It was a marvelous three months of investigation and adventures. As many of you dear readers know, our recent trip to Portugal was to figure out if this would be a country we could live in long-term. That premise shaped our choice of city, our daily agenda, and the practical matters of just doing life (shopping, dining, entertainment, weather, activities, etc.). The short answer to “Could we live here?” is yes…but…. We came to realize that we missed our Reno nest more than we thought we would, wanted to be able to conveniently reach our grandbabes and extended family, and were honestly not going to become fluent in Portuguese. However, if anyone asks for a recommendation on where to visit in Portugal I would definitely encourage time in Braga.
In no particular order, here are the final shares of our wanderings:
Now it’s just totally random stuff:
And finally: throughout our time in Braga Bob and I played a bit of a guessing game about what you would call a person who lives in Braga. We toyed with Braganite (as in Renoite) and Bragatonan (as in Minnesotan) but it turns out the correct answer is Bracarense. Thank goodness for Google!
Braga, the third largest city in Portugal, is home to a great number of cultural attractions. First in abundance are religious edifices – churches, cathedrals, monasteries. In fact, Braga has the highest concentration of religious buildings in any Portuguese city. The first cathedral of Portugal was constructed here in 1089 and was the seat of power of Pedro de Braga, the first bishop of Portugal. And though we do enjoy a good cathedral (Bom Jesus from a previous post, for example) we also wanted to investigate the beautiful palaces and homes that are within the city center, so we chose 3 destinations over the course of 3 days.
Destination #1 – Raio Palace
Destination #2 – Biscainhos Palace
Destination #3 – Nogueira da Silva Museum
This museum was founded by a donation given to the University of Minho in 1975 by António Augusto Nogueira da Silva, who made his fortune in commerce and finance. The original buildings that were incorporated into the current museum were built in the 50s and 60s and the architect, Rodrigues Lima, was given the direction to create a space that would serve as a cultural destination. The museum houses various collections including furniture, sculpture, paintings, tapestry, jewelry, and porcelain. There is also a gallery that exhibits works of University of Minho students and instructors, a small performance space, and an outdoor garden and fountains.
Our host, Isaac, is an expat from Detroit; gregarious, upbeat, and charming. We started our afternoon at Cerveceria A’Cochina with an aperitif of Spanish vermouth (served on the rocks and garnished with citrus and olive) and patatas bravas (fried potatoes in a mild red sauce). The vermouth was a happy surprise – somewhat sweet and nicely spiced. Our second beverage was a beer and lemon Fanta concoction that the restaurant is famous for. It was quite good, but the mussels that came with it were the real star.
Following Isaac through the busy streets we made our second stop at a standing only countertop where they doled out sauteed pig ears and Mahou (brewed and bottled in Spain) beer. The recommendation is to eat the ears right when they come to you as they get pretty springy and gelatinous as they cool. They were okay, though the texture was not really a winner for me – even hot.
A short distance from our pig ears course was Joyma Restaurante where we found a table outside in the sun and enjoyed a tall glass of summer red wine (a bit of a sangria-like combination of wine and fruit and spices) that was a nice palate cleanser. It came with a tapas plate of sliders made from Spanish omelet on toast and a side of fried potatoes and onions.
Our final stop of the afternoon (and probably a good thing because by now we had been eating and drinking for about 3 hours) was at El Callejon de Alverez Gato. Here we had both red and white wines accompanied by chorizo croquettes and a heavenly mushroom risotto. It was a filling and fulfilling start to our Madrid days.
Having covered much of mainland Portugal we decided to spend our last two weeks checking out island life. First stop:
This archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is comprised of nine islands. We stayed on São Miguel, nicknamed “The Green Island” (Ilha Verde). We flew into Ponta Delgada, the island’s largest city, and immediately jumped into our rental car and headed for the northwest corner of the island to Mosteiros, Portuguese for monasteries. This tiny town of just over 1000 inhabitants offered us a damp and windy week that also allowed us to get in some quiet time before we headed back to the states.
We are now back in our Reno nest, happy to sleep in our own bed. As after every trip we talk about what we missed and want to do now that we are home. My choices this go-round were to eat a big salad and drink a large-sized coffee with creamer. (In most of Europe coffee comes in a thimble and the whitening option is milk.) Bob’s choices were a shower with constant hot water pressure and a gas stove to cook on. We have both already had our longings come true. We are grateful.
For a country that is approximately the same size as the state of Indiana we are constantly amazed at the the diversity Portugal offers. By the time our latest adventure is concluded we will have driven the entire length of the country (it takes about 5 hours if you do it in one continuous trip) and even jumped off to a couple of islands. We are finding some wonderful cities to explore and have taken great road trips. FYI: When exploring we routinely get off the main roads, which are primarily toll ways, and opt for the more scenic byways. Overall we have found that the milage (kilometerage?) of one route versus another is pretty equivalent. The big difference is time – and that we have lots of.
Since gas prices are currently a hot topic I am happy to report that our first rental, a Toyota Corolla hybrid, got 42 mpg and our current car, a Toyota C-HR hybrid, is getting 51 mpg. Some of you may be wondering, “Why two cars?” Our insurance coverage using our travel card is only good for 30 days, so a 60 day trip = two 30 day contracts. A minor inconvenience to make the switch but well worth it. And heck, with the size of Portugal it’s not far back to the Lisbon airport!
Aveiro: known in country as the Venice of Portugal
Coimbra: a former capital of Portugal and its 4th largest city
All-in-all a lovely day of discoveries. Though the weather was a bit chilly and the wind was blowing so hard it actually snatched the sunglasses off my face, it was definitely worth the climb. That said, it was also nice to have a short walk home.
And now for some random moments…
Évora: a must-see walled city
Tomorrow we are off for the Algarve. I will keep you posted. Adeus from Portugal, where even the bridge support columns are beautiful.
We are back in one of our all-time favorite cities! On our previous visit (pre-covid) our rental flat was in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto. (For a recap of that visit, photos of our beautiful views, and stories of various vagabond activities: https://conhan8.com/?p=2135).) For this go-round we decided that staying near the historic center of Porto would be an interesting change of pace. Bob did the research and found us a rental that was a 15-minute leisurely stroll into Centro with its gorgeous São Bento train station and must-eat-at Traça restaurant (where the prato da dia was olives, bread, squash soup, baby mushroom risotto, coffee; it met our lofty expectations).
I thought it might be fun to share our neighborhood so I decided to take a boundaried walkabout. Using our flat as the center point I walked three blocks in each direction and did some investigating of what I would find within those thirty-six square blocks. (I am using the term “blocks” pretty loosely as very few of the intersections meet at 90 degrees and some junctions branch out in 5 or more directions. It’s good to be flexible in our thinking.) Within that zone we had at least one bakery (padaria) and a fruit stand per block, 4 motorcycle showrooms, a decent grocery store, a unique pizza place for easy takeout, a meat market, a variety of hair salons/barber shops, a laundromat, and a nice mix of other eating/shopping establishments.