Monday, September 27, 2010

Tourists in our own town

on our street - Avenida da Liberdade
After going to other towns the past few weekends, we were looking forward to staying around home and exploring Braga a bit more.  I bought a book called "BRAGA" which contains heaps of beautiful photos and descriptions of churches, monuments and other historic sites.

Our first stop was the Fonte do Idolo, just 2 blocks from our apartment.  I had walked past the building which houses this beautiful pre-Roman fountain and sanctuary (1st century BCE) countless times without realizing what was inside!! I think I was too focused on not tripping over the cobblestones to notice the HUGE sign above my head.  It was definitely worth the visit.

Hungry for lunch and more historic finds, we headed to Frigideiras do Cantinho, a restaurant that has been in business since 1796.  We enjoyed the specialty of the house, frigideiras, which are meat pies enveloped in buttery, flaky pastry.   After a tasty lunch in their leafy courtyard, we walked into the restaurant for our second historic visit of the day.  It seems that when the restaurant owners renovated their space a few decades ago, they discovered the foundation of a Roman house (3rd-4th century) in their basement!!  It's now tastefully excavated and lit and clearly visible through glass panels in the floor of the restaurant.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I've eaten there by myself before and NEVER realized that my chair was perched on top of those glass panels!!!

frigeidara actually means "frying pan" or
"flaky, buttery happiness on a plate"

After lunch, we wandered into the center of town and saw some sort of festival in progress.  There were booths with people in Medieval attire selling food, beverages and trinkets.  Oddly, there was also a stage set up for the Portuguese Communist Party event that was to occur later in the evening.  As we strolled, our ears and feet were drawn to the familiar sounds of drum beats in the distance. It didn't take long to find 2 drum groups, facing off, and playing their hearts out.  One group was comprised of young, enthusiastic kids and teens, and the other group was made up of equally energetic mentally impaired adults.  They were having such a great time challenging each other that we were quickly caught up in the excitement.  

Later in the evening, we had an incredibly simple but delicious meal at Churrasqueira da Se (BBQ of the Se Cathedral)  which had a huge grill blazing in the front window and an agile chef who cranked out the most wonderful chicken - oh yum!!  There was a long line of patrons waiting patiently for takeout - a testament to the griller's skill.  The house wine comes out of a tap at the bar and is served in little jugs - light, cold, refreshing and perfect with the chicken.  We were sure to give the grill master a big smile and a wave as we left, wiping the last bits of juicy goodness off our chins. This is definitely a place to bring any carnivorous visitors who come to see us!!

Geeze, I'm starting to sound like Elizabeth Lane from "Christmas in Connecticut" (played by Barbara Stanwyck - NOT Dyan Cannon).  I need to take it down a notch

Earlier in the evening we had been trying to find a certain square (there are LOTS of them in this town!) where there was supposed to be live music and a pig roast.  We were actually headed home when we finally stumbled upon it.  We passed on the pig (too full of chicken) but helped ourselves to cake and listened as 2 different groups performed while the crowd danced. 

Our last stop of the night was back at the main square, Praca da Republica, to catch a few minutes of the Communist Party speeches.  It was well attended!!

On Sunday, we wandered around some more, stopping in the very nice Santa Barbara gardens.  Lots of different types of flowers and the beautiful backdrop of the Archbishop's Palace make this one of our favorite spots in town. 

the colorful Jardim de Santa Barbara with the 14th century
Antigo Paco Episcopal in the background

We may never make it to all of the sites in our "BRAGA" book, but we're off to a good start.   ~Peggy

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