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PORTUGAL Fall 2001 (6)
Index of this travelogue

TRAS-OS-MONTES Mirandela | Braganca


The Tras-Os-Montes (beyond the mountains) region is north of the Douro and east of the Minho. Today we would visit Mirandela and Braganca. Heading north from Pinhao, we picked up highway IP4 at Populo and headed east to Mirandela. We arrived at the attractive Roman Bridge over the river, which was rebuilt in the 16th century, and stands tall with its 20 asymmetrical arches. Today it is for pedestrian use only. We parked for a while along the banks of the river to enjoy the sight of the old town across the way; it was a lovely, sunshiny day.

After crossing the main bridge for vehicular traffic, we found a parking spot in the center of town, near the open market in the center of a two level shopping and office complex. Unfortunately the market was finished for the day but we did find a wonderful, small food shop specializing in local sausages, hams and cheeses - Sofomeiro Fumeiro Regionil (regional smokehouse). The owner, Laurentino, insisted on giving us samples of his outstanding sausage and ham, despite knowing that we would not be buying, just proud of his product and kind to visitors. This is Portugal.

Mirandela is where Acheira (Jewish sausage) was created. It is sausage made from chicken instead of pork invented by Jewish people during the time of the Inquisition as a means of hiding their identity.

This is a very pretty town on the Tua River with lots of green areas for playing and relaxing and a mix of old and new. It is a busy commercial center in the middle of the region. There's a tourist mini-train that runs around town, which was filled all the time we were there. Don't miss the 17th century town hall.
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The major industries in the region are cork, olive oil and pork; the trees and farms dotted the landscape along our way northeast to Braganca.

Before driving up to the hilltop site of the fortressed castle, we stopped at Restaurante Turistico O Geadas, Rua do Loreto 32, Tel: 273-324-413, 273-326-002. The attractive dining room, with stone walls and pillars, was filled with locals of all types. We were seated by the wall of windows. We welcomed the regional sausage, ham, cheese and pitted olives marinated with onion. We thoroughly enjoyed the hearty vegetable and chicken soups both chock full of good stuff. Unable to select from the wonderful menu and specials of the day, we took our waiter's suggestion to try a small sampling of several items: small, fried trout served cold with a marinade of vinegar, olive oil and onion; partridge in sweet and sour sauce with mushrooms and onion and sides of cubed, fried potatoes and rice; and grilled boar with roasted potato and turnip. The service was every bit as good as the food.

The old cobblestone streets leading up to the walled citadel are filled with superb ancient structures, many of which have been nicely restored. The walls and castle are still very imposing. The tiny village within is nearly intact and inhabited. There is a military museum of memorabilia of a local regiment from African campaigns. The church stands tall and striking. Inside, elaborate carvings grace the alter and walls and the beautifully painted wood adorns the ceiling.

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Braganca, though ancient, is also new as can be seen in the large main square, accessed via a tree-lined promenade, which on this day was filled with a young, lively crowd. The town has been rather isolated but the completion of the Oporto-Spain Motorway (A4/IP4) should help its economic future.
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Back at Santa Clara, we had another marvelous meal of pureed vegetable soup and lamb stew. A genuine delight was the award winning duo of red Sandeman Confradeiro 1995 with the meal and the Vau Vintage 1997 Port with the chocolate mousse dessert.

In the morning, the hills were coming alive with harvest activity. We wheeled down the slopes toward Pinhao, enthralled once again by the sight of the town, river and slopes coming together.

We were heading to Celierios, one of the Sandeman facilities where the grapes are processed. The winding roads were filled with trucks bearing grapes heading to production centers.
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When we arrived, the Sandeman yellow bins were waiting in line. We watched as samples of the grapes were collected to evaluate their readiness. The actual processing of the grapes would not begin for several hours but we did go through the facility and the foreman, Pinheiro, explained the process to us. It was thrilling to be in the middle of all the action at this exciting time. These folks would work very hard for a month and the fruits of their labors would be taken to the caves at Vila Nova de Gaia.

We returned to Santa Clara to pack our bags and for a parting lunch of delicate fried fish, salad and Sandeman Terracos 2000, white. We left knowing that the urge to return to this paradise would come long before the memories of this wonderful visit fade.
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to next pageContinue traveling along with us or choose a link from below

(1) Porto
(2) Porto
(3) Minho
Viana do Castelo, Ponte de Lima, Ponte de Barca,
Soajo and Arcos de Valdevez
(4) Minho
Vila Praia de Ancora, Moledo, Camarido, Caminha,
Vila Nova de Cerveira, Valenca, Moncao, Melgaco
(5) Douro and Tras-os-Montes
Pinhao, Regua, Sabrosa, Pedras Salgadas and Vidago
(6) Douro and Tras-os-Montes
Pinhao, Mirandela and Braganca
(7) Douro
(8) Douro and Beiras
Lamego, Britiande, Mealhada and Coimbra
(9) Lisbon
(10) Lisbon
(11) Lisbon and Coast
Cascais, Estoril and Sintra
(12) Alentejo
Monsaraz, Redondo, Elvas, Borba and Vila Vicosa
(13) Alentejo and Beiras
Marvao, Castelo de Vide and Belmonte
(14) Porto

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