Portugal
Azores

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113 travelers at this place:

  • 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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  • 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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  • Mar13

    Wed.-Remedios hike & Pinhal da Paz Park

    March 13, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    We were looking for a kids’ playground and happened to read about a 125 acre reserve in an old pine tree forest with the best playground on the island. It also has a high point where you can see both sides of the island and it is covered in azalea bushes, ferns, camellias, palms and cacti. It was only minutes away from Ponta Delgada. It would have been a great place to go for a picnic. What a find!

    The Best Experiences of the Day

    Nathan - going up the slide, on the teeter totter and swinging in the swing at the park

    Audrey - going down the fireman pole at the park

    Cal - going up and down on the bumpy bum ramp with the ropes

    Matt - swimming in the sea pool

    Amy - the sunny day and the flowers at the Pinhal da Paz park

    Tim - the run/crawl to the tip top of the mirador at Pico Funcha

    Caitlin - the happy face on the tree in the park

    Connie - the views of both sides of the island from the mirador at the park

    Chris - the hike to Remedios with Key and Tim
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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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  • Mar17

    A Daytrip to Sao Miguel's West Coast

    March 17, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Note - I am behind in the blogs with the kids but the footprints are coming soon ...

    The island of Sao Miguel is beautiful. Driving for a half an hour west of the capital city of Ponta Delgado will take you to the most westerly point of the island. In half an hour! And in that half an hour the island constantly changes. It is one of the most diverse places that we have ever visited - the flora, fauna, landscapes and even its climate changes dramatically during the short drive. Within the space of just twenty minutes, you can go from soaking in a hot spring in the sun to having your head in the clouds on top of a mountain looking down on a volcanic crater. It's this diversity and dramatic scenery that we have really enjoyed. There is a T-shirt that I like that says, “Four Seasons in One Day”, and it’s true.

    On the west of the island is an enormous volcanic crater with a large lake nestled inside of it. The road that crosses the lake creates the impression of twin lakes. To see it in its full glory, we took the road to the top edge of the crater.

    Last week, Tim, Caitlin and Matt went to visit this volcano and happened to see a trail, or what appeared to be a trail going up to the Vista Do Rei viewpoint. They parked the car and had to bushwhack their way up. When they got to the top they were surprised to see an abandoned hotel that looked more like a concrete prison that the 5-star hotel that was once voted the finest in all of Portugal. They went into it and were awestruck by what they saw.

    Built in the late 1980s, the Hotel Monte Palace was intended to be the ultimate in luxury travel for the Azores. Back then, it was more expensive to fly from Europe to North America than it was to these beautiful Portuguese islands so investors invested and builders built, and this 5-star resort was open for business in 1989. The large complex featured two restaurants, a bar, a nightclub, a beauty salon, a bank, and 88 rooms that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean or the twin lakes nestled in the caldera of the volcano.

    Ironically, the Monte Palace hotel received the award for being Portugal’s finest on the same week that the hotel closed its doors for good. Just 18 months after it opened, the owners declared bankruptcy, and the building was left to the elements.

    So what happened?

    Opening this hotel was a poor business decision. It didn’t make sense to build the Monte Palace in either this location or at this time. Back in the 1980s, the Azores wasn’t on anyone’s radar when it came to international tourism. On top of that, its location on the island was remote, which meant guests would need to hire a car to get there, and there wasn’t anything within walking distance. Once you were there, you’d have to amuse yourself by either driving yourself around the island or by sitting on your balcony and gazing out at the gorgeous views.Those views, however, would have been rarely visible. Most days, there is a heavy fog and this windy area experiences a whopping 200 days of rain per year. Many guests would have been paying a lot of money to shiver on their balcony and experience what it’s like to be engulfed in clouds. I am sure that most people would not chose to have that experience. But we have head rumours that a Chinese company has bought it and want to renovate it.

    Tim, Caitlin and Matt went inside the building to explore it and said that it looked like a disaster zone. Piles of plaster and wood lay on the floor while parts of the ceiling were falling down above their heads. They could see signs of previous grandeur - some mosaics on the bathroom walls and some marble in the algae, but there wasn’t any glamour remaining. It was a dump. Thieves, vandals and want-to-be graffiti artists have left their marks.

    As we were driving up the road to the viewpoint, we happened to come upon the hotel too. As it was the weekend, there were several people wandering around the outside of the building and heeding the ‘Danger’ signs so we didn’t go in, but it would have been super interesting.
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  • Mar22

    The Boiling Sulfur Pools of Furnas

    March 22, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    On we drove and back to the hot springs we had visited with the kids in Furnas. This time we stopped, not to swim in hot waters but to see the boiling, smoking hot springs in town and tried not to breath in the sulphur smells. We did have a late lunch here but not eat the famous stews that cook for 5 hours in the hot springs. The smell was a bit overpowering so we headed home. It was a great day.

    When we got back, we saw the tire tracks from the morning rally and decided to follow them to check out the route. Not a good idea! Even driving at 5 km/hour we were so afraid that our rented car would have a flat tire or get stuck or hit a wall. It was brutal and they go down this lanes as fast as possible. Argh! We only did a section of the route and as soon as we could, we headed home. This time for real!
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  • Mar24

    Exploring the NW corner of Sao Miguel

    March 24, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 13 °C

    After yesterday’s stormy day, today promised to be a warm and sunny day. It was perfect for a drive back to Mosteiros along the northwest shoreline. Many of the roads along the shoreline of the island are the old original roads that are hundreds of years old and they are very interesting.

    By the way, I am writing this footprint in the Batalhas golf course clubhouse while Chris hits a few balls on the driving range. I have views of the ocean while I drink a cup of Delta coffee and listen to good music. We both are happy with this arrangement.

    From our inland BnB, we drove 3 km to Calhetas which is on the ocean. Calhetas means pebbles and the shore is full of small rocks, a good place for catching fish. The village is pretty small and has been inhabited since the 15th Century. Around 1820, some tea seeds were brought from Brazil and a tea plantation was started in this area. There was a great viewing spot close by. This whole island is full of ‘great viewing spots’, each one just as beautiful as the one before. We make a point of stopping at as many of these miradouras as possible.

    On we drove to another small village called Capelas. During the whaling era in the Azores (early to middle 20th Century), Capelas was an important northern processing center on the island of São Miguel. Rui told us that until 1976, many people in island villages still used whale oil to light their lanterns.

    Hardly any part of the carcass of the sperm whale was waste. The meat and fat and even teeth and bones, (raw material for scrimshaw), were all utilized. Whale wax or spermaceti and ambergris provided raw material for candles, lubricants and perfumes, to name just a few of their many uses.

    Whaling was an important source of livelihood for a number of Azorean families for a great number of years. The decline of the industry began in the 1960s following a diminishing need for whale-based products. The last whales in the Azores were hunted in 1987.

    The viewpoint in Capelas gave us great views of the big bay where the whales were brought in. It was hard to imagine how the huge whale bodies were hauled up the cliffs. We did go down a steep ramp to the rocky bottom and even wondered how the ships could even bring the whales close to shore. Rui told us that they used to attach a big hook to the whale’s tail and used a machine to haul it up the ramp. But then the body had to go to the processing plant. What a job!

    Capelas also has a curious rock formation. It goes by several names including "Trombo do Elefante", or the elephant’s trunk. The cliffs are in the perfect shape of an elephant stepping into the water with its trunk falling into the sea. You don’t need to have much of an imagination to see the elephant.

    We really liked visiting this town and could see ourselves spending time here in the future.

    North of Capelas, we passed through little towns with Saints’ names. We saw greenhouses which grow the small Azores pineapples. At this point we could see the sides of the huge Sete Cidades volcano sloping to the ocean, covered with fertile farmland.

    On we went to Pilar da Bretanha. Interesting that it is called Pillars of Britain. Maybe some British sailors were castaways here? It is a village that is located on the furthest point from the capital city. Before a road was put in, the people living here were pretty isolated.

    By now, with all of our ins and outs of the car, it was around 2 p.m. and we were getting hungry. Mosteiros wasn’t that far away and that restaurant with the great seafood so ... off we went to Mosteiros and the O Américo de Barbosa restaurant where we had eaten an amazing lunch earlier in the week.

    The seaside town at the base of the big volcano has a nice feel to it. While we waited for a seat in the restaurant, we went to the nearby centro and people watched. So nice and old fashioned. Men sitting on benches, smoking and chatting, kids playing on the bandshell, women walking arm in arm through the park, church bells ringing.

    Fifteen minutes later, we went back to the restaurant and our table was ready. The menu was small but we just had to have the shrimp again. But people were getting ‘limpets’ so we had to try the limpets too. And then the house specialty was octopus with boiled potatoes. How could we resist? We know that we won’t be getting seafood this fresh anytime in the near future so why not splurge! We even considered getting Portuguese wine and an Azorean pineapple cheesecake but felt that that would be just a little too decadent.

    Our trip home took 40 minutes and we went on a route that took us up the volcano, then down into the crater and back up again and to the other side, then through green countryside with cows and back to our perfectly located BnB in Pico Da Pedra.

    So today, our last day on the island, I am watching Chris putt on the putting green while looking out the big windows of the clubhouse and writing this footprint. Nice way to end our time in Sao Miguel, for sure.
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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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  • Mar17

    Part 2 - Sete Cidades and Mosteiros

    March 17, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We turned around and drove down to the bottom of the volcano to the pretty little town of Sete Cidades. The town is very tiny with a cute little church but it sits in an idyllic spot with views of the lakes and the views to the top of the crater. Birds were chirping and flowers surrounded us. All in all it was an aesthetic experience. We had a coffee there and just enjoyed the peacefulness of the place. So pretty and far away from life elsewhere.

    We were able to drive partway around the base of the crater and it was so pleasant. Sao Miguel is called the Green Island for a reason but at this time of the year there are so many colourful flowers blooming on the sides of the road. A painter’s palette of colours. The pink azaleas and purple hydrangeas are gorgeous. And then all the wildflowers...

    I think that we lucked out and got one of the sunny days in the crater. It was a Sunday so lots of Portuguese families were there too, walking on the trails, picnicking on the lake’s edge and exploring the tunnel that help control the height of the water in the lake.

    We had heard about the seaside town of Mosteiros so went back up the crater and then down to the sea. Mosteiros is an old town built on a flat area beside the ocean, at the base of the volcano. We were pretty hungry by that time so stopped in a busy restaurant and we were glad we did. The food was amazing. Really, really good and a great price. We had the best shrimp starter in a lemony sauce to start, followed by a shared fresh fish dinner with vegetables and salad. Dessert was an Azores cheesecake with pineapple on top. Absolutely the tastiest meal that we have had so far on this trip! We will have to go back to try some of their specialities - octopus and limpets.

    On our way home, we took the coastal road and happened to see, once again the Romeros or Pilgrims. The tradition of the march of the Romeiros is one that dates back to the 16th century in the Azores and has been a tradition that has been followed by faithful followers every year for centuries on the island of Sao Miguel. It began when a large earthquake took place in the 16th century, causing landslides and deaths. It was a pilgrimage that originated from the peoples’ need to pay respect and homage to the Virgin Mary - a divine punishment for their human actions.
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  • Mar22

    Most NE Point and Down the East Coast

    March 22, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We enjoyed our road trip to the east coast so much that we decided to go to where we left off and continue exploring down the east coast of Sao Miguel. But first ... we had a Car Rally to check out!

    The Azores Rallye takes place on the largest island in the Azores, which is São Miguel, and has been running for the past 50 years. It is a spectacular event for international rally drivers as they spend 3 days driving on different, challenging sections of the island. The coutryside is lush and the scenery is breath-taking but I am sure when they are driving at the speeds they drive, there is little time to enjoy the scenery! The roads or tracks that they take are very narrow and winding. Often the roads have big stone walls that are barely wider than the cars. In rallies, the drivers are timed so they go as fast as they can. It is crazy!

    Today, the drivers started this leg of their rally, right in front of our BnB!!! What a thrill for us. Then they will move on to do a run around the rim of the volcano in Sete Cidades. There is no margin for error there! The weather can change in a blink of an eye going from sunshine and clear skies to showers and fog and ... the drop offs from the cliffs are brutally steep. Yikes!

    Once we left for our ‘mild’ driving trip to the east coast, Chris’ promised to take it easy and not try to pretend to be a rally driver.

    Our day was good. We drove to the lighthouse which is at the most northeasterly point on the island and started our exploring there.

    The views from the new miradors continued to be awesome on the east coast. One of most beautiful was from the Sossego Point which in located in a gorgeous, beautifully maintained garden. Families come here on weekends for outdoor picnics and BBQs.

    From there, we went up a mountain road to PIco Bartholomew. On the way, we stopped in at an interpretation centre that had a display about a rare bird that lived in the laurel forests in this area. This little finch, called a Priolo, only lives in this one spot in the world and was on the verge of extinction until a group decided to help save it by teaching people about it and having bird counts every year to see how it is doing. At this time it is the 2nd rarest bird in Europe. It looks a little like a chickadee with its black cap.

    We continued on to Bartholomew but it was getting steeper and narrower the further we went up. Also the clouds were rolling in fast. Chris just couldn’t trust the car with all those drop offs and the steepness of the road so we turned around carefully and headed back down. As we went down, a herd of cows that needed to be milked, walked towards us on the road and we had to wait while they took their time investigating us.

    More views and on to a place we had visited with the kids earlier - Furnas.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Azores, Azoren, Açores, Asorane, Asorene, Azzorre, Região Autónoma dos Açores

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