Driving on the left in Scotland led us to Iceland!

After fifty years of doing just about anything, muscle memory (there’s one type of memory that doesn’t fade much with age!) is pretty firmly entrenched. Accordingly, having to drive on the left definitely takes most of whatever brain power I have remaining in my fading cerebellum and puts it to the test.

I do have a secret to navigating UK roads though: I recite “Leftleftleftleftleft” in my head as I get in the car, as I start the car, and pretty much the entire time I’m driving.

Leftleftleftleftleft.

I credit this to avoiding any close calls, other than one time where I almost entered a roundabout without first looking in the direction the cars were actually coming. That was the little fly in my leftleftleftleftleft ointment, because you have to at least look right before you enter the roundabout to go left. Fortunately, I remembered in time, which is good, because if we had crashed there might’ve been nothing leftleftleftleftleft of either of our cars.

So how did we end up in Iceland, you ask? Well, if you look at the picture of Carolyn, you’ll notice a red sign in the background. Iceland. It’s a grocery store in Scotland. Or maybe they just sell frozen water. “I only buy my ice at Iceland,” they probably say in the ad.

The country of Iceland is definitely on our (frozen) bucket list, but for now, this will have to do.

After taking the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow and riding busses around Glasgow, we rented a car to visit the surrounding areas as well as to travel to what was Carolyn’s most anticipated Scottish visit: The Isle of Skye, whose motto is, “Our sky is so big here, we had to add an ‘e’!”

Using a rental car added Scotland to an ever-growing list of European countries in which I’ve received a traffic ticket. Luxembourg, France, Spain, and now Scotland have all caught my scofflawishness on their hidden cameras. Not all were for speeding; the Scottish one had something to with being in a bus lane. I don’t remember that, but maybe the bus lane was on my left and there are actually two flies in my leftleftleftleftleft ointment.

There are a multitude of cute little towns dotting Scotland. One of them is called Oban. Oban is more or less a gateway city to the Scottish Highlands. It’s a holiday destination for many Scots, and is known as the seafood capital of Scotland. We didn’t bother testing that because frankly, there can be no better seafood town than our hometown of Sesimbra, so we try not to embarrass any towns by comparing the seafood.

One site we visited was Dunollie Castle, which is in an area that has been fortified since the Bronze Age, which existed from 3,000 to 5,000 years ago until it was replaced by the Skin Cancer Age.

Get it? No more bronzing? Oh, to hell with ya then.

This is some additional scenery we spotted at various points of our drive up to and back from the Scottish Highlands. As you can see, it is simply gorgeous countryside. As it was reminiscent of the scenery of the Pacific Northwest, it made us feel quite at home. (Except for the Leftleftleftleftleft.)

Another absolutely delightful town was Dunfermline. Northwest of Edinburgh, it has everything you would need in a Scottish town. It’s charming, historic, has at least one Turkish Bar (according to one of the photos above anyway), it isn’t tiny, with a population approaching 80,000, and also has a huge park. (Donated by Andrew Carnegie, as told to us by a kindly old lady who engaged us in a lengthy conversation and must’ve said “Carnegie” a dozen times. She also pronounced it “Car-NEG-ee,” instead of the CARnegie most Americans would use.)

I did get a kick out of the hair salon pictured above: “Rinkadink Beauty.” I don’t think rinkadink means what they think it means. Or maybe they do know and that’s the point. Or maybe the American rinkadink is different from the Scottish one. Gawd this travel stuff is mentally exhausting!

Additionally, we were shocked to discover that Dunfermline is the actual home of the Garden of Eden, as proven by the presence of Adam’s tomb also pictured above.

It’s also right near the Firth of Forth, one of my favorite named places in all the world. A firth is an estuary, but the Scots obviously grew frustrated at trying to think of a word that rhymes with “estuary.” I guess they could’ve used “questuary,” and in fact I’d pay ten euros just to hear a Scot say, “Questuary of Estuary,” or just about anything else for that matter. But Firth of Forth it is.

Dunfermline Abbey and Palace, which was a favorite residence for many Scottish monarchs.

Another charming place is Inveraray, which features Inveraray Castle, which is more of a mansion than a castle, actually, and was used as a location in Downton Abbey. Inveraray is also where we encountered the only grumpy Scot we interacted with during our entire visit. Apparently, bringing dogs into restaurants is perfectly acceptable in Scotland, which wouldn’t bother me unless you bring in a little bitch (I’m assuming female just so I can call it a bitch) with a piercing, sharp bark that just about pierces eardrums. Our table neighbors had such a beast, and after the 3rd or 4th bark (for of course no reason, because that’s what those little yappy dogs do), which literally made me jump in my seat each time, I stood up and asked them as kindly as I could if they could please shut the dog the fuck up. Okay, I didn’t actually say that, I was very nice. But after the meal, when I stood to thank them for keeping the little, ah, bitch quiet, one of the ladies decided to give me a piece of her mind, calling me rude and mean for complaining about their dog. I waited patiently for her rant to end and then I showed them standard American justice (since I didn’t have my AK47) by stabbing her in the face with a fork. Okay, I didn’t actually do that. But I did slash the tires on her car. Okay, I didn’t actually do that either, but boy did I come up with some great comebacks about ten minutes after the encounter!

Another pretty town was St. Andrews, which is also known as the “home of golf.” partly because The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, founded in 1754, is more or less in charge of the rules of the game. You don’t get to have a hole in one unless you go through Scotland first, or are wearing two pairs of pants.

It’s also the home of to the University of St Andrews, the third oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of the top universities in the UK.

Mostly the driving journey through Scotland was full of pretty scenery and a bunch of leftleftleftleftleft. At least we didn’t depart from Scotland, or this life, with the words “deeply regretted” forever above our bones. Hopefully the only reason I’d have something like that on my gravestone is if it was about one of my bad jokes.

We Glaswent to Glasgow… but it wasn’t very punny

Spoiler alert! There are fewer bad puns than usual in this entry!

Glasgow (more or less pronounced “Glâs-go,” although I’m not sure what the little hat over the “a” actually does. I added it to make it look like I knew what I was doing) is the most populous city in Scotland and the fourth-most populous city in the United Kingdom, with roughly 650,000 souls (or 1,300,000 soles, if you don’t factor in the people with one or no legs).

We took the train from Edinburgh to get there. At first the ride was calm and quiet as we had the car mostly to ourselves. However, shortly after take-off (as it were), a bunch of twenty-something Scottish hooligans invaded our previously peaceful car and carried on with voices loud enough to wake Sean Connery. And he’s dead. They were loudly bellowing “fockin’ this” and “fockin’ that, and “that guy was a real focker” as they whooped and hollered and drank wine and beer out of paper sacks, except they didn’t bother with paper sacks because it’s, you know, Scotland.

After throwing a concerned glance or two their way, I eventually stood up, gave them a long and grumpy look, and then smiled and asked them if they’d mind having their picture taken with Carolyn. They thought that was a grand idea, especially when this straight-laced looking woman old enough to be their mother stood up and called them all motherfockers. They laughed uproariously and invited us into their camp. We took some photos, shared their fortified wine (which we bought a bottle of later– hoo boy, that stuff is indeed fortified!), and shared names and histories. They were off to a concert of some sort; I had thought due to their rowdiness they were going to a football (soccer) game.

There were times we had a hard time understanding a couple of the ones who had thicker accents than the others (other than “fockin”), but it was great conversation overall. When the one-hour ride was over, we wished them a good concert and we parted the best of friends. Better to make friends than be fockin’ annoyed!

So with that entertaining welcome to Glasgow, we got off the train and took in our surroundings. Since it is a good-sized city, it looks like one. Imagine that. It’s definitely not as pretty or touristy as Edinburgh, but our hotel was right in the thick of things and we were happy to be exploring another Scottish city.

Along the way, we got a nice view of the Scottish countryside. You can’t really tell here, but the green and trees reminded us quite a bit of the Pacific Northwest. After we got into the fortified wine, we didn’t think much about taking more pictures. Hic.

We assumed some rowdy drunken Scots (actually, we wouldn’t have put it past our new friends) recently climbed up the statue to give him that cone hat. Later on we discovered that whoever had done it had actually done it some time ago, and the authorities just left it on its head simply because the Scottish are a rather cheeky lot. That right there warmed our cockles (whatever those are) toward the Scottish. Playful and with the most loveable accent on the planet? Bring on the Scotties! And the scotch!

This is a different James Watt than many Americans will remember, and many of those not fondly. Watt was the US Secretary of the Interior from 1981 to 1983 and might be best described as “anti-environmentalist.” One of his famous quotes is ““We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber!“

Apparently the pigeons, who unlike many American politicians, actually appreciate the environment, mistook this statue for the American version as you can see by his very white hairdo. “Bombs away, James Watt! We doodoo poopoo on your head for being so obnoxious!” Apparently pigeons can read, but they have no sense of history. Stupid birds.

This is the River Clyde, which runs through Glasgow. A bonnie river indeed.

In addition to being the primary source for future starship engineers, Scotland is famous for whiskey and scotch, so we took a tour of a whiskey distillery. Some of those bottles on the left date back into the 1800s, and are still drinkable. But some of them are worth thousands, too, so you’d better be thirsty! Carolyn looks less than impressed, but that’s only because this picture was taken right after we imbibed our samples.

The auditorium on the left is affectionately known as “The Armadillo,” a nickname that ended up becoming its official name. Just another example of the Scots being fun and cheeky! The big building on the right is the “OVO Hydro,” and is a concert venue with seating for 14,300.

Near the distillery is a transportation museum, where we dodged rampaging horses, prepared ourselves for our last carriage ride, got lost in a train that wasn’t moving, and marveled at how people were able to park those cars on ledges. And I thought parallel parking was difficult! We did appreciate the Scottish telling it like it is. They named that ship “The Tall Ship” for those who have no idea what a ship, or tall, is.

Here is a picture we discovered in the museum. It literally was taken in the ’20’s, which is 100% true. Regardless, it’s a spitting image of Carolyn! Amazing!

This interesting construction is called the “Falkirk Wheel.” About 20 miles outside of Glasgow, that bird-beak looking thing actually rotates, moving boats from one part of the canal to another like a mother bird feeding its chicks. The place was about to close, however, so there weren’t many chicks around that I could see. Except there was this one cute Muslim lady…

About 25 miles outside of Glasgow is an art creation called “The Kelpies.” The Kelpies are a mythical creature, described as a shape-shifting black horse spirit that’s able to adopt human form, and inhabits the Scottish lochs (which is how you say “lakes” with a Scottish accent, or it can also be the sound you make when you’re getting ready to hock a loogie). The art was also created to commemorate the large canal horses that, previous to the Falkirk Wheel, pulled boats down the canals.

They were so impressive that Carolyn decided to convert to Islam, as you can see above. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the Kelpies have absolutely nothing to do with Islam. But at least now she has to do everything I say, plus since I’m the only one who gets to see her hair in private I’ve got a whole new otherwise hidden body part to get turned on by. Oh behave!

They were impressive pieces of art to be sure! I tried to think of a pun right there but I needed helpie.

I got a kick out of this nearby sign. Is it “no swimming danger” because the water is deep? I would think deep water would actually be a little safer unless you’re wearing cement galoshes. Or maybe use some punctuation?

Lastly, about 30 miles outside of Glasgow is Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle is known as the centerpoint between the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. Today it is still a potent symbol of Scottish independence and national pride. Famous Scots who have links to the castle include:
Robert the Bruce (I guess that’s better than “Bruce the Bob”), Bonnie Prince Charlie (who was so pretty he was given a woman’s first name), Mel Gibson– er, William Wallace, whose life was not depicted accurately at all in Braveheart), and Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary lived there for about four years as a child. She was later beheaded, because of course she was, but the executioner must have been an ancestor of Mr. Bean, because it took several strokes to get the job done, with the first one glancing off her skull instead of hitting her neck. Fortunately, a couple more whacks finished the fun and frivolity. I say fortunately because she didn’t have any aspirin for that short-term headache, and aspirin was extremely expensive back then mostly because they hadn’t invented it yet.

In the end, we enjoyed Glasgow, but probably more for the surrounding sites than the city itself. They have numerous (free) museums which we didn’t see because we figured all the plaques would be written in whatever language these foreigners write in.

Edinburgh… sans toilets

Welp, Carolyn warned me that not many people would “get it.” And I think she was right. In our last post we put up a whole bunch of pictures of signs that said “toilet.” I thought today’s technology-savvy people would automatically know that nowadays you can’t trust every picture you see. But I guess I’m too good of a Photoshopper- ha ha! The truth is that when both Carolyn and I spotted the first few “To Let” signs, we had the same immediate reaction in that we both thought they spelled “toilet,” until we paused a second and read them a little closer. There were so many of those signs everywhere, I came up with the idea of inserting the “i” and having a bit of fun with it.

As you can see, there’s no such thing as an 8,000 sq. ft. toilet (albeit possibly subdivided). The one on the left is the original, the one on the right had the crap Photoshopped out of it, or into it as it were. Still, Edinburgh sure seemed to have a lot of storefronts available for lease, it was hard to let some of the to let signs go by without having to let in another to let shot.

That said, other than quasi-toilet pictures, we promise all our other photographs are 100% genuine, just like the one below. We spotted Barack across the plaza, and while he was initially a little annoyed to be bothered for a photo, I told him it was for a good cause (I can’t remember what, I just muttered something liberal). After spending a little time with us, he got a little clingy, as celebrities seem to do with us for some reason. This shot captured Carolyn trying to whisper, “How do we get rid of him?”

Other than asking them to name the only black President in American history, there were two main questions we were dying to ask the Scottish upon our arrival. This first was, “What do they really wear under their kilts?” We received a reply from an old gentleman who gently pointed toward a rack of refrigerator magnets for sale to help us find our answer. Indeed, it is a little known fact that if you really want to understand anything, look for the appropriate refrigerator magnet. Just another little factoid they don’t bother teaching you in school! Or maybe they did teach us, but it went in one rear and right out the other.

The second question was what the proper pronunciation of Edinburgh was. The response sounded pretty much like “Ed in burro.” Coincidentally, that happens to be one of several reasons Ed’s wife doesn’t let him go to Tijuana anymore.

Thus armed with a complete lack of desire to flip up any man-wearing kilts (any females in kilts might just have gotten the better of my curiosity) as well as the deep, comprehensive, and utterly important knowledge as to how to pronounce Edinburgh, we confidently traversed the city like two non-Scots in a Scottish city, with this gorgeous architecture constantly looming over us like a bunch of gorgeous looming architecture.

Speaking of looming, this is the Nelson Monument, obviously named after Callum Stewart Campbell of Madeupname.com fame. Believe it or not this is actually a telescope. It’s an upturned telescope (as opposed to the ones that point straight down), and was built between 1807 and 1815. Unfortunately, it’s now closed until further notice for unknown reasons, although I reckon it’s possible it’s because they finally figured out “Nelson” isn’t anywhere in Callum Stewart Campbell’s name, and they have no idea who Nelson was.

WIth its hilly landscape, awesome views can be had for everyone except the blind. Oh stop, that’s not offensive, the blind can’t even read this!

Charming side streets led every which way, reminding us of much of the charm of Lisbon, except they always drive on the left in Scotland, and they only do that half the time in Portugal.

Even a Radisson Hotel looks like something from the 15th century, although as we all know that would be impossible because they hadn’t invented credit cards or room service yet.

There’s so much old stuff around Edinburgh that they even build buildings around tombs. This was in the basement of a restaurant, just outside the toilets, which is handy because the tomb can be blamed for bad smells if they forget to clean the Water Closet for a while. Ooh, look at me talking all European and everything, saying “water closet.” I feel so sopissticated!

As long as we’re on the subject of tombs, we explored a couple of cemeteries and found one of my ancestors. Anderson is such an unusual last name it surely has to be one of my forebears! Or fivewolves!

We often take pictures of hobbit-sized doors, but it’s not often we see hobbit-sized hallways! This was in our hotel; we can only say thank God they made the door open inward. If they hadn’t, whatever crew was in there might find more appropriate accommodations in one of the tombs above. Of course, that actually may be intentional, as an ingenious way to keep your staff in shape. “Just go right through the Skinny Hallway to get your paycheck!”

Nothing screams Scottish more than kilts and bagpipes (other than Scottish McPherson’s mother I suppose, who was always getting after him for peeking up men’s kilts). The twosome on the left combined guitar and the bagpipes for a rather distinctive sound. The guy on the right is playing for cash and photos. A bunch of blowhards, I tell ya.

We were visiting shortly after Queen Elizabeth died. People laid all sorts of flowers in a small park near the the Palace of Holyroodhouse, pictured on the right. One of the most famous streets in Edinburgh is the Royal Mile, with the Edinburgh Castle on one end and the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the other. I assume the palace was named by a Japanese tourist who took a wrong turn on his way to Los Angeles.

The Royal Mile is chockablock with stores selling kilts, tartan clothing & scarves, whiskey, shortbread cookies, bare-butted refrigerator magnets, and as you can see, angels. This restaurant apparently specializes in angels with bagpipes (not sure who eats what), which is surely meant to be a humorous contradiction in terms because everyone knows Jesus hated bagpipes: “And lo! And behold! Verily I say unto you and to all thoust family, refrain thusly from all bagpipiness, as it is certainly an affront to the ears of God, man, and even the lowliest of beasts!” I can’t remember exactly which verse that came from, but I’m pretty sure it’s right after he turned the water into wine and then right after that turned the bagpipes into electric guitars. I understand quite the party resulted, although of course the best parts were edited out.

I also got a kick out of these two businesses. American Candy & Soda was wall-to-wall with every type of American candy you’ve ever heard of, and some you probably haven’t. Some of it appeared to be leftovers from flavors that didn’t quite catch on, like blueberry-flavored Snickers. We also saw some M&M’s that were obviously a bad batch because they were spelled with “W&W.” Still others were candies and candy bars I hadn’t seen since childhood, when my older brother stole them from my Halloween stash. But at least the restaurant on the right was able to tell us where to go for “proper” fish & chips. I was starting to get tired of the improper ones. BTW, I hated getting fish & chips in my Halloween bag. My brother never stole those.

Some more of the beautiful architecture around the city. I mean, if you can’t get charmed by all this charm, you need to go back to charm school!

Speaking of charming, one of the tourist attractions on the Royal Mile included playing with these owls. Owls are one of the most remarkable creatures on the planet, truly.

Back in 2019, Carolyn got to hold an owl in Mafra, Portugal. Here she’s receiving instructions from the trainer as to exactly what she should do if the owl happens to bite her nose off.

After a long day of sightseeing and looking up kilts, it was time to eat. Carolyn’s eating improper fish & chips, and that’s my meat pie in the foreground, washed down with a bit of beer foam.

Edinburgh quickly worked its way up the ranks of our favorite cities. With its beautiful buildings, long history, and of course the absolutely delightful Scottish accents, it’s a place anyone can love. However, we did do an underground tour (no photos allowed), and I gotta tell ya, as great as the city is today, living in it back in the old days was not for the faint of heart. Between buckets of sewage being thrown about and single-room housing inhabited by entire families… of both rats and people, it was a big stinking (literally) mess. In fact, Edinburgh used to be known as the “Auld Reekie” and was even named the “smelliest city in the world” as late as 2003 by a travel website.

Which is why we bought a couple of crow’s beak masks as soon as we landed. That mask was actually invented for use by doctors during the plague, thinking that crows would scare off the demons causing all of it. The guy who wore it longer than anyone lived in Edinburgh, but is now thought to have survived the whole thing simply because he had been immune. But after the plague was over and he demanded the agreed-upon payment from the city for his services, he was strung along for years until he finally died of other causes. Apparently the city hadn’t ever allocated the money to pay him, thinking he’d never survive the job. I hope he haunted the hell out of them.

Maybe not the World’s End yet (depending on what our modern day Russian Hitler does), but it is the end of this blog entry!

Edinburgh is lovely… except for all the toilets

It was a lifelong dream fulfilled for Carolyn, who wanted to see Scotland ever since she was smitten by Scotty’s accent in Star Trek when she was three years old. But since we couldn’t beam ourselves there, we channeled Planes, Trains, and Automobiles instead. We flew a plane into Edinburgh, took a train to Glasgow, and then rented a car and drove all around the rest of Scotland. Fortunately, we avoided most of the mishaps experienced by the characters played by Steve Martin and John Candy, although at one point in the far north we did feel a bit like these guys. “What do you figure the temperature is?”

“One.”

Ok, I guess our movie would have to be Planes, Busses, Trains, and Automobiles,” because we took a bus from the airport to downtown Edinburgh. This is the very first thing we saw as we stepped off the bus and scrambled for our iPhones. I mean, a TK Maxx very first thing! How lucky were we? (Actually, TK Maxx is the same company as TJ Maxx in the US. They changed the name to TK because they had a competitor in the UK named TJ Hughes and wanted to avoid confusion. And that, unlike many of the fun facts in this blog, is completely true.)

Nothing says Edinburg Scotland like Kentucky Fried Chicken! Hello back at ya, you crispy hunks of hormonally enhanced chicken coated in chemicalized carbohydrates and then deep fried in delicious liquid plaquiness!

Also true.

The first thing you notice in Edinburgh is the imposing buildings next to the castle that oversee the main part of the modern city. It’s a magnificent skyline, and really makes it difficult to think of Edinburg as anything but impressive and beautiful. Just like you…mostly because you’re reading this which obviously makes you impressive and beautiful.

These are the views of and from the inside of the castle. Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortified locations in Europe, and is also the most besieged place in all of Britain. I’m thinking the Scots must’ve won in the end, because everywhere we looked all the writing was in Scottish.

From afar I thought this was a church. Turns out it’s a Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It is the second largest monument to a writer in the world after the José Martí monument in Havana. You’re welcome for giving you some great answers for your next trivia contest.

Edinburgh is well-trained.

So is Carolyn.

“Wait- wha-? Whap Whap! Ow! Whap! Whap! Whap! Okay okay, I give!”

I guess she’s not well-trained after all– “Ouch!”

I don’t think there are many places in the world that still have telephone booths. This phone actually works: I picked up the receiver gingerly with two fingers after pouring most of a bottle of rubbing alcohol over the entire mechanism, donning rubber gloves, and then a gas mask. Can you believe we used to just grab those things and rub our lips on strangers’ spit residue just to make a collect call from prison? I mean, er, some of you, not me, he he. Anyway, after retiring this booth from being a Covid Hot Spot, I think it has now been converted to a canvas for graffiti artists. Albeit with a working phone in case they need to order more spray paint from Amazon.

This peak is named Arthur’s Seat, apparently because King Arthur had a really flat butt or something. You can walk up there for a great view of Edinburgh, but we saved all the effort by staying at the bottom and just holding a mirror toward them so we could see what they were seeing without doing all that walking. Genius!

Seems that no matter where we go, Roman ruins follow us around. You’d think after all these years they’d be stationary, but no-o-o. Actually, they tricked us, because this is the National Monument of Scotland, and is a memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. I would’ve thought they’d have made a carving out of neapolitan ice cream or something instead. I’m pretty sure that’s me thinking of a funnier joke when I took the picture, and that’s Carolyn, pretending it was.

In addition to never being far from Roman ruins, it seems Portuguese things are now following us everywhere as well. They call this the Portuguese Cannon even though it was made in Spain. The Spanish have never forgiven the Portuguese for this slight, which is why to this day they get very agitated whenever you point a loaded cannon at them.

Ok, I’m sure I’ve already lost half our readers because we’re way past the Tweet Maximum, which is where the eyeballs of most people start rolling into the back of their heads because there are way too many woooords! So I’ll interrupt this blogcast with what I meant by the headline of “Edinburgh is lovely… except for all the toilets” before any remaining readers lapse into a coma.

You see, as we walked around that beautiful city, I couldn’t help but notice signs and/or advertisements (maybe warnings?) everywhere for toilets.

I mean, you see a sign like this and think, “Hmm, pretty big sign for a toilet, but whatever.”

And then you see another, guessing that they have to advertise because it’s on an upper floor.

And then you see them getting pretty specific with what they’re for. We assume the “WBF” stands for “Wide Butt Fit.” This would have worked well right next to the KFC. Despite the Wide Butt Fit, they do accept all inquiries. Now I’m wondering, is “inquiries” the word the Scottish use for fart? “Excuse me, I just inquired.” Hmm. Not a bad ring to it and with that you can admit that you farted right in front of the Pope.

They even had competing toilets right next to each other. I mean, c’mon, are the Scots simply defecation crazy or what?

We took this shot mostly because Slug and Lettuce has got to be one of the weirdest names for a pub in the history of pub-naming. It may explain how the toilet craze started, however. Note the toilet advertised right upstairs. I’d be running up the steps in a hurry if I’d just taken a bite out of a slug in my salad too.

This left us with a whole host of questions. Why is toiletry so lucrative in Scotland? Do they make sure you’re done with it before they sell it out from under you? Is it only “may sell” if you bomb it so bad they have no other choice? So many questions, but as friendly as the Scots were, they all gave us weird looks when we asked about Scottish toilet traditions.

I have to say I’ve never in my life seen such a big advertisement for a used toilet.

And what the hell is a yard toilet? Are the Scots mad? On a separate note in regards to that lower sign, what’s Kebabish? Kind of like a kebab but not quite? And does that have anything to do with all these toilets? And don’t get me started as to why David didn’t just give them the street.

I tell you, traveling in a foreign country can be confusing!

With all this toilet obsession, I can now see why they sell tissues by the actual buttload. Yep, that package of toilet paper is the literal definition and official measurement of buttload.

Overall, we saw so many signs for toilets, I just started snapping away. You will not believe it:

And yeah, in that last photo, an 8,000 square foot toilet?? Even Donald Trump doesn’t need one that big!

In this one they get all fancy with the lettering, capitalizing the Let in Toilet. Like it’s French or something.

Finally, this photo helped me to understand exactly what is going on.

Does it for you?

Aaaggh! I’m trippin’ out!

One of the goals of this blog was to keep track of all the places we’ve been. It can be a bit of a blur to try and remember each trip, especially when every couple of months we find ourselves galavanting around Europe like a couple of international jewel thieves evading Interpol.

But you know it’s really bad (or you’re just getting too damn old) when you forget to do the thing you’re supposed to do so you won’t forget the thing you did before you forget you ever did it. Or something.

Anyway, I realized the post before this was about Paris, including our unforgettable trip to Bruuuuuuuge, but that we left a couple of things out and I got so wrapped up in, um, being retired I guess, that I forgot to post them.

Like the Eiffel Tower here. I can’t figure out how my iPhone was able to see through my ‘shroom haze (to demonstrate my vast knowledge of hallucinogenics, I once called shrooms “stools,” to the great amusement of anyone within earshot), but obviously the Eiffel and I were tripping big time for a while. Fortunately, only good trips get blogged on Bald Sasquatch.

During our Parisian excursion, one of the places we drove to (apparently too quickly, I’ve now expanded my country speeding ticket collection to include Luxembourg, Spain, and France) was Fontainebleau, also known as “The Poor Man’s Versailles…” as long as your definition of “poor man” is “less rich than a couple of people in the world.”

The Palace of Fontainebleau served as a residence for a number of French monarchs, from Louis VII to Napoleon III to Fred KJSU (if they can use letters for numbers I can too!). As with Versailles, the palace is positively dripping with opulence. In fact, there was so much opulence-dripping we had to bring umbrellas, and while doing so I invented a new hands-free way to carry them around. ©2022 BaldSasquatch.com so you can’t steal the idea.

Carolyn, on the other hand, reacted like the mushroom tea just kicked in when the rain started pouring. After five years, I think she’s forgotten all about Oregon rain, so she was pretty amazed over the whole thing.

Fontainebleau translates to: “blue fountain.” (I bet you never could’ve figured that out… but it does mean every time you use the toilet in an airliner you’re pretty much doing the Fontainebleau. By the way, it’s good to announce in a loud voice that you’re “going to the Fontainebleau!” on a French airline so they’ll be impressed).

Fontainebleau is actually a welcome respite compared to Versailles, mostly because of the crowds, or lack thereof. Everyone goes to Versailles because it’s close to Paris, but apparently 55 kilometers (or 34 miles with the Caveman Measuring System) is too far to go to see even more, as the French say, of the “Three Big O’s:” opulent, ornate, and ostentatious. For some reason, the best words to describe these places all begin with an “O.” That’s why the royal seal has an opossum on it. Of course, the Brits decided to jab at the French by taking the “O” out of “possum.” But, did anyone ever pronounce the “O?” The Opossum/Possum saga has always baffled me. It is the same animal, right? No wonder they play dead all the time, we’ve confused the hell out of them.

Imagine driving to this home from a long day at work. I’d probably feel even more tired just realizing I was going to have to walk a half a mile to the bathroom. Keep in mind they hadn’t invented those speakers some American houses had, you know, the ones that no one ever used. I think the people who thought they were a good idea completely forgot that yelling had already been invented. Especially in big families.

If you want to know how effective propaganda can be, Napoleon (I get confused at all the Napoleons, III, IV, whatever. When I think of Napoleon I think of that short guy who conquered lots of places and was always itching his belly button when his portrait was painted), was actually of average height for the time. The Brits threw shade at him just to make him seem less impressive. Of course the French threw shade right back by making sure everyone in the world thought that English cuisine sucked. Oh wait, is it still propaganda if it’s true? Anyway, you can see here that obviously Carolyn could have pounded the crap out of the little guy, but since the average height of most people was two stone and forty quid (I don’t know what those things mean, but I like to pretend to sound like I do), it’s obvious he would’ve had to tap out while she squeezed the life out of him with her thighs. Sadly, if she would’ve really been alive back then at her current height, they would’ve probably either jailed her for being too threatening or used her as a circus freak.

Napoleon the Belly Button Fondler actually sat upon this throne.

Sure, they didn’t have telephones back then, but they figured out plenty of other ways to keep abreast of developments around the country.

It’s kind of funny to think that one of the world’s most powerful men used this as a bathtub. Based on all the other opulence, I would’ve thought he would’ve had a tub the size of an olympic swimming pool. Did you know they used to allow commoners to drink Napoleon’s bath water in order to “give them the strength and wisdom of an emperor?” No? I didn’t either, I just made that up. I have, however, always wondered if a Pope’s excrement is considered holy shit. Holy shit! I can’t believe I wrote that.

The first Royal Decorator who suggested the idea of “white space” was immediately beheaded. The subsequent designers got the hint.

Here, a globe symbolizes what the earth would look like if it existed in a wooden stand in a big long room.

Like Adolph Hitler, Napoleon was a wanna-be artist. But while Hitler had some actual artistic talent (gawd why didn’t someone give him a job as an artist- the world would’ve been spared a lot of misery!), the only talent Napoleon had was threatening to behead anyone who didn’t think his drawings were awesome. “Ooh, Nappy, you captured the splashes so perfectly!” she says as she silently puzzles over why the man is peeing out of his feet.

It’s a little known fact that the only reason Napoleon ended up invading a couple of countries is because he took a wrong turn trying to find his bedroom.

I took a picture of these guys just in case they are famous, because they were being filmed while performing a rap song in front of the palace. So if they are famous and you know who they are, be sure to drop me a line so I can add to my strut a little at having been so close to fame. Ooh, I get all tingly at the hopeful prospect!

Here follows the rest of the pictures of Fontainebleau. I completely forgot which hilarious and/or witty comment I was going to make about each of them. But trust me, you’d be rolling right now if I wasn’t too old to remember, um, whatever thing I was supposed to remember just then. Time for a nap!

This is the actual town of Fontainebleau. Nothing particularly special, the palace is the only reason you’d really want to go there I think. Although we had a delightful lunch.

Don’t follow my example. I learned the hard way what happens when you speed in France. I would’ve thought one cop van would’ve been enough, but no-o-o-o.

Oh crap- I almost forgot. That was going to be the end of this post, but I just saw my folder full of shots of the Louvre. I’ll make it quick, because I know you probably have a text to see on your phone or something to itch soon.

A very nice benefit of being at a place the second time is that you can just take this shot of the Mona Lisa from the entrance to the room and call it good. Either that, or I thought that bald guy was incredibly interesting and Mona was just photobombing me.

Napoleon also lived at the Louvre (clocking in at a paltry 652,300 square feet or 60,600 square meters) as well as Fontainebleau, because of course one ostentatious, opulent, ornate residence is hardly enough to befit an emperor. In fact, he only used this room to change his socks.

I took these shots because I had something hilarious to say about ostriches, but damned if I can remember what it was. So do me a favor and snort a bit for me while you look at these so we can pretend to wring a little humor out of it all anyway. Maybe it was ostrichtatious? Damn. I give up.

OK, I can’t top that ostrich joke (if I ever think of it), so here are the rest of the Louvre shots:

Last but not least, this is an actual picture of my eye. A store in the Louvre markets this, selling you both an electronic and printed image of your eye. But the actual truth is, now that you’ve looked into the all-seeing eye, I’ll always be able to watch you. In fact, there’s a little broccoli in your teeth. I’m glad to see you’re eating well, but you might want to take care of that before you get botulism. Or rabies.

In Bruges with Colin Farrell

Back in 2008, a movie named In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes, was released to the theaters. As I watched it I found myself smitten by the scenery of the locale. It looked completely authentic; I was certain it wasn’t filmed on a sound stage. I left the theater hoping that some day I’d be able to see the town in person.

Like so many actors, Colin’s not that tall, but I still have a bit of a man crush on him. He is a hoot to watch on screen.

So when we ended up in Paris for the third time, I noticed that Bruges was only a three hour drive away. Since my friend Colin Farrell had been bugging me for a meet-up anyway, I decided to give him a call and we agreed to meet in Bruges. He said he’s always felt bad that one of his first lines in the movie was, “What a shithole.”

Because of course Bruges is anything but.

If you haven’t seen In Bruges, and can deal with a bit of violence and a lot of cursing (it’s about a couple of hitmen after all, and as we all know hitmen are always swearing up a blue streak; it’s why I never invite them over to dinner with my parents), then you’ll find yourself enjoying a delightful and droll comedy/thriller. The bonus is that the setting is so charming, even after over a dozen years its siren song was still calling out to me. I watched it again when we returned home, and sure enough, we had wandered through virtually every outdoor scene in the movie. Much of it was filmed right in the main town square. Additionally, the movie’s charm held up for me all these many years later, so it was a win all the way around.

Colin couldn’t spend all day with us because I’d already told him numerous times that no one wants to spend all day with an actor, but he did ask us for some photos because he understands that most people wouldn’t believe we are friends without the photographic evidence. We assured him that the evidence wasn’t really necessary, and that we’d be happy to confirm to any of his friends that we all knew each other. He seemed satisfied with that. We don’t only associate with royalty, after all; we can slum it with the best of them.

Colin poses with Carolyn after calling after us across the square. We didn’t recognize him at first, but fortunately this blog has made us world famous so he recognized us right away. Crisis averted!

Of course we had to get a shot in front of The Belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower in the center of old town, originally built around 1240. We didn’t see any bats in the belfry. But here’s a funny little anecdote: we decided not to walk up all the stairs to get to the top because, well, Colin’s a smoker and we didn’t think he could make it without hacking up a lung. The good news is some of the scenes in the movie were filmed right in the tower, so when I rewatched the movie I could see all the scenery we missed! There wasn’t as much shooting in real life, however.

Like just about every town in the universe with canals, Bruges is often called “the Venice of…” in this case, the North.” I suppose there must be a “Venice of Mars.” I call my inner ear “The Venice of my Skull.” The rest is alimentary, my dear Watson.

Here Colin is just being Colin, he simply had to take his shirt off to show off a little, joking that he was going to dive into the canal. Carolyn suggested he put his shirt back on, but only after tossing his shirt in the water so she could ogle his trim physique for a while longer. Oh behave Carolyn!

After drying off and making yet another wardrobe change, one of the horse & buggy drivers recognized him and stopped her carriage. Colin did what Colin has done for us numerous times over the years and bought us a ride. I mean, even I would have stopped for that hunk of roasted man meat if I were driving the carriage, so I can’t blame a pretty blonde!

He wanted so badly to ride with us, but we told him we really preferred a romantic ride on our own, and it was probably best that he be on his way anyway. I mean, you can only play with a Colin for so long before things get, you know, irritated. He begged to buy us lunch, but we demurred and I gave him a big hug and thanked him for the ride and sent him on his way. What a special treat to see such a charming city and at the same time catch up with our good friend! Good luck to you Colin! I hope your next movie is better than Alexander!

We finished off the ride with a nice tour of the town. It was not only romantic, but also helped us make sure that we’d seen all there was to see… although it’s not a very big town so it wasn’t a very long ride. But now that Colin was out of our hair (well, Carolyn’s anyway, but maybe my beard hair?), we were free to explore without any more interruptions. I mean, he’s a nice guy and all, but just a little clingy.

Swans live up to 20 years in the wild, and mate for life. Here’s some other swan trivia for you: the term “swan song” came to be because swans supposedly sing the most beautifully before they die. The term originated in ancient Greek culture, with the first written reference in 458 BC. That’s a couple thousand years of swan song hits!

Way down upon the Swanee River, far, far away.
That’s where my heart is yearning ever, home where the old folks stay
!

If you were to base your understanding of Belgian cuisine solely by using Bruges as your guide, you might come away with the idea that the three main Belgian food groups are waffles, chocolate, and beer (in fact, Belgium used to serve light beer to kids in grade school).

I’d never really given a lot of consideration to the thought that Belgian waffles were any more of a thing than, say, French toast or English muffins. But it appears the Belgians either take their Belgian waffles very seriously or simply got tired of answering tourists’ questions about where they could score some Belgian waffles. Also, it seemed as if every other store was a chocolate shop. We also saw plenty of macarons, which make for pretty pictures.

Here’s some true chocolate trivia for you: Belgium produces more than 220,000 tons of chocolate per year, and Belgium’s Zaventem airport has the highest number of chocolate sales in the world.

As you can see, Bruges is charming beyond words, it really is the quintessential medieval tourist town. In fact, Bruges became one of the world’s first tourist destinations back in the second half of the 19th century, so this town is old hat at putting out the tourist shingle.

In Dutch, the name is spelled Brugg, and is pronounced Brooj. The name probably derives from the Old Dutch for ‘bridge’: brugga. Why it was turned into “Bruges” in English is beyond me, other than maybe someone was confused about the two g’s and called it, you know, “Bru with the g’s,” and so eventually just became Bruges. But it’s still pronounced Brooj.

Bruges is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. While it was occupied by the Germans during the war, no significant damage was done either time it changed hands, even to the waffles.

A fitting picture for all the people who skimmed over all my words while only thinking, “Blah blah blah.” Yeah, well they named a hotel just for you buddy!

Third Time’s the French Charm!

For some reason it took three visits, but after our third visit to Paris I came away realizing that you know what? The French are actually a very nice and friendly people!

I have no idea if my belief that they were rude, snooty, and snobbish was instilled by the ever-competitive Brits or the Americana belief system whereby everyone who’s not American must have something wrong with them, but for pretty much all my life I have felt some degree of disdain over the haughtiness of the French. Indeed, if you were to go back into this blog, I’m sure I poked fun at that more than once.

We’d definitely rather deal with pickpockets than mass shooters.

But after some very enjoyable restaurant meals with animated and friendly servers, as well as interacting with helpful guides at the Louvre and elsewhere, engaging in friendly banter when buying anything, or saying, “Bonjour” to strangers as we passed by and actually getting the same in response, it dawned on me that we’d been giving the French, and especially Parisians, the short shrift all this time. Obviously, in any big city there are going to be people in a hurry, or who are abrupt, or who want to pickpocket you, but overall this visit completely changed my outlook on the French. I’m sure they can all rest comfortably now.

The funny thing about Paris for us is that only the very first visit was planned. We went there again a few years ago when our flight from Crete to Athens was delayed, so we ended up booking a flight to Paris because the next flight to Lisbon was god-awful expensive for some reason, and decided to stay there most of another week (one of the benefits of being retired!). This time, we only went because my son and his family were coming to visit so we thought we’d show them one of the world’s most beautiful cities, but alas, major surgery scuttled those plans and they couldn’t make it this time. But we had non-cancellable tickets we didn’t want to let go to waste, so here we go again!

Obviously, once in Paris, the first thing you enjoy seeing is the Eiffel Tower, even if you’ve already seen it multiple times. As we drove in from the airport, I couldn’t help but wonder why it looked so skinny as compared to my memory of it. It really flummoxed me until Carolyn gently pointed out that what I was gawking at wasn’t the Eiffel Tower. “Oh, of course I knew that!” I said haughtily while quickly pocketing my iPhone.

One thing we did experience in Paris this trip was a lot of crazy traffic. Traffic jams were everywhere. We saw more car accidents in five days in Paris than we have the previous five years in Portugal. And we thought the Portuguese were crazy drivers! I have no idea if what we experienced was the norm or if everyone in Paris was upset that there was an American couple using their roads, but I was just glad that we didn’t have our own accident, especially since many car rental companies in Europe pull out a magnifying glass and try to charge you for even the smallest scratch when you return the car. We used Sixt this time, but never again. I think it may be their business model to rent cars with the tiniest of dings on them and then charge the customers 300 euros for a ten cent repair that isn’t even needed especially because no one would have noticed it in the first place. But now, with the power of the BaldSasquatch blog, we’ll bring them to their knees! Take that you Sixt bastards!

During our first foray into Paris we turned a corner and unexpectedly directly up ahead was that iconic structure. Despite the fact that we’ve seen it now a number of times, it still looks impressive. There’s little doubt you’re in Paris when you see the Eiffel Tower! Unless you’re in Las Vegas.

In the wild, cranes flock together for safety.

The architecture throughout Paris is so striking and beautiful. This visit reminded us that the center of Paris, with its gorgeous buildings, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the gardens, the museums, the River Seine, and so much more, makes it one of the most beguiling cities in the world. Even UNESCO is headquartered in Paris. I’m surprised they have the time to investigate any heritage sites outside of the city!

Everywhere you look, there are flowers, expansive gardens, magnificent old buildings, old farts posing, and even Doors of the Day.

As if that weren’t enough, they even have one of the world’s longest urban motorway tunnels. Once you’re in, you’re committed to a 10.1 km (6.3 mi) journey underground, claustrophobia or no. The ceiling is low because it’s only for cars… and truckers who have been pining away for a convertible.

I suppose this is appropriate time for a segue to show pictures of the Catacombs, because, you know, it’s underground, potential death lurks around every corner, and no one’s driving an AMC Pacer.

First, they make you walk down 3 or 4 or 50 flights of stairs (we lost count when thinking about walking back up) and then about a hundred miles (lots of kms in old people parlance) through this tunnel.

Once you survive that, you come face-to-face, er, skull-to-skull, with thousands of remnants of people who used to breathe, fight, make love, kick their dog… but never drove an AMC Pacer. And yet died anyway.

It’s estimated that there are over 200 miles of tunnels underneath Paris. The Catacombs were originally created due to overcrowding in the cemeteries. By the 18th century, they had grown so overcrowded those who lived close to them complained of strong odors and even started to get sick themselves. Kind of like living next to Steve Jobs in his fruitarian heyday.

This is called The Barrel. I always wanted to be a bone artist. I wonder if the Portuguese would mind if I dug up a few graves?

I swear I didn’t notice anything amiss until after we got home and I saw it on my laptop and photoshopped it.

My final analysis is that if you are really itching to see human bones, the Catacombs will do the trick, although the Chapel of Bones in in Evora, Portugal will scratch the same itch for a lot less money and a lot less walking underground. Since we are veterans of the Chapel of the Bones, it didn’t do as much for us as it might have. But who knows, we might feel different to-marrow.

We’ll finish off this chapter with something much more pleasant, and one of the things that no one can argue with: French food. We ate too many pastries, but you know, when in Rome, er- Paris…

And here, Portugal was born

If you’re gonna explore anything, it can sometimes be beneficial to go all the way back to the beginning… just like when you go on an enjoyable first date and subsequently request all their birth records and visit their birth hospital just to make sure everything’s on the up and up before you agree to see them again.

With that in mind, during our wanderings around north Portugal, we made a pit stop in Guimarães, which is known as as the birthplace of Portugal, to see if we should give Portugal a second date.

It didn’t take us long to find the actual birthplace, mostly because they have a big sign that says Aqui Nasceu Portugal: Here Was Bornded Portugal.

(They must have cleaned up all the afterbirth and stuff because we didn’t see anything like that anywhere near the sign, but since the sign wasn’t graffiti we decided to believe them.)

The city was settled in the 9th century, and is believed to be the birthplace of Portugal’s first King, Afonso Henriques. Additionally, the the Battle of São Mamede was fought in the vicinity and is considered the seminal event for the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal. Also, there is evidence that the first ever horse & wagon wreck happened there, which led to future generations of crazy Portuguese drivers.

You might be shocked to learn that other than that, our main interest in the town was the Castle of Guimarães. Who woulda thunk? Next to the castle is a 15th century Ducal Palace. It was a sort of two-for-one deal, so all the pictures are sort of muddled up together.

So hmm hmm, most of our pictures of the town were of the castle and palace. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable 10th century castle, preserved just the right amount, with of course the standard gorgeous views of the countryside. We were castle-sated that day!

As you can see, the rest of Guimarães, with its UNESCO World Heritage Site historic town center, is as charming and beautiful as any Portuguese town.

We interrupt this blog to present the view we had from our apartment rental above Braga. A treasured view every time we returned from our explorations:

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Of course, no visit to northern Portugal would be complete without a stop in Povoa de Lanhoso. We only say that because we did stop there.

But Povoa de Lanhoso is a great example as to the difference between living in Europe casually driving around without a plan, and visiting Europe from overseas and acting like a crazed Portuguese driver just to get to every one of the places on the Top Ten Best Things to See list you found on the internet. Because we live here, we’re able to wander around and find all sorts of treasures; places that wouldn’t otherwise have earned much of a mention. But some of these have become our very favorite spots.

For instance, we found a cute little monastery on a hill with a small castle, just minding its own business and not bothering anybody.

The views it offered were as good as any we’ve seen in even the most major castles in Portugal.

Although as usual we were endlessly fascinated at how little protection they offered between visitors and certain death. They had this little rope fence for part of it, but otherwise a toddler could easily wander out there, start with a small somersault, and not stop rolling until he became a hood ornament for one of those cars.

There was also a nice little restaurant on top of the hill. We decided to have lunch there and very much enjoyed the experience. They even gave Carolyn a rose, and we’re still pretty sure it wasn’t some sort of unusual North Portugal dessert. Didn’t taste like it to me anyway.

As you can tell by these photos, we really did like the food. Everyone always takes photos of their plates before they eat, but here at BaldSasquatch, we prove to you that the food actually tasted great by showing you the aftermath!

Ultimately, this tip of a hill with its tiny castle, monastery, and restaurant provided another great off-the-beaten-path place that we very much enjoyed.

Another excellent example of that is our visit to Citânia de Briteiros.

What is Citânia de Briteiros you ask? Oh, pshaw, who hasn’t heard of Citânia de Briteiros? For you geography luddites, Citânia de Briteiros is an archaeological site that dates back to the Iron Age. The Iron Age dates back about 3,000 years ago, which is the same as if some archeologist in the year 5000 finds this blog. Think about that. The year 5000. You have to go about halfway through the song In The Year 2525 just to get to that date, and they go all the way to 9595!

We honestly didn’t expect much out of Citânia de Briteiros, it simply popped up on Google Maps while we were driving around and we were in the vicinity so we tracked it down, thinking there might be a good fish & chips restaurant there.

Turns out it was an absolute charmer, despite the lack of fish & chips. It is one of the most excavated sites in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula, with evidence of settlements beginning at the Iron Age and extending into the Bronze and the Middle Ages, where it grew a little too much belly fat and died of a heart attack. Yes folks, middle age spread kills!

Essentially, one is able to wander around and imagine what it might be like to live in an Iron Age town. The inhabitants are believed to have been Celtic. One can almost hear the children playing basketball while one walks on the many paths that run through the remains of their village. Oops, Little Fattie Ferdinand just rolled off one of the cliffs… and he hasn’t stopped rolling! That’s pretty much all they had for entertainment back then: watch kids roll off the hills and make new ones.

The town was so extensive we even got lost. “Let’s see, I’m pretty sure we were supposed to take a right at the McDonalds…”

Fortunately, they left up the ancient signs for the toilets. I think it stands for Bowelevium Movium, but my Latin is a little rusty.

Last but not least, we’re happy to officially announce that Waldo has been found! Yep, he was working groceries in northern Portugal this whole time! Sorry you’re gonna have to throw out all those Where’s Waldo books, because the mystery is solved!

And thus completes our trip to the north of Portugal!

In Gerês, the Pretty Women Look Like Cows

I was under the impression that The Peneda-Gerês National Park (normally just called “Gerês”) was home to the Richard Gere family, and that we might experience sightings of either Richard or some hookers that look like Hollywood movie stars, because of course we all know most hookers look like Julia Roberts.

But we had to settle for a bunch of Barrosão (or Barrosã) cattle. They might also be known as Cachena, it’s a little confusing to us non-dairy creamer– er farmers. Anyway, whatever you call them, they are a breed of “triple-purpose cattle,” (I’m thinking the triple purpose means milk, meat, and playing extras in movies) native to Spain and Portugal. The ones we saw may not actually have been in any movies, but they sure meandered down the road like they were on a red carpet. Plus they refused autographs. Udderly entitled cows. Pssh.

Gerês is the oldest protected area and the only national park in Portugal. So we decided to take a drive through it and see what all the fuss was about. To be honest, there wasn’t any fuss. Sometimes we just make things up for dramatic effect. We like to horse around, like some of Gerês’s taxis.

The park covers an area of about 696 square kilometers, or 269 square miles, which is about the size of the country of Bahrain. While Bahrain is home to over 1.7 million people, only about 9,000 Portuguese live in Gerês. So I’m just spitballin’ here, but if Bahrain ever runs out of room… just sayin’. Anyway, above are the top scenic shots from the drive as voted on by so, so many of our loyal readers.

There are also a number of megalithic (which means “very big lithic”) structures and Roman ruins in the area, but we mostly just gawked at nature’s natural beauty because we couldn’t find any lithics at all, no matter how hard we didn’t try.

Dam.

To the west of Gerês, is the municipality of Viana do Castelo. With a name like that, we were pretty certain there’d be a castle in the vicinity, so we tore through the national park and drove like bats outa hell to see it.

Despite the impressive-looking sign and the promise offered up by a Very Old Wall (or VOW as we castle hunters like to quip condescendingly), the castle was a bust. Not a female-breast-bust, or a statue of someone’s head, but a pure, unadulterated, complete and total bust, as in well sheeit, we passed up additional views of Barrosão asses just for this? There was a hotel in there, but we were so disappointed at the lack of castleness we rated the hotel one star on Yelp.com, even though we never set foot in the place. From the depths of passionate spite came posts that the cockroaches were eating the mice, one of the bathroom tiles looked like it could come loose if you only took a hammer to it, and that there were human feces in the mini-fridge (although we admitted they could have been tootsie rolls). The fact that I accidentally posted all that on our own rentable apartment would actually be funny if I could only figure out how to take it down.

To make up for the lack of castely things in town, they built a big Santuario on top of a hill overlooking the city and the mouth of the Lima river, famous for not ever growing lima beans.

Human settlement in the area began during the Mesolithic (which means “very messy lithic”) era. The Mesolithic is also called the Middle Stoned Age, I think because that’s when they first discovered marijuana. Or maybe it was fentanyl. Either way, it’s obvious that the drugs were bad for them because not a one of those people is still alive today. See what happens when you do drugs, kids?

It was a nice area, but the best thing about it was the views. While we didn’t get our castle, we got 57.6% of what we usually look for out of castles.

This guy had a great view, but list that among the jobs I’d never take, right behind prostitution and being a handler for one of Richard Gere’s pet hamsters.

Why do the Portuguese want to bomb Jesus?

During our visit to Northern Portugal, we spent some time in the city of Braga. While we were wandering the streets, I was startled to discover a couple of signs imploring people to bomb Jesus! “What th–?” I stammered. I mean, the Portuguese are predominantly Catholic, so how can they allow this???

Now, if one were to print a picture of Muhammad for instance, even one where he’s uncharacteristically handsome, you can rest assured that a mob of Muslims will swarm your offices armed with pickaxes, AK-47s, grenades, maybe a small nuke or two, and at least one pair of opened scissors. But what happens when someone says “bomb Jesus?” Nothing! Today’s Christians always get the short shrift when it comes to killing unbelievers!

And so when I saw this restaurant had even changed its name in order to exhort people to commit that violence, I’d had enough. I stormed into the restaurant and demanded to see the owner. While I waited, I grew very suspicious because I noticed that they didn’t even have a water-to-wine bar. Ppphlphth.

Warning: Some Bad Jesuses have mean left hooks.

Well, ahem, it appears we haven’t been paying as much attention to our Portuguese lessons as we should. After hearing me out, he gently reminded me that “bom” means “good” in Portuguese.

To salvage my honor, I harrumphed just a bit and adjusted my pants. “Yeah but, if you’re saying there’s a good Jesus, you’re implying there’s a bad one as well, right? So where is this Bad Jesus?”

At that point, I launched into a diatribe that somehow led to referencing the former Major League baseball player named Jesus Alou. For some reason that only confused matters. Especially since the Portuguese know as much about baseball as Americans know about the color of Putin’s underwear. (My guess: It’s very, very black, just like his soul.)

Speaking of Jesus Alou, why is it mostly only Spanish-speaking people who name their children Jesus? How come no Hindus or Japanese ever do? Jesus Yamamoto would be a bad-ass name name for the leader of a Yakuza gang. Just sayin’.

Anyway, the Portuguese are unfailingly polite, especially to estrangeiros, but I’m telling ya, I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy who ushered me out of that restaurant was Bad Jesus himself. I dusted myself off and proceeded to walk around the sanctuary as if I were just a tourist. Which I was. And am. So there, you can’t take that away from me, Bad Jesus!

The Bom Jesus de Braga Sanctuary overlooks Braga, giving it some of the same appeal we get from castles: gorgeous views, a little bit of history, getting kicked out of restaurants, and being beaten up by Jesus.

Anyway, once we got all the Bom Jesus stuff straightened out, we realized that we were in the middle of another UNESCO heritage site. There are 1,155 of those in the world, and so every time we’re in one, we say, “Cool! That makes only–”(here we invariably find a reason to wipe our hand over our mouth) “…mmnmnmn to go!” All I know is at this rate, in order to see them all, we’ll be finishing off the last one on or about my 153rd birthday. And that’s just a guess because we don’t actually know how many we’ve already seen. Or even how old I am.

Like so much of Europe (actually all of it), it’s old. The occupation and subsequent development of the site as a holy place dates all the way back to the 14th century, when Joe Biden was still just a child.

Braga certainly does look bragworthy from this vantage point. By the way, do they call people who live in Braga Braggadocios?

There are parts of the Bom Jesus complex that are reminiscent of an amusement park, albeit without any rides like “the Roller Coaster of the Eleven Apostles” (Judas was of course kicked off), or the “Log in Your Eye Water Slide,” or “It’s a Small Purgatory.” In fact, there weren’t even any Mary-go-Rounds, which was a major surprise.

For those of you who can’t keep from stairing, there’s a whole set of them you can climb if you’re so inclimbed. I thought if you made it all the way to the top, you’d get some sort of ribbon or sticker or sucker, but no-o-o. Apparently our reward for that will be in heaven. Or maybe the prize was just to see the basilica at the top of the stairs.

I poked my head inside the basilica (note that I didn’t put my foot inside… I’ve sworn I’ll never step foot inside a European church or basilica again, if nothing else out of fear of getting basilicaitis, a known infliction of travelers who have seen one too many ostentatious displays of wealth from those who also tout the importance of helping the poor), and took a couple of photos of what made this particular basilica unique. So now I know how to sneak into a basilica without being caught… unique up on it!

While running up the stairs (okay, yeah, it was a slow crawl with a stop every four steps to put my hands on my knees, but let’s not get caught up in semantics, eh?), I noticed that some of the fountains had water pouring out of different orifices, so I took a picture of each one.

Turns out, it is a thing. The five flights of stairs are interspersed by landings with allegorical sources for the five senses: vision (well, maybe crying like a big baby is more like it), smell (never mind that it looks like he has a bad case of the snots), taste (never mind that it looks like he’s barfing), hearing (quite the bad ear infection!), and nice jugs.

Okay, if you’re skeptical that the last one really is nice jugs, I’d curious to know what sense you think this is portraying? I think they might’ve veered from the five senses idea to the seven deadly sins, and went straight to penis envy, even though the official description lists it as a water jug (yeah, right). Actually, the sense they’re trying to portray is touch, so, um, yeah. Frankly, there have been too many young lives irreparably damaged by predatory priests to make a joke here. Way too many. Truth be told, I’m still a little creeped out by this fountain.

Back to frivolity: if stairing isn’t your thing, you can always take a Tram-a-dol and save your lungs from breathing in all that extra air.

All in all, we felt Bom Jesus was a worthy addition to the “Sights of Braga: The Ones You Gotta See Or You’re Going to Hell” list.

Of course, if you do get sent down there you might meet this hamster, who tried to sneak in a bunch of popcorn to a movie theatre. Shame, hamster! Shame!