Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Sunday, November 19 2023

Room 215 on the Andorinha on the Douro River in Pinhão, Portugal

This morning we went down to the dining area and cobbled together our respective breakfasts from items such as British-style beans, vegan croissants, rolls, butter, and various roasted vegetables. (I eat rather differently at breakfast time from the way Gretchen tends to; she has less of appetite but will eat things like cereal even when traveling and will also eat "scrambles.") We were joined at breakfast by Kate again, and though she's perfectly fine, we started to worry if perhaps she was to be our curse on this cruise.
We'd begun the day docked in the small village of Pinhão, and Gretchen went for a long walk up a road high above (though parallel to) the Douro River, initially heading east and walking until some menacing dogs forced her to turn around. Later, after lunch, our boat captain took the boat itself in a similar direction, making a U-turn in the river and heading back to Pinhão somewhat further east than Gretchen had gone on food. Along the way, we were treated to spectacular views of the heavily-terraced hillsides, with their orchards of grapes, olives, or almonds. The captain then parked the boat at a dock near the very center of the village.
At some point Gretchen commandeered my laptop so she could do more work providing training data for an AI that might one day write not-terrible poetry. I feel asleep during this time, as I was tired and couldn't think of a better thing to do in the absence of technology.
A little before sunset, Gretchen and I took a stroll through the village. We were struck by the many abandoned buildings in the middle of it. One had thick stone walls and a still-intact internal cistern but not roof, and inside was a lush jungle of fig and other trees. In the holes in the stone walls where the beams had once been socketed, rock doves had built nests and were noisily occupying.
We found a stairway down through what seemed to be a public orange grove, where we helped ourselves to delightfully semi-sweet oranges of a kind impossible to find in the United States. At the bottom of the grove was a line of public exercise equipment painted a festive blue. A little further on, we encountered a friendly white cat missing a patch of fur on his tail and meowing at us pathetically. Not knowing what to do, we kept walking, feeling a little like we do when ignoring a street beggar. Later we would learn that Simon and Cathy, new friends from the south coast of England, had stumbled upon this same cat in a rubbish bin and taken him by taxi (at great expense) to a vet, where he was treated and fed and then transferred to a foster family. It turned out he had FIV but was otherwise reasonably healthy. This story made Gretchen and I feel like pathetic and ineffectual animal lovers by comparison.
Gretchen didn't like the dinner tonight in the big restaurant, so we opted to dine in Arthur's, the little Bistro in the back of the boat. There I was able to get a veggie burger (it had a decidedly Indian flavor) with real french fries, though I had to specifically ask for ketchup.
Tonight Gretchen and I watched The Last Duel, a star-studded Ridley Scott movie set in France in the 1300s and clearly influenced by Game of Thrones. It appealed more to my sensibilities than it did to Gretchen's, though even I found its overlong scenes of pornographic violence irritating. One great thing about the movie was that it presented a series of events three different times, each as remembered by a different main character (though none of their memories were all that different). At some point Gretchen observed that "only a man could make this movie," which was true. But, as I pointed out, the movie had managed to pass the Bechdel Test in at least one scene. Amusingly, one of our new friends, the older half of the gay couple from Olive Bridge, had a role as a character actor with speaking parts in the second half of The Last Duel, and that gave us a good laugh when he unexpectedly appeared on screen.

Gretchen along the railroad tracks through Pinhão. Click to enlarge.

A random crucifix. Click to enlarge.

That striking roofless old house in Pinhão. Click to enlarge.

Nearby houses have cantilevered porches overlooking one of the Douro's tributaries. This house tried a different approach. Click to enlarge.

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