Braga: Day Two

On the advice of my Porto coffee interlocutor, Patrícia, I went to Nordico for breakfast. I arrived shortly after the 9:30 opening and grabbed a seat in the back garden since the weather was so pleasant. I ordered a cappuccino and chose the poached eggs on avocado toast. Despite the sparse crowd, it took them almost 25 minutes to bring the cap. And I thought Barista Parlor took a long time! I’d asked them to cook the poached eggs medium soft, but when they arrived they were runny and ran all over the toast. Also, they weren’t warm at all. A somewhat disappointing breakfast overall. At least the cap was excellent.

Afterwards, I dropped by to visit the Torre dos Coimbras. It was empty, so I chatted with the two young attendants, João and Claudia. João and his family had emigrated from Rio de Janeiro and Claudia was a student. João was a well-informed extrovert and said that a number of Brasílians lived in Braga. He confirmed my impression that Braga was a traditional city and explained that it was one of the few Portuguese cities that had grown organically in the past decade. He said that a growing number of Americans and European retirees had moved in, but that they were welcomed. He knew a lot about American politics. He invited me to have a drink with him and Claudia at the adjoining bar, where his brother works. Sounds like a plan.

The Torre and adjoining art gallery were built in the 16th century by the Coimbras family. The narrow stone steps up were thankfully deserted. Anyone over 6’2 or a 40 inch waist wouldn’t be able to pass through. The top had a series of plaques with an overview of Braga’s ancient origins and a stained glass window that reflected the late morning sun onto the hardwood floor.

I guess the third time’s a charm and I finally joined a Free Tour at 3 pm. José, our guide, said that they couldn’t arrange for a guide on Saturday. There were six of us on the 2-hour tour and José did a great job. He showed us some hidden secrets on the tour, including five closed green doors that contained stops on The Stations of the Cross, which are only opened during Holy Week, when numerous processions pass through Braga. I found out that there are actually 40 churches and monasteries in the city, which is why it’s been nicknamed the “Second Rome”. It’s also full of Roman ruins dating back to the time in the first century AD when it was known as Bracara Augusta, after the Emperor Octavian, Caesar Augustus.

Towards the end of the tour, we visited Igreja da Santa Cruz, finished in the 18th century. José asked us to find the three roosters on the facade. After giving us a hint, several of us found two. He then said that there were only two, but that the city guide suggested three so that tourists would really scrutinize the elaborate Baroque façade.

After the tour, he and I spoke for a while. He’s 22 and working on his master’s, but would like to take a gap year before working and backpack either in the Balkans or Southeast Asia. I encouraged him to do it.

After the rather heavy dinner last night, I decided to visit Gosto Superior, a vegetarian restaurant around 15 minutes’ walk from my Airbnb. It was off the tourist path and the food was quite tasty and all under €10, including wine and sparkling water.

Time to run a wash and hit the sack. I have a long journey south to the Algarve tomorrow.

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