|Lagoa das Furnas is located on São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores.|
I wouldn't call myself a geography whiz, but I am surprised at how many people I've talked to recently who are unaware of the Azores. This island group in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is the part of Europe that is closest to the United States. The Azores (os Açores) are part of Portugal and have a long history connected to exploration, shipping, whaling and the military. Nowadays, the islands' economy is based on food production (beef, cheese, fish, tea and pineapples) along with tourism.
The Azores archipelago is composed of nine islands spread out over 370 miles. There are three groups: São Miguel and Santa Maria in the east; Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Faial and Graciosa in the center; and Flores and Corvo in the west. Our trip includes visits to five islands, which we get to by plane and ferry.
While my mother-in-law and her companion encounter delays on their trip from California through Boston, Ken and I have a uneventful flights from Bordeaux through Lisbon to Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel. This is the largest Azorean island and some say the most beautiful.
|A brief stop at Miradouro de Santa Iria gives us this pretty view of São Miguel.|
|A waterfall in a garden in Ribeira Grande on the north side of São Miguel |
offers me a chance to play with my camera settings.
|I find a refreshing burst of color in Ribeira Grande.|
Our apartment is located at the edge of Ponta Delgada's center, an easy walk to restaurants and what is to become our favorite ice cream parlor, Abracadabra. (Don't pass up the pistachio!)
|One of my favorite things to do in a city is to visit gardens like this,|
Jardim Antonio Borges in Ponta Delgada.
|Jardim Antonio Borges is not your typical garden.|
|On a visit to Ponta Delgada's Jardim Botânico José do Canto|
I spy this massive Australian banyan tree.
|Folk dancers stop by for a performance at a Ponta Delgada restaurant.|
|Fancy carvings adorn the doorway of Ponta Delgada's Igreja Matriz.|
|The Town Gates (Portas de Cidade), built in the 18th century, |
are featured on official Ponta Delgada postcards.
On Day 3 we hire a cab that takes us around the island. We stop at a number of miradouros (vistas) providing amazing views of this lush green island. Our trip also includes a visit to Plantações de Chá Gorreana, the oldest tea plantation in Europe. We have lunch in Furnas where our meat-heavy stew has been cooked underground in a volcanic lava pit. Afterward we enjoy a soak in a volcanic hot spring.
|Sacks of tea whet our appetite for a tasting at Plantações de Chá Gorreana, |
Europe's oldest tea plantation.
|Sulfur-infused steam rises from a lava pit along the shores of Lagoa das Furnas.|
|Pots of stew are are buried in the caldeiras (hot springs) at Lagoa das Furnas.|
|A marker signifies that a pot of cozido is buried here.|
|Six hours of cooking in a volcanic caldeira yields Cozido das Furnas, |
a rich Portuguese stew.
|After lunch, we stop at Poça da D. Beíja for a dip in a natural thermal pool.|
On another day we opt for a Yellow Bus tour to see the western part of São Miguel. Here we see what turns out to be an Azorean highlight: Sete Cidades (Lagoon of the Seven Cities). These two lakes are connected, but are ecologically different — one is blue and the other is green. Besides being an important fresh water resource for the Azores, Sete Cidades comes with its own legend of a princess and the shepherd she loved but was forbidden to marry.
|Despite stiff competition, Sete Cidades on the island of São Miguel may be |
the most beautiful place I visit during my trip to the Azores.
|We take an impromptu hike after I misread a sign at Lagoa do Canário.|
Fast forward two weeks to the end of our trip: Ken and I return to Ponta Delgada where we enjoy a sunny afternoon and dinner in a Mexican restaurant. Those who know me know that this is the cuisine I miss the most in rural France, and I will take any opportunity to eat Mexican wherever I go. This dinner, however, includes fresh pineapple margaritas. Did I mention that pineapples are a São Miguel specialty?
|Museu Carlos Machado in Ponta Delgada was founded in 1888.|
|A fountain and war memorial are located at Forte de São Brás in Ponta Delgada.|
|A cross is seen through a window of a ruined building in Ponta Delgada.|