days suggests story.

Take this picture of the Parador, which is one of my favorite buildings in Monforte de Lemos,        where we now are renting an apartment while we have put our Trasulfe house up for sale.

Doesn't this suggest a somber novel to you?

Speaking of novels, one reason I haven't been posting is that I am hard at work on a new novel, a mystery novel, that requires a lot of research. I'm enjoying it a lot and feeling pangs of guilt for my lack of sociability on line. Nonetheless, my imaginary friends are calling, and I can't let them down. In a future post I will tell a little more about the Parador.

Meanwhile, spring really is coming to this beautiful area. Here is proof:

How about you? Does your writing interfere with your social life? Or is it vice versa?