Monday, September 27, 2021

I AM WRITING

Which is why I'm not posting. And I have all these pictures of Portugal I want to share!

My muse says otherwise, though. "Thou must write, and get to it right now, okay?"

The good news is that I'M ALMOST FINISHED WITH MY BOOK. I expect to finish this draft next week and send it to my beta readers. Oh Happy Day.

News about the arm? Ultra sound seems to confirm tendon damage. I see my orthopedic surgeon Wednesday, but at last meeting, when he order the ultra sound, he seemed to feel physical therapy can suffice. Thank goodness. 

Hope all is going well with all of you, and I look forward to when I can be back and interactive. But now I must hie to the keyboard for other reasons.

Everyone take care and stay well.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

New Developments

 One of these days I'll be able to write a post again where I am not reporting bad news. Recently we had another death in the famiy (one of my husband's brothers — so we've been on "WhatsApp" a lot with scattered family), and I also learned that the fall had done more damage to my shoulder than I had thought. I posted this on Facebook, but realized this morning I should do so here as well to expain why I'm not posting much lately. I'm also posting this on both blogs. 

I have an appointment with an orthopedic specialist this Friday about my shoulder — last week had more Xrays taken. I should learn more Friday about whethr surgery or physical therapy is the future.

Other updates: The cataract surgery went very well and Friday I'll have one last check before my opthomologist writes a new prescription. (Here in Braga, the same doctor is both opthamologist and optometrist, which I kinda like.)

Despite all of the above, I've been writing on my book, and I have about 6 chapters left to the end before I rewrite it and send it to my beta readers.

I hope all who stop by are having a good week filled with good activities and good news.

Take care and stay well.




Friday, August 20, 2021

Tuesday I Had Cataract Surgery

Dear friends, 

sorry I've been silent again. On Tuesday I had cataract surgery and had to stay off the computer for three days. Even now, I'm keeping that eye closed just for good measure. Tomorrow I can do all things in my normal life again, but for three days I couldn't read, or use the computer. (So I listened to music and my Portuguese CDs. But really, I love being online and hated missing all the news. And no reading? Aaarrrrgh!)
But the surgery went very well. My surgeon checked the eye (left) yesterday and is quite satisfied. After my three week period of eyedrops is over, I have another appointment to get a prescription for glasses. Interestingly, the opthamologist does all the optometry testing/prescription as well. I have to say, I like the idea of one person keeping track of my eyes instead of two departments. It's a different system. And I do like my opthamologist, although I had a super one in Sacramento. She was great, too.
Rajan has an appointment next Tuesday, as it's time for him to get a new prescription.
Meanwhile, today I get to go out walking again! (I've missed that, too!)

I'll sign off for now but will be back soon. Everyone have a great day.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Our Shipping Arrived!

 Hooray! Future photos won't show bare walls and empty bookshelves anymore. Stay tuned.



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Today I have a "School Visit" via Zoom with a class iin Monforte de Lemos

   This afternoon, even though I'm in Braga, Portugal, I have a "School Visit" via Zoom with a class in Monforte de Lemos, Galicia, Spain. How cool is that! (The "visit" is to the Escola de Idiomas Eoi Monforte). The class's teacher is a friend of ours, and she teaches English to adult learners. She actually ordered copies of my mystery for students earlier in the year in high hopes that by now Covid 19 would be under control and everything would open up and I would visit in person. (Monforte is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Braga.) Well, things are opening up, but only gradually, and in Galicia classes aren't meeting face to face yet. 

Still, I'm happy to meet her students via Zoom. It's for an hour. I'll be curious about what questions they ask. She has formed a "reading club" with some of her students, and here is the flyer:


    About Monforte de Lemos: Many of you who have followed this blog know my husband and I in pre-Covid days used to go to Galicia twice a year. We started going there in spring of 2014 and even had a house in a small village about twenty minutes away from the town of Monforte (as the locals refer to it).  The "de Lemos" comes from the fact that the town grew up around a castle owned by Conde de Lemos. It's on a hill and overlooks the rather large town that developed since then through the centuries. At times part of it has been a monastery. And there's a cathdral at one side. But now the whole edifice is part of the Parador system and it houses a hotel, a restaurant, and a café/bar. Everyone in town refers to it as "The Parador."


The Parador



The Old Roman Bridge in town

     A walkway in the park in town.

    It gives my heart a twinge to see these old pictures of Monforte. We haven't been there since fall of 2019. Once the borders open up again, we'll look forward to driving up to visit Galicia friends. Until then, we feel very lucky to be in Braga and able to see our Braga friends, whom we've started meeting in the allowable open air spaces outside cafés. 

    Just mentioning the virus at all reminds me that the pandemic is still here for a while. So many countries are suffering from too many cases and not enough vaccines. 

May all of you stay safe and well, and may next year bring happy news for us all. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

SPRING HAS SPRUNG IN BRAGA

What a difference two weeks make! Spring has arrived in Braga, although the weather isn’t particularly consistent: One day it is hot; the next, cool and breezy; the next, hot; the next overcast with threatening clouds and finally rain; then hot again. And so on. Yesterday was hot. But everywhere greenery and flowers are unfolding: The Jardim de Santa Barbara has relinquished its tulips and is bursting with an explosion of color from a variety of blooms. The trees lining both sides of Avenida da Liberdade have ruffled out in leaves in their promenade down to the river and the mountain beyond.

Standing at the edge of the gardened area of Avenida da 
Liberdade, looking toward the mountain. See the far salmon colored building on the right? The lower one, not the high one. Well, at that corner, you turn left to go to our flat. You go one street, turn right, and then a zig-zag of cobbled streets and walks will bring you to our little street.  


Below is a cute little separate house right on a street around the corner from our flat. It just captivates me everytime I walk past it.
     

The Santa Barbara Gardens in all their splendor, and the dragon sculpture in the plaza across from them:





And everywhere around the historic center, redbud is in bloom:



 


What else have we been doing? Well, we bought a set of shelves for the balcony to start an herb garden in pots. So far, we have rosemary, cilantro, thyme, sage, basil, and mint, and they look very happy. We still want to find oregano and, if possible, dill and tarragon.



We’ve been walking every day, exploring different neighborhoods and new routes to fill in our mental map of the area and have discovered 4 different routes to our favorite bakery. Most days we walk at least 3 miles.
 



On Palm Sunday, during our walk-about, we floated along Rua do Souto, listening to chanting that had been piped over loudspeakers above shop doorways. There is something so peaceful and soothing about chants. It gave a lovely feel to the day, and we finished the afternoon with a new bag of hot, salted chestnuts, eating about half of them while we sat on a stone wall next to the sculpture of three mountains in Avenida Central across from the Centesima Pagina bookstore. A few doors away from the bookstore is the Casa do Professor, which is a home for anyone who has been a teacher in Portugal and is also a restaurant/cafeteria open to the public. A few doors in the opposite direction is the Hotel Bracara Augusta with the Centurium Restaurante (where Carla and Owen have a mysterious dinner with an old college chum in my new book.)
This is the sculpture. It represents three mountains around Braga, although I don't yet know their names. It's smack in the middle of the little park area flanked on each side by Avenida Central, and it's across from our favorite bookstore: Centésima Página. In addition to being a super bookstore, Centésima Página has a little lunchbar and outdoor seating in back. 

One day we went to the Rio Este at the end of Avenida da Liberdade and took a river walk upstream. Another day we followed the river downstream. In both cases, benches and trees and grass create a continuous meandering parkland.
The "upstream" side of the bridge.

And yesterday was the big day for Portugal: cafés opened to outside customers, no more than four to a table, and on the esplanades only; no one inside. All last week in Braga you could see the proprietors and servers washing doors and windows, polishing up the tables and chairs, and you could feel the excitement in the air, because this is a culture that likes its cup of coffee or glass of wine at plaza tables, socializing with friends and watching the world go by. We were excited, too, and started lining up meetings with friends we’ve only been able to visit online since arrival. Across the street from our flat, we’ve watched the Pastelaria get ready, and the tables and chairs put outside. But it was when we walked to the historic center to meet a friend that we were just amazed: In pre-Covid days, the streets were thronged with tourists who filled up the plaza tables. Yesterday they were thronged with locals who have been waiting for the day! We felt like half of Braga must have turned out for the opportunity to share a cup of corree, a glass of beer or wine, with friends at last. I just hope there will be no ill effects that send us all into lock down again.






And that wraps up our news for the day. I hope wherever you are, you are weathering confinement well. What special things do you do to pass the time? Are you writing more? Do you take walks? Keep houseplants? Read more?

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

SETTLING IN . . . .

 
 
When you come out of our little neighborhood onto Avenida de Liberdade, if you turn right, it leads to Rua do Souto and to Praça República. If you turn left, however, just a couple of streets away is the Rio Este (East River). Across it is a pretty little park with a church in one section, and picnic tables and benches all through. Beyond the park is a mountain. So close! (My apologies for the poor lighting.)
On the southern side of the bridge, walkways and a jogging path flank each side of the river, well-used by bicyclists and joggers as well as people just strolling along. (I am sorry to say that in the book I’m presently writing a body will be found on the jogging path, though the victim didn’t die there.) You can see the park beyond.

A few days ago, the trees along the lower part of Avenida de Liberdade toward the river were just "misting," with faint green smudges along the boughs. By yesterday the leaves were unfurling. So quickly! Sadly, the view of the mountain in the distance is marred somewhat by billboards. But at many angles it’s an arresting mountain. and you can see it from many intersections in the main part of the historic section.

The mountain.

Trees along Avenida de Liberdade
I'm not sure what kind of trees these are, but the Avenida is lined with them, right on up to the Praça (which is Portuguese for "plaza.")
We walked on up Avenida de Liberdade to the Sé Catedral area, where we encountered another dear friend, Marisa Rocha, who was walking around with a friend of hers. What a happy surprise! We’ve really been limited for the most part to contacting friends here by email or Facebook because of the virus. Since this was out in the open, and we were all masked, we did elbow bumps and kept our distance, and then had a really nice chat. Naturally, we didn't think to take any pictures of our encounter. We were all too busy catching up on news.

Sunday, everything was closed, but we did more exploring, taking a new route out of our neighborhood and ending up on Rua 31 de Janeiro that took us up to Largo Senhora-a-Branca. And there we had another pleasant surprise: We have noticed places of business getting things ready for April fifth when hopefully more restrictions will be lifted. Hotel Sra.-a-Branca’s doors were open, and we went in to say hello to Maria and her husband, the proprietors, since we stayed there so many times in the past. We didn’t see anyone, so we came out again, and encountered our new American ex-pat friend, Bob, sitting on a bench. We had a nice "safe" (masked up) chat with him, and then Maria and her husband came out of Sra.-a-Branca and waved at us, so we went over and had a safe chat with them. It was great to see them again, and I do hope their hotel opens again and the Spanish border opens up. She said they get most of their tourist traffic from Spain.
Again, we went to the area, even though everything was closed, since it was Sunday. Walking back to the gardened area of Avenida de Liberdade, we stopped and bought a bag of hot chestnuts from a kiosk run by two women. It was just before they were closing, but the coals were still hot. For 3 Euros, we got a dozen chestnuts and ate six of them on the way home. There is just nothing like the taste of hot, salted chestnuts!
On AVenida de Liberdade, at the Praça end, it's been beautifully landscaped, and the flowers change with each season. Right now there are red and white cabbage plants alternating with beautiful small flowers I can't name yet.


It also has some of the more name brand shops, as well as banks, and the Teatro Circo where concerts are preformed.
The end closes to our neighborhood and the river is made up of a lot of apartment buildings that have flats above and small businesses below. By small businesses I mean little produce markets, odds-n-ends stores where you can buy everything from dishes to mops and brooms and dustpans, storage jars, breadboxes, bathmats, towels (and more, seriously), clothing stores, etc. Right now, with some of the restrictions lifted, for the latter, you can buy at the door: stand in a socially distanced line, and when it's your turn, tell the proprietor what you want and pay for it at the door. (The odds-and-ends stores are different, you can go inside to find what you want, and then pay in a socially distanced line.) (Everyone here wears masks, by the way. It's only rarely you see someone wiwthout one.) 
Anyway, to return to the Avenida (and many side streets as well), every flat seems to have a balcón overlooking the street, and many of these are full of plants, some flowering, some even small trees. One captivated us especially: The balcony was overflowing with plants, and the woman was tending them so lovingly it was an irresistible photo.


How about you? Do you like to walk? Do you keep a small garden on a patio or balcony? Or do you have a yard with a garden?

Friday, March 12, 2021

WE ARE IN PORTUGAL!

 

We arrived in Braga February 21st, and have been busy ever since, having work done on our flat as we stayed at a hotel for 2 weeks, and then moving in and having some follow up work as well as doing lots and lots of cleaning. Our attorney arranged for the flat to be painted and then cleaned, but that was cursory cleaning: vacuuming, dusting, mopping. The people who lived here before didn't clean much, and you really wouldn't be able to pay someone to come in and do the cleaning we're doing. But we are undaunted. It's a beautiful flat. It just has needed some TLC.

What was strange was to see Braga without all the tourists. The streets in the historic part usually have throngs of visitors, and now it's normal life in the side streets and empty plazas outside the cafes and restaurants. Below is Cafe Vianna, one of our favorite hangouts, as it used to be, and as it is now. They even hung black on the door handles for mournng.




But Braga is always a city of gardens, rain or shine: Above my first paragraph are tulips at the Santa Barbara Gardens (photo taken by my husband.) And below are some white and red cabbage plants also at Jardim de Santa Barbara: 







And here is Avenida da Lliberdade in the rain, yesterday:

             



And a few days before, looking out our hotel window, my husband saw this:


Meanwhile . . . the flat. It's coming along. It looks a bit stark in these photos because our shipping hasn't arrived yet. It was due to come in on the 18th to Lisboa, but now that has been postponed to April 7th. 
Thus the walls are bare of pictures and our bookshelves are empty. (Sniff.)



The dining area. (Actually the living room and dining room are part of one large room. This is one end. 




This is the other end: The sliding glass door leads to an enclosed balcony. We plan to put pots of herbs out there. 

It's a continuing adventure. But despite a few surprises and challenges (all  manageable) we are happy
to be here. BTW: the beautiful blue orchid was a house gift to us from the gentleman who was contracted by our immigration attorney to organise all the work to be done.

I've never seen a blue orchid before, have you? 


Thursday, February 18, 2021



We are staying at a B&B until we leave Saturday a.m. (We leave the building at 4:00 a.m. Saturday!) Today is our "goodbye" day, walking around the old neighborhood, because tomorow we have Covid tests and one last Goodwill trip, a meeting with our real estate agent, the sale of our car, and other last minute "stuff."
But I want to put in a plug for Amber House on 22nd Street between M & N. It's really wonderful, and I wish I had time to post pictures. I'll take some to post from Portugal, as downloading and posting them is the time-consuming part.
The B&B is split between two old houses (and we love old buildings), one on each side of the street. The main one was built in 1905, and the one we are in was built in 1895. We are in room 13 (which I've always considered my lucky number), called "the Beethoven Room." (We love Beethoven, but that's just coincidence.) We priced out other hotel rooms, but they all charged extra for breakfast, for parking, for all kinds of add-ons that made them more expensive than a B&B, and Amber House is walking distance to two of our favorite restaurants through the years: Tapa the World and Kasbah Lounge, side by side with shared outdoor "courtyard" dining.
I'll take some pictures of Amber House today and then post them after we get settled in. Inside and out, both buildlings are beautiful and artistically rendered, with an aura of bygone eras. I'll leave this little teaser of a bedside table and our room telephone used to call the office.
Time is flying and still so much to do!

How about you? Do you like old buildings? Classical music? Beethoven? And . . . what is your lucky number? (Do you have one?)

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men (and Women)

🦋🦋🦋 Changes have been happening lately: Our buyers pulled out. They were a young couple in Seattle, and I think they got cold feet about moving to Sacramento. So now the condo is on the market again. But the good news is that it is generating interest again. We had one viewer earlier this week and another is coming tomorrow. 


🦋🦋🦋 Meanwhile, the airline called to say the flight of one leg of our journey was cancelled and had to be rescheduled to another date. Now - toca madera (touch wood) that it isn't re-scheduled again we leave here on February 24th instead of 21st. The good news is that there is one stop less.

🦋🦋🦋 So those two things have called for a lot of scrambling — paperwork to cancel the sale, emails to friends in Portugal, new arrangements for dropping off our car to the woman who is buying it, changing the dates of our stay at the B&B, the date of our Covid tests, etc. All of that is done, now, and we had a nice zoom conference with our immigration attorney in Braga, who . . .

💗💗💗 . . . informs us the flat will be ready for us when we arrive: newly painted (she showed pictures, beautiful white walls), basic furniture we asked her to pick out for us - bed, bookshelves, dining table, chairs, sofa, chests - all good. The heating/a/c will be in. And we have changes of clothing in our suitcases until the shipping arrives next month.

So that leaves time for taking more walks around Sacramento (which we have always loved) and taking pictures of more murals and a couple of sculptures. There is quite a range of styles. Enjoy. 

This is called "Peace" 
This stylized dragon
is also a bicycle rack.


The next three murals are all part of the front of the regional transit building on R Street:

                    



I don't remember the name of this building, but it also is on R Street:   Cool, huh?


And then the next two walls. The first is in the R Street Corridor. The second is just before the R Street Corridor on the side of the 515 Grocery Store and Deli. It's a sylized ocean/beach scene.


The next three were on S or T Street. All by the same artist and marvelous.






And these last three were somewhere on Q Street (I think). Sorry I can't be more specific, but I vary my walks and then put the camera aside for a couple of days. 


                                    

I've become addicted to finding new murals. I think they beautify an area so much. How about you? How have you been using your lock-down time? Are there many murals in your town or city? Do you like them? Or do you prefer unpainted walls? (These murals are all samples of artists who take part in "Wide Open Walls" (whose acronym spells — appropriately, I think — "WOW.")