The Legendary Clock of Porto #PortugalPlots #28DaysinPortugal

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The crowds were gathered in full force at one end of the Rua de Santa Caterina in Porto, for it was 6pm, and hence, time for the legendary Clock on the square to do its thing. It was supposed to be a sight to behold, there was nothing like it anywhere in the world, so everyone was holding their breath in anticipation.

One minute to go…

Only 30 seconds left now.. .

10, 9, 8…3, 2, 1….

AND….

Nothing.

No bird came out, no sound of the clock.

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There was a hushed silence for a few moments, which was broken by a cacophony of voices, as everyone started speaking together, expressing their shock, disappointment  disapproval  and horror. This had never happened before, not once. This was a disaster.

Then, suddenly, the door of the clock opened up.

There was a collective sigh of relief. Maybe it was late, but the bird was finally coming out.

But horror of horrors, what came out was a group of four bickering men. They were the keepers of the clock, and each was blaming the other for letting the bird escape.

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Meanwhile, less than five minutes away, a tourist was having his picture clicked with a seagull.

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Little did he know that this was the same legendary singing seagull who came out of the only seagull clock in the world, every hour, on the hour.

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The Fall of Lagos #PortugalPlots #28DaysinPortugal

IMG_20180521_144425The enemy had been hammering at our castle’s gates for two weeks now, and our defences were barely holding up. Our walls were broken in various places, we’d run out of food, and had just one day of drinking water left for our people…my people.
Five thousand of them. Men, women, children. All would be gone by the evening. There was no hope left, I had played my last card, and lost.
I looked around desperately for options, a sign, that we could prevail over our enemies despite the odds being stacked against us. And it was then that I saw the sign…on the door of a shop.
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With nothing to lose, I knocked, and entered the shop. But imagine my surprise, when I found myself in a marvelous garden instead of the drab interiors of a shop that I could see from outside.
Inside, there was a long queue of people, lined up in front of a mahogany desk, behind which, on a walnut brown leather sofa, sat the strangest creature I had ever seen. Twelve feet tall, with the head of an elephant, and the lower body of an ant… a really big ant, that is.
Curious despite all my troubles, I waited patiently in the line, eager to know whether, and how, this creature could help me. My turn finally came, and I now stood in front of him… her… IT? like a common supplicant, much like the common folk used to stand in front of me till a few days ago.
“I need help in saving my kingdom,” I told it humbly.
“Well, I can provide you with an army of the most ferocious creatures, but you need to tell me which creatures you want,” he replied in a strangely shrill voice.
I knew how these ‘favor’ things worked, having watched all the Disney movies in my childhood, and so I asked,” And what do you want in return? “
“Didn’t you read the sign,” he asked in an insulted tone, “it’s absolutely free, no strings attached. Now look at the line behind you, I need your specifications within the next three seconds.”
Cornered, I quickly came up with the name of the scariest creatures I could think of, those which had given me nightmares ever since I was a kid.
” Are you sure?” he asked me. I nodded, and POOF, I suddenly found myself back on the ramparts of my castle. But this time, I was happy, for I knew what was coming to save me and my people.
The walls were breached at 4pm, but I kept smiling. I couldn’t wait to see the expression on the faces of their enemies when they came face to face with my backup.
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The enemy soldiers had swarmed the castle by 5pm, but I kept my chin up. Any minute now.
By 6pm, they had taken all my soldiers prisoners, and started the slaughter of my citizens. It was then that I started panicking, and ran to that shop again.
I barged in, and pushing everyone aside, banged hard on the table of the elephant-ant and shouted, “Where is that army you promised me, it’s all over.”
The creature calmly looked at me and said, “They’re just starting out Your Majesty, so that means they’ll reach your castle in around six months.”
“WHAT? We would all long be dead by then!” I cried out.
The creature replied, “If you were in that much of a hurry, Your Majesty, maybe asking for an army of giant snails was not the smartest of ideas!”
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Madness at Meia Praia, Lagos #PortugalPlots #28DaysInPortugal

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We could see the strangers coming to our area from far-off. The hillocks at our end of the beach provided for a great vantage point, and we always had someone stationed there to warn us of any unwanted visitors.

In the olden times, we had never needed to worry so much, ours had always been a small, closely-knit community. But now, everything had changed. Our culture was under threat, and there was no dearth of ignorant or uncaring tourists encroaching upon our land, our way of life  and trying to entice our people to the dark side. But we are not ones to go down that easily  not without a fight.

They were much closer now, and would reach us in a few minutes. We quickly hid our young ones so that they did not get influenced by the shocking ways of these outsiders, and then waited patiently for the scumbags to arrive.

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Hidden behind a stack of rocks on the beach, we held our breath till we could hear their loud footsteps almost in our ears, and then  suddenly  we jumped out to confront them.

We could see from the widening of their eyes and their nervous jump that they were suitably scared of us. Going in for the kill, I walked up to them confidently, and said in an even tone, “Hands up… and take off all your clothes. This is a nudist beach, and you HAVE to respect that!”

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Note: We walked till the end of the Meia Praia beach in Lagos yesterday. Towards the final couple of kilometers, the regular family crowds kind of disappeared  and we started seeing a lot of nude bathers on the beach. I was fairly confident that this was not officially a nudist beach, so we kept on walking, but if it was, it would have been tremendously disrespectful of us to have entered there fully-clothed, no?

 

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The Grottos of Ponta Da Piedade #PortugalPlots #28DaysInPortugal

The two brothers dropped off the tourists on the small beach next to the grottos of Ponra Da Piedade, and started preparing for their journey back to town.

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Suddenly, one of the tourists asked, “You said you both grew up playing in these waters. Can you tell us how these grottos were formed?”

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The older brother started saying something  but the younger, sharper one cut in first, “Well, it is quite simple ma’am. The waves here are so strong, that over millions of years, parts of the cliffs eroded, till finally, giant holes got created through the erosion.”

The tourists nodded their heads sagely, and tipping the brothers, bid them goodbye.

On the beach, Sarah remarked to the rest of her group “That older brother was so dishy. If I weren’t married, and traveling with my husband, I would have done him right here.”

Abigail laughed and replied, “I favor the younger one, there’s something so deliciously dangerous about him.”

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Meanwhile  on the boat, the older brother turned towards the younger one, and said sarcastically  “Really? Erosion? That’s the best you could come up with? ”

The younger one scoffed and replied, “So do you think I should have just told them the truth, that the holes got made while you were practicing throwing your hammer Mjolnir as a child, Thor?”

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The Labrador of Lagos #PortugalPlots #28DaysInPortugal

On the face of it, Bruno was the perfect dog. Tall, dark, handsome – the envy of all the male dogs in the neighborhood  and the object of desire of all female dogs (Note: Not using the B word because some consider it pejorative). However  underneath this veneer of perfection, Bruno hid a dark secret – He was mortally afraid of water!

And in a seaside town like Lagos, this presented a problem.

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For the humans of all other dogs took them to the sea for a walk every day, but try as he might, Bruno’s human Martin, could never make him come even 100 meters close to the water. This caused tremendous embarrassment to Martin on a daily basis, with his ‘well-wishers’ taunting him that he had no control over his pet. This hurt Bruno no end, but he was a servant to his fears, and there was little that he could do about it.

And now, it so happened that Martin’s friend Gilberto  who was a chef, came up to him one day, and said, “I don’t know about you, but I am sick of you being shamed by all and sundry because of your dog’s unhealthy fear of water. It’s time we did something about it.”

The very next day, on his daily walk with Bruno, Martin took a different route. And much to Bruno’s surprise,  Martin took a pit-stop at his friend Gilberto’s restaurant. Ten minutes later, Martin came out, and Bruno forgot everything… For in his hands, Martin was carrying a plate, and on the plate, was the most heavenly piece of fish that Bruno had ever seen, or smelled.  It was a grilled sea bass, fresh out of the water, cooked and seasoned to perfection, and now, it was calling to Bruno.

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But Martin seemed to be ignoring the salivating Bruno completely. He started walking, and Bruno automatically started following him. His senses under attack from the fish, Bruno did not notice that they took a left instead of a right from the intersection, and were now walking away from the town, and towards water. Pretty soon, before he had even realized it, they had reached the sea.

Martin waited for Bruno to catch up, and then, very calmly  picked up the fish, and threw it… far into the sea.

Bruno went berserk upon seeing this, and not waiting to think even for a moment, ran into the water, to get his paws, and teeth, into that perfect fish.

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And it was only when he finally caught up with it, and took his first bite, that Bruno realized where he was. He started panicking then, but then, took another bite, and settled into an easy rhythm in the water. He could keep doing this the entire day.

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Pasteis de Belem – The Empire Strikes Back

It was our last day in Lisbon, and we had tens of must-see sights to cover. We had already lost half a day in just  waiting for various trams and buses, so time was of the essence. We firmly decided to get after those attractions immediately after lunch. So we obviously ended going off to Belem to have the scrumptious Pasteis de Belem… again!
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We sat in the outside garden area this time, which was absolutely great, not because it was a gorgeous setting, which it was
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but because it provided an easy access to my friends, the pigeons (For the uninitiated: Please see the following link for Part 1 of this Belem adventure- https://jagahdilmein.wordpress.com/2018/05/14/pasteis-de-belem-a-true-crime-story/).
I was already salivating in anticipation.
“Let’s order three pasteis this time,” said my wife. I couldn’t contain my joy. “Of course, my love, anything for you,” I replied, almost rubbing my hands in glee.
The pasties came
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and so did my friend, the pigeon.
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But imagine my shock, when she calmly kept ignoring the pigeon even when the poor chap flew in front of her face, and performed cartwheels on her head and shoulders.
Thank God I had a Plan B.
Suddenly, we heard the sound of music from the street outside. It sounded vaguely familiar, and definitely out of place in Portugal. And as the guy playing the music came in, he started singing, “Chura liya hai tum ne jo dil ko, nazar nahin churaana sanam…”
I sat transfixed, staring at a Portuguese guy singing an old Bollywood classic, one of my favorites, no less, in almost perfect Hindi.
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“Now that’s what I call a distraction,” I thought to myself, “never leave home without a Plan B.”
And then it hit me. My Plan B had involved a flying tiger, rainbow-colored elephant, and a Polar Bear balancing on the antlers of a reindeer.
Then what the heck was this?
I forced my eyes to turn away from the musician somehow, and my wife’s beatific smile told me that I didn’t really need to look at the plate any more. All the three pasties were gone!
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Note: While I have taken some minor creative liberties, the day did pan out more or less as I described. We did spend a lot of time in waiting for trams, and we did decide to go to Belem again, and have three pasties instead of two this time around. Also, we did mwet a singer who sang that song, though that happened in Lisbon, while we were having lunch.
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The Sins of Sintra #PortugalPlots #28DaysInPortugal

I looked at them slogging their way up the steep hill just for one glimpse of the Pena Palace.

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I saw them cross dense woods

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and battle ancient lakes.

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I saw their faces light up as they saw the unique  eclectic color scheme of the palace for the first time.

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And for perhaps the millionth time, I thought to myself bitterly, if only the king could appreciate true art like these tourists, he would not have cast me in stone and hung me on the gate when he didn’t like the color combination on his new palace.

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