20th Sept '04. Miranda do Douro, North-east Portugal.
Quick! Get to Portugal! They're literally giving stuff away! 20 euros gets me by far the biggest, best, gleamingest hotel room of the trip so far. A further 10 buys me a basket of food in the supermercato that would feed 4 unusually greedy adults with ease.
The proprietor of the shop, who looks like Charles Aznavour's more ingratiating brother, draws me into conversation about where I'm from and going. I warm to him until he tells me that, having spent time in Africa, he has reached the conclusion that no less than 90% of Africans are "bad people". He balances this rather bald statement by conceding that "small people" are "good". For a moment I think he means that, having lived among Pygmies, he found them both honest and companionable. Then I realise he means "a few".
Expanding on his theme, he goes on to warn me that a similar proportion of Arabs are dissatisfactory in some regard or other.
Oh well - his food is great.
Washed my 800-mile jeans in the sink this afternoon. The water that came out of them was the colour of the urine of a severely dehydrated man who has been on a spinach-only diet for a month.
Later, in Bar Jordao, lager and VH1... How in the name of Beelzebub did Billy Crystal get to shag Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally"? The man is an unadulterated goof, and Meggy, while occupying (at the time) the coveted "America's Leading Pseudo-Virgin" spot, is in reality a white-hot sex monkey of the most frotterrific variety. Gurgle.
Everything But The Girl: Three words - Ow! My! Eyes!
If you're in a restaurant and see "Godley and Creme" on the menu, avoid it. It's a frightening British pudding with a hair garnish.
Oi! Everyone in the world! Stop saying "conclusive proof"! What other sort of proof is there? Inconclusive proof?
21st Sept '04
Beautiful day. Coffee in the square. General dicking about. A small tumble during some off-road larks.
22nd Sept '04. Miranda - Guarda.
Breakfast of bread, jam, coffee, fags and Ibuprofen, necessitated by a bash on the shin and an insulted wrist from yesterday's drop.
Hot and sunny! Hot and sunny! The sainted ghost of Bill Hicks appears on my shoulder and whispers "What are you - a fuckin' lizard?"
135 miles of Douro valley hairpin mayhem later, it's Guarda.
A city on a very tall, very steep hill, with what looks like its only supermarket at the bottom. This means that if you live in Guarda and you don't have a car, you are going to
(a) starve to death within days, or
(b) develop calves like cantaloupes and thighs even Geoff Capes would swoon over.
The Douro valley is a hard, rocky, arid place. To describe the people that live there as "extremely wizened" would be to understate the situation laughably. It's also very beautiful indeed.
There seem to be as many horse-and-cart operators (if that's the accepted title) as car drivers, which suggests that the approx. 10 zillion euros that the Portuguese government receives from the EU each year is not wholly being distributed as equal, per-capita cash handouts.
One thing is certain. They're not spending it on the N221 from Mogadouro to Pinhel, which is surfaced with sharp rocks stuffed into a form of proto-tarmac. Loss-of-control fans might like to look out for the pot-holes filled with loose gravel that have been placed conveniently close to several barrier-less, cliff-edge hairpins along the way.
Joy beyond measure! There is a Portuguese word for "pint", and I have just used it, with thrilling results, in what may or may not have been a sentence. The barman has also bought me a small plate of whitish beans in salty water. New and interesting? Yes. Nice to eat? No.
Drinking beer? Then smoke cigarettes as well! They're Nature's Crisps...
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at September 24, 2004 11:10 AM GMT
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