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 (at left) 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. 

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?