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Portugal, Day Three

Four times a year, for three days only, the Museum of Lisboa opens the city’s Roman galleries to the public, and since the fall dates were perfectly timed with our visit, my sister-in-law arranged for us to go.

One problem: the Galerias Romanas were on the Rua de Prata (the street of silver, because that was once the street all the silver smiths were on) but there was no further detail. It was somewhere on that street, which is about 8 blocks long. We were told that people would need to arrive at the meeting place 30 minutes early, and that we couldn’t leave bags near the monument, but there was no address included with the reservation confirmation. What monument? What meeting place? An email sent to the museum asking for an address was never answered.

And this is something my brother- and sister-in-law explained about Portugal: as cultures go, it’s very non-confrontational. Passive, even. People drive like crazy, but they rarely honk. People are routinely late, only to find the person still there waiting for them, an hour past the time they agreed to meet, and no mention of the delay will ever be made. People will lie to your face to avoid saying something that might upset you.

So you end up with things being done in a half-assed way, because there’s no strong/systemic correction. A major city museum will tell people to be at the meeting place a half hour early but never specify where the meeting place is.

This sort of thing will come up again during our trip.

Anyway, we walked down the Rua da Prata and, a block from the end, I saw a cordoned off side street, a hole in the asphalt, and a woman in street clothes being helped down.

“There it is,” my wife said immediately, and she was right. It was right there in the middle of the street, and that street was not the Rua da Prata. It was near the intersection with Rua da Prata, but it was not the street itself.

The galleries themselves were pretty cool, but not extensive. I have pictures, naturally, and the tour guide explained that they’ve been rediscovered several times over the centuries, often so that shop owners could use them as free storage. In fact, that was probably what they were built for originally.

Also, GMs: you are not getting the smell of your dungeons right.

Sadly, they’re prone to flooding, and one shop-owner’s brilliant idea to store sacks of cement down there has severely damaged one section. Also, they were blocked off in the 1800’s. The only evidence that there are more galleries are the drawings made years and years ago; the only way modern archaeologists will get access to the hidden galleries will be if a shop owner digs down and uncovers them. Unfortunately, shop owners know the galleries are there and they won’t do that, because they would have to notify archaeologists and it would be a mess. It will probably take another massive earthquake to open them up for study.

Some pics:

Portugal Day Three

Afterwards, my son was a little freaked out by the smell, how dirty they were, and how dirty he’d gotten down there. (It didn’t help that the tour guide talked about sewage floods in the distant past.) I took him back to the apartment while my wife and her sister hit the town. They had a great time and saw amazing things. We slipped out to a restaurant where no one spoke English, ordered skewers of bacon-wrapped beef.

Inedible. The beef still had the silverskin attached, so it was impossible to cut the pieces small enough to eat using the dull knives we’d been given. It wasn’t all that easy to chew, either. The bacon was undercooked, so it was all soft and squishy. It also had tiny bones in it. Bones in bacon? I didn’t even realize that was possible, but there were tiny round chips in there.

You know how American food is sometimes derided as meat, carb, and two veg? (As thought that’s boring?) Well, Portuguese food is meat, two carbs, and no veg at all. The menu item will only list the meat; it’s assumed you’ll want a plate of fries and a plate of rice with it. I ate a bit for politeness’s sake, then we got out of there.

So far, Portuguese cuisine isn’t winning me over, and the boy has been decidedly uncomfortable with it.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

My NaNoWriMo is off to an amazing start!

It’s day six of NaNoWriMo.

I said I was going to give it a try this year because it’s been hard to get back into the swing of things after a month without any progress while I was in Portugal.

Words written so far this month: 1900.

Truthfully, I don’t give a shit about goals and monthly word counts. I just want to regain the momentum I used to have on this book, and I’m not sure how. Frankly, I think I’m going to have to blow off some of my current responsibilities so I can pick up the pace again.

I’m not feeling it.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: the way to pick up momentum is to start moving forward and don’t stop. That’s what I need to do, and that’s been really difficult.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

Portugal Trip: Day Two

For the first full day in Lisboa, my sister-in-law arranged a tour by tuk-tuk.

Curious what I’m talking about? They’re motorized tricycles with a limited number of seats, and they look like this (scroll down to the gallery) http://www.tuk-tuk-lisboa.pt

Ours wasn’t quite like those. It was an electric vehicle, it seated six (including the driver) and it had four wheels. It also had no doors at all, was very narrow, and had a top speed of, like, 25 mph.

And man, did we go up and down hills and through alleyways while the driver told us about the history of the city.

Our first stop was the location of a large, incredibly important peaceful revolution that took place in my lifetime that I personally knew nothing about. Like, zero. I kept nodding while the guide spoke, as though of course the history of his country was crucial knowledge for an educated American, but I felt distinctly like a student faced with a pop quiz after a long night of partying. Then we moved on to more distant past, and phew for that.

It seemed that Lisboa was originally built by Arabs, and the streets were narrow and twisting. A massive earthquake in 1755 destroyed the old city and killed about 10-15% of its inhabitants. When the city was rebuilt, the mayor of Lisboa defied the power structure and had the city constructed with wider, straighter avenues.

According to our guide, at least. Wikipedia tells its own story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1755_Lisbon_earthquake

He took us to beautiful views of the city, ancient downtown buildings, and the Praça do Comércio, which he assured us is the largest public square in Europe (although Wikipedia says it’s not even the largest square in Portugal). After, we went to Docas for a late lunch. I had a Prego, which is a traditional sandwich (ingredients: a roll, some beef, some garlic, that’s it).

My son had shrimp, which were served with the heads on. He ate none of those, although our tuk tuk driver assured him many times that it was no big deal and that he should just pull the heads off and suck out the brains because they were so tasty.

Guess how well that worked.

The driver was an interesting guy. We couldn’t trust half of what he said on his tour. He drove us through those “Arabic” streets that were so narrow my wife and I could have held hands and touched the walls on either side without fully extending them. He stopped in at a little tchotchke store where the owner gave us each a shot of ginjinha https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginjinha a sour cherry liqueur, and of course we bought a couple of things (that we wanted anyway).

But he also brushed off any talk of Portuguese colonization as nothing more than a search for trade and women. He dropped the “n” word a few times, informed us (with a touch of pride) that his people invented the term mulatto, talked about the Porsches and BMWs he saw on the road, and elbowed my ribs when he saw a beautiful woman on the street. Like a lot of places, Portugal is full of beautiful women.

I don’t often meet guys like that. Basically, friendly, toxic bros who know less than they think but who are completely charming otherwise. Plus, it was a gorgeous city, and he was so proud of it.

Overall, a weird day, but a great day. Have some pictures.

Portugal Day Two

Click the pic for more images. Can’t see it? A link.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

Portugal Trip: Day One

The first day of any vacation is the actual traveling. I don’t much like flying, and I certainly don’t like waiting around with luggage piled beside me. This trip we did a lot of both.

We flew British Air, which was a pretty good choice, and we arranged our travel so there would be several hours between our non-stop from Seattle to Heathrow and Heathrow to Lisboa. Turns out, that was a good idea.

The first leg was yet another red-eye, which is a habit we just can’t seem to break. However we were smart enough to upgrade ourselves to rows with a little extra space. I don’t even remember what we paid, but I’m glad we paid it. We had extra leg room, space to stand and move around, and TV screens inset on the seats in front of us so we could entertain ourselves with some video on demand during the flight.

I watched KINGSMAN, which wasn’t nearly as cute as it thought it was, then TERMINATOR: GENISYS, which was way too far up its own ass. After that, I was tempted by RUN ALL NIGHT, but after flying all night, I was really tired, so I went with a comfort viewing of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, which I liked more the second time than the first.

Unfortunately, my 13yo son, traveling with us, came down with a serious cold just before we left. He went through five travel packs of tissues on the first leg, and that’s only because the Nyquil hit him hard and he slept most of the way. Me, I can’t sleep on planes.

We landed at Heathrow on time, which was great. But the tunnel wouldn’t connect to the plane, so they had to drive in a set of stairs. That’s half an hour, for some reason. Then the guy driving the stairs got into a collision, so we needed another one. The flight was over 9 hours, and we spent an extra 45 minutes cooling our heels on the plane.

Then we had to get from terminal 5 to terminal 3. The envelope our boarding tickets came in said this took NINETY MINUTES, but I thought that was nuts. It wasn’t.

First you walk all over hell’s creation. Then you get into a bus. The bus goes to terminal 3, but don’t get off the bus here, this is the part of terminal 3 where they pick up more people who need to get to terminal 3. Then we rode the bus all over the goddam airport, for at least 20 minutes. Once they dropped us off, we still had to walk down endless corridors, up stairways, down stairways… It was ridiculous. I’d like to see a map showing the path we had to walk, because that was some bullshit. There has to be a better way.

At least we got there with just barely enough time to eat a meal, buy more tissues and run for the connecting flight… which was also delayed. Once we were loaded aboard, the pilot announced that another plane had spilled jet fuel all over the runway. We sat for 30 minutes while they cleaned it up.

The flight from Heathrow to Lisboa was cramped and unhappy, except for the view out the window. This was my first trip to Europe, and I enjoyed seeing the countryside, the coastlines, the mountains, and of course, Lisboa, as we circled the city. It was beautiful.

My sister- and brother-in-law have a great apartment in the city. She’s an artist. He’s a musician. As you would expect, their home’s beautiful and funky and extremely comfortable. I’m glad my wife and her sister are close, because we get to stay with them and ruthlessly exploit them as tour guides.

Also they had a little cafe on the corner of the block. That’s where we learned that when you want coffee in Portugal, you get espresso. No drip, just espresso, maybe with some milk added or something.

Plus, the pastries are very very sweet.

And Portugal, we’re going to have to talk about your electrical outlets.

Portugal Day One

Click the photo to see two more. Pic not showing up? A link.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

For Halloween, the Chapel of Bones in Evora

I feel bad about being so behind on everything, so here’s a Halloween preview of the Portugal blog posts to come:

In Evora (that first “E” is supposed to have an accent above it but life is short), they just reopened the Capela dos Osso after spending a fortune refurbishing it. That is, obviously, the chapel of bones, a largish room where the bones of the fully decomposed dead were put on display, to remind us all of our mortality.

Sometimes I think that’s the real value of Halloween: not the scares, not the candy, not using the costumes to pretend to be someone else. It’s the reminder that one day, we all must end.

Capela dos Osso

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

Special Halloween Sale Price

Hey, are you someone who likes ghosts, vampires, and werewolves, but hates being scared?

For today, I’m putting my pacifist urban fantasy on sale:

Check it out. Give it as an anti-Halloween gift (or as a Halloween gift, I guess) for people who like monsters but hate to be terrified.

BTW, right now, the price above is $3.99, but it’s actually been dropped to $2.99.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

NaNoWriMo and Portugal

Portugal posts have been delayed, obviously, because I got sick as soon as I got back to Seattle. Also, our shitty internet means that the online backup issues we had while we were away are taking forever to resolve.

Soon, though. Soon.

Additionally, it looks as though I’m going to jump on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon this year. After my vacation, which was supposed to be a working vacation but absolutely wasn’t, I’ve been having trouble getting momentum going on One Man. I doubt I’ll reach 50K for the month (not with the holiday right at the stretch) but that doesn’t matter if I can get this book going again. And I’m not going to sign up on some website to post my progress; I’ll do that here.

And now I’m off to get started on today’s work.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

New blog series: I went to Portugal

I have recently taken a “social media vacation” that lasted about a month. I wasn’t completely gone, but I wasn’t posting much, wasn’t reading much, and barely responded to people. The reason was simple:

I was on a month-long vacation in Portugal with my family.

My wife’s sister and her husband have lived in Lisboa and Porto for over ten years, and this was our first visit. We set aside a whole month at the end of the tourist season, late September through October, to see the sights, drink cafe on the sidewalks, and generally hang out and get to know the country. We did some things designed for the turista and some that locals do.

And yeah, the trip has been a secret, mostly, because I don’t think it’s wise to tell the world when the whole family is going out of the country together. It’s not that I’m afraid people would rush to my empty home to rob it, it’s that they’d rush to our home to rob it and find my niece living there, house-sitting for us.

So: trip reports, with pictures, coming up.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

Check out these graphs from Mark Lawrence, and some additional discussion about it on r/Fantasy.

My own numbers, while low for a project like this, align fairly well with those trends. Interesting.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.


Maximum Bob, by Elmore Leonard #15in2015

Maximum BobMaximum Bob by Elmore Leonard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting characters with unique voices. A plot that is unpredictable but feels inevitable. A setting that has tone more than detail.

I’m a fan of Leonard’s work, even though I haven’t made a dedicated effort to read all of his books. This book, about a judge who wants to drive his wife away and blackmails a defendant into helping him–which naturally goes completely haywire, and stirs up a great deal of trouble–is a bit shaggy in the best way. I’m not sure what I’m going to read next, because this will be a difficult act to follow.

[Added: I had no idea there was a TV series based on this book. I’ll have to look it up.]

Buy this book.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.