Paul and I decided to ride the Goldwings to Braga, to eat lunch at a Thai restaurant. We didn’t get to eat Thai food but we had an interesting day nonetheless.
Taking the motorway, we could reach Braga in 42 minutes, but we opted to take the slower route on the N14, passing through Maia and Trofa along the way. It took a little over an hour and got us into Braga around 11.30am. As it was too early for lunch, we decided to visit Braga’s main tourist attraction – the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte.
The sanctuary is built on a hill and can be accessed by climbing 1,000 steps from the bottom, or by riding up in a funicular. Instead, I programmed the TomTom to take us directly to the site and we rode there. A €1 parking fee allowed us to park very close to the church.
Whilst construction of this sanctuary commenced in 1722, there is a history of chapels being built on the hill at least 400 years earlier. The current Baroque style church was built around 1725. The church itself is attractive, but the most stunning element of the sanctuary is the zig-zag stairway that descends part-way down the hill from the church. Each segment of the steps has a unique statue and there are fountains at different levels. Traditionally, pilgrims were encouraged to climb these stairways on their knees! At the time of our visit, part of the church interior was curtained off due to the renovations that were taking place. The grounds also contain a small grotto with imitation stalactites and a pond. There are panoramic views over Braga and a small cafe for refreshments. It is a beautiful location and well worth a visit.
After our visit to Bom Jesus, we rode into the centre of Braga to the Lakkana Thai Restaurant. But our hopes for Thai food were dashed when we saw a sign on the door announcing that the owners were visiting Thailand and wouldn’t be back until late March! Disappointed, we walked around the corner, and came across the Palatu Taperia Restaurante with a chalk-board outside advertising prato do dia specials for €7.50 (including drinks and coffee). It turned out to be a great find. Good food, good service and a good price.
Then, after we had already eaten, we stumbled across a second Thai restaurant – Ra Cha Kao. And this one was open. Amazing! There are no Thai restaurants in Porto but there are two in Braga. We’ll be returning to eat at one of them.
We enjoyed a walk around the streets of the city, including a visit to the Congregados Convent and Basilica (built in 1703). It is a pleasant city with a nice vibe, so we will visit again to see and experience a bit more.
Whilst we were in Braga, I received a message from Marco, the president of the Goldwing Clube de Portugal. He was on his way to Braga and offered to meet up. We met with him in the city centre and then followed him to the Miradouro do Picoto – a lookout point that offers 360º views over the city and towards the surrounding hills. Whilst there, Marco pointed out the Bom Jesus Sanctuary that we had visited earlier, as well as the Sanctuary of Sameiro that is only 3km from Bom Jesus. The next time that we visit Bom Jesus, we will be sure to continue up the hill to visit Sameiro.
After spending some time chatting with Marco, we hopped back on our bikes and took the fast route home on the motorway. A pleasant day in Braga completed.