Actually, when I started working in Portugal I did not have any think thank about visiting the Azores, but my first trainer told us, that we should go there, as long as we are in Portugal. She also told us, that a flight by Ryanair is for only around 50 EUR. Furthermore she told us, that it is a green, very green island. I was thinking about New Zealand. I like that country and the green. Though from that day I was looking forward to some days off in a row for going to the Azores.
Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity before October 2017, but I did it and I am very happy about this decision. I only had three days for the Azores. I was anyway happy, that I could fly back to Lisbon on the fourth day, therefore I had the whole third day, too. I had read about the Azores a lot before my flight and decided to visit only the island Sao Miguel – the biggest one of them. It would not be time to see more. On the other hand I did not really decide, what to see and how to go around the island. I was prepared for renting a car and had just a couple of days before received my Swedish driver’s license with my new name, but what I really was doing on this island you can read below.
Saturday, 7th October 2017
My plane left 11:25 at Lisbon Airport and arrived at Ponta Delgada Airport at 12:50, but we were 10 minutes early even we left a little late in Lisbon. Half of the day was gone, when arriving, but I have had a chance to sleep well the night before. I remember, we have had a hard landing, but all went well. There was no problem to enter the Azores, even I was surprised, when I left Lisbon, that there were the same procedures like for foreign flights, but the Azores are belonging to Portugal.
I was surprised about the building of the airport. It was not big and had not a lot of facilities, but there were these big images in clear colours, which I liked as soon as I have got aware of them.
My first way was to the tourism office to ask for, how to come to the city center, without a taxi. Unfortunately there were a couple, speaking with the only one assistant and they took such a long time, though I did use google maps again, trying to find out something – and I did, of course. By Google it was only a 45-minutes walk to the city centre, where I had booked a bed in a hostel. Therefore I started walking instead. It was easy to walk and easy to find my way. I needed much longer time than 45 minutes, of course, because I was getting my first impressions from the island as well as Ponta Delgada and took a lot of photographs.
Finding TheNookHostel was not the easiest. I found the street easily, I thought, but the name was slightly different and I could not find the number two. I was walking down the street again. In a gallery, where I later also bought a piece of art, I asked for the hostel and actually, I was very close to it. When I arrived at the corner I also saw my mistake, because I was in the “Rua do Pedro Homem”, but the hostel was in the “Travessa do Pedro Homem”, a crossroad to the Rua do Pedro Homem. The owner of the gallery told me, that the hostel was quite new. It was painted in a light blue colour and easy to remember.
At the check-in, which was done in a kind of lounge without a desk and with all the necessary information on an iPhone, I was welcomed of a shy young man. He explained the necessary details for me, told me, that my bed/room was on the first floor, gave me the code for the front door and told me that the tourist information is all on a shelf beside the kitchen.
I took a rest in the kitchen, studied the tourism leaflets as well as the flyers and met there a very nice Portuguese woman, who was on her holidays on the island. Her name was Ana. I had a long chat with her, before I was going downtown for a meal and more photos. I walked a lot and found some nice places and saw the sunset as well. On my way back to the hostel I found a company, renting out bicycles, scooters, motorcycles and cars as well selling tours with buggy and small busses. I asked for a buggy tour, but it was not possible to join a day tour. Though I asked for a car and found out, that the price for a scooter for a day was the same price as for a car. There were different options of insurances. The best insurance, without any own amount to pay in case of an accident, had the same price as the rent of the car. I told them, I will think about it and finally walked back to the hostel.
I had already seen at the hostel, that there are tours by jeep, offered by “Greenzone”. I checked how to contact them and was happy, that I could do it by email. It took not a long time to get an answer, even it was already around 10pm. There were seats left on Monday. Even the whole day tour was for 60 EUR (lunch included), I booked that tour. In addition to that I had told Ana, that I maybe will rent a car the following day and she asked me, if she might follow and share the costs. I agreed.
Sunday, 8th October 2017
I was already up at 7:30am, but had to wait for the shower. What I was surprised of in the hostels was, that there often only was one shower for a floor and that was unisex. Here there were actually two showers, but in the same room was the toilet and no privacy for the toilet. Though everyone, who was taking a shower or using the toilet, locked the door. At 8:15am I entered the kitchen for breakfast. Ana was already there, so was Ahrade, a girl from Israel. After breakfast she asked me, if she may follow with us and I agreed to that as well.
We went to the car rental, but was to a supermarket on the way. They had a cow statue outside, a great thing for a tourist picture ;-).
We were renting the car in my name and me as the first driver, Ana as the second driver. We also took the full insurance, though there was no problem if some idiot would drive in our car. Ana was eager to share the costs with me, divided the 49,99 EUR by three and gave me the 16,66 EUR already at the car rental company. Ahrade explained, that she did not have much cash and if she could pay by card. I agreed, that she could pay my expenses during the day. By the way, we rented the smallest car we could get, thinking about the costs, but we were very happy about that decision because of the roads, which were very narrow most of the time.
We drove to Lagoa, but did not stop, because we did not find anything interesting. We continued to Vila Franca do Campo and decided to visit the little island with the same name. The Island is a natural reserve and is called “Reserva Natural Do Ilheu De Vila Franca Do Campo” with its full name. Before we could take the boat, we had to wait for nearly an hour. The boat was going to the island only once an hour and we just missed it. Though we were driving to “Nossa Senhora da Paz”, a church on the mountain and actually, Ana was driving now, though we should not miss the boat. It took anyway longer time as expected and we were just back in time – the boat was waiting for us – even we did not make it inside the church.
Eventually I had prefered to stay on Sao Miguel and not to go to that little island, because it was so time-consuming. The boat ride was only 10 minutes, but we had to wait for another hour for going back to the mainland. It was already around 3pm, when we were going further to Furnas. Ana was driving now, because she drives faster than me by being used to Portuguese driving. We visited first the hot springs, had a special cake, which we bought of a woman in a trailer, tried to get a meal, cooked in the hot springs, men had to eat a hamburger instead for nearly no restaurant was open. We also had a short walk in Furnas. Finally we were going to the hot pools. Ana had given me a black top to use in the springs, because I did not remember to have my tankini with me, but at the hot springs, they were selling bikinis and swim suites. I bought a bikini, because of the beautiful colours and was happy, that there was no need to go in my underwear and Anas top. All the people in the pool had coloured skin, but me, I was really white against them. Only my arms and my head have a light brown colour. By the way, the water in the hot pool has a lot of iron, therefore Ana also had offered me the black top.
Ana and Ahrade wished to stay in the pool for a very long time, but I was interested in to go further. I would like to see more, even the waterfalls “Cascatas da Ribeira dos Caldeirões” in Nordeste. Even I could get them to leave the hot pools after a while, we only came to Povoacao. It became dark directly after arriving there. We walked that little town, visited the only restaurant, where I only had a sweet roll, because I was not really hungry, and a cup of chocolate milk. This little town was at the point, where the first Portuguese arrived. At the harbour there were a lot of art for remembrance.
The day had been very interesting and we have seen beautiful nature als well as art. The island is not only green. There are different green colours and the forest is exotic. We were back in Ponta Delgada before 11pm and able to leave the car directly to the car rental, but after filling fuel for 10 EUR – which we shared (3,33 EUR each). We did not have any incident. It can seem, we lost some money by the full insurance, but we had a save feeling and that was worth it. At the table in the kitchen I added what Ahrade had paid for me and have seen, that she still owed me 4 EUR. I asked her for the money and she asked me, if I had change to 50 EUR. I was angry in my mind, even she told me, that I will get the 4 EUR the upcoming day – I never got them, by the way.
It was a great day even I regretted that I did share the car and did not drive by myself to all the things I would have liked to see. Maybe one day I will be back on Sao Miguel and maybe also visit other islands of the Azores.
Monday, 9th October 2017
This day was the day for my Jeep Tour. The guide did pick me up at 9am outside the hostel. I was his first passenger and chose the seat on the side of him, though I had the best view of all of us tourists. He was picking up two couples at another place, a hotel. The guide was around 30 years old, a little shy, but very kind and answering all questions I had. Sitting at the side of him it was also very easy to ask him questions. I was asking him about the cows, because there are lots of things for tourists with cows. He told me, that the cows on Sao Miguel island are happy cows. They are outside all the year around for the mild climate and also will be milked on the grassland. Another thing we were talking about was the energy and I got to know, that 40% of the energy used on Sao Miguel comes from the thermal springs. I was thinking about water shortage, because Sao Miguel is not a big island and he declared, that they do not have had any water shortage yet. The forests are wet, they have rivers and springs and the water holds a very good quality.
Our first stop was on Lagoa Fogo (the fire lake). It is a volcano crater lake and the highest lake located on the island of São Miguel. There are a lot of hiking trails and from up there, we had a great view. We also were on the highest point on this part of the island, around 800 meters above sea level. We could see nearly all of the island and the guide also explained, that the middle of the island, which is lower than the rest, are the latest volcanos – anyway they erupted 100 of years ago. This volcano area put the two older islands together to Sao Miguel of today.
We continued to the hot springs and pools in the Caldeira Velha National Park. While picking me up the guide had asked me for my swim wear, because there will be a hot pool. Though I did use the hot pool, but the couples did take a walk and see a waterfall.
We were going to another waterfall, a kind I never had seen before. The way to this place was only possible to go by jeep or walking. There were switchbacks. After we had seen the waterfall he showed us some plants: The clerical Incense Peters flowers, which smells peppermint and the Ginger Lilies. He also let us suck of the nectar, which tastes like honey. He drove than aside the “Bebeida Grande”, the big river, which starts at the waterfall, but soon becomes much bigger. There I had the possibility to ask him for the “Bella donna”. I did not know before, what the flowers were called and learned of him. He also told me, that they are called the “back to school” flowers of the natives, because they are in bloom, when the children has to go back to school after the summer holidays. In addition to that I was asking him, if they were native on the island, but he answered, that they are not and that people plant them like we plant easter lilies.
Soon we came into a rush hour, the only traffic jam one can run in i on the Azores. We had to follow a flock of cows, which were moved from one grassland to another and actually they were not close to each other. We lost a lot of time, the guide was watching his clock, but he did not show us his tension. Finally we arrived at “Bella Vista” an old whale hunters hut and now only a watch tower for tourists, because whale hunting was forbidden many years ago. We did get lots of time for the great view and as usual, the guide made pictures of us with our own cameras.
In Lagoa we had a great lunch like a dinner. The starter were two different kinds of cheese, one hard – a specialty from the island and that was the soft cheese, too. The soft one was eaten with a sauce, because the cheese itself has no taste. Even a pork paste was served and all with bread. Unfortunately the second course was fish. I did get nothing instead, but they offered me a bigger third course. First I could choose between chicken and pork. I chose chicken, but they explained later, that they could not make a bigger portion of chicken, though I had to choose pork anyway and I was happy about it, when I saw the chicken meal served. There was also a dessert. We could choose between a kind of cake, which name I do not remember, pineapple (Ananaz from the island) or ice cream. I asked the guide if I could get pineapple and ice cream and he did gave me his portion of ice cream, declaring that he could not eat it anyway. I was happy about the Azores pineapple. It is called Ananaz and is much sweater than pineapples from Brazil or elsewhere and you can see, that it is Ananaz by the small crown (Ana later told me). We had free drinks as well: wine, beer, whatever one want, but no strong alcoholic drinks. We also were offered a coffee at the end of the meal. Not many did take the coffee, neither did I.
After dinner our guide picked up another couple in Ponta Delgada. They had booked only a half day tour to Sete Cidades. This was our goal for the afternoon. The driver and at once guide drove us to the highest point of Sao Miguel, the Boca do Inferno Viewpoint. It was around 900m above the sea level. From here we could see four different lakes. Already on the way there we have seen scenic views with an old aqueduct, totally dressed in green and two lakes in an enchanted forest.
The next look out was one, where we could see the green and blue lakes. One of them is green and the other one blue. Anyway they are very tight together. We also made a stop at Sete Cidades, the named goal for our afternoon tour. This city was built on 7 volcano craters and it is told, that Atlantis is underneath. We stopped close to the Church St. Nicolas. There were also an ATM close to, which was good for me, because I had to take out some money for paying the guide as well as there were bathrooms. Some of us had a coffee at the café nearby. We continued to “Vista do Rei” the official viewpoint for the green and blue lake and stopped on the way there after a bridge, which divided the two lakes. Close to the Vista do Rei there is an abandoned hotel, the five-star Hotel Monte Palace. It has only been used for a little more than a year, the guide told us and is more than 20 years old. In the beginning, there should have been security men, but when they left, because they did not get paid anymore, people came and took all what they could out of the building. Now it is only a shell left.
We were back around 5:20pm, 20 minutes later, than we should have been. Though the guide made overtime, without any complaint. I asked him to leave me at the old port of Ponta Delgada, though there was no need for him to drive the narrow streets, I thought, but he had anyway.
I was to the supermarket, buying some bread for the flight, a bottle of water for the evening and a postcard for my former colleagues on Malta. I had my evening meal at “Porta da Bolas” a snack bar, Ana had been lucky with great services and nice prices. I was not. I ordered a glass of the local beer and a prato do dia. I told, that I do not want rice and they told me OK, but they served rice anyway. Also the price were much higher than Ana told me. I think there is a big difference between guests, which do not speak portuguese and Portuguese guests.
Back at the hostel I had a shower and afterwards a chat with Ana. She also helped me to order a taxi. I had got a number for a shuttle to the airport. She first called that number for me, but got to know, that the shuttle was not longer existing. Actually they ended with the service for more than a year ago. Anyway I got that number of the guy at the hostel. When Ana had ordered the taxi she told me, that I had to pay 10 EUR, because it was so early in the morning I had to go. I was OK with it. If I won’t walk, it was the only way to go to the airport and that ment, that the cheap flight was not so cheap anymore, but I had chosen that early flight to have more time for the island.
Tuesday, 10th October 2017
It is departure day. I would have liked to stay for longer, but I have to go back to work. I was up 4:30am, had a black coffee, which I warmed in the microwave oven. I think it was left from the day before. It was disgusting, but helped me to wake up. I was ready around 4:50am and left the hostel 5:15am. The taxi should come 5:30am and I was afraid, if it would be earlier, it would drive away again without me. The taxi arrived 5:28am. There were no traffic so early in the morning and I only had to pay 8 EUR instead of the announced 10 EUR.
At the airport it was no queue at all and no problem through the security check. I was too early for the announcement of the gate, of course, which was stated to be at 6;15am. I had a galao (coffee with milk) and bought a bottle of water. They had high prices here. I made it to the gate just before the rush. The flight was OK on my window seat. We arrived in time back in Lisbon.
For more about my life in Portugal follow the link: Lisbon, October 2017.