Portugal Road Trip – Part Thirteen

1. Main shotHa ha! It’s not really part thirteen, it just feels like it.

We spent about ten days driving all over northern Portugal, snapping pictures of castles and scenery like we were picture-taking-y snapping turtle-y people.

(That’s what you call an analogy that not only went completely off the rails, but off the bridge and into the river 500 meters below.)

In any case, the result is a lot of photos, memories, and blog entries, and this is really Portugal Road Trip – Part Five. I think.

2. Second shot

Almourol

We thought Almourol would be the crown jewel of our castle visits. Indeed, when you see a picture like the above, you can see why we were looking forward to the visit.

IMG_0772Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as cool as the pictures make it look. But I guess you could say that about most models and movie stars too.

However, I did sustain a wound in pursuit of my art, the definition of which is to entertain you, dear reader, especially as a reward for slogging through this blog, probably while you’re sitting on the pot, or driving. If it’s the latter, stop that! And watch out for that lady with the stroller! Aaaaaggghh!

The sign on the right, fittingly, means “Danger Zone.”

“Ha!” I said to that. “Danger is my middle name!”

(My parents are a bit strange. I have a brother whose middle name is “Middle Initial.”)

Anyway, those signs should be all over pretty much every castle we visit, because almost every one of them has stairs and/or battlements with no railings. Also, some of them are still guarded by descendants of soldiers who just can’t quite understand that the wars are over, and so you often have to dodge arrows and boiling oil and the like as well.

IMG_0773But, intrepid explorer that I am, when I saw this bilingual sign (which means I could completely understand it despite the lack of French), I had to have some fun with it.

So I jumped off the stairs just to prove that there really was a danger of falling from heights. As a result, I sustained near life-threatening injuries (well, they would’ve been had I jumped on a spear or something).

Below are photos of the leap in progress, <parental advisory warning for extreme gore> and photos of the resulting damage done… all because I no longer have the balance required to land on my feet.

Getting old sucks.

Falling

For those of you who know of the venerable Paul Harvey: and now… the rest of the story.

Actually all of the above is true, and I didn’t Photoshop any of those rivers of blood (although the head hitting on the right was a different catastrophic injury), but the real truth is seen in the picture below.

You see, I did jump off the steps, but from the third one. And I did fall as a result, because I’m too damn old to stay on my feet after jumping off just three steps. Sheesh. I Photoshopped the first photo above to make it look like I jumped from halfway up.

IMG_0135This is the un-Photoshopped version that caused my gruesome injuries, as well as the destruction of my favorite pants.

As I said, getting old sucks.

IMG_0780So the first thing you gotta do before you go to the castle is pass inspection by these fearsome army men. Actually, they’re the aforementioned soldiers who are still attacking visitors. Okay, best one out of three: there’s an army base not far from the castle and they were there to escort some dignitaries (besides Carolyn) to the castle for sightseeing. They were kind enough to pose for a picture in exchange for not shooting me.

IMG_0739You have to walk the plank to a large cruise ship which takes you to the castle for a few euros.

IMG_0740This is the bow of the ship. There wasn’t enough room to do the “Titanic” scene, unfortunately. Our hearts will still go on.

IMG_0742This is the cheerful and garrulous Captain of the ship. Just kidding. He was none of those things. But he was quite adept at steering a small boat for a couple hundred meters.

IMG_0781Once you land, they like to see if you’ll take these steps to nowhere, and if you do, everyone laughs hysterically.

IMG_0749If you take the correct path, you get to walk under a bridge of cactus. My speculation is they might have once served as a eco-friendly defensive tactic way back when, which means those cacti probably weren’t there in 1129 when it was conquered by Portuguese forces. Indeed, none of the historical writings mention any kind of massive sticker shock.

Marco all aloneOnce in the castle, you can look down and see where the boat docks, as well as our trusty Marco the Polo. Not sure if you can tell which one it is in that sea of cars, but it’s the dark one.

IMG_0792But here’s what I found interesting. They take you in a boat to the castle, but this is the size of the river channel you would otherwise need to cross to get there.

IMG_0759And here’s how wide it is right next to the castle.

IMG_0793In fact, here’s a little crossing you could take without even getting wet! All they have to do is build a walkable path beyond and voila! No more boat needed! I’m guessing they keep the boat because it’s sort of a nice story that you have to take a boat to the castle.

IMG_0151But that means when you’re all done with your visit you have to wait at the dock for the boat to return. He gave us about twenty minutes to look through the castle. We got back to the dock in nineteen. Despite that, he was already on his way back to the original dock when we got there, so we had to wait some more. Oh, well, we’re retired. We can wait. I decided not to even give him a dirty look when we returned because I didn’t want to be dragged out to the middle of the river and keelhauled.

As you can see, from the outside, it’s a pretty cool-looking castle. The location of it dates back to the 1st century B.C.E. (Before Castles and Everything), although they’re not sure exactly when the current castle was initially constructed. When they excavated in and around it, they found evidence of Roman occupation, but it is otherwise medieval.

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Once inside, you’re treated to some nice views of the river and surrounding countryside, although not as much as castles built on top of mountains.

These are various shots from inside the castle. Since it’s a castle, it’s still kinda cool, but it is fairly small, and doesn’t really compare in coolness factor to many of the other castles we’ve seen.

Still, from the outside, it is unique and interesting. Enough so that I’ll close this entry with a repeat of that top picture. We really did take this photo, even if it almost looks professional. We’re happy with one impressive shot per trip, even if it’s completely the fault of the subject matter.

2. Second shot

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