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


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?