29 March 2012

Braga will be the first city in Portugal going to heaven as once every other building in Braga was a church or seminary.  Today, churches are still abundant in this relatively small city. Once entered into the city centre, you will feel the intensive religious atomsphere around.  First, Easter Semana Santa banners hung everywhere prior to the festival.  Church is more frequently seen than in other cities.

The city is clean and bright.  Buildings have been restored. Flowers were everywhere.  Well, it's lots of money to make the city beautiful.  Not all European cities are lavishly decorated with flowers. 

Braga can be reached from Porto by suburbano.  The journey lasts about 1 hours 10 minutes, costs 3 Euro.  A quicker suburbano runs some time, 15-20 minutes less.  Or you can take IC train which cost 10 Euro.  My experience, take the suburbano from Sao Bento.  Taking out the travelling time, you can still enjoy a good full day in Braga and the nearby Bom Jesus.

Before leaving the city to visit Bom Jesus, take a trip to visit the Palacio do Raio (or Casa do Mexicano) with a beautiful unique blue tile facade.

Time to take care of the stomach, a decent lunch.  We walked around and bumped into Ferreira Capa.  It is a nice bakery.  You can order your customised sandwich. Their multi-grain bread was gorgeous, comparable to the quality in Germany. Or order any choice of their daily special.  We paid 10 Euro for a dish of pork with potatoes, customised sandwich, a coke, a tart. Good value!  Braga is a living town.  Restaurants and bakeries are every where.  Full meal seems too much.  Ferreira Capa is modern.  The other bakeries are rather traditional and serve mostly sweet.

Ask the Tourist Information (with lunch break) on where to get a local bus to Bom Jesus.  It runs every 20 minutes.  Upon arrival, you can choose to walk up or take a tram climbing the slope for you.  We walked. It's not difficult.  Believe me.  The bonus is to see the art of chapel dotted along the way.  A scene in each chapel recalls the way Jesus to death.  It reminded me on the visit in Varese.

Once you have the view of the Bom Jesus, turn around and enjoy a panoramic view of Braga.  Of course, admire the marvelous architecture of the great church.  The style is rare, though not unique.  The church in Lamego is similar but Bom Jesus is more famous.  Statues stand proudly on the staircase. 

Hop inside the church for an appreciation of the art.


Vila Real

2 April 2012

Vila Real is the 'must stop' for Casa de Mateus if tourist is taking a bus from somewhere.  Say, one way trip to Porto over an hour and cost 9 Euro. From there one can take a connecting bus.  The first impression of Vila Real is neat and tidy, organised and everything refurbished.  It is a small town (less then 25,000 population) but affords to beautify to impress.  Houses are very nice and in a good state.  I can't remember seeing any decadent houses.

Walking down to the end of the main street (Avendia Carvalho Araujo) will lead you to a panoramic view of a valley.  You will see a few houses scattering, in progress highway construction, part of a river and terreaced fields.  Very green and charming!


Igreja S.Paulo
We visited a few churches. Two are Igreja S.Paulo and the cathedral. The first embedded in the shopping area with tile panels inside. The Cathedral is Romanesque style, raw and appealing. The rose window is very modern, however.


Vila Real Se/Cathedral

Before we headed to Casa de Mateus, we looked for a lunch venue. It is written that Nova Pompeia frequented by locals during lunch. A good hint! We found the right street and number but the name was different, sort of a cafe. Then we asked a man sitting outside the restaurant and reading newspaper. He said here it was the restaurant to clear my doubt. Then I asked further if the food was good. Here is his answer: 'I have to say it is good as I am the owner.' We all burst into laughter and we headed to the upper floor, brighter, airy and more inviting for a long sitting.

Our lunch is delicious and very good value.  Seafood risotto, mixed grill meat with potatoes and vegetable, nice bread with butter and 2 other condiments, a glass of white wine, a coke and an expresso.  Yummy!  The owner was very attentive and assured we enjoyed everything.  It is another endorsement that Portuguese are very nice people and helpful.  Like!!!

Nova Pompeia
Avendia Carvalho Araujo 82