Exploring the NW corner of Sao MiguelMarch 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.Read more