Part II, and probably the final part of the Azores random trivia posts.
. The local bullfights and bull running activities, like the traditional ‘tourada à corda‘, don’t include killing the animals. The ‘touradas à corda’ specifically, don’t allow the bulls to participate for too long – they have a minimum period of rest of 10 days between events and during the events themselves they only run for a few minutes.
. The parties and religious celebrations are mostly used for people to socialize, and to kill time. Because, according to one of our travel guides, ‘there is nothing else to do’.
. Among the many local jokes on the ‘mispronouncinations’ the emigrants that return from the the USA, are Vaca Miquelina = Vacuum Cleaner. Apparently that was hilarious there. I must have missed the complete sense of the joke.
. In one of the islands I didn’t visit, São Jorge, people have a ‘rapel’ system to send over items to people in some hard to get to areas (the ‘fajãs’). The items just speed away down the roap until they reach their destination. This makes complete sense in most cases, but one of our guides in São Miguel told us that they also do it with gas bins. When she found out (she’s not from that island), she asked the people there if it wasn’t dangerous. Their reply was something like this: ‘no, it’s not dangerous at all! we tie an empty bag to them so it does a parachute effect which slows them down, and at the end of the roap there are a bunch of tires which break the fall.’. … Alrighty then! Perfectly reasonable… right? o_o When I go back to Azores, I’ll try to get a video of this – hopefully with no explosions in the mix. That is, if the guide wasn’t pulling our leg – it didn’t seem like she was, despite the unbelievable aspect of this ‘system’.
. Fish in the Azores is (almost) always fresh, if you ask for fish species surrounding the Azores area, of course. There isn’t a huge fishing culture in the islands (weird, I know), but there’s a lot of fresh fish available in restaurants. The difference in taste versus that of fish that’s been frozen before getting to our plate is obvious, especially for people who appreciate fish a lot, like we do.
. There’s a vegetable in Azores, called ‘pimenta da terra’, that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s sort of a hybrid between cayenne pepper and red pepper. It’s used to make delicious food seasonings. I brought a few seeds back – some to plant here at home, and some for the farm. I doubt the farm ones will survive due to the very different weather conditions, but with any luck, the ones we’ll plant here at home will do okay. Fingers crossed.
. The azorean dish ‘cozido das furnas’, is a different version of the traditional portuguese stew. It’s made in the Furnas region in São Miguel, and it takes six hours to cook inside one of the natural volcanic digs that are used for this. Unlike what a lot of people think when they visit the cooking site, which smells like sulfur, the dish itself doesn’t taste like sulfur at all. The cozido das furnas includes ‘pimenta da terra’ for seasoning, which not only blends perfectly with the other ingredients, but also makes the simple boiled meats much tastier. They also use yams instead of turnip, and the local chourizo is slightly spicier than ours. The downside of this wonderful dish? No farinheira included.
. There’s a shop in downtown Lisbon fully dedicated to selling azorean products. I will need to look it up next time I’m in that area.
I’m also wondering what azorean restaurants exist here in Lisbon. My friend Amadeu told me about this one – Espaço Açores – that’s apparently quite good. Know any others? Let me know!
I’ll definitely want to return to the azorean islands. Beautiful scenery, nice people, great food, and a ton of activities involving Nature. What more could I wish for?
So, I haven’t talked about the A Game of Thrones TV series here since last September when there still wasn’t a show to watch and chat about.
I’ve been enjoying it a lot and I haven’t minded some differences between the show and the novels, because so far they’ve kept the important parts of the narrative there. The cast is great. The actors playing hate-inducing characters are doing a great job, as are the ones playing the characters I love. I always imagined Eddard looking like Viggo Mortensen and I thought I wouldn’t like Sean Bean in the part, but it turned out he’s doing great.
If there’s one universe in which I haven’t been able to pick just one favourite character, it’s George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The complexity of the characters is such that it became impossible not to like one detail or another from several of them.
No differently from the novels, to me the most interesting characters are Tyrion for his wits and his particular views on life, Daenerys for growing into who she truly is, Arya who reminds me so much of how I was at that age – a tomboy who didn’t behave very well, and to a point, Jon Snow, the outcast who hasn’t quite found his place yet. Eddard is also interesting, being honorable and idealist, but I’ve been finding him less appealing in the show than he was in the novel.
One thing that makes me enjoy the show more is, strangely enough, that I forgot a lot of details of the story. I read the first novel about eight or nine years ago, and the important parts of the plot and characters remained in my memory, but the little details keep coming back as ‘surprises’ when I’m watching the show.
The opening. I loved the theme and the CGI. Kind of steampunky and not something I’d expect in a fantasy show, but maybe that’s why it works marvelously. They got me at ‘clockwork’.
Still about A Song of Ice and Fire and George R. R. Martin:
The good news: There’s going to be a season 2 (not actual ‘news’ – it’s been known since the first episode ratings came out)
The bad news: The first season ends on June 26th and I’m sure we’ll have a long wait ahead of us.
The great news: George R. R. Martin is coming back to Portugal, on April 2012, according to his site. I hope to be able to go see him like last time he was here, and hear what he has to say about all the craziness that’s now surrounding this universe. It’ll also be a chance to get the new, hardcover, versions of the first three novels I got for my birthday last year autographed. And also, A Dance With Dragons which is coming this year, of course.
We decided to go to Azores this year, instead of going to our original destination. Japan isn’t going anywhere, so we can wait until next year, when hopefully everything is more sorted out there. The plus side of our Azores trip, other than it being a place I’ve wanted to go to since I was a kid, is that this way we’ve contributed to our national economy, which isn’t doing very well.
Since I kept a travel journal for the first time, after encouragement by a couple of people, I’m considering making a series of posts about my stay in Azores. But since the text file I’ve started transcripting it to (and not translating it yet) is becoming a Giant Wall of (Unending) Text, I thought I’d start with some random annotations I took during the whole trip. In case I give up on the whole ‘let’s write about what I saw’ series of posts, when I get back to work and am too tired or too lazy to do it, there will be something here about the trip.
. The cows in Azores, like almost anything else in the islands, were initially imported. They came from Holland. The black and white cows are the ones that produce most milk, however the cattle owners started getting another cow race, that doesn’t produce as much milk, but their fatness value is higher. Comparing one to the other: the black and white cows’ milk required to make one cheese is 10 litres, while the other cows’ milk requirement is 8 litres. When just selling the milk, they mix both kinds to enrich the nutritional value of the milk, thus increasing its overall quality.
. The local version of chavs, who we call ‘chungas’ (some dodgy guys with horrible fashion sense and even more horrible cars), other than doing the typical aesthetic changes to their vehicles, do something the continental Portugal chungas usually don’t (or maybe I’ve just not noticed that particular behaviour), which is lowering their car seats, sometimes so much that they can barely see over the tablier.
. Speaking of chavs: crosswalks are mere guidelines and are usually ignored. Crossing the street in all islands was like playing Frogger, and the smaller the island, the harder the level.
. The passenger ships between the islands are inactive during the Winter, due to the harsher navigation conditions.
. Two out of the ten portuguese dog breeds are from the Azores: the Cão de Fila de São Miguel (Azores Cattle Dog) and the Barbado da Terceira (Terceira Cattle Dog). The first I mentioned kind of looks like a hyena, and the second is more like a mix between the Portuguese Sheepdog (Cão da Serra de Aires) and the Portuguese Water Dog (Cão de Água Português).
. Drugs there are cheaper (and illegal) than in continental Portugal.*insert joke about the lower VAT here being related to that* Most crimes that send people to jail in Azores are drug related.
. Apparently two national television networks (SIC and TVI) always fail the weather forecasts myserably. The state channel, RTP, gets it right occasionally.
. Although the bird depicted in the Azores flag is an Azor, that species isn’t found in the islands.
All for now. Will post more stuff when I get the chance.