April - May 2019
  • Day25

    One last day in Lisbon

    May 14, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Up at 4:30, and the hotel was nice enough to give us coffee and some pastries. Our 7 am flight got into Lisbon right on time, and so we had one last day here. My big challenge for the day was distributing the weight and trying to pack the olive oil carefully, fingers crossed there are no broken bottles!

    Things have changed a lot in the ten days we were gone — temps are in mid-high 80s, the number of tourists has at least tripled, water is flowing in all the fountains, trees are flowering, and the beautiful Rossio train station has emerged from all of its scaffolding. We were going to have a fancy dinner, but I am so sick of eating in restaurants that I convinced Joe that we would be better off at our local neighborhood fresh-grilled-fish-for-12 € place.

    Home tomorrow!
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  • Day23

    Sunny Sunday in Angra

    May 12, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    I picked this hotel because of its fitness center but the view would have also been a perfect reason. This morning, reception helped make some more contacts about my iPad and depending on whom you speak to, it’s either already here at the airport or about to arrive late today. In any event, tomorrow we will rent a car to take a spin around the island, and the airport will be one of our early stops. Fingers crossed!!!

    We spent the day walking. Through the old town, up to a spectacular viewing spot, to the harbor, through beautiful municipal gardens, lunch in the best restaurant we’ve eaten in on the islands (we will be back), and then another climb up to the 15th century castle guarding the harbor. UNESCO’s designation as a world heritage site was spot on. It’s just really beautiful.
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  • Day22

    Today's adventure

    May 11, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ 🌧 20 °C

    The flight was canceled yesterday, as we had expected. So we spent the night in a hotel on the waterfront. This morning, a bus brought us back to the airport. The winds are too bad for a plane to land, so we are moving on to Plan B (or is it C?).

    A bus took us back to the waterfront. We got on the ferry to the island of Faial, where the winds are better. The ride over was awful, lots of people throwing up.

    At the harbor, I followed the explicit instructions— there will be two buses. Get on the one for the airport. I asked, Driver said yes. We got on. Turns out it was the wrong bus, only going to the airport four hours later. Thankfully our now dear friend Pedro, who spoke excellent English, had also gotten on the wrong bus. A cab was sent straight away and we arrived at the airport as the plane was boarding. A 30 seat prop jet. BUMPY flight.

    But that’s not the end of the drama. I left my iPad charging in the Pico airport. Everyone wanted to help, passengers and crew. The iPad has been found and will either be sent to Terceira or back to Lisbon.

    As we got on the plane the other nine passengers applauded. The pilot had told them that the only reason the airlines had concocted this crazy scheme was because there were two Americans on the flight. Otherwise everyone would still be back on Pico waiting for the wind to die down. Crazy.

    Pedro helped me fill out the form for the lost iPad and then took us straight to our hotel. You can see view from the balcony of our room.

    Can’t believe we made it. Now to enjoy Angra do Heroísmo.
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  • Day21

    Travel day (or not)

    May 10, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Not much going on today except a visit to the wine museum and one last (we hope) walk along the lava beds on the coast. The wine museum explained how the people of the island brought soil over from a nearby island, cracked open the lava beds, and put soil in the cracks.

    Astonishingly (at least to me), the vines grew and have thrived. And the vineyrds themselves are a UNESCO world heritage site — rock walls built by hand hundreds of years ago making a huge number of tiny enclosures to protect the vines (which grow vertically on the soil so they sort of look like pumpkin vines). The wine museum says that if you took all the rock walls and extended them in one straight line, there would be enough to circle the equator twice. That’s a lot of backbreaking rock wall work!

    We got to the airport with quite a bit of trepidation because it is very very windy. As for now, our flight to Terceira Island is scheduled to go, but the ticket agent told us not to bet on it. And tomorrow and Sunday are supposed to have higher winds. If we can’t get off the island till Monday, we will probably just go straight to Lisbon and forget about the lovely isle of Terceira. Our flight leaves Lisbon on Wednesday. Maybe it was not such a smart idea to pre-pay our hotel. :-). But if we are stuck here on Pico, the airline will put us up, provide transportation, and feed us. That’s very nice, but I would really rather leave!
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  • Day20

    Whales!

    May 9, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    Today we visited the north side of the island, just as beautiful as the south. We went to a second whaling museum, this one located in the old factory where the whale was turned into oil, vitamins, flour, and manure — all in one place. Post-industrial fabulous. The only parts of the whale that were not used were its heart and intestines. Those were rowed out to sea and dumped in the ocean, but they inevitably wound their way back to shore, bringing a huge stink with them.

    But the afternoon was for the real whales — we saw a bunch of sperm whales, whose tails flip up when they dive and it is beautiful. And the dolphins, must have been about 30 dolphins all leaping in unison. It was really something. And I now have an answer to the question — When was the last time you did something for the first time?

    I did not bother to try to catch fleeting glimpses of whales and porpoises with my phone camera. Much more enjoyable to just watch.
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  • Day19

    No whale-watching today!

    May 8, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ 🌧 17 °C

    We woke up to rain and wind, and no surprise, our whale-watching trip was cancelled. They re-booked us for tomorrow afternoon, fingers crossed. Staying with the whaling theme, we went to the whaling museum and saw a fascinating documentary. Pico was the last place on the planet where they still went out in a small boat with about 8 men to harpoon whales. The movie was filmed in 1970 and shows it all, start to bloody finish. Pretty amazing feat of courage, no matter what you think of the practice itself. The year harpooning stopped, about 1987, a German man opened up Pico’s first whale-watching business, employing many of the men who would no longer be hunting whales.

    The rest of the day alternated between foggy/windy/rainy and occasional bursts of sun. We got out and walked whenever we could, lots of empty country lanes near the ocean. Nothing but grape vines, bright green fields, and cows. All in all, not a bad day, finished off with a trip to the pretty basic fitness center.
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  • Day18

    Ferry to Faial

    May 7, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Days don’t get much better than this. Carpe diem!

    We took an 8 am ferry over to the island of Faial, a short 30 minute hop, where the sun shone all day and the views back over our island with its big volcano were amazing.

    We spent the day at two volcano sites, one recent (1958) (we could see orange roof tiles popping up from the ashes, a small whaling village was destroyed), and the other one hundreds of years ago with a huge green crater. And then just driving around, the island’s perimeter is only 50 km so we could deviate from the main circular road a lot. We have learned that whenever a sign points you towards a “miradouro” (scenic lookout), take the turn!

    And now here we sit out on our balcony with a glass of Douro wine, a view of the ocean, and listening to the waves crashing. Clouds are rolling in with a vengeance, so tomorrow might not be quite as perfect as today.
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  • Day17

    Loving Pico island

    May 6, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ 🌬 16 °C

    So far, not much rain, and even one whole day of sun! We have walked and walked, along the coast and up high near the volcano. Today we took a long guided walk through a “lava tube”, formed about 1500 years ago when the volcano erupted and some of the lava pushed out sideways. Very different from your average cave. Joe was almost the oldest person to have ever walked through, but last year an 82-year old did it. It was a very difficult rocky path, no lights, slippery, but he made it!

    The vineyards are a UNESCO world heritage site. The vines are all in very small handmade rock enclosures, built hundreds of years ago. The vines grow right on the lava. I have never seen anything like it.

    In a little chapel to Our Lady of Compassion I lit a bunch of (electric) candles on the theory that we could all use a little compassion. Very nice place for some reflection.
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  • Day15

    On the island of Pico

    May 4, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    By 10:30 am, we were in our rental car and driving around the island of Pico. Volcano in the middle and lava flows everywhere. Our hotel is amazing, Aldeia da Fonte. Five old village houses turned into a hotel “complex”. Right on the water, lots of walking paths.

    Weather was a little bit of everything-cloudy, rainy, and then spectacularly sunny.Read more