Monthly Archives: May 2017

XL Popcorn – Week End

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 587/1007
Title: Week End
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1967
Country: France

The phrase ‘oh my god, what the fuck am I watching’ rarely leaves my mouth when I am watching a film by myself and yet it spontaneously erupted from me some 20 minutes in this film. It also kept coming to mind for the remaining 80 minutes.

I guess this is my fault for watching two Godard films in a row. I mean, if I didn’t get on with Breathless (which is meant to be his best) then why do another one so soon. Maybe because he has 8 films in this list and I am woefully behind.

Honestly, the title of Week End doesn’t seem to fit this. If it had been called Accident after the abundance of car crashes in this film it would have made more sense. I kinda wonder if Godard had a friend with a scrapyard who fell on hard times and needed to loan out or set fire to most of his stock

There are parts that are so bizarre that they become enjoyable (such as the singing man in the phone box) but on the while this film is actually quite baffling. It’s just missing that signature clown flipping a pancake in slow motion.

I always thought I had a high tolerance to arty cinema (I mean, hello, I adored La Belle Noiseuse), but I think we might need to make an exception for some of these French films from the 1960s.

Actually, you know what this film made me miss? Les Demoiselles de Rochefort there was an older French film that I really enjoyed. Also, it made me miss the enjoyable surrealism of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

Maybe I just don’t like Godard? I have 6 more films to go to see if this idea tracks at all.

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1001 Songs – 1966: Part Two

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone – Paul Revere & The Raiders

I think I had this song ruined by a rather awful cover by Ant and Dec. Honestly, I am starting to wonder when we are going to be getting away from rock songs with an organ
playing alongside the bass-line. It’s getting to the point where having it squawking in the background is rather distracting.

Whilst I know we are not going to be having new developments and evolutions with every song that we play – this just felt like one of the bunch instead of a standout. This is meant to be proto-punk – but if it’s a song easily covered by The Monkees and PJ and Duncan then it isn’t THAT punk.

Mas que nada – Sergio Mendes & Brasil’ 66

Speaking of developments. It has been a while since we were in the presence of bossanova (although I did listen to some Bebel Gilberto when holidaying in Lisbon) and the sound has already started to become a lot richer down in Brazil.

There won’t be many people that don’t know a version of this song, even if it is the more recent version with the Black Eyed Peas. It’s one of those moodsetters that sitcoms use to convince you that they’ve shot in Brazil instead of a parking lot outside of Tampa.

El muerto vivo – Peret

Might as well pop over to Spain for a bit of a rumba after a bit of a Brazilian bossanova.

This is on the list as ‘El Mureto Vivo’ (or ‘The Living Dead’ in English) is one of the most played and most famous example of a Catalan rumba song. Not a lot to say here to be honest other than the fact that I wish we had more songs like this. Songs that were different from the big movements in rock/punk/soul that we are seeing elsewhere on the list.

Still, good to be developing that breadth of knowledge.

Tomorrow Is a Long Time – Elvis Presley

A Bob Dylan song as recorded by Elvis Presley. Sure, why the hell not.

Despite the fact that both Dylan and Presley are both part of the US sphere of rock, I find it hard to imagine the two of them interacting that often.

Still, this is an interesting bit of world collision here and it could originally be found as a bonus track on a movie soundtrack. A cover that Bob Dylan views as his favourite.

Knowing that Presley actively sought these Bob Dylan songs out to cover (it’s just that we don’t know a lot of them) really changes my view on the emotional depth of Presley as an artist.

Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles

Baroque pop! One of of my favourite sub-genres and I am finally hearing it for the first time. You can identify that it’s baroque pop not just from the sting section but the mix of melodies and harmonies.

When I listened to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ as part of my listenthrough for Revolver I honestly don’t think I got it. I do now.

Just so much to unpack here when you listen to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ in isolation. The interesting topic of loneliness. The incredible leap that The Beatles took to reach this point from the last song of theirs we heard.

Actually, this is not like anything we’ve heard on the list so far. Actually rather astonishing.

River Deep–Mountain High – Ike & Tina Turner

Don’t let the artist name fool you. This is a Tina Turner and Phil Spector song. I know my image of this song will be clouded by the fictions present in the Tina Turner biopic ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’, but with Ike Turner being paid hansomly to not mess with this song… well get the idea.

Big and bodacious ‘River Deep-Mountain High’ is one of those songs that just shows the range and power in Tina Turner’s voice. There are moments where the Wall of Sound feels like it is about to overwhelm her, but she always finds a way to soar.

7 and 7 Is – Love

14? An awful beverage? Oh right, a proper proto-punk song unlike the one we started this year off with. How silly of me.

A while ago I listened to their album Forever Changes, which they released a year after ‘7 and 7 Is’. That is a great album and a very different direction to what I just heard here. From proto-punk to a softer folk style more inkeeping with their name of ‘Love’.

Interesting to read up what happened there…

96 Tears – ? & The Mysterians

Seriously, when will we stop with that organ. If you are not a rendition of ‘Green Onions’ I am not interested in how proficient you are with the organ. The sheer abundance of the organ on this track is enough to make my ears curl.

This is another one of those garage rock songs (can you spot the pattern with a bunch of these songs from 1966) and it is seen as one of the proper progenitors of punk. Honestly I think ‘7 And 7 Is’ is further along in terms of what punk is… but what do I know.

I do, however, have respect for a band that plays with the idea that their lead singer is an alien who is thousands of years old. LSD really must be marvellous.

Pushin’ Too Hard – The Seeds

Once again, we have some baby punk. Why couldn’t we have had more songs like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ (Arcade Fire really is too far away in the future at this point).

There are points where I think they are going to segue into a rendition of The Kink’s ‘You Really Got Me’. Just something about the backing that feels a bit borrowed. Then again, most modern punk sounds like the Ramones put through a filter so who am I to judge.

In a similar vein to Love, The Seeds went away from this punkier sound to something more psychedelic. I mean if you end up being the band that coins the phrase ‘Flower Power’ you need music you can groove along to.

Psychotic Reaction – The Count Five

It feels like AGES since I last heard a harmonica. After a few of these garage rock/proto-punk songs I thought I would be a bit more jaded, but this one is really good.

This garage rock song still feels like half a light year from what punk would become. Still with those musical breakdowns and a howling harmonica ‘Psychotic Reaction’ felt like a smarter way of approaching punk rock.

Never heard of the band? Well, they broke up to go to college. Who knows where they could have ended up if they had stuck with music.

Reach Out (I’ll Be There) – The Four Tops

A nice bit of Motown soul to finish off this run of songs. Alongside ‘Baby Love’ by the Supremes, ‘Reach Out (I’ll Be There)’ was one of the first big hits to come out of the Motown record label.

Interesting to hear the strain in the voice of the lead singer during this song. His range was a baritone and he was being asked to sing a song for a tenor, and you can really tell that the higher he is meant to sing the harder it becomes for him. This, however, gives the song a sense of urgency that only adds to it.

Progress: 207/1021

One more post left and that’s 1966 covered. I wonder what gems I will be listening to next time.

What’s On TV – As Time Goes By

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 185/501
Title: As Time Goes By
Episodes Aired: 26
Episodes Watched: 67
Year(s): 1992-2005
Country: UK

Going into this I figured that this was going to be a gentle and tame sitcom (which it is) about two older people who reconnect and fall in love (which it also is). The thing is, that it is a whole lot more than that. It’s a sitcom with a lot of heart and fantastic chemistry between the major cast.

Let’s be honest – a sitcom with Judi Dench was always going to be something rather watchable, but I found myself enjoying this sitcom far more than I had expected. Maybe I had a wrong preconception because the only episodes I had previously seen were later on in the series.

Having started this from the very beginning I got a lot of enjoyment seeing this touching story of love rekindled. Picture this: two people who fall in love some 40 years previously and then lose touch when the man is deployed in Korea and his letters get lost in the mail.

It is their meeting up for the first time in decades where the first episode picks up. The sitcom is essentially this story of these two (Jean and Lionel) falling back in love and all the baggage that comes with it such as her daughter and his weird father.

Sure there are times when the humour is a bit old-fashioned, but that’s the charm of something so quintessentially British. Also, you have the undeniable chemistry between Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer elevating this comedy from background viewing to something rather that became rather addictive.

A Canção de Lisboa – Day 4: Belém

After the incredible wetness of yesterday’s trip to Sintra today’s sunny weather with a cool breeze was a welcome antidote. As I write this up it is currently raining outside and I just about hear it over the Jenny Hval album playing on my iPod.

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As with the previous two days, this day had a focus on a particular are of Greater Lisbon. Today’s focus was on Belém. How did we get there? Why, by an iconic yellow Lisbon tram of course.

To say it was packed would be an understatement (it was on par with Japanese subways), but I had the best seat in the house: right behind the driver. It was so interesting to see the driver at work by using the handles to modify the speed. Also it was just fun to watch him gesturing annoyedly at everyone that crossed the tram’s path.

An interesting tidbit that I learnt about this particular tram route (Route 15) is that this route between Rossio and Belém has been in operation for over 140 years. It’s just that it was previously run by horse-drawn coaches.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 64/100Sight: Mosteiro Dos Jerónimos
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Position: #372

The tram stopped right next to our major destination of the day: the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. I could see it coming over the horizon whilst we were in the tram, but in person the façade is something else. For one thing it is absolutely massive. Also, the level of detail on everything is extremely intricate.

Considering all the Manueline architecture we saw on display in Sintra I honestly thought I had seen Portuguese architecture at some of its most sumptuous. Until I stepped into the cloisters of the monastery that is.

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Perfect sunshine is what you need to enjoy this courtyard and that is what we got. Honestly, I could have just stayed in this courtyard for an inordinate amount of time checking in on all the different flourishes and decorations. But we continued our tour around which meant visits to the chapter house, the refectory and of course the church next door.img_4165

The church and the monastery together was enough to take my breath away. With columns that, in places, looked like they were made of snaking stone vines this church just felt like it had grown from the Earth. Whilst not the largest church I have ever been in this just felt cavernous. It also, however, felt like it had not been finished. There were empty recesses where one would have expected there to be statues and/or paintings. So I wonder what happened there.

In order to keep the theme going, out next stop was the Belém Tower. This is one of those structures that has had many uses over the year from political prison to customs house to lighthouse. Considering the prominence and the placement of the tower all these uses seem to make a modicum of sense.

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During our visit to the Belém Tower the top two floors were under reconstruction, which was a shame, but we still found our share of joy in the remaining 3-4 floors on offer. You pretty much go inside for the views looking out as, honestly, there isn’t too much to see on the inside. Still, entrance was free thanks to the Lisboa Card so why not go inside.

It was easily time to grab something to eat so we took a walk along the waterfront to our lunch destination. This is a place that I had specifically researched so that I could cross a rather odd mollusc off the list.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Goose-Necked Barnacles

Yes, we had goose-necked barnacles (percebes in Portuguese) as part of our lunch. This restaurant was the only place where I could find them talking about selling it in 100g increments. Considering these are over £45 a kilo you can see why I would only want a small amount.

Seeing them there was rather intimidating as I had no idea how to eat them. I ended up watching a brief YouTube tutorial on my phone to make sure we got our money’s worth. Essentially you need to grab them by the beaky end, twist and then pull lightly to reveal the tender edible insides.

Tastewise they share a similarity to the sweetness of lobster meat but with a higher level of salt as you would expect in shellfish. It sucks that these are probably amongst the nicest shellfish that I have ever eaten since it is unlikely that I’ll have this opportunity again.

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Obviously we needed more food so we each had a prego steak roll. If Nandos is anything to go by, then we most definitely had a very Portuguese lunch. A very delicious (and once again, reasonable) one it was too.

Since it was free we decided to nip into the National Archaeological Museum. Good thing it was free as it was pretty nondescript to be honest. For a country that launched many an exhibition to Brazil and parts of Africa I am surprised there wasn’t more here. There must be a bigger collection somewhere else one would hope.

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For the rest of the afternoon we did a bit of final exploring and shopping before heading back to the room to freshen up for dinner. Sadly the church we intended to see was closed for choir practice, but we got to exploring the Barrio Alto and I met the best rooster in the world. What more can I say.

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For our final dinner we went to a real mom and pop place as recommended on TripAdvisor. For whatever reason I decided to not heed the surprise of the guy when I said I would be ordering cod cheeks – I understood this when the food arrived. As nice as the meat was, there was not a lot of it and I had to carve it off of this boiled fish head that had been cut in half. Young me would have seen the teeth and panicked, I just got annoyed that they got in my way of cod flesh.

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Food item: Abacaxi Pineapple

An unexpected thing we saw on menu was abacaxi pineapple, but there it was in the fruit section. They used the term ananas on the same menu which gave the tip that this was the right pineapple. And it was! Slightly sweeter than a regular pineapple (just not the explosion of flavour that was the Azores pineapple) this made for a refreshing end to the meal. Only it wasn’t the end of the meal.

Here’s the thing. Portuguese cheeses are 2-3 times the price in the UK so I would be a fool to not try and cross as many of these off the list whilst I was here. With this I have crossed off all them from the list. So, mission complete.

img_4221Food items: Azeitão and Serra da Estrela
Progress: 589/751

We started off with the Azeitão which was soft and gooey middle. It had a medium nose with some acidity and a slightly salty edge on first taste. Then the tanginess hits you right in the face. This is not on the same level as the Boulette D’Avesnes, and I guess it’s more like Taleggio. Maybe a really strong Camembert but not as creamy or straw-like. Acid notes with a creamy finish. The rind is edible and, somehow, manages to calm it down.

Then there was the Serra de Estrela, which is referred to as the king of Portuguese cheeses. In terms of texture this is like eating a cheese moose or cheese foam. You can cut the top off and scrape out the insides with a cracker. It’s truly something to behold.

The taste starts off mild and after a few bites acidity hits. Nowhere near as strong as the Azeitão though, but it comes with an aftertaste that is almost like hay or whatever those sheep were eating. It is the ultimate cheese of the Portuguese countryside.

Now I am at the end of my time here there are so many takeaway messages from these days spent in Lisbon.

1) This place is a treasure trove of food items. Seriously, when I consider the number of days that I have been here and the number of food items I have had – there is a huge concentration here.

2) Portuguese cuisine is very much it’s own thing. I came in with the wrong thought that it was just a variation on Spanish. So not true.

3) Aside from the men who kept trying to sell me hash on the street, Portuguese people seem to be hospitable.

4) The metro stations are designed to make you are hungry as friggin’ possible. All day today I could smell popcorn on the metro. It was baked goods a few days ago. So, do they rotate the smells to stop you getting used to it?

The biggest take home message of them all is, obviously, how lovely it is in Lisbon. A return trip is likely to happen – mainly so I can try to experience Sintra on a clear day. In terms of other possible trips to Portugal, I would very much like to give Porto a go, so any suggestions welcome.

A Canção de Lisboa – Day 3: Sintra

I know that going anywhere in Europe in November comes with a risk of rain, but looking at the weather broadcast the night before we came to Lisbon gave us a false sense of optimism. But still, we didn’t quite expect the weather we got today.

Anyway let’s backtrack to the beginning.

I have a lot of respect for the public transport. We did not have to wait long for anything today. The longest was a 5 minute wait and the train was already sat there waiting.

Sintra is about a 40 minute train journey from where we were staying in Rossio (and the journey was free thanks to the Lisboa cards that we bought). When in Sintra we bought the 5€ tourist bus round ticket as recommended… and as I would also recommend.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 63/100Sight: Sintra
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Position: #142

The whole day was spent seeing the sights of Sintra so it is a bit difficult to know when to say this was ticked off.

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We started out in the historical town centre of Sintra with a visit to the National Palace. The most distinctive things about this palace are the two conical chimneys. They look so out of place, and yet they really make the palace special.

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Speaking of special, this royal palace was amazing on the inside. So many rooms that are impeccably decorated in many different ways. Most have rather obvious names, such as the pictured Swan Room, and feature beautifully painted ceilings, ornate tiling or both. It was a real eye opener to see some of these beautiful designs and continue my learning of the Moorish influence of this area of Europe.

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As we are on the topic of Morrish, the second of the three main stops on the tourist bus route. On a clear day the views from the top of the highest tower must be exceptional. On this day, it was breathtaking (and wet) to see the clouds physically roll in over the walls. There was something very Skyrim, Hound of the Baskervilles and Game of Thrones about the sheer amount of cloud that was swamping the castle.

The walk from the bus stop to the castle did not give us any warning about how wet and cloudy it was about to become. In fact, it was clear enough for us to be able to appreciate the sheer scope of the second outer set of walls. It was one when we started going up a tower and commencing a wall walk that it became clear just how wet the rest of the day was going to be.img_4099
Looking back on the day – the ruins of the Moorish Castle really was the highlight of the  day in Sintra. I actually cannot think of the last time I saw such a large set of ruins from the Middle Ages.

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A fairly short walk away from the castle was the final stop of the route – the Pena Palace. Now, I would not be surprised if Disney took a cue from here when designing some of their parks. As a palace it was designed for fun (having converted an old monastery) and the bright colour scheme on the outside really does agree with this.

As with the National Palace, the insides are beautifully decorated. However, the decorations here are a lot less subtle and there are more (smaller) rooms. Some of them have beautiful trompe-lœil painted walls whilst others feature tiles. You can also see many specially designed chandeliers and light fixtures including a rather beautiful glass chandelier meant to resemble a morning glory.

I have no doubt that we would have been able to appreciate the Pena Palace more of it was not for the near constant rain. For example, walking around the walls should give wonderful views rather than the sea of clouds. Still, it didn’t deter us from looking around some of the grounds, but first we had to eat some of the Sintra cheese tarts that we bought in the town centre.

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We made for the so-called Valley of Lakes which is at one of the lowest points of the Pena Park. These specially designed lakes looked extra otherworldly in the mist (Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ came to mind… but only after we skipped down a slope singing a song from The Wizard of Oz).

A number of the lakes feature ornate duckhouses. These might have made me jealous of ducks and their wonderful digs. But that my problem apparently.

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Flashforward a few hours and we are back in Lisbon having dinner. For the first time ever I actually decided to have octopus for dinner. Sure, it looked like it was going to reach up and grab me, but the results were rather delicious with lime juice and fried potatoes. I can only imagine my reaction to this when I was in Portugal 16 years ago. The word ‘mortified’ comes to mind.img_4140
Since it was still early there was a chance to wander around the nearby shopping streets to get some souvenir and gift shopping done. We might have spent a bit too much on this, but with Christmas lights starting to go up in Lisbon how could we not?

One more full day here. I really have fallen for this city. Aside from the many times I have been offered drugs, the people are just so friendly and helpful. Here’s to the final day as I scarf pastries down my trap.

A Canção de Lisboa – Day 2: Alfama and the Oceanarium

Never let it be said that we don’t pack things into a day on holiday. So many things done today that it really feels like a day of two (rather different) halves.

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We started out by heading for one of the three Lonely Planet Travellist places that I am hoping to hit up on this trip. Our walk took us first to Lisbon Cathedral, whose presence was absolutely massive amongst the surrounding smaller houses.

Inside it is a bit barer than some of the other cathedrals I have been to recently, but there are still some really impressive architectural aspects. To get into the main cathedral is free, but if you want to venture around the cloisters and treasury there is a 4€ fee.

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Well worth it just to know that the money is going towards the upkeep of the cathedral and the archaeological excavation currently happening on the centre of the cloisters. Already they have been able to find old Roman and Islamic remains. Who knows what else they’ll find.

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The treasury is worth it just to be able to get the view from above the cathedral. Never have I ever been so close to a stained glass window that I could make out such a wealth of detail. It made me wish I knew more about the saints and their symbols to better identify them. Hey ho.img_3989
We went across the road to the Church of St Anthony. I think this is the first time that I have been to a church build on the birthplace of a Saint. As you can probably guess, that meant this church had its fair share of pilgrims making their way to the crypt to say their prayers before buying things from the gift shop.

As for us we were able to enjoy the opulent decorations on display in the main church. Gold, gold, gold as far as the eye could see. Also the desiccated corpse of a young Saint Justina. The second time, after Catania, where I have seen a dead body on display in a church.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 62/100img_3994Sight: Lisbon’s Alfama
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Position: #336

So here we are in the first of the Lonely Planet Travelist areas in Lisbon. Alfalfa is an area of Lisbon characterized by winding streets, colourful buildings, lots of little shops and quite a few churches.

It’s hard to just to talk about an area like its a landmark, but it was just such a pleasure to walk through its streets and take in the surrounding as we went higher and higher.

At the top of the hill, and I think technically out of the Alfama, is the Castelo de São Jorge. At the top of one of the towers is, as we overheard from a guided tour, the highest point in Lisbon.

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This is another one of the places where you could just spend a wealth of time taking in the views. We did take our sweet time in the castle grounds just looking at as many different views of Lisbon as we could find.

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The castle itself was large and impressive. Just reading up on the age of some parts of this castle (we’re talking 12th century here, with the hill having been occupied since 4th century BC) just makes you feel humble. That is until you find yourself hugging walls as you clamber down steep stairs whilst singing the New Girl theme song.

This was the end of the first half of the day. The middle was characterised by getting annoyed at the Lisbon bus system after buses just didn’t arrive when they were meant to (as in we waited for 40 minutes and the bus that was meant to run ‘every 15 minutes’ just didn’t materialise… we later found out that the road was closed for works some 100 metres away) so let’s skip on through.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Dieimg_4015Food item: Sweet Marjoram

Lunch was at about 2pm in the cafe attached to the Lisbon Oceanarium. It was here that I somehow managed to tick off a food item since they used sweet marjoram in one of their sandwiches. It just goes to prove that you never really know when you are going to come across one of these. Maybe Lisbon is just a treasure trove of these.

A quick lunch later and we were in the Oceanarium, which is apparently the largest indoors aquarium in Europe. It was also magnificent.

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The whole thing is centred around one large ocean tank that contains my new best friend: a sunfish that I have called Derp. There are other things in there like devil rays, groupers, sharks and guitarfish; but Derp is truly the magnetic presence of the tank. Okay maybe not, just watching the fish was enough, but actually seeing a sunfish in the flesh was something truly special.

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There are a lot of other exhibits in the aquarium including penguins, puffins, otters, jellyfish and a whole wealth of other creatures. Seriously, this is an impressive aquarium to visit and (thanks to it being a Thursday in the off season) it was actually rather quiet. It meant that we could just take our time and take pictures of our favourite fish.

We wandered through the Parque de Nações before taking the metro back home. This park, which was the location of the 1998 World Expo feels so wonderfully modern. So many interesting looking buildings and sites that kinda reminded me of Odaiba.

Dinner was further proof of the wealth of 1001 foods available in Lisbon. It was not a place that I would have normally gone in, but TripAdvisor and a pre-visit glance at the menu persuaded me that it would be worth the visit.

img_4047Food item: Suckling Pig

To help me with the ticking off (as well as ensuring he got a good meal) hub went for the sucking pig. It was a mountain of pork like I had not expected for 11€. In the UK you would probably have to pay 2-3 times that.

Now, on one level I disagree with the concept of sucking pig wholeheartedly, but my god was this good. So very tender they it just collapsed off of the bone. Also, as pork goes, it was a sweet meat. This is a good thing.

img_4048Food item: Black Scabbard Fish

So, the waiter tried to warn me off this. Like he actually told me what this fish looked like and that it basically wasn’t a normal fish. I got a “don’t complain if you don’t like it”

I did not complain. I adored this. It was some of the best fish I have ever had and I can’t think of what I’d compare it too. Perhaps eel would be closest, just not as oily. It was very close textured and slightly salty.

I would have this again. And might do if we find it in another place. Or just visit this place again. Usually a no no for me on holiday, but there are a lot of other things I want from this menu.

img_4049Food item: Guarana
Progress: 585/751

This was not the end of the food items today. Oh no. We actually managed to pick up some Brazilian guarana soda on the way home! I hadn’t really thought about it , but it makes sense that you could get some Brazilian things here. It tastes like a refreshing tropical berry that’s like a nicer version of Red Bull. That’s about it, I have no other touchstones for this..

So that’s today. This may be one of the longest blog posts I have written for a good while. Time for bed so I can be up early tomorrow for our trip to Sintra!

A Canção de Lisboa – Day 1: Arrival

It feels like only yesterday that we arrived back from our trip to Netherlands. Maybe because it was only a week and a half ago. At any rate, I could quite easily get used to being in and out of airports considering how much time I have been spending there recently.

For this latest mini-break I find myself returning to Portugal since I was last here 16 years ago. I don’t remember too much about the previous trip, but there are some things that feel familiar. Mainly the smell of the tree sap as we walked through the greener areas and the patterns of the tiles on the floors and walls.

The first day is always a bit odd, especially when you arrive in the mid-afternoon. Too much time to not do anything, but not enough time to do anything sizeable. So we just wandered around the nearby area.

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The bus ride from the airport was already making me feel like this was a city I could fall for. A shop like this? Well that just sweetens the deal. We didn’t go inside because… well I’m not entirely sure if we’d make it out without buying a can of sardines with our birth year on it.

One thing I had never appreciated about Lisbon is that it is a coastal capital. But there it is, the estuary of the Tejo River as it enters the Atlantic Ocean. The smell of the sea is faint, but very much there as you head to the river’s edge. I guess that must be because this is brackish water rather than seawater.

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We reach the river as the sun is going down and the view is beautiful. The light of the sun is so very red. The surrounding buildings are glowing as if they are facing a gigantic bonfire. The bank is very crowded as we all gather to watch the sun going down.

After some sun watching (and after turning down a vendor’s offer of cheap marijuana) we headed back up to the Rossio area where our hotel is.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Dieimg_3958Food item: Azores Pineapple

On the way back we happened across a shop I was looking to go into tomorrow. A shop that specialises in food from the Azores. I had researched this and was ready to buy a pineapple for the food list with no plan of how I’d be able to eat the damned thing.

Luckily they had free samples of the pineapple on offer, so I was able to try it there and then without having to fruit wrestle. This tasted unlike any pineapple I has experienced before. The flavour just exploded in my mouth. It felt like a sweet and concentrated pineapple flavour that I would normally have in a sweet. So basically it’s the best pineapple I’ve ever had and I’ve bought some pineapple jam to try and recreate this experience at home.

Dinner was at a small place near the hotel. I’ve purposely been researching places to go that were Tripadvisor friendly and would not break the bank. We managed to get a meal for three here for 26€, so I think I did a good job.

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Food item: Alheiras De Mirandela

I got myself the Alheiras De Mirandela and had the most cultured sausage, egg and chips that I have ever had. The sausage itself was mushy on the inside. As in it felt like it was very freshly made (rather than processed) where you could appreciate the textures of the meat and how the smokiness of the meat changed depending on the closeness of the texture.

The sausage itself has an interesting history and dates back to the days of the Portuguese Inquisition. Jews would make these sausages with chicken and hang them up in their smokehouses. By doing so it would like they were eating pork and, as such, had converted to Christianity. Such a clever, yet simple, idea.

img_3960Food item: Gilthead Bream
Progress: 581/751

Hub did me the favour by having the ‘dourada’ or gilthead bream. The skin looked a beautiful golden colour, I guess to match the name which comes from the Portuguese word for ‘gold’. My husband was a little bit taken aback with the toothy fish head that had been nestled underneath some green beans, but he made the best of it.

I lack the fish vocabulary to discuss this properly. It was close textured whitefish that tasted very fresh and still had remnants of the seas saltiness in its flesh. The taste was more on par with richness of trout and mackerel than something like cod.

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We ended the day as I think we are going to end it whilst we are here – with a clutch of Portuguese egg custard tarts. I’m so looking forward the next few days and seeing more of this city

1001 Songs – 1966: Part One

Right so this year is so large that I’m splitting it into three parts of 10-11 songs apiece. Looking at the names that are going to be covered this year it is little wonder. It’s like all these titans of music just woke up and started going on a hit-making rampage.

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Et moi, et moi, et moi – Jacques Dutronc

French Bob Dylan? Is that you? Seriously though, how much does this sound like if Bob Dylan suddenly took it upon himself to sing in French. Not a criticism in anyway, but it’s just so interesting to see how quickly an artist can influence another. Similarly there are other acts you can hear here such as the Kinks.

This song itself is rather self centred (ergo the title), but that’s pretty much the point. It’s not like anything we’ve yet heard come out of France (or the European mainland), which makes this song particularly stand out.

Stay with Me – Lorraine Ellison

One of those songs that was the case of serendipity. A last-minute cancellation by Frank Sinatra meant there was an already paid for slot available at a recording studio (as well as an already hired orchestra) – and here is the song that came out of this.

The richness and bombast of the orchestral background to this song with the powerful voice of Lorraine Ellison make for a wonderful pairing – and might not have been something we’d have heard if not for the cancellation.

Al-atlal – Umm Kulthum

At over 10 minutes long ‘Al-atlal’ is one of the longest songs on this list. This is also considered to be one of the best Arab songs of the 20th century with the singer, Umm Kulthum, being the most celebrated Arab singer (possibly) ever.

It’s fairly hard to talk about a song like this because of our lack of exposure to this sort of music. Also, it is hard to talk about this song because it is heavily improvised. The version we found was 10 minutes 30 seconds, and that was only because it cuts out. Some performances of this song could stretch well over half an hour.

You’re Gonna Miss Me – The Thirteenth Floor Elevators

After that rather long Arabian musical interlude I need to get my head back into the world of what was going on in Western music.

Here we are with a furthering of the ‘garage rock’ that started to creep in during our last listen. It’s taking that garage rock and giving it just that bit of a psychedelic polish that was so popular at the time.

Apparently you can hear an electric jug being played in this. I think I missed it.

Substitute – The Who

You never really hear the tambourine in songs anymore. It’s one of those things that really makes this song scream 1960s.

It feels like The Who have really softened up since ‘My Generation’ and they have some ways to go until they reach the power pop of Tommy. This feels like a song that the Beatles could have written if their music had more of an edge to it (just listen to some of the lyrics, which betray that it started out as a riff on a Rolling Stones song).

Eight Miles High – The Byrds

Pure psychedelia here. As with songs by the Mamas and the Papas and The Beach Boys we have those California cool harmonies.

It’s also highly experimental (leading the term raga rock) with its guitar playing. We see similar things when the Beatles release St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

I never think of The Byrds when I think of musical breakthroughs of the 1960s. Probably time to re-evaluate.

Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks

“Oh look how wealthy I am, pity about all the taxes I have to pay now.” That’s pretty much the takeaway I got from the first verse of this song. I get that it’s written to be mocking of the richer classes and the ennui they can feel.

I also get that, at the time, you would have to pay 95% tax for earnings over a certain amount. Still, rich people problems eh?

Paint It, Black – The Rolling Stones

One of only two songs on this list of ten where I have that immediate recognition from the title. It probably helps that I listened to it on Aftermath as part of my other musical blog project.

As with ‘Eight Miles High’ we have another example of raga rock. They don’t go into it as experimentally as the Byrds, but this is a fantastic song.

I know I didn’t like Aftermath as an album, but the more this song really grows on me. Even though, as a song, I don’t know if it actually has an end.

Summer in the City – The Lovin’ Spoonful

Oh my God it’s this song. You know that moment you know a song really well and you have no idea how? That’s how I feel with this song. Although, I don’t think I had previously heard the bits with the car horns and the pneumatic drill.

With the exception of the final song on this list, ‘Summer in the City’ is the most pop of anything in this blog entry. It’s something that I swear I have heard in various films and TV shows where they are trying to give that summery feel.

Also, here is another song that doesn’t end. Is this something I have only just noticed?

God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

‘God Only Knows’ ranked among my favourite songs of all time. It’s a song that I kept thinking about with my wedding (although apparently, since it was a civil ceremony and this song mentions God it was a bit sketchy… pathetic, right?) even though the first line is “I may not always love you”.

It’s one of the most beautifully and brutally honest songs about love that has ever been put on recorded. Doing the 1001 songs list helps me appreciate all of the musical threads that have come together to make this and the other songs on Pet Sounds.

The big and layered production. The rise of psychedelic rock through folk music. The close harmonies. Even that tambourine. The key changes. It’s all come together to make this wonderful song that, thanks to the beginning sequence of Big Love, makes me think of ice skating with someone I love.

Progress: 196/1021

Good Eatin’ – Hatcho Miso Soup

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Hatcho Miso

One wonder what cannot be done with the humble soy bean. I know you could probably say the same of wheat, but I wouldn’t dream of eating an ear of wheat as it is like you can with soy beans.

A long time I ate saiko miso, the sweeter and lighter (in terms of flavour and colour) cousin of black miso. Where saiko miso is spreadable, hatcho miso is a dark brown block that smells vaguely of licorice root.

When tasted in this block form it is salty and very umami. It actually tastes like a Japanese analogue for Marmite or Bovril. This comparison is even more pronounced when disolving it in warm water before putting it into a soup (where it really does look and taste like a hot Bovril drink).

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Taking pictures like this is just one of the many reasons that I would never get on with Instagram. Honestly, after spending the better part of an hour making this ramen with barbecue pulled chicken I just want to eat it rather than make it photogenic.

Whilst I can’t say that I tasted the hatcho miso as a standout flavour what I can say is that this soup felt like it had a greater depth of flavour. Good thing too. A little goes a long way with hatcho miso and there is a sizeable block of it left in my fridge.

Apparently there are a bunch of other things I can add hatcho miso to. Hub says to just spread it on toast. I think that could be gross, but what the hell what’s the worst that could happen.

Progress: 578/751

Level One – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 63/100Title: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Original Platform: PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Year: 2013

As a frequent consumer of Reddit and other online message boards I know how late to the Skyrim party I am. When playing this game I was just waiting for that first guard to tell me about that time they were shot in the knee or asked if I was feeling dour because of a stolen sweetroll.

So here we are over 3 years later and I have finally united my copy (a Christmas gift) with my Xbox 360. I could have just gone for the remastered edition… but I am more than happy to sample it on the original system. I think ‘more than happy’ is an understatement here, I bloody love this game.

As of writing this I have already spent more than 20 hours in this game and I feel that I have only just started to scratch the surface. Strange how with games like A Link To The Past I started to wonder when it would end and yet with games like this, Mass Effect 2 and Fallout: New Vegas the hours just seem to melt away.

If you live on the underside of a rock or have no interest in games you won’t know what this game is about. Essentially, it’s a fantasy action/RPG where you roam around a snowy landscape completing quests, killing dragons and (I am guessing) eventually help end a civil war.

This game is a winner because it is just so incredibly open. Sure, if you go down the wrong road you might end up being killed in one blow by a giant, but the point still stands. Both myself and the hub are playing this game simultaneously and are having completely different experiences.

Since we both have all the DLC for Skyrim there is one uniting factor: hunting for materials to make door locks. Feels a bit silly when you write it out, but it’s amazing what becomes important when immersed in the gaming world.

It’s just one of those games that makes me truly glad to be a gamer.