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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
During our time in Portugal, various Portuguese people have occasionally asked us where we’ve traveled inside the country, often followed by the question as to whether we’ve ever visited the north. Of course, they’re usually speaking Portuguese, so we just reply, “gracias” and move on.
We had been up to Porto, but never much further north. So in order to allow us to offer a positive answer to that question (“sim” is much easier to pronounce than “não”), we decided to drive up there and see what all the fuss was about. It’s apparent that many Portuguese are proud of the natural beauty of that region, just like I’m proud of the natural beauty who regularly walks by my side, even when she fusses after I occasionally stick a foot out to trip her.
While we were there, we stopped in Barcelos, a town of over 100,000 that is best known in Portugal as the home of the Rooster of Barcelos. If you’ve ever been to Portugal, you will surely have seen all sorts of rooster imagery for sale. It is basically the national symbol of the country. Barcelos is also known as the town with the most parishes per capita in the country. Which may explain all the cocks.
Here’s some background on them from Wikipedia: One of the many legends of the rooster involves the town’s long history along a pilgrimage route. The story involves a wealthy man throwing a grand party, which ended after the silver had gone missing.
Among the guests was a pilgrim, who was accused of theft, and pleaded innocence before a judge. Unswayed by the pilgrim’s claims, the judge sentenced the pilgrim to hang. As final protest, the pilgrim invoked divine intercession: the rooster being prepared for the judge’s dinner would crow three times as proof of his innocence. As the execution approached, the judge at his dinner table watched the roasted bird miraculously crow three times. The judge quickly released the pilgrim, who would later return to Barcelos and commission a statue commemorating the divine providence.
(I don’t think that rooster was done being cooked. No wonder he was screaming like a banshee!)
Perhaps because we were there on a Sunday, we found it to be something of a sleepy little town. We knew there were supposed to be all sorts of examples of “figurado” style of pottery, which are comical figurines of various subjects. We didn’t encounter as many as we thought we would, but you, dear reader, get to avoid all that mucking about and just see ’em all in one sitting! Aren’t you glad you read Bald Sasquatch?
As you can see, there are certainly plenty of “figurados” littered about the town. Although I will say I can’t figure out why they chose a rooster as a national symbol over the guy playing the accordion. I’d take the sound of an accordion over a crowing rooster any day. Actually, maybe not. I just clicked on an accordion song on YouTube and after three minutes my head nearly exploded, and blood is still oozing from my ears.
We were quite excited to be able to wander around town with scant crowds, especially in the age of Covid. The extra nice thing is that it’s great to be able to walk around an open square like that and not worry about a sniper taking us down from one of those windows… like it was for me in the war, or like it is now in Ukraine, or a ton of video games, or Detroit. Not that we’ve ever actually been inside a video game, mind you. Or Ukraine. Or Detroit. But we have been to Barcelos!
For some reason the Portuguese gave us a wide berth when we wandered the streets. I wonder if it had anything to do with my sniper rifle?
While there, we stumbled upon a bike race. I mean, literally. I still have some tire tracks imprinted on my back. Apparently this event was for people who were really desperate to learn how to ride a bike- as you can see by the sign: all those desporto to learn were supposed to gather there. What? Oh. Carolyn just told me desporto actually means sport. “Never mind!” he says in a singsong voice. Anyway, I wonder if the Portuguese say, “Bom Desporto!” when someone doesn’t fuss after being tripped.
There’s not just roosters around the town, there are cranes too! Whoop! Whoop! (That was me whooping, not the crane.)
So here are some examples of the typical Portuguese architecture, including some with that beautiful Portuguese tile, and others with doorways built for hobbits. Back in the last century, Portugal was ruled by a dictator, and as a result, nutrition was poor, and the Portuguese are still generally shorter than other Europeans because of it. It has taken them a long time to work their way out of that mess. Are you listening, Putin, you gigantic turd asswipe buttwad diarrhea-loving pitiful excuse of a human being who would be an insult to apes if we called you one? And that goes for anyone who likes that murdering thug. Or votes for dictators, wannabes or otherwise. Ugh! I mean, there is a reason why we call them dicktaters.
I guess my Russian readership may go down after that rant, but I don’t care, it’s hard to spend all those rubles anyway.
Okay, rant over. As you can see, it’s actually a very picturesque town. Obviously, because you’re looking at the picturesques now!
Okay, in a candid moment we can see Carolyn was perhaps a little disappointed that there weren’t more cocks for her to see. You can’t tell that about me because that’s just my normal resting face.
We also visited the city of Braga, a city of almost 200,000 inhabitants, making it the seventh largest municipality in Portugal. They are also home to the most braggarts in all the world.
As you can see in the background, we were astonished to discover the crane from Barcelos followed us all the way to Braga! Of course, with gorgeous mugs like ours what bird wouldn’t flip out over us? What? Storks you say? And hummingbirds? And eagles? And owls? And- okay, I get it. And thanks for the “All the Birds of the World” book.
Okay, I’m going to do all you Twitterers a favor and instead of making you read a bunch more stupid comments about various pictures, I’m just gonna put all the best ones in a gallery and be done with it. I will only add that if Braga was the first Portuguese town you’d ever visited, you’d marvel at the beauty and history, not knowing that almost every Portuguese town has those features. It also has a very nice area filled with shops and tourists and, sadly, a sole tower as a remnant of their castle. But we didn’t find anything excessively memorable, it’s just a pleasant Portuguese town. Maybe they should have called it Humblea.
Of course, as you can see, it is pretty. We may kid around, but we never take the beauty of Portuguese towns and cities for granted. Especially since there’s no one named Grant in all of Portugal.
Carolyn always tells me to smile for the camera, to which I often respond with a laugh, because with my beard and stoic-looking face, people can never tell if I’m smiling, grimacing, or awake. Of course, I usually don’t know either.
There’s more to come from Northern Portugal, don’t you worry about that! What? You weren’t worried? In fact you didn’t even read this? I’m talking to air? Well fine, then your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberries!
If I had a euro for every time someone asked us if we’d been to Toledo (pronounced tə-LAY-doh) Spain yet, I’d have a couple more euros. But it truly is one of the favorite places of some of our friends, and one of our sons says it has been a lifelong dream of his to visit there. So we did it for him.
Toledo is a city full of so much history that the entire city was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s located on the banks of the Tagus River, which means if we’d wanted to we could’ve procured (a fancy word for “stolen”) a boat and sailed all the way back to Lisbon. But then we remembered that Marco, our beloved VW Polo, can’t swim, so we opted to let him take us home on land.
Many Americans have heard of Toledo mostly due the phrase “Holy Toledo!” I looked up the origins of that phrase and found a reference to the 1920’s & 1930’s, when Toledo, Ohio was an agreed-upon sanctuary between cops and gangsters. But I also found another reference saying that it arose due to all the churches in Toledo, Spain.
However, it is actually Ávila, as you’ll see below, that is known for having the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain. Still, I think we can all agree that “Holy Toledo!” sounds a lot better than “Holy Ávila!” especially since most Americans wouldn’t pronounce Ávila correctly anyway. But I tend to think it’s probably the gangster story that’s true. I haven’t heard any Europeans ever utter the phrase, even when confronted with something as amazing and weird as my bald head, so I’m pretty sure it’s an American thing.
So we viewed some of the obligatory cathedrals, etc., but truth be told, the cathedrals in Toledo kinda put us over our European Church and Cathedral Limit (aka the dreaded ECCL). Maybe it’s appropriate that it happened in “holy Toledo.” Truly, some of those religious structures are amazing, some display incredible riches (which we always find a little hypocritical), and many of them display the full extent of the architectural abilities of the peoples of that time. But after a while, they all start kinda looking the same. While I promise the above photos were taken in Toledo, you and I both know I could have pasted any photos from almost any cathedral and no one would’ve known the difference.
But the rest of Toledo was as beautiful as advertised. It’s quaint, charming, pretty, and clean.
A couple of hours away from Toledo is another town that looks a bit like a mini-Toledo, called Ávila.
Back when we lived in the states, I had never heard of Ávila. And I would’ve pronounced it “Aveela,” as most Americans would be inclined to do, especially since most of us find accent marks annoying and totally ignorable.(Oh those silly Europeans, can’t they just memorize the pronunciations?) But the accent mark on top of the “Á” tells us that it’s pronounced “AAHvila,” or if you’re old, sleepy, and Spanish, probably “Aaaaaaahvila.” And that’s exactly what it provided for us, an “aah” moment, as we appreciated the town’s beauty and splendor, highlighted by very well preserved medieval city walls.
When it was all said and done, we enjoyed strolling around Ávila (while mostly ignoring the churches, despite those being part of its claim to fame), and we loved walking on the city walls (where we took most of our pictures).
Orson Welles once named Ávila as the place in which he would most desire to live, calling it a “strange, tragic place.” The link there shows a very short clip of that part of his interview, but it’s kinda funny because it seems as if he has absolutely no idea why he’d want to live there, plus it sounded like he’d never even been to that part of Spain. Regardless, we kept looking for Rosebud, thinking that we may finally found the answer to that mystery, but alas, we remained Rosebudless.
The main landmark in the city is the imposing Walls of Ávila (11th–14th centuries), construction of which began in 1090. The enclosed area is 31 hectares (77 acres) with a perimeter of 2,516 meters (2,752 yd), 88 blocks of semicircular towers, 2,500 merlons, curtain walls 3 m (9 ft 10 in) thick, with an average height of 12 m (39 ft), and 9 gates. The walls represent the largest fully illuminated monument in the world. It is possible to walk upon the walls for roughly half their circumference. (per Wikipedia)
And of course no visit to any town would be complete without a Door of the Day.
We never could figure out why Toledians (Toledoites? Toledocans? Toledoese?) hate Texas so much that they prohibited the whole city of El Paso. We kept asking the locals, “Why do you hate Texas so much?” They only returned puzzled glances in response, and if they were with children they wrapped their arms around them protectively while doing so. We tried to tell them we weren’t Texans, only curious, but by that time most of them were trotting in the other direction. Anyway, I guess you won’t find any direct flights from Toledo, Spain to El Paso, Texas, but we’re at a loss to know what El Pasoans (El Pasoites? El Pasocans? El Pasoese?) did to deserve it.
Lastly, as most Bald Sasquatch devotees know, we rarely pass up an opportunity to wander through a castle. There was a ripe one ready for the pluckin’ just about an hour out of Madrid, called the Castle Manzanares el Real, because it is, of course, very real, so they had to let us know that in the name.
Turns out it was the most expensive castle we’ve ever visited because it’s where Carolyn lost her prescription glasses. So if you happen to be wandering around Castle Manzanares el Real and find a pair of glasses, please contact us right away. We’ll even give you a free subscription to baldsasquatch.com just for finding them!
Construction of the New Castle of Manzanares el Real began in 1475, and is now one of the best preserved castles in Spain, as well as a leading repository of lost glasses by former Oregonians.
We drove to Madrid in order to see that metropolis, but while it’s big and bustling and modern, we ended up using it mostly as a hub to see some of the charming little towns that surround it. The first was Segovia, Spain, which is famous for three structures in particular, as you’ll see below. It is also the capitol of the Province of Segovia, as well as the home of that famous women’s Roller Derby team, the Segovian Sluts.
The first of the three famous structures is an impressive aqueduct, which greets you as you drive into town. The aqueduct is so important to the Segovians that it’s even a part of the city’s coat of arms (although I have no idea how you’d fit an entire aqueduct into your coat). It is of Roman construction, estimated to have been built in the first century AD. The aqueduct is the city’s most important architectural landmark, and functioned for centuries. It runs a little over 9 miles (15km), delivering water from the Rio Frio river. Not sure if the water stayed frio during the journey, but this was before 7-11 invented Slurpees, so the Spanish didn’t care. But in essence, 7-11 killed the aqueduct. Think about that next time you push through the “Save the Aqueducts!” mobs when you decide to go into one of those stores.
You can see why the aqueduct is so important to Segovia, it’s pretty hard to miss. Can you imagine building something that is used for centuries? I wonder how many things we build today will be able to claim the same. Yeah, I think none. I might’ve said Betty White but she screwed that all up.
The second of the three structures is the Segovia Cathedral, which dominates the skyline and offers some impressive views of the landscape if you go to the top.
The church was built in the mid-16th century in late Gothic style, which by that time was out of favor in the rest of Europe. The Spaniards of the time didn’t care about that though, because that was a time when a lot of Spaniards had a mindset against hard work. Seriously. That’s covered in some detail in the 1,342 page History of Segovia tome we have on our coffee table, so you know it must be true.
Anyway, I don’t know how they built anything with that attitude. In this case, the powers-that-be decided to dedicate it to the Virgin Mary, which must have scared all the construction workers into making it because none of them wanted to die a virgin. It’s all in the book!
The third famous structure is the Alcázar of Segovia (Alcázar means “Fortress”). It is a medieval castle originally built to serve as a fortress, but has also been used as a royal palace, a state prison, an artillery college, a military academy, a museum, and as a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant (just kidding).
It also inspired the castle in Disney’s 1937 animated film, Snow White and the Seven Spaniards (the title was later changed to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves after a couple of drunken Spaniards complained loudly in front of Walt’s wife, Lillian). We never hear much about Lillian Disney do we? I wonder if that was because of the Spaniards…
Segovia is also a beautiful and picturesque town. We spent most of the day just wandering around gazing upon all the beauty, both manmade and natural. The more we travel, the more we appreciate the smaller towns, with their history and charm. Segovia definitely filled the bill!
Segovia is also the home of the Spanish Western Order of the Overcaffeinated Nuns (SWOON). You can see their headquarters here at the Eurostar Cappuccino Convent.
But perhaps the most famous Segovian architecture of them all is the amazing Gargoyle with an iPhone. It’s said that Steve Jobs took a trip out here in the late ’90s and was inspired by this incredibly prognosticative ancient statue, and the rest is technology history. Fortunately, the gargoyle obviously wasn’t looking at porn, mostly because that hadn’t been invented yet, and if it had, no doubt there would have been a little, ahem. physical evidence from a naked gargoyle, if you know what I mean. Of course, I’m talking about his expression… wait, what were you thinking? Oh shame! Shame! You disgust me!
Well that’s it for Segovia. We highly recommend it to anyone traveling in or around Madrid, as it was to us by some local friends. It doesn’t get much more picturesque than Segovia, Spain. Seriously!
Duuude, one of the things we were stoked to shred ever since we arrived in Portugal is to go see Nazaré, the home of numerous gnarly surfing records due to the bitchin’ size of the waves that seemingly loom over the entire town. But we had just never gotten a round tuit. Then we found one under the couch!
And so with tuit in hand and spurred on by news reports that the waves were crashing big, we knew surfers from around the world would be descending upon Nazaré like QAnon nutjobs invading Washington DC. So we set off on the two hour drive to see the biggest surfable waves in the world on what was a beautiful, sunny Saturday.
Visitors to the Nazaré beach are greeted by this surf monument that surely leaves many people wondering. But there’s a legendary back story behind it (click on “back story” to see the short article describing all of it), dating all the way back- and I kid you not- to Jesus’ father, Joseph the Carpenter. Of course, it’s a well known fact that Jesus was a big surfer dude; apparently he didn’t even need a surfboard. Or waves.
Because Portuguese is based in Latin, it’s often pretty easy for us to figure out certain Portuguese words and phrases. For instance, take this sign… please! No, I kid, it’s a great sign. Anyway, we already know that “antes” means “before,” (poker teaches us that- an ante is put in before the hands are played) so we can then figure out that this sign is telling us that the TWL gig happened before all of this, because “gig-before,” means the gig happened before (remember, in Portuguese the adjectives come after the noun). So voila! See how easy this language stuff is? The fact that I’m not any closer to understanding almost any bit of anything is irrelevant… it’s the system, you see? We’ve got this stuff down pat! Down Pat! Down Pat! Crazy dog. Oh, and don’t ask me who TWL is. It stands for The Wacky Linguist for all I know. Of course, “gigantes” could have something to do with being really big, how should I know? I don’t even know Latin!
The police keep watch over the waves to make sure they don’t trespass on the crowds. Fun fact: since their coats say “policia” means that on the other side of those bodies are four female breasts, because in Portuguese the feminine ends with an “a,” and the masculine ends with an “o.” Ergo, if those had been men, then their coats would say “policio.” Unless they’re cross-dressing cops, but I’m not sure that’s allowed. Anyway, a coupla tough-looking broads there, let me tell ya.
It was a little misty due to all the waves, but I think mostly because there were lots of water droplets in the air. In the distance is the town of Nazaré, as seen from the base of the lighthouse tower thingee that juts into the midst of all those waves. Speaking of poker, is that a great face for poker or what?
This is the same view without the big galoot in the middle of it and after we vacuumed all the water droplets out of the air.
The geography that creates all these waves means that the whole process is a bit haphazard. Huge waves come crashing in from the side as the water barrels through an underwater canyon, oftentimes looking like God put an invisible blender in the water and accidentally left it plugged in while he tended to the mess on the planet Foogeroe. Those damn Foogeroans are always causing trouble.
It looked to me that the amount of time you’d actually spend successfully surfing one of the waves is maybe 10-20 seconds. Afterward, you may need to hold your breath for up to four minutes, all while your body is being tossed about like a Raggedy Ann doll in a clothes dryer. Except nothing is dry, including deep inside whatever orifices you have. Fun fact: enemas were invented at Nazaré.
In fact, sometime on or about the time we were there, a surfer wiped out very gnarilly (yeah shut up spell checker, I can make up words if I want) and ended up in the hospital. Fortunately, and amazingly, given the treacherous conditions, no surfer has died at Nazaré. Yet. (Unlike most of the other fun facts here that one is actually true, thank goodness.)
Okay, I know you want to see the waves. So without further ado, here follows a gallery of pictures of the waves we saw. Wave everyone!
So that should give you some idea as to what was going on in Nazaré. In the bottom-most picture above you can gauge the size of these smaller waves by noting the little black dots on the water- those are the jet skis that tow the surfers out and save their lives when they crash.
A pano shot of the area above it all.
But be careful of the unstable Cliffs!
In order to make videos appear on this site, I have to convert them to a gif. The other videos we had didn’t really work very well in that regard, so this is the best live action shot I can post. It’s actually not the part of the beach anyone surfs on, but even a small wave is a kind wave.
Yeah I wish I took this picture, but I didn’t. And we didn’t see anything like it. However, this photo does give me an appreciation for camera angles and photography skill, because even though the wave here is big, they don’t really loom over the lighthouse quite like the photos would have you believe. Still, they are the biggest waves on the planet, so there’s that.
This animal was standing around making an ass out of himself. They even had an ass-hat sitting on the ground with a sign asking for donations. Assk and you shall receive, I guess.
In the end (no pun intended), I suppose I might’ve been better off just posting this video. This is the day we were there. We didn’t quite see things like this really… guess next time I’ll ride in a drone! And become a better photographer!
And now back to our irregularly unscheduled program.
With a Covid Winter looming over the entire earth, reducing our desire to get on planes filled with disease-ridden, droopy-masked Typhoid Marys sneezing all over us, we wedged one last trip of the year into our travel bag by making the six hour drive to visit Madrid, Spain’s largest city.
It is also the third largest city in the EU, the 54th largest on earth, and the 4,231,421th largest in the universe. But don’t quote me on that: the Zynglovians, who do nothing but track this kind of data, have an internet search engine that’s a little left-leaning, so take it with a grain of slamanja. Could be only 5,521,563rd for all I know.
What some geography-challenged Americans might not have known is that to get to Madrid from Portugal you have to drive through Los Angeles, as you can see by that road sign. I know, right? Who knew? But now I suppose we know why there are so many Spanish speakers in California. Of course, if you know any Spanish you’d know this sign was saying it was the “other” (otero- duh!) Los Angeles, and it’s located just below the blacksmiths. Seriously, that’s what “Herreros” means. See- no matter how much misinformation these blogs provide, we guarantee (or your money back!) there’s almost always one truth in each paragraph!
One of the first things we do when we arrive in a city is do an internet search on “Things to do in…” By doing so, we can get a pretty quick idea as to whether it’s a city with lots of historical things to see or if they need to set up centers for the Treatment of Tourist Boredom. For instance, if the number five thing to do is a children’s playground or a hot dog museum, then we know there’s a high TTB factor and we won’t need to be there very long. With Madrid, it seemed as if most of the things to do involve day trips to some of the surrounding towns, like Avila, Toledo, and Segovia. Madrid itself is modern, bustling, and not nearly as full of obvious history as most of the other towns we visited. Sure, there are lots of museums and such, but neither of us was in the mood for museums. Covid is still a concern so we generally spent our time outdoors or in our car running over Spaniards.
It was not an easy city to drive in, especially considering that I was having problems with my eyesight. Freeways criss-cross the city like a plateful of noodles, and the Spanish aren’t too patient with an old blind guy trying to drive while listening to both Google Maps and his wife yelling at him as to where to turn… and they don’t always agree. “Turn right.” “No, turn left!” “Left now?” “Right.” “You mean right?” “Rerouting.” “No left” “Right?” “NO!” “Too late now!” “Rerouting.” “Watch out for that car!” “Did I just hit something?” “Yes, step on it!” “Left or right?” “Rerouting…”
This was the view from our apartment. These towers are pretty much the only buildings that poke up past the Madrid skyline. Europe isn’t as big on skyscrapers as in many other parts in the world. Probably because they’re afraid the Germans are going to come back and blow them all up again.
There are a couple of major tourist areas in Madrid. One of them is Plaza Mayor, which is, amazingly enough, a plaza. And it’s muy mayor. Which means “A big town leader.” I think. Anyway, the Christmas tree was just being set up. The timing of our trip was fortuitous because about a week after we left Spain, it got hammered with a bunch of snow. And you don’t want to be in Spain when it’s all drunk and everything, even if it’s from snow alcohol.
The Royal Palace of Madrid is probably the main tourist tra- er, stop. It’s a big palace. I mean, royally big. Which is I’m sure how it got its name (good thing it isn’t just damn big). It was closed the day we were there, and I had little interest in spending another day trying to navigate the downtown Madrid streets. Even with the GPS, we made multiple wrong turns and maimed several Spanish people. At least I assume they were Spanish based on the language they used while cursing.
I did find this view from the palace fascinating because the palace feels as if it’s right in the heart of the city, and yet you just walk to its courtyard wall and you see trees as far as the eye can see. Well, depending on your eyes. I thought I was taking a picture of a statue.
After a long day of walking around, a nice big helping of beef is all anybody needs. That and a cardiologist.
While Madrid didn’t exactly blow us away, it did offer up three different doors of the day. I think Carolyn was really in love with that first one. She hasn’t looked at me the same since.
As far as we’re concerned, while Madrid is a large and influential city, we really enjoyed the outer towns with their castles and aqueducts and history a bit more. And those are coming up next! (Unless you’re reading this after that fact, because this site scrolls down in reverse order of time. I think that’s why some people think we’re getting younger.)
(Not that I’ve heard anyone say that, but I’m sure they’re thinking it.)
At least we made it home safely, as you can see by the above footage. Not a scratch on us!
Truth be told, I was just practicing for the roundabouts.
My next stop after this trip was to the ophthalmologist for cataract surgery. And that’s the truthpppplllhhh. No yolk!
Actually, not a whole helluva lot. I’m thinking that the only answer to that question might be answered by this statement: “They’re both in the same Bald Sasquatch blog entry,” and that’s about it. But now if you Google that question we’re pretty much the first hit! Don’t let it be said that Baldsasquatch.com doesn’t influence the world!!!
Actually, the reason I’m combining those two cities is because I have become woefully remiss with my blogs of late, so I have to start jamming trips together. I’m not sure I can explain why I’ve been so remiss. It’s not like we’ve suddenly become employed by working on the Game of Thrones sequel or something. (I just threw that in because they recently filmed in Portugal and we applied to be extras, just for the hoot of it. They completely ignored our application even though I told them we were really good at making our heads roll around after having them chopped off and everything!)
Anyway, I figured I’d better set aside my next pressing nap and get on with it before I forgot everything. Indeed, the whole purpose of this enterprise is to document our trips so that when we’re old, decrepit, and have lost our memories, we can look at this blog… and then wonder when they’re serving lunch.
In any case, we visited Cádiz (it took us weeks to stop pronouncing it the American way, as in “CaDEEZE.” It’s “CAH-deze.” Sort of like talking about a cod with knees: cod-knees. Except don’t pronounce the “kn.” Or the “cod.” Speaking of which, what knucklehead put a “k” in front of those “n’s?” And we think learning Portuguese is hard?
Aknyway, it wasn’t lokng after this trip that we went back to the states to visit frieknds and family- okay, who’s the wiseguy adding all those k’s? I thought you were long dead!
So that is how the Cádiz/Portland connection began to take shape. When I realized that never before in history had Portland and Cádiz been linked together, I knew I had to put on my pioneering panties and be the first in line.
Because of Covid, we’ve relegated our travels to as much as we can see by car. So, in addition to driving all the way across Spain in order to see Barcelona and Mallorca, we drove down to southern Spain where we had decided to visit Cádiz solely because we’d seen a lot of signs for it during our travels in Spain and so figured it had to be more than a piece of poop in a puddle. Also, when we were down there last, visiting Gibraltar and Morocco, we completely bypassed Cádiz, which hurted its feelings. So we wanted to make it all better.
Avid readers of this blog, but only the ones with better memories than any elephant ever, might remember our award-winning Rock of Gibraltar entry. We’re happy to report the rock is still standing.
Cádiz is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Western Europe, with archaeological remains dating all the way back to the 8th century BC. It was founded by the Phoenicians, who could’ve also founded Phoenix, Arizona if their stupid little ships with their stupid square sails could’ve crossed the Atlantic. But no-o-o, they stuck close to the shores of the Mediterranean, the big chickens.
So I’m going to be honest here. While they had a very nice (albeit overcrowded) sandy beach, we were a little underwhelmed by Cádiz. We don’t want to become jaded tourists, but sometimes you go to a city and see kind of the same stuff you saw somewhere else. Cádiz was kind of like that. It’s a pleasant city with lots of history, but we meandered about for a day and called it good.
Four years ago we might’ve stood in front of this with our mouths agape. Nowadays, we admired it for a second and moved on. I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad; after all, city residents hardly glance at such things either. Besides, our agape mouths are now generally covered up by masks, so any gaping is rather wasted anyway.
They have some nice Roman ruins in the middle of town, although apartments were built pretty much right on top of them. “Yeah, my backyard dates back to 200 BC,” says one town braggart.
Of course, little does he know there’s a tunnel underneath his home that leads right into his closet. Oh the things we saw!
At least we got a Door of the Day out of Cádiz. Really more of a Tiles of the Day, though.
After what was an enjoyable but casual visit, we decided to take a sunset cruise and so sailed off into the sunset, visions of Whoppers dancing around in our heads…
Next destination: America!
We actually meandered around the US more than just in Portland. We visited Iowa City for the first time ever (I mean, I know! What took us so long?), and drove between Seattle and Portland as well as to the Oregon Coast and multiple points in between, all to see friends and family.
After being away for almost two years, my main impressions were:
• Not much of the city landscape in and around Portland had changed, presumably due to Covid freezing everything up. It was all so familiar it was almost boring.
• The expectation of tips in the US –already the most tip-happy country in the world– have increased to even include food kiosks where you pick up your own food, bring it to the counter, and insert your credit card into the machine yourself. Um, is this tipping for good service or are we just paying your employees’ wages for you Mr. Employer?
• It is truly sad to see so many tents around Portland, most of them with piles of garbage littering all about as if mini-dumps were installed all over town. We usually see more homeless people within the first fifteen minutes of visiting a major American city than we’ve ever seen in Europe, total.
• It seemed as if every store and restaurant had a help wanted sign in front of it. Maybe America could use a wave of immigrants right about now!
Our visit to Iowa City was interesting in that it wasn’t quite what I expected. Seeing as it’s in the midwest, I expected Trump flags on every corner with gun-totin’ country folk riding in the back of their pickups holding their rifles above their heads while shouting “Go Brandon!” at everyone who looks or smells like a liberal.
Instead, we saw more “Black Lives Matter” signs, LGBT-supporting (or is it LGBTKMHE now?) rainbow flags, and “Get The Vaccine You Stupid Idiots!” posters than we have ever seen all in one place. Once you get outside the city, you can tell everyone’s conservative, mostly on account of the fact that they don’t live in the city. That’s just sort of the way America works.
This vicious man-eater was spotted all over town. We also saw the big yellow Hawkeyes everywhere as well.
One funny little anecdote: after we landed in Iowa City, as I walked off the plane there was a significant part of me that was actually a little surprised that we had just walked into an airport terminal and everything was in English. Part of my brain was actually prepared for it all to be in another language, because that’s been our experience so many times in Europe. I was actually amazed to be able to understand everything!
This is the view from the university which more or less dominates Iowa City. You won’t see any real tall skyscrapers there on account of the tornadoes. Of course, all they have to do is stop building mobile home parks and the tornadoes will stay away, but I guess Iowans love their tornadoes!
Iowa is famous for its corn, being the largest producing state in the country. Here are four corn fun facts: 1) Farmers grow corn on every continent except Antarctica. 2) One bushel of corn will sweeten more than 400 cans of Coca-Cola. 3) The main ingredient in most dry pet food is corn. 4) The fact that most of my jokes are corny has nothing to do with Iowa. Or corn. Or being funny.
One of the places we visited was an Amish store, and it was quite impressive. Everything was displayed with care and precision. They also offered up Costco-sized bags of assorted foodstuffs, including more Cheetos than you could eat during eight consecutive Super Bowls, and bags filled with only those little marshmallow things you get in Lucky Charms, i.e. without the annoying cereal thingees… you know, the only part that has a smidgen of nutrition. As a kid, I always wanted a bowlful of nothing but the marshmallows; little did I know it was the Amish who had them for me! Now I’m ticked off I wasn’t brought up Amish!
They also had these diseased-looking pumpkins. I’m sure their mothers think they’re beautiful.
I guarantee I’m not the only one who has ever done a double take when seeing the name of this store, which are splattered all over Iowa City. Well, we came and went Iowa City, and we were happy to see ya!
Now back we go to the Pacific Northwest!
I got a little kick out of Carolyn as we drove around the Pacific Northwest because she was snapping pictures left and right just like a tourist. Only four years away and suddenly we’re tourists! Actually, she wanted to show our friends in Portugal the beauty of the region. Truth be told, it’s not a bad idea to step back and see the place you live through the eyes of a tourist once in a while!
This is famous Haystack Rock, I think named after John Haystack. Or maybe some other reason, I’m not sure.
While driving through Cannon Beach (which might’ve been named after John Cannon), one of the popular seaside towns in Oregon, we spotted a couple of elk casually feeding in someone’s backyard. A line of cars slowed down to look at them, and the elk couldn’t have cared less. Awfully big animal to turn into a pet!
Along the way we had fun with our kids and grandkids. Here I am in a dysfunctional watercraft, and there we are standing next to a totem pole at the Portland Zoo with our cute grandson.
I don’t know why I got such a kick out of this, but after it rained in Mallorca we noticed everything was coated with sand. We talked with some locals and learned that the sand is from the Sahara desert. It gets lifted up by the wind, crosses the Mediterranean, and enriches the pocketbooks of car wash owners all over Spain.
Poor little Marco the Polo didn’t know what to make of it, but since he couldn’t shake himself off like a dog, he just had to deal. Quit being such a big baby, Marco.
Anyway, maybe I got a kick out of it because the Sahara is surely the world’s most famous desert. It is in fact the earth’s largest “hot desert” (so described because the Antarctic and Arctic are both classified as deserts, and they are both larger than the Sahara, plus just a tad cooler), so that alone makes it impressive.
Or maybe it’s just from all of the movies I’ve seen that either featured the Sahara or were set in it. From Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in 1962 to Lawrence of Arabia in 1963 to The Mummy in 1999, the Sahara has provided an almost mystical backdrop to many a film. And there we were with the Sahara’s very own sand having dusted our little car like powdered sugar on a donut. After I climbed into Marco to drive, I felt like Lawrence of Arabia, and would have shouted his catch phrase if I knew one that he had used. (“Go camels?”) I don’t even know what Ali Baba might have said. So I sang “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, partly to acknowledge we weren’t in Kansas anymore and partly because that’s the only desert-y song I could think of. Carolyn doesn’t let me sing for very long though.
Due to Carolyn’s balky calf, we only stayed one night in Barcelona. Since the hotel was relatively close to the Sagrada Família, a famous cathedral, we decided to test her leg power and make the 15 minute (per Google maps) walk to see the thing. 40 minutes later, we finally made it to the Cathedral. It was then that we knew we had made the right decision to stay only one night. The only time I can consistently walk that slow is when she is admonishing me while holding a wooden spoon and saying, “come here!”
The only real excitement we had was on the original drive to Valencia, whereby we passed a gas station on the left that I had thought about stopping in, but due to the way the road was designed we would have had to drive another 1/2 a kilometer or so and do a U turn to get to it. So I thought, “Aw the heck with it, I’ll hit the next one.” Naturally, that turned out to be the longest stretch of road with no gas stations that we experienced during the entire trip. So I’m occasionally and surreptitiously glancing at the gas gauge trying to calculate whether less than a 1/4 of a tank will get us to the next town, which looks like a lot of kilometers away. But then I notice Carolyn is now nervously glancing at the gauge about every 30 seconds. Outwardly, I assure her everything is under control and that we have plenty of gas. “Stop fretting, honey. Everything’s fine! We’d probably be able to make it all the way to Valencia on what we’ve got!”
But inwardly I’m thinking, “HOLY SHIT WE’RE OUT HERE ALL ALONE AND IF WE RUN OUT OF GAS WE COULD BE 100 KILOMETERS FROM THE NEXT GAS STATION! I’M NOT SURE WE’RE GOING TO MAKE IT!!!” Fortunately, it all worked out, as we are obviously alive and well and able to tell the tale as to how we avoided dismemberment at the hands of a crazed Spaniard who walks the remotest highways looking for people who run out of gas. Phew!
On the drive back, we avoided any more life-threatening disasters, but we did experience a lot of bull. You see, during almost every long drive we take Carolyn manages to find some sort of consistent theme to keep her busy snapping pictures. Sometimes it’s a series of signs that are interesting. Sometimes it’s stork nests. Sometimes it’s castles from afar. This time it was a bunch of bulls. All around Spain are these bull silhouettes, apparently leftovers from a marketing scheme for brandy. The promotion is long over, but the bulls captured the imagination of Spaniards countrywide, and so they live on, dotting the countryside with their black bullishness and providing hours of fun for in-car photographers named Carolyn.
Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing as a mall for orcas. The internet killed all their biggest shopping centers, duh.
Of course, Mallorca (known in English as “Majorca” because Americans hate it when Spanish people pronounce double L’s) is an island off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea (or as Christopher Columbus called it, “The Pacific Ocean”).
Mallorca is the largest island in the Balearic Islands, which are part of Spain but are autonomous. As far as I can tell, I think means about the same thing as when a 10-year-old boy shouts, “you can’t tell me what to do!” at his parents.
It’s a beautiful, sun-drenched island that looked plenty prosperous to us, despite the hit to tourism Covid delivered. The capital of Palma is modern and thriving; its airport is one of the busiest in Spain.
As mentioned in the previous entry, Carolyn had an unfortunate accident while in Mallorca, as you can see in the picture with the spinning killer whale. They never should have allowed an untrained spectator to stand next to an orca (or as I like to call them, “the pandas of the seas.”)
Actually, no matter how she injured her calf muscle, it meant that we had to spend the last half of our visit lounging around the pool sipping margaritas. Sometimes good things come from tragedies. We did get to see some of Mallorca before the incident as well as on our drive back to the ferry, so it was all good.
(I might have tried to sell you on the idea that she exacerbated her injury with this video of a sea lion’s playfulness, but as everyone knows, that’s the wrong breed of sea lion for Mallorca. Although it serves that girl right for wearing a dress that looks like a fish.)