Portugal diary, day 3

5 June, 2019

Monday, 13 May, 2019. 11:41

We are sitting in the Confeitaria Nacional, a traditional and old pastry shop in the old town Baixa area of Lisbon. A review site I looked at this morning said this has some of the best custard tarts in town, so of course we had to try them. We’re sitting in for a short break from the heat outside, although it hasn’t really gotten as hot as yesterday yet, and we’ve been waling among the shady narrow streets of the old area.

We slept pretty well, rousing drowsily about 06:00. We got up slowly and prepared for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, arriving there shortly after it opened at 07:00. It wasn’t very busy yet. There was a good spread of food and we had muesli with yoghurt, some small croissants, bread and cheese, and fresh fruit. They also had bowls of ingredients which you could put together and hand to the waiter to have the chef make a custom plate of eggs with, but we didn’t try this.

After eating, we returned to our room to get ready for the day out. With the forecast being 33° and sunny, we used sunscreen and wore long sleeve shirts to keep the sun off, even though it will be hot.

Monkey on the Lisbon Metro
Monkey riding the Metro

We left and got on the Metro at Entrecampos, right outside our hotel. I though this would take us direct to Terreiro do Paço station by the waterside, but we realised we had to change lines at Marquês de Pombal. The first train was full and crowded, but the second one was empty enough for us to get seats. We got off at Terreiro do Paço and negotiated the exits, having to turn around when we ended up in a wharf area with departing ferries, and no easy way to get to where we actually wanted to go.

After leaving by another exit, we emerged near the square leading down to Cais dos Colunas, a set of limestone steps descending into the river, which seems to be a historical place where Portuguese ships of exploration embarked from. (Doing some research later I discovered that these steps used to lead from the river directly up to the royal palace. However the palace was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and never rebuilt, so now the stairs lead up to an open plaza.)

Read more: the historic Baixa and Alfama districts, São Jorge castle, and going up and down lots of hills!

Portugal diary, days 1 and 2

4 June, 2019

This was a trip I took to Lisbon to attend an ISO Technical Committee 42 Photography standards meeting. My wife accompanied me and we spent an extra week in Portugal to do some sightseeing.

Saturday, 11 May, 2019. In flight

Our trip began with a train journey to the airport. We left home just after 17:00, walking to the station. It looked like we’d just missed a train to the city, and the next train was only going as far as North Sydney, with nearly a 15 minute wait until the next city train. The North Sydney train was nearly empty, but the the one we caught after it was almost standing room only.

As we stopped at Milsons Point, we noticed on the indicator board that all the trains were terminating at Wynyard, which was unusual. I checked the trains website on my phone to find out that there was trackwork on the City Circle, and trains were only running anticlockwise. So we had to get off at Wynyard and go down to the lower platform and catch another train to Central and then change again for an airport train. Thankfully both connections were quick, but both trains were very full.

We arrived at the airport a bit after 18:00. We’d already checked in online and printed our boarding passes, so we went straight through passport and security checks. A lot of people had just filed into the immigration area in front of us, so it was fairly full, but the lines moved quickly and we were through before too long.

After buying some duty-free Plymouth gin and Drambuie to pick up on the way home, we went to the food place we always go to, to sit and have a bite to eat. M. had the wood fired haloumi, which came with fired red grapes, pomegranate kernels, a grilled red onion, and sourdough bread. We also got some smoked almonds to nibble on. The food was good, but I didn’t want to eat too much because I wanted to have the dinner on the plane and then try to sleep on a full stomach. It passed the time though, and by the time we were ready to go it was almost time to board our flight.

We boarded nice and early thanks to my silver frequent flyer status, getting seats by a window and a middle seat. It was too late to change our seats to have an aisle by the time I got to selecting our seats online.

Sunday, 12 May. 07:49 Dubai time

We landed in Dubai a few minutes early, just after 05:00. Our connection to Lisbon departed at 07:25, so we had a short time to sit and rest while M. had a coffee and a pistachio croissant from a patisseries in the terminal. We had to walk almost the length of the terminal, from Terminal C to the far end of Terminal B, for our next flight, but it was good to stretch the legs out. This flight is just under eight hours, so it won’t be long before we touch down in Lisbon.

20:41 Lisbon time

We landed in Lisbon a bit before 12:30. It didn’t take long to get out of the airport customs area. Most of the time was spent walking from what looked like the furthest gate in the entire terminal. Passport control had virtually no queue, we only had carry on bags so didn’t have to wait for luggage, and the “nothing to declare” customs door simply led straight outside.

Read more: Our first day in Lisbon, walking around the city centre, plus some photos

Australian food emojis

4 June, 2019

A quick survey shows no fewer than 10 different emoji for specific items of Japanese cuisine (as of 2019’s Emoji 12.0 list). Which is fine, but clearly other cuisines are under-represented.

So I propose they add emojis for:

  • Chicken parma
  • Chiko roll
  • Fairy bread
  • Hamburger with beetroot
  • Lamington
  • Meat pie*
  • Musk sticks
  • Pavlova
  • Vanilla slice
  • Vegemite

* There is a pie emoji, but most people seem to interpret it as a sweet pie, and the glyph is actually a slice of sweet dessert pie on some platforms, including Google Android and Twitter. Which is clearly unacceptable and un-Australian.

Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 7 “The Dragon and The Wolf”

22 April, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

King’s Landing: Daenerys’s group arrive in the city, although without Daenerys herself. Jon, Missandei, Tyrion, Davos, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, and some Dothraki guards are escorted to a meeting place outside King’s Landing, in the ruins of a sort of arena. We learn from conversation that this structure used to be used to contain dragons. The Targaryens conquered Westeros with dragons, but once they had secured the land, they needed to keep a rein on the dragons, so they caged them. Over time the dragons dwindled in size and power, as evidenced by a small dog-sized skull that Tyrion picks up, until eventually they died out.

They take seats on a stage in the middle of the arena. Shortly after, Cersei and her entourage approach, with Jaime, Euron, Qyburn, and Gregor “The Six Million Dollar Mountain” Clegane. Sandor walks up to his brother and looks through the slitted helmet into his red eyes. Sandor asks what they’ve done to him, but Gregor is silent. Sandor tells Gregor that he’s always known who will come after him, and now he’s here. Sandor returns to his side of the podium.

Cersei wonders where Daenerys is. There is a flutter of wings and Drogon appears, flying above the arean, He descends and lands on the wall, crushing some of its rocks. Daenerys climbs down and walks over nonchalantly to take her seat as Drogon departs. Cersei is momentarily surprised, but quickly regains her composure. She says, “We’ve been waiting for you for some time.” Daenerys simply says, “My apologies.”

They get down to business. Jon tells Cersei about the army of the dead marching south, and says their struggles to control Westeros are pointless in the face of their mutual enemy. Cersei is cynical, saying that it’s a trick to get her to move her armies away from King’s Landing so the others can strike. She says there’s no such thing as White Walkers. Jon nods to Sandor, who departs down a set of stairs in the middle of the podium. He returns with a crate on his back and drops it onto the stage. Cersei regards this curiously.

Sandor opens the box and the skeletal zombie charges straight at Cersei with lightning speed! It seems to be unrestrained and it looks for a second as though it might reach her and rip her to pieces. But just before reaching Cersei, it is jerked back by a chain. It grasps for her, screaming horribly and clearly showing its monstrous nature. Cersei recoils in shock. Jon and Sandor walk up and hack the zombie to pieces, but each piece still moves and attempts to crawl towards Cersei. Qyburn picks up a dismembered forearm, with the hand still grasping, and regards it with intense curiosity. Jon grabs the arm and says, “They can be killed by fire,” as he sets fire to it. “Or by dragonglass,” as he stabs the upper torso of the zombie with a dragonglass dagger, destroying it.

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Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 6 “Beyond the Wall”

17 April, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

North of The Wall: The party trudges north through the snowy landscape. Who knows where they are going or what their plan is to capture a White Walker if/when they found some? Present: Jon, Jorah, Gendry, Sandor “The Hound”, Tormund, Beric, Beric’s priest who keeps bringing him back from the dead, and a few other random wildlings. Gendry complains about the cold, saying he’s never seen snow before. Tormund tells Gendry he’s weak, and that he himself comes from the cold North, but was fine when he visited the South. Gendry asks where in the South Tormund has been, and Tormund replies, “Winterfell”. Gendry chokes on his laughter as he says Winterfell is actually still in the North.

At a rest stop, Jon talks to Jorah about Jorah’s father, Lord Commander Mormont. Jon says Mormont gave him his sword, Longclaw, and had the hilt changed from a bear to a wolf for Jon. Jon offers it to Jorah, saying it’s his family heirloom, but Jorah declines the offer, saying his father gave it to Jon, so it’s his now. Jon also talks to Beric about what the Lord of Light wants for them, having saved both of them from death. Beric, as usual, says he has no idea why, but obviously it’s for some reason. Beric points out that a lot of men have died and had their loyal followers die because they were too proud to submit to someone’s authority – an obvious reference to Jon refusing to swear allegiance to Daenerys. Jon considers this.

Walking again through a foggy snow, they spot a large bear in the distance. The bear senses them and charges. Someone yells, “Do bears have blue eyes??” And then it’s on them, an undead zombie bear! Beric and his priest draw magical flaming swords as they and the rest of them fight it off. Eventually the bear is dead and burning, but Beric’s priest is wounded. Beric gives him a big slug of booze from a skin and then uses his flaming sword to cauterise the wounds.

They continue on in their impossible quest to find a small enough group of White Walkers that they can capture one without being slaughtered. Lo, they stumble across a small group walking through a defile, where they can ambush them! About ten of them – a perfect match for the party. They charge and initiate combat. The fight is short, as Jon slashes the leader with his sword and shatters it, which instantly makes a bunch of the zombies collapse dead, but conveniently leaves one of them still very much undead and struggling. The men jump on it and tie it up with ropes and stick a sack over its head. Someone asks why most of the zombies died when the leader was killed, except for the one they captured. Jon says, “I dunno, maybe he was the one who animated all of those ones, but not the last one.” Fair enough, I guess.

The problem is this small group wasn’t far from the entire White Walker army, and the struggling and groaning from the one they captured makes a noise which attracts their attention. Soon they hear the sounds of millions of zombie feet racing across the ice towards them. Jon tells Gendry to run for Eastwatch, tell them what’s happened, and send a raven to Daenerys. Gendry is reluctant to go, but Jon says he’s the fastest. Gendry turns to go, but Sandor grabs his giant hammer and tells him he’ll be faster without it. Gendry releases the hammer and tears off into the snow.

The zombie army approaches and the rest of the man, dragging their captive, race across a flat area of snow, but stop suddenly when they realise they’ve run onto a frozen lake, and the ice is cracking around them. The White Walkers keep coming, heedless of any danger. With no choice, the men start running again, heading to an outcrop of rock in the middle of the lake. As they retreat, Sandor hits the ice behind him with Gendry’s hammer, cracking it, and the front lines of the zombie army fall into the water. More ranks of zombies fall mindlessly into the water, before they realise the danger and halt on the far side of the gap. The men are stranded on the small island in the middle of the lake, surrounded by a ring of open water and then the White Walker army.

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Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 5 “Eastwatch”

16 April, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Outside King’s Landing: It seems Jaime isn’t dead after all. Bronn drags him out of the river, some way downstream – far enough away that Daenerys and Drogon don’t instantly see them and turn them into charcoal. Jaime is well and truly boggled by the dragon though. He says one dragon is bad enough, but by all accounts Daenerys has three of them. They stagger off towards King’s Landing, downcast and beaten.

Daenerys meanwhile has captured a bunch of the Lannister army. She offers them the choice of joining her or dying. A few of the men band the knee, but about half stand defiantly. Randyll Tarly speaks up and says he will never betray the Lannisters. His son Dickon joins him. Tyrion obviously doesn’t want unnecessary bloodshed, and argues that they should be sent to Castle Black to serve in the Night’s Watch – after all, they need strong men there. But Daenerys shows no mercy and has Drogon incinerate the Tarlys. This encourages all of the remaining men to quickly get on their knees and pledge allegiance to Daenerys.

Honestly, can you really trust someone who pledges allegiance under duress of being burnt alive, since they’ve already demonstrated that their previous pledge (to the Lannisters) was only temporary? It may have been smarter to just burn the lot of them. I guess we’ll see.

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Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 4 “The Spoils of War”

7 April, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Outside Highgarden: The Lannister army sets up a caravan to head back to King’s Landing, escorting a wagon full of gold plundered from Highgarden. Jaime gives Bronn a satchel of gold coins, presumably in payment for his services in the battle. Bronn is however unimpressed, and says he was promised a castle. Jaime says they don’t have a castle, but Bronn says “that one there will do”, pointing at Highgarden. Jaime tells Bronn that he doesn’t want Highgarden – it’s too difficult to defend, but Bronn seems to think he’ll be fine. Jaime changes tack and says that Bronn can have his pick of castles once the war’s won, but for now his service is still required. Bronn sulks but takes his place in the caravan.

Bronn talks to Randyll Tarly’s son, calling him “Rickon”, which the guy has to correct to “Dickon”. This guy must be Sam’s brother then? Anyway, Dickon is barrel-chested but apparently untested in true battle. He confesses to being disturbed by the battle at Highgarden, particularly the awful smells. Bronn says he got used to that at the age of five.

King’s Landing: The banker from the Iron Bank of Braavos is impressed with Cersei’s ability to pay off the Lannister loan in full, saying he will miss the interest payments. At first I think this must be happening later, after the gold has been delivered, but then he says something about feeling more comfortable once the gold has arrived. Anyway, now rather than threatening to fund Daenerys and her armies from the Iron Bank, he makes an offer to fund more armies for Cersei – which will conveniently put her back into debt with the bank. A true banker if ever I saw one.

So, will Cersei go for this? More forces are always useful. And may come in even more useful following events later in this episode.

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Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 3 “The Queen’s Justice”

5 April, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Dragonstone: A boat reaches shore and men step out. It’s Jon and Davos and a retinue of guards. Tyrion and Missandei and some Dothraki are there to meet them.

Tyrion: “The Bastard of Winterfell.”

Jon: “The Dwarf of Casterly Rock.”

Then they shake hands and reminisce about the last time they saw one another, atop The Wall (way back in season 1, episode 3). Missandei asks the visitors to hand over their weapons, which Jon agrees to, after a second of consideration. His guards are obviously not too happy about handing their swords over to the Dothraki who collect them.

As they set off to the keep, Davos asks Missandei where she’s from, as he can’t place her accent. She says she’s from Naath. Davos knows it’s a land of palm trees and sunshine, but has not visited it, alas – not yet. He comments to Jon that a lot has changed at Dragonstone since he was last here (with Stannis).

The scene cuts to Varys standing atop a high cliff overlooking the group, with Melisandre. He asks why she isn’t down there meeting Jon. She says they parted on unpleasant terms, and that she intends to leave and head back across the sea away from Westeros. Varys says in a very sinister way that that’s good, because if she ever returns to Westeros she could be in grave danger. She says, oh, she will return, because it’s her fate to die in Westeros, as is Varys’s. He looks slightly taken aback, as one does when a seer predicts one’s death.

The group down on the beach walks across a narrow fortified path spanning an isthmus between two parts of the island, with Tyrion and Jon filling each other in a bit about what they’ve been up to, although both their stories are too long to tell in full.

In the throne room, Daenerys asks Jon to bend the knee in loyalty to cement an alliance. Jon refuses, saying the threat from the White Walkers in the north is too great to spend time pledging his army to a war in the south. There’s also some discussion of oaths of loyalty – a Stark ancestor pledged allegiance to her ancestor “forever”. Jon counters that Daenerys’s father, the Mad King, was evil and betrayed everyone. Daenerys says people shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of their ancestors – which she doesn’t realise resonates with Jon, because that’s exactly what he said when he pardoned the children of the disloyal Umbers and Karstarks and episode or two ago. Jon agrees, but still refuses to bow down, because of the threat to the north. Daenerys obviously doesn’t even believe him that White Walkers exist, and Tyrion is also sceptical (which we saw him say explicitly back in season 1).

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Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 2 “Stormborn”

29 March, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Dragonstone: A violent storm crashes over Dragonstone. Someone comments that it was in a storm such as this that Daenerys was born. Aha, that explains the “Daenerys Stormborn” title that people seem to use a lot. I always wondered about that, when her name is actually “Daenerys Targaryen”, why do people refer to her as “Stormborn”?

Anyway, Daenerys talks to Varys, questioning his loyalty, and why he served her father, then switched to supporting Robert Baratheon, and then the Lannisters, and now why should she trust him? He says that he serves the people of Westeros, always selecting the best course of action for them, and sometimes that involves shifting his support. However, he believes that Daenerys will treat the people with respect, having seen how she dealt with Slavers’ Bay, and so as long as Daenerys doesn’t change, he will serve her. Daenerys asks him to tell her if she ever fails to think of the people, and he agrees.

Melisandre arrives at Dragonstone. This is a bit of a surprise! I never would have picked this as a place she’d go. Although in hindsight this is where she began, advising Stannis, so at least she’s familiar with it. But I never would have thought she’d seek out Daenerys. But her she is, telling Daenerys that she thinks her and Jon Snow are the two big players in the current situation. Daenerys is surprised to see a red priestess on this side of the Narrow Sea – so I gather their cult/religion/whatever is much more prominent over on the Braavos/Pentos/Slavers’ Bay side. This is a detail I hadn’t picked up before. Anyway, Melisandre suggests that Daenerys seek an alliance with Jon Snow. Tyrion has met Jon (in the first few episodes of the series), and says he’s a good man, so Daenerys orders a message be sent to Winterfell to summon Jon, and ask him to bend the knee to her as Queen.

Daenerys assembles her council of war in the map room with the windows looking out on the raging storm. Present are her and her retinue, including Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm, and Missandei, then Yara and Theon Greyjoy, Olenna Tyrell, and the Evil Sister-in-Law from Dorne and her three daughters. I just realised that she was the wife/lover of Prince Oberyn – so that would mean that the three daughters are also his daughters (unless there’s some other father somewhere). She suggests a huge attack with everything they have on King’s Landing – she would, she’s really only in this for revenge against the Lannisters. Tyrion however says that the people of King’s Landing need to support the armies coming to liberate them from the Lannister yoke, and they will look on an army of Dothraki and Unsullied as foreign invaders, and be more likely to resist them. So the attack on King’s Landing must be made only with Westerosi forces: The army of Dorne and Yara’s fleet. He says the Dothraki and Unsullied should mount a second attack on the Lannister heartland: Casterly Rock. Daenerys agrees and orders it so.

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Game of Thrones, Season 7, Ep 1 “Dragonstone”

24 March, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Twins: The episode opens with a cold open before the credits, which is unusual. It seems to be in the castle at The Twins, and… is that Walder Frey? I’m confused for a few seconds, because he’s dead, right? Then my wife whispers, “It’s Arya!” And yes, of course, suddenly this whole scene makes sense, as it continues to unfold with an ominous sense of inevitability.

“Walder” has called his men into the feast room for another feast. He explains that two feasts in a fortnight is unusually generous, but then he’s pleased with the recent successes of House Frey, helping the Lannisters capture Riverrun. He says he’s sharing a special wine, especially good, and encourages everyone to drink up as serving wenches distribute it. Walder’s wife is about to drink, but he says none for her, he’s not wasting good wine on women. She accepts this. Everyone drinks, but Walder himself doesn’t. Walder says how proud he is of his men, slaughtering the Starks at the Red Wedding. Killing the innocent unborn child of Robb Stark, and his wife and mother. The tone turns sarcastic, but the men in the hall are suddenly too preoccupied with choking and gagging as the poisoned wine takes effect.

Soon all the men are dead, and the Frey women are standing dumbfounded in shock. “Walder” rips off his mask to reveal Arya, who did a great job not only of the make-up but also imitating both Walder’s voice and his mean streak. Arya turns to Walder’s wife and says, “Tell everyone what happened here. Tell them: The North remembers.” Arya strides out of the hall full of dead Freys and their men.

Later, Arya is riding through a forested area when she comes across a group of soldiers singing around a campfire. They notice her as her horse whinnies, and invite her to join them for some rabbit. Arya says she doesn’t want to steal their food, and they say they’re offering it, so it’s not stealing. They are jovial and converse readily as Arya shares the food. They ask her where she’s going, and she says King’s Landing. They say that’s where they’ve come from, and are heading north on the Queen’s business. So these are Lannister soldiers. They ask why Arya is going to King’s Landing, and she says she’s going to kill the Queen. There’s a brief silence, before they all burst out laughing.

So it seems Arya isn’t just going to tick off the people on her list. She’s also going to take further vengeance against anyone who helped the marked people. And what will happen at this camp of Lannisters? They’re clearly enemies of the Starks, so perhaps she’ll kill them all as they sleep? Or will she be merciful? I wouldn’t count on it. The soldiers could easily attempt to take advantage of a young woman travelling alone, but Arya deliberately showed her sword as she sat down at the camp, so maybe they’ll think twice. I’m sure if they do try anything, Arya will kill the lot of them.

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