Day 15: Going back home

The day you leave is always a little weird, as it usually consists of waiting to be able to travel, and the travelling itself is also more waiting.
We had definitely anticipated this, so we went out to our favourite beach at Praia dos Moinhos to spent the time waiting a little more comfortable.

We were not allowed a late checkout at our apartment, so we had to vacate it at noon. Our flight was scheduled for 6PM, so we had some time to kill.

The flight actually went really well again, except this time the plane felt a little more cramped than the previous one; most likely because it was operated by another company (likely with more seats and less legroom per seat). We landed around midnight in Amsterdam, but had to wait for what felt like an eternity for our stroller which was sent along as odd sized luggage. So after more than an hour of waiting (it was nearin 02:00 at that time’ we files a complaint for lost luggage at the baggage-handlers and headed home.
Luckily our stroller was found that night, and we were reunited with it the following day, so all ended well.

Bye bye Azores, you’ve been good to us. Maybe we check out the other islands next time? There’s nine in total, and we hear they are as nice as São Miguel!

Day 14: Ponta Delgada

Today, I wasn’t feeling well and we decided to just relax and visit Ponta Delgada again.
The weather was absolutely perfect for this as the humidity dropped to much more tolerable levels and the temperature decreased a little to about 24 degrees.

After this, we spent the day at and around our apartment, both in the pool and at the children’s playground. No exciting stories for today: just these pictures.

Day 13: Revisiting Sete Cidades

Today is gearing up to be equally hot and humid as yesterday, but the forecast promises us the clouds will be lifting later in the day, so we hope for the best and embark on the trip West to revisit Sete Cidades. Hopefully without a cloudy cover, but with blue patches to show off the amazing colour of the lakes!

Driving over there we can see the clouds are clearing, so we decided to also revisit the high Miradouros as the view will be better than last time. And so it was! With less clouds the colours are even more pronounced than before, and we are really happy to have been able to see the crater like this.
While we were there, we also did a little urbex by exploring the abandoned hotel from the eighties overlooking the lakes at Miradouro da Vista do Rei.

Day 12: Touring the island

As São Miguel is right in the middle of the ocean, its weather is heavily influenced by the vast amounts of water surrounding it, and today was no difference. With a sweltering 26 degrees Celsius, heavy overcast and near 100% humidity it wasn’t the best day to do lots of active things, so we decided to go sightseeing around the west side of the island.

We basically drove half the island, starting and finishing at the center north, and driving clockwise starting going South towards Ponta Delgada. You then just follow the main road all the way to the Westernmost point of the island, and back up the nort-westh coast to Rabo de Peixe where the apartment is situated.

The notable highlights are Sao Roque, a great (black) sandy beach just outside of the capital with a stunning view of a church and Praia de Mosteiros, probably the most mentioned beach on the streetsigns on this side of the island at a town called Mosteiros. We had high hopes for this beach, but it coudn’t live up to our expectations. Smallish, no restaurants near it and virtually deserted. It does have sand though, and that is quite rare around here!

We had lunch at the town center overseeing the locals bickering on the town square next to the church, and drove back to the apartment circumnavigating Sete Cidades. By this time the weather cleared, and we spent the rest of our afternoon at the pool.

Day 11: Ponta Delgada

Today we decided to visit the main city on our island, Ponta Delgada. The last time we tried to we couldn’t park our car anywhere because of Portugal Day, but since it is a weekday today (Wednesday to be precise) we shouldn’t have any issues.

Ponta Delgada is about 20 minutes drive away from our apartment, and is on the south coast right about in the middle of it. It is also where the airport is located, and where nearly all cargo is offloaded when it arrives at the Azores. It even is home to a few boats by the Portuguese Navy and where any cruise ships dock when they are in town. So it is quite a busy hub!

Yet is has remained a nice and tranquil place. With old architecture and even an 16th century fortress called Forte de São Brás de Ponta Delgada. It now houses a small military museum, but we passed on that opportunity and decided to stroll along the harbour on the promenade.

This town has a lot of small parks and gardens, each one meticulously kept and cleaned. As we are in the right time of the year, pretty much everything is in bloom right now which makes for some very pretty sights to be seen. Also, these parks are not just for us tourists, but seem to be used by the locals as well which is great!

Day 10: The volcano does the hard work

When we were at Furnas last time, we heard about a meal being prepared inside a hole in an area with fumaroles. And we even got to see such a meal being inserted in such a hole, and one being lifted out from a hole while at Lagoa Furnas.

So yesterday we made reservations for a lunch at Tony’s Restaurant at Furnas to eat said dish: aptly called Cozido na Caldeira. Cooked in a Cauldeira. So descriptive!

The dish is actually quite easy: take a huge aluminium pot, and stuff it in alternating layers with meat (Chicken, Pork, Beef, Blackpudding, Chorizo) and vegetables (white and green cabbage, regular and sweet potatoes, yams and carrots), seal it properly and stick it in a hole in the volcano for about 7 hours. What comes out is a stew which smells like and even tastes like a fumarole.

Yes, that is just plain odd. And arguably not quite as sensational as it sounded beforehand. But still, it is good food for a reasonable price (€10 p.p.) and the place is completely packed at every service. So if you want to go there, make a reservation as that is the only way to get in. And you probably should, as this stew is unlike we’ve ever eaten.

Before and after lunch, we visited several viewpoints and even walked around in the town a little bit as we didn’t get to do that last time we were here. Furnas is a great little place, and then you realise they’ve actually built an entire village INSIDE the crater of a relatively young volcano. But nobody seems to mind it, so you just act normal as anyone does around here.

Day 9: Someone got to see a whale!

Today is Monday and also the day after Portugal Day, so the island is a little more sleepy than usual. We’ve heard the festivities until late last night, so we feel a little for all the people who need to be up and about for work today.

We have an early start as we are expected to report at the dock at 08:30 to embark on a half-day whale-watching trip just south of our island. But, it is just for one person this time, so I’m staying on shore to fulfill my duties.

The sightings on the tour were pretty good, with all the usual suspects showing up: a huge pod of Common Dolphins, a family pod of Bottlenose Dolphins and even the (near resident) Sperm Whale. These guys are feeding around the islands, so they only take very deep dives which means you might see them now, but they stay under for around 45 minutes a little later! Also: waiting and bobbing for 45 minutes on open sea in a small boat is kind of nauseating. Luckily, we were prepared while some others were not. 😉

We basically didn’t do anything other today, apart from shopping for groceries and hanging around at the pool. It was a great day!

Day 8: Nordeste

Today, we travelled all the way to the East to a little town called Nordeste. That is about 45 minutes by car, and approximately 45 kilometers. This is also the eastern most part of the island, and it looks and feels completely different from where we are now.

The centre of the town is really picturesque, with a large bridge leading into a very cozy town square with the traditional church towering over it and the café. Yes, there always is a bar or café on spots like that! We couldn’t visit the church as it was Sunday, and there was a service going on.

So we regrouped at a small coffee place overlooking the ocean nearby the bus station, and happily enjoyed the good weather and the extremely well made coffee.

After we dragged ourselves from the terrace, we ventured out and visited Miradouro da Ponta do Arnel, a viewpoint overlooking an old but still functioning lighthouse and the majestic cliffs it was built upon. After this we drove a little further away from the town of Nordeste, to visit a lovely public park (more like a well maintained garden) called Parque Sossego, where the very logically named Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego was situated. This offers an excellent view of the same lighthouse, albeit from the other side of the cliff.

The weather was getting a little overcast, so we decided to go back to our apartment, but found yet another lookout point along the way (Miradouro da Vista dos Barcos) which also gave us a view of that lighthouse. I guess it’s the most thrilling thing out here!

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the side of the pool, just relaxing and basically enjoying being here on Dia de Portugal or Dia de Camões.

Day 7: Pineapples!

We had big plans today, but they were thwarted not by the weather, but by the date. This day is the Saturday before Portugal Day, and as Sunday still is a bit sacred over here, the majority of festivities happen today.

We planned to go to the main city on our island which also is the place where the airport is located: Ponta Delgada. We tried to get into town, but were met with closed off streets, a single access into downtown, and completely filled to the brim parking and streets. The towns over here usually are quite narrow and tight, but add to this a massive amount of people and other traffic, and thing quickly become chaotic and unpleasant. So we decided to go on a later date.

As we were nearby anyway, we found a small artisanal Pineapple Plantation where they grow pineapples “the old fashioned way” using wooden and glass greenhouses and a lot of manual labour. This plantation, St Anthony’s, has been in use since 1911, and is owned and operated by the same family since then. Our guide of the day is a granddaughter of the man who built the greenhouses and started the business.

The guided tour of the plantation started with a short introductory film in an adjacent warehouse after which we were led to the plantation, where we were able to see the different stages of the pineapple plants. It actually takes about 2,5 years for a root to become a plant with a ripe fruit, and during that time the plant is relocated twice and cultivated constantly. The greenhouses are kept at 100% humidity at all times, and are really hot inside. But apparently, that is what it takes to grow pineapples over here.

And they do it well, it is by far the sweetest and best tasting pineapple I’ve ever had! Completely different from whatever we have in supermarkets back home. Cool!

We spent the rest of our day at our now favourite beach café at Moinhos beach, and had a very nice lunch. They say they make great burgers, but I can confirm they actually do. 🙂

Day 6: A day at the park

Yet another day of good weather, while it was forecast to be overcast all day, gave us a good reason to go to a park with three waterfalls called Parque Natural dos Caldeirões. It is conveniently located in a small canyon just off the main highway in the northeast of the island adjacent to the river Caldeirões. Who would’ve guessed!

The park is neatly organised, well maintained and even outfitted with pre-stocked barbecues, where you only need to bring family, friends and whatever food you want to cook on the grill. Unfortunately, this time of year seems to be the dry season, so the waterfalls were quite underwhelming. It might also be just our bad luck, we didn’t check.

What did not disappoint at all was the café, located near the entrance of the park. They make really great Tosta’s, and serve a wide selection of other homemade foods at really decent prices. After hiking through the very steep park, this is a very welcome treat for visitors like us.

On the way home, we found another scenic lookout, this one is called Miradoura do Salto da Farinha and should be a view of a waterfall. But, as you might’ve guessed by now, there was no water to be seen, but the view was scenic nonetheless.

Our last stop on today’s trip was the beach at Capelas, where you can follow the signs to the Piscinas Naturalis or Natural Swimming pools. They are naturally occurring sheltered rock pools where you can more or less safely swim in the otherwise gnarly ocean. As you can see, the beaches here are all black, and the majority is filled to the brim with volcanic rocks and pebbles without any sand to be seen. Luckily, all beaches we’ve found so far are guarded, so at least we definitively know whether it is safe to swim or not. Spoiler: mostly not.