Something we just don't get in the UK right?
I mean sorry Mr Version, please don't hurt me with all your weapons. It's coming up and it's worth it I promise.
Obviously I was joking then, but I was getting some kind of performance anxiety when I thought that you were waiting for the grotto pictures and I kept putting them up in the wrong order and then trying to get them right and deleting the wrong ones and stuff.
What do you think anyway? It's really something to me that is completely alien to what I know. Of course in the UK we have caves hollowed out by the sea but ninety percent of them are too cold to hang about in - and this sort of shrine thing seems to be alien to our (UK I mean) culture. This grotto thing is a fairly extreme example but there are loads of gates and stuff with mini versions of that in our village and throughout Lisbon to some extent. What I find quite odd is that no-one I know has shown any inclination whatsoever towards Catholicism, which suggests to me that either there is a huge generational difference with this to the extent that this culture will no longer exist within twenty years or so... or else it's something which people have always turned to and started doing only one they reach a certain age. If I had to guess, I would say the former, I just don't know anyone who is even slightly religious and, even though they are a particular subsection of Portuguese society - Lisbon based hipsters, mainly gay come to think of it - I just don't see any examples of young people anywhere who are even the slightest bit religious. I mean no-one mentions it ever, there is no question of "should I be religious?" - as far as I can tell no-one even thinks about religion. In fact even in that cave Augustus is just laughing at the dolls, he's not even laughing at or discussing the reason behind them. Does that make sense?


So in Setubal region we'd now seen the fort and the grotto but Augustus told us that once we were almost back in town there was the San Sebastiao fort too which he said wasn't so exciting. I dunno though, it seemed pretty cool to me and it did have one crucial feature that the other things totally lacked - a bar.
In fact, when you arrive at this place the sheer angular power of the walls hits you straight away. I think it's from about 1700 so not so old as some of the ones we've seen lately but I can only imagine the effect that - as an invader hoping to conquer the place - these walls would have had. I'm shockingly ignorant as to what the military tactics were in those times, I guess the main way they got people out of castles like this would have been by starving them. But if you were an army who absolutely positively had to get through these walls into the castle I just cannot see how they would have gone about it.



Just ridiculously massive and heavy. Apparently if you could see the thing from above, say from a helicopter I guess, then you would be able to tell that it was built in the shape of some cool wonky star or something, but hard to get that from down here.
Anyway, you go in and there are some pretty cool looking stairs, I can't imagine that my portrait will ever adorn such somehow - my loss I guess. Anyway, despite the grim and unwelcoming exterior these stairs and the corridor are nicely whitewashed and almost have the feel that you are walking into some kind of posh hotel. Possibly cos at the top of the stairs and built on to the castle is a posh hotel.




Just at the top of the stairs is another one of those ludicrous chapels that seem to be par for the course inside Portuguese castles and which have beautiful interiors that I find pleasingly reminiscent of east London pie and mash shops.



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Once you've done with the chapel you are pleased to realise that you're on the level with the bar which also gives you a nice view over the town or out to sea if you prefer. My two companions were banging on about how desperate they were for a drink - having been dry for about 36 hours - in a manner that made me a little concerned about the amount they drink. But it's not my responsibility to stop them so we grabbed a beer.
Here is the bar from the top of the stairs pretty much - the first fort (and the grotto for that matter) are along the coast in that direction. If you look at that pic of the artificial beach (from the other fort I mean, a few posts back) then you can see that peninsular we're looking at now behind it.


Once you're in the bar you can sit on the wall and look over the town of Setubal. It's a lovely place I think, I guess not dissimilar in size to Oxford perhaps and similarly lively (though that doesn't really matter if you're only there for a few hours) with the extra advantage of having eighty-thousand fish restaurants. There was one place Augustus wanted to go to but we rang for a table and they said that - cos it was a local holiday, probably cuttlefish day or something - the boats had not been out that day and, although quite a few other places would be open, they absolutely refused to serve any fish that hadn't been caught that very day so they would be closed. In the end we had to settle for somewhere low-quality with ancient fish from yesterday.


From the bar you can take some more steps to get to the roof


And you can see other bits inside the castle like this one



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Once you're on the roof proper you get a load of views in all directions - town to the, er, I guess that's north, inland to the west, out to sea going east and south back along the coast. It's also pretty massive to just wander along in its own right.



Views speak for themselves I guess






Then we went into town and spent ages picking a seafood place. It was one of those annoying situations where there is so much choice so everyone starts being extra picky going "This one is absolutely perfect but I would like the chairs to be green" so we go on to the next one and so on. Finally we did pick one but when Augustus looked at the prices he deemed it too expensive so we sloped out while they were getting us some more menus....
Eventually we ate and I feel extremely sad that I missed the chance to put it in the dinner of the day thread.
Then Augustus (ok all of us) wanted to ring this guy to get this thing. He does have a dealer there in town but he couldn't remember his name and so he couldn't go to his number. I helpfully pointed out that it was bound to be either Joao or Tiago cos all men in Portugal have those names (Augustus uses his middle name, his first name is Joao). I think he was quite annoyed with me for that but it turned out the guy WAS called Tiago so all was forgiven and we were good to go.


Oh and for completeness, I should mention (although I'm not sure if it's strictly a castle) this enormous cement factory. I guess it's somewhere between the town and that first fort we went to, if you take another road then it actually goes through the place itself, it's a really surreal experience to suddenly leave all this beauty and enter this huge pipe covered concrete monstrosity. Of course everything is dusty and it reminds me of the scenes in Star Wars on Tattoine (or probably the upcoming Dune) where there is all this decrepit rusting machinery on a huge scale. Especially strange cos there is never anyone there when I've seen it, and we've driven through it in the middle of week days - maybe it's all automated, I dunno. I think it's also where the sand for the artificial beach came from (though don't quote me on that cos I'm not sure if it's something someone told me or if I just assumed it and have been going around telling everyone as gospel although in fact I just made it up - I think it WAS used to make sand for the other beaches and I extrapolated from that... unless I made that up too).
Anyway, sadly we took the other road which just went behind it instead of through it but I managed to get a few crappy pictures that I hope remind you a little of Robinson In Space or something.












There is a place near to us (well, it's on the other side of the river) called The Palace of the Garbage King. If you are driving on the motorway near Barreiro you can't miss it cos it's this weird tower in the middle of nowhere that dominates the valley for miles around. Seems this guy got rich in the 1800s taking rubbish from Lisbon on his five boats (called "The Lame", "Beelzebub", "Lucifer", "Devil" and "Satan") and then bought this old castle and then changed it around a bit.
Officially, the reason for rebuilding the palace was to make it more suitable for family life. The locals, however, were convinced that Gomes was rebuilding his palace to be the headquarters of a Masonic Lodge. This version could be plausible, since the building's architecture contains a network of underground labyrinths with numerous Masonic symbols as decor.
Then he died, probably in mysterious circumstances I assume, and the castle changed hands a few times, but now it lies abandoned and, I suppose, slowly falling apart. We're gonna try and visit it tomorrow, see if we can get in and explore.