SÃO MIGUEL, AZORES
innovative Branded Fares have ignited a firestorm of
excitement amongst Portuguese and non-Portuguese folks
who travel light (just one 8 kg carry-on). From the
moment we checked-in for our Sata flight from Toronto to
Ponta Delgada, it was obvious from the conversation
around us that we would be sharing our winter getaway
with many more first time visitors than in the past. In
Ponta Delgada there were visitors from Canada, the U.S.
and northern Europe, more than ever before.
As usual the Sata experience was
excellent. Staff on the ground and in flight was
extremely friendly and helpful. Economy seating is
comfortable. Meal and beverage service is good and best
of all, from Toronto, it is only about 5½ hours flying
time, even less from Boston. Another advantage, the time
difference is only 4 hours. In business class on the way
home, we stretched out and watched a couple of movies on
the provided iPads. Also appreciated was use of the
convenient Sata lounge and priority handling of our
The really good news is that Sata
has expanded its flight schedules and relationships with
other airlines, which makes it easier than ever to fly to
the Azores, mainland Portugal and Madeira.
Before we left Ponta Delgada last
year, we were lucky to meet the charming owners of ideally-located rental
apartments right in Ponta
Delgada city center. From the moment we met Eleuterio and
Maria Valido, we knew we would be in good hands.
Eleuterio was at the airport when
we arrived (an included service) and whisked us to our
chosen apartment, a large one bedroom suite with terrace
views north (rooftops and mountains) and south (rooftops
and the sea). All three of their apartments in that
building are newly renovated with quality furnishings and
fully-equipped kitchens for preparing meals at home.
There is WIFI and Cable TV with plenty of English
channels, all the goodies to keep us connected and
entertained for our 10 week stay. They are focused on
offering their guests the best possible experience. They
exceeded our expectations; we've already booked our
apartment for next winter. Eleuterio and Maria also have
a studio apartment, overlooking a beautiful park, nearby
Our building, on Rua Machado dos
Santos, the major shopping street in the city, is just
steps away from our favorite "go-to" casual
eatery, A Comercial. Rui, his father, João, and their
team: Claudia, Sonja, Carla and Elisa (Rui's sister),
treat everyone with special care and a big smile. Pick up
your tray and cutlery, get in line and choose from the
daily specials. Will it be grilled fish, roast rabbit or
chicken, a fabulous bacalhau dish, soups, salads,
sandwiches, pastries, fresh fruit salad? Lunch time is a
symphony of sights, smells and sounds; heaping plates of
food, people watching, friends chattering away, cell
phone music, staff serving and clearing tables. The
familiarity is contagious. It's one big happy family of
locals, regulars and lucky readers of TheTravelzine.
Nature is revered
in São Miguel (and the other 8 islands that comprise the
Azorean archipelago). In this paradise, spectacular lush
greenery and exquisite plantings are pampered. Volcanic
mountains topped by luscious lakes, thermal waters and
waterfalls, lovely beaches, natural coastal pools and
surging white-capped surfs are a treat to the senses and
spectacular venues for outdoor activities (hiking,
walking, biking, diving, surfing, canyoning, kayaking,
fishing, golfing, thermal bathing and bird watching).
We know that most people have no
knowledge about the Azores, so here are a few facts to
get you started on your journey. The Azores are a part of
Portugal. Nine islands comprise the archipelago. São
Miguel is the largest and along with Santa Maria (the
first discovered in 1427 by Portuguese explorers) form
the eastern group. Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Faial
and Pico are the central group and the western group is
made up of Flores and Corvo. The archipelago is located
in the Atlantic Ocean, 1408 km from Lisbon and 3910 km
from New York. It's no wonder the fish is fresh out of
the water on to your plate. The mild maritime climate is
affected by the east coast gulf stream, no great changes.
The day time temperatures average 23 C in the summer and
15 C in the winter, ideal weather to visit comfortably
any time of year. The population of the archipelago is
about 246,000, 138,000 of which live on São Miguel.
138,000 cows (one for each person) graze freely making
the dairy and meat as wholesome as possible. WHOLESOME,
the perfect way to describe life on the islands.
We have written
about the deplorable condition of the abandoned and
neglected Sahar Hassamain Synagogue in Ponta Delgada.
Thanks to the herculean efforts of historian and chief
librarian of the Ponta Delgada municipal library, Jose de
Almeida Mello, the restoration has begun. We were there
for the official announcement and witnessed the start of
the renewal. Before we departed, we could see the roof
being rebuilt from the vantage point of our front
In 2003 the Israeli Community of
Lisbon invited Dr. Mello to coordinate the restoration
project. In 2009 Dr. Mello published his book, Sahar
Hassamain Synagogue which tells the story of the
synagogue and its relevance in preserving the Jewish
legacy in the Azores.
The synagogue (built in 1856), the
only one surviving on the islands, is the oldest of the
ones that remain in Portugal. The sanctuary was
established in 1820 by a group of Jewish entrepreneurs
Finally a marriage of the
non-profit interfaith group, the Azorean Jewish Heritage
Foundation from Massachusetts, the city of Ponta Delgada
and the financial support of EU historical preservation
groups made it happen.
Located on Rua do Brum the restored
building housing the synagogue will include a museum and
library which will be a welcome resource for those
wishing to understand the history and culture of the
Jewish people in the Azores.
Ponta Delgada is the cleanest city
you will ever visit. There are green rubbish containers
attached to practically every building. Cheerful,
uniformed men, with their special carts, clean them out
regularly. Another group is armed with street vacuums to
pick up anything not deposited in the containers. In
addition, property owners are always sweeping and washing
their sidewalks and gutters. There are large recycling
bins strategically placed and regularly used.
Carnaval is an annual affair. Groups from schools all
over the island come dressed in themed costumes and
parade through the city center to the constant beat of
the music. Sidewalks and streets are packed with
onlookers (we among them - fun time). Tons of colorful
streamers are thrown. Two minutes after the area clears,
an army of cleaners swoop in and in no time, pristine
cleanliness is restored.
Linda's sister Jill from New York,
who has never been to the Azores, visited us for a week.
She booked an apartment in the same building and was so
thrilled with Eleuterio and Maria, the accommodations and
São Miguel, she plans to return next year.
We wanted Jill to see and learn as
much as possible about the island so we booked two tours
with the most experienced tour operators, UTC:
http:/www.utcazores.com/901 Since we never tire of the
beauty of the island, we tagged along with Jill to share
UTC operates tour services
throughout Europe, including Portugal (in the Azores,
São Miguel and Flores) and Morocco. Children 2 or under
travel free and 3-11 year olds pay 50%. If you book two
tours there is complimentary service from the airport to
and from your hotel or place of residence. You can also
book airport transfers for 5 euro round trip, per
person: UTC Round Trip Shuttles
On São Miguel UTC has a large
fleet of various size vans to comfortably accommodate all
their guests. The staff at the airport, in the city
center, and on-board drivers and guides are professional,
knowledgeable, personable and try hard to fulfill all
Our first tour was to Furnas. UTC
was happy to accommodate our request to include stops at
local producers of specialty items found in the area. We
headed to the north coast in the direction of Ribeira
Grande, the second largest city, and turned east to the
lookout point Santa Iria which offers spectacular vistas
of the rocky coast topped by thick green pastures.
The only tea produced in Europe is
here on the north coast of São Miguel. Today we visited Cha Porto Formoso, one of two plantations. As you walk
through the gates into the garden you are struck by the
awesome views of the tea fields tumbling down to the sea.
All guests are taken on a tour of the factory by a guide
and who describes the process of growing and making tea.
There is a lovely, rustic tea room and patio for enjoying
a complimentary, delicious cup of tea.
From Cha Porto Formoso we drove
south appreciating the beauty of the evolving landscape.
Crews were out along the roads cutting, trimming, and
priming for spring growth. The manicured, clean roads are
a tribute to the overall commitment to a clean and
attractive environment. All along the highways and byways
there are picnic areas with barbecues and restroom
facilities. At the Pico do Ferro lookout, we enjoyed the
stunning view of Lagoa Furnas and the town of Furnas.
Furnas is famous
for its steaming, bubbling thermal waters which can be
appreciated up close in the town center. Next to the lake
is the Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas, which is well known
as the place for cozido (boiled meats, pork, chicken,
vegetables cooked in a huge pot buried in the ground).
The government controls the area and allows free use of
the caldeira. There is a separate section for restaurant
Bolo lêvedo (a cross between an
English muffin and a thick pancake), a specialty of
Furnas, is a delicious treat to be eaten any time of day.
We are told the secret to making them is in the hands of
the ladies who knead and shape the dough before the
rounds are cooked on a flat grill. You can find them in
food stores of all types all over the island.
We visited two of the largest
producers; Bolos Levedos Rosa Quental and Maria da Gloria
Moniz. We were too late to watch the ladies, dressed in
white, do their thing, but not too late to buy a few for
Fofas (éclairs) are to Povoação
(near Furnas) what Bolos Levedos are to Furnas and they
too are delivered to cafes and restaurants all over the
island . There are many producers in town, the
differences being in the pastry shell and the texture and
taste of the filling. Today we visited Pastelaria Guida,
a bright teal building located in Povoação center, next
to the zoo.
The bakery is located in the rear
of the cafe. We arrived just as the shells were coming
out of the oven. After cooling, the tops were cut with a
scissors and the cream filling was liberally squeezed in
and chocolate laced across the top along the seam.
Although lunch was our next stop, we had no problem
devouring these beauties.
Our tour included lunch at Vale das
Furnas restaurant, where cozido das caldeiras is
featured. I was the only one in the group who ordered
cozido, the others opted for the fried abrotea (a
delicate white fish). Chocolate cake, melon and coffee
finished us off.
ride south to Vila Franca do Campo offers marvelous
vistas of the southern coast. This charming old town was
the first capital of the archipelago until it was
destroyed by an earthquake in 1522.
Another famous treat is Queijadas
da Vila which originated with the nuns of Saint Andre's
Convent. The secret recipe was eventually revealed to the
Eduino Morgado family which keeps the tradition alive and
authentic to this day. These powdered sugar topped cakes
are made from 100% natural island ingredients. Queijadas
da Vila, produced in Vila Franca do Campo, are sold
throughout Portugal and the USA.
Our guide was able to make
arrangements for us to visit with Mr. Morgado (Rua do
Penedo n20) and view the production. We found six white
clad ladies sitting around a table sifting powdered sugar
on top of the cakes, then wrapping them individually in
paper and placing them in boxes, a happy crew proud of
Another special stop in Vila Franca
was at Rainha & Sousa, Lda., Monte Felix 18, where
they make a local port, aguardente, and vinho de cheiro
(a light tart wine made from skins). They were quite
happy to explain how they make the beverages. At a
separate location a few blocks away João Rainha is a
distributor of various branded beverage products and
sells locally grown bananas. We selected a large green
hand which would ripen slowly and take us through a
couple of weeks.
High above Vila Franca do Campo is
the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz. The landings of the
steps leading up to the chapel are decorated with ceramic
tiles depicting religious themes. Take your camera to
capture the magnificent views of the town, coastline, and
Isle Vila Franca (the crater of an ancient volcano with
natural swimming pools, accessible by boat from June to
September with the number of visitors limited and
Lagoa do Fogo / Sete Cidades was
the second tour. First stop at Ceramica Viera, a family
business founded in the middle of the 19th century,
producing traditional ceramics and pottery. Leaving Lagoa
we headed up the scenic winding roads of the central
mountains to the crater of the 1563 volcanic eruption to
be greeted by the majestic Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake).
Blue waters with changing hues surrounded by thick green
foliage in a myriad of shades, a sandy beach way below
and a small peninsula covered in trees create a dramatic
setting. When you lift your sightline to the horizon you
see a glimpse of the sea that frames the outline of the
Twisting down the
mountain you soon come to Caldeira Velha, a thermal
tropical delight. Heading down the path you are struck by
the diverse and dense tropical plantings from which
vibrant aromas thrill the senses. Bring your swimsuit and
towel because a thermal waterfall cascades down into a
natural pool surrounded by eye candy. The underground
waters bubble to the surface and meet the waterfall
overflow to create another smaller pool. Both pools have
changing facilities. But you don't have to soak to savour
this gift of nature.
Mulher de Capote in Ribeira Grande
is well known for its 100% natural liqueurs. Made from
fresh fruits grown on the island the flavors are real and
rich. The best part of the stop was taste testing, which
put us in a grand mood for the included lunch.
Paladares da Quinta is set in the
middle of a garden surrounded by their own farmland and
woods. The elegant modern design evokes a feeling of
total relaxation which is welcome after a half day of
touring. We started with an Alentejana bread, fresh
cheese and fig jam. Grilled tuna steak from Azorean
waters is always a good choice particularly when
accompanied by a home grown vegetable medley. Blueberry
cheese cake and your choice of coffee to finish.
The driver took
the old roads west through pretty countryside to Sete
Cidades. The Pico do Carvao and Vista do Rei lookouts
offered spectacular views of the blue and green lakes.
Why two lakes side by side are two different colors we
leave to your guide to tell you. We drove down to Sete
Cidades Village to visit the Igreja de S. Nicolau with
its simple chapel and ceramic figurines adorning the
walls. The glorious Lagoa de Santiago is a favorite of
ours. Dense green trees create a bowl for the deep blue
waters. We always find comfort here. Our last stop was at
a pineapple plantation to learn the Azorean art of
growing these tasty island treats. We got back late
Pedro was our driver and Heidi was
our guide on both tours. While being professional and
caring they easily adapted to special requests and made
the tour very fulfilling. Most important, Jill was
dazzled by the beauty and serenity of São Miguel.
Welcome to the club.
Our dear friends from Lisbon, João
and Luisa, had been hiking around the islands and joined
us, while Jill was visiting, to relax after putting many
kilometres on their boots. João was very happy with the
service and vehicle he rented from Autatlantis,
which he picked up and dropped off at the airport. It was
an immaculate, comfortable, five passenger car.
We met at A Comercial for a long
lunch of chicken soup, seafood stew, coffee, pastry and
plenty of catching up. Touring around town we visited the
Centro Municipal de Cultura to view the painting
exhibition entitled "Reliefs" by Pedro Sousa.
This phase of his work is a mixed technique on canvas
with paper pulp giving a graceful three dimensional
effect of iconic elements. Quite striking. We had
previously seen two other exhibitions here; paintings by
Antonio Eduardo Soares de Sousa entitled "Memory
visions" and sculptures by Alvaro Raposo de Franca,
"Horses and Riders". Admission is free.
A few weeks
previously we discovered a new restaurant, Q'enosso, Rua
Tenente Coronel Angelo Albergaria Pacheco #12, Lagoa. It
was so good we suggested it for this evening. We were
greeted with a warm welcome and a glass of port. The
modern glass-enclosed dining room is bright and cheerful.
There is also a lovely patio, particularly inviting in
warm weather. The design revolves around the 9 islands of
the archipelago, with dividers separating the designated
areas. On the shelves of the dividers are products native
to the island. It's attractive, unique and offers great
As you pass the outrageous dessert
buffet, available all the time, it is hard to think about
the "real food" you are about to order. A full buffet is
available on week-ends.
The seating is very comfortable
with excellent space between tables. We enjoyed a
marvelous red wine from Alentejo, Monte Muyor, with our
fresh cheese, olives, pork pate, and addictive, pickled
quail eggs. We chose polvo (octopus) roasted with
potatoes and garlic veggies, lombo (filet mignon) with a
special sauce, served with fries and salad, grilled tuna
with migas (corn bread stuffing) and salad. Each of the
octopus, lombo and tuna was top quality, fresh, tender
and perfectly prepared.
The portions are generous.
Fortunately time was on our side before wandering through
the dessert presentation. If you love traditional
Portuguese pastries and puddings as we do this is a dream
indulgence. A divine pineapple cake, chocolate mousse
with fresh cream, molotov (egg white flan), and almond
torte were particularly appealing. Much later we sipped
Kir Royal before calling it an evening.
We were well looked after by Carlos
and his staff. If you are not driving, they will be happy
to pick you up and take you home. Just call (296 965 117)
to make a date. This restaurant was one of several
outstanding new finds for us.
The next day was bright and sunny
as we headed west along the southern coast. A great stop
is Merendario e Miradouro do Caminho Velho. Besides
marvelous views of the coastline there is a comfortable
barbecue and picnic area. Just pack your chorizo and
charcoal. There are areas like this throughout the
island, at many viewpoints and along the roads.
Ponta da Ferraria
has a famous lighthouse which was built in 1901 in a
traditional modern style with lovely well-kept grounds.
Three families live, work and maintain the facility. Down
below we could see natural swimming pools carved into the
basalt filled with frolicking bathers. We took the
winding steep drive down to the thermal bath facility.
There is an attractive main building that services
patrons along with a restaurant. A large thermal pool is
to the rear and a pathway and staircase leads to the
natural pools. It's a neat place to soak, relax and heal.
Our next stop was at Miradouro
Escalvado, a former lookout for sperm whales which
supported the whaling industry of Mosteiros. High above
the blue sea, the air is exhilarating. We were
overwhelmed, where to look first - the rock formations
along the coast, the fertile grazing lands (with cows),
the town of Mosteiros in the distance, the volcanic cone
of Camarinhas jutting up from the sea? We lingered,
absorbing the beauty and serenity.
Mosteiros is an extremely
attractive village with its old homes, fishing port and
thermal springs. There is a deep bay with four small
islands rising up in pointed shapes. The beach opposite
and the natural pools formed in the basalt lava make it a
summer favorite. We stopped at a cafe for lunch and had
very good carrot soup and bitok (grilled pork steak
sandwich), a Portuguese favorite.
Back in Ponta Delgada we rested up
a bit before heading to the town of Relva, about 20
minutes drive just past the airport. Again, a restaurant
we found this year that we had been to several times
(once alone by bus and once driving with our friends Ana
and Frank) and knew our crew would enjoy.
Relva starts out
high on a cliff and tumbles down to the sea where you can
find Taberna Saca-Rolhas (means corkscrew). The owner, Fernando,
embodies the essence of this cozy tavern, warm and
After being comfortably seated
Fernando brought us a house red wine from Alentejo which
went nicely with an array of appetizers; an omelet with
alheira ("jewish" sausage-made from chicken),
sautéed mushrooms, grilled slices of blood sausage and
chorizo. We then shared two typical traditional dishes,
succulent portions of grilled octopus and roasted goat,
both with roasted potatoes and salad. Fernando was
beaming as he saw the pleasure on our faces. Bolo de
Bolacha, a layered cookie and coffee cream cake that is
light and lovely, finished the meal in grand style.
Saca-Rolhas was another memorable
find. Be sure to call (296 716 747) for a reservation.
Seating is limited and it's always busy.
João was in the mood for cozido so
we were off to Furnas so that he could have the real
stuff right out of the ground from the Caldeiras da Lagoa
das Furnas, at Tony's, the restaurant famous for the
authentic version. We feasted (except Linda who opted for
grilled pork chops, fries and salad) on the steamed pork,
beef, chicken, sausage, cabbage, carrot, potato, kale,
and washed it down with Portuguese beer.
Our mates had not been to Terra
Nostra Gardens so after lunch we headed over.
Unfortunately it began to rain and our visit was
We stopped in Vila Franca on the
way home and went to the Queijada de Campo factory so
Luisa could pick up a few boxes of the beauties for her
friends back home in Lisbon.
It was time to
introduce Jill to some off-the-beaten-track delights. We
arranged with Eleuterio in his Azores4Travel
"hat" to whisk us away in his colorful van.
Eleuterio, an avid outdoorsman, offers private tours for
his guests: Azores4Travel He is happy to lead you on a half or full
day of hiking, biking, diving (he dives regularly and
does spectacular underwater photography), combined with
off the beaten track places of interest, as you wish.
Our first stop in Lagoa was at The
Capuchin Convent of S. Antonio, built in the 1640s and
rebuilt in the mid - 18th century during which time 20
Franciscan Friars lived there. It was closed in 1832 and
has served several purposes until the present. This
stunning edifice sits high on lovely park grounds
overlooking the sea. The attractive Chapel and Cloister
occupy the left wing which today is the head office of
Lagoa's Charity Holy House.
There is a library and one level
down, the small but impactful House of Memories, which
preserves the history of the Convent and recalls the
presence of its inhabitants. Find your way here and see
how the narrative takes place in three distinct periods:
the past viewed through the present and that will last as
a future memory. And finally view the secret tunnel that
ran to the seashore to allow Friars to escape from
The road east
along the sea leads to the secluded town of Caloura. The
way in is through tall basalt walls separating vineyards.
The striking Convent of Caloura is soon upon you. Built
on the rocks by the sea it is an imperative photo stop.
Do not put your camera away because as you twist around
the bend the broken rocky shore along the bay forms
natural pools with bright white foamy waves spilling all
over. It was a shiny sunny day so the scene was sparkling
with life. At the end of the bay is a small fishing port.
Just a bit away the sheltered Caloura Beach is a divine
spot for sun and fun lovers. Tree shaded picnic tables,
grills, snack bar, restaurant and restrooms provide all
the amenities for a day of leisure.
Eleuterio's next treasure was
nearby Agua do Pau. This adorable town hosts some
wonderful museums that preserve the history, traditions
and culture of the past to ensure its legacy to future
Nuclei Museological, Rua da
Riberia,27 has displays dedicated to trades and
occupations; tailor, seamstress, barber, carpenter, shoe
making, wine making, and cornmeal making (with water
powered crusher). Neat to see the old tools and
equipment. Upstairs is a typical kitchen and bedroom.
The Mercearia Casa
Central Traditional, Praca da Republica, is part of the
Nuclei Museological. Its mission is to preserve the
history of the life of small local commerce. To this end
a traditional grocery store and adjacent tavern were
acquired. The grocery store with its counters, shelves
and equipment display the typical products sold. Upstairs
is the beautifully preserved, living quarters of the
Praca da Republica is a center of
activity, this time of day the fisherman were resting,
playing cards as they would be heading out in the early
morning to catch chicharros (or so we were told).
The Fisherman's House museum (Casa
do Pescador) is also supported by local government. We
were fortunate the cheerful Carmen was available to show
us around (perhaps Eleuterio had a hand in it) and bring
it all to life. Everything in the house is authentic and
a serious look at how a fisherman and his family lived in
tiny rooms. The ground floor was the kitchen, eating and
living area. Upstairs was for sleeping.
We found it inspirational that this
parish has devoted such resources to preserving its
history, tradition and culture.
Heading east along the coast toward
Vila Franca we passed one of the largest, most beautiful
beaches on the island, Agua D'Alta, usually quite busy in
the summer months. Our last stop was at a high point in
Vila Franca as close to Ilheu de Vila as you can get for
an up close view. This is the sea where Eleuterio does
his diving. We were delighted with our half day
We were in the
mood for a romantic getaway and had heard that the
already lovely Terra Nostra Garden
Hotel in Furnas had been
completely renovated. Nestled in the exotic environs of
the Terra Nostra Botanical Park this is a compelling
destination. Guests of the hotel have complimentary
access to the gardens.
The hotel has two environments; the
Art Deco Wing, built in the 1930s and the Garden Wing,
built in the 1990s. We have been here in the past and so
when we walked in it was an OMG moment. The largely
glass-enclosed reception area was ablaze in light with
garden views. Cozy furnishings and a welcoming staff made
us feel right at home. A cheerful young man led us to our
Garden View room detailing all the new amenities along
the way, including a graphical display which documents
and preserves the evolution of the hotel.
Our room opened to a large deck
facing the gardens with chairs, tables and lounges for
total outdoor comfort. The room was consistent with the
hotel's decorating theme of rich earth tones. We had all
the amenities you would expect at a 4 star hotel,
including a king bed with bedside reading lamps, and a
bathroom with bathtub, stall shower, and bidet.
It was tea time so we headed to the
lounge. Island tea, scones, jams, small sandwiches and
pastries were beautifully presented and served. We were
off to a good start.
The large lounge area was quite
busy and why not. The smart furnishings are arranged in
intimate settings for quiet comfort and conversation. The
adjacent patio is serviced by a bar with up close garden
The Wellness Place is well done
with a personable crew. You know, facial treatments, body
therapies, massage and holistic therapies, and the list
goes on. I managed to drag Linda away before damaging my
An attractive oval indoor pool
surrounded by white pillars provides an updated Grecian
ambiance. Together with a whirlpool, sauna and comfy
lounges it makes for an invigorating and relaxing
experience. There is a substantial corporate conference
area replete with a library and extensive lounge area.
In the past we have stopped here
for lunch while touring. The menu had featured
traditional cuisine. This evening we were in for a
surprise. The dining room is surrounded by the garden and
its new design creates a casual intimacy. In keeping with
our mood, our window table overlooking the lighted garden
was quite a romantic setting.
The menu has
undergone as big a change as the hotel - quite fitting.
To appreciate the talent in the kitchen, we chose the
Discovery Menu, which changes seasonally and consists of
products produced on the islands and from the sea. The
house made breads and herbed olive oil sparked the
appetite. The culinary tour de force unfolded, as
follows: Prawns graced with cashews, black beans and red
pepper; Ceviche of local cherne and liria was marinated
in lemon with pepper and arugula; Alcatra (stewed beef
and potato made famous on the island of Terceira) was the
robust filling in the delicate tortellini; Risotto
seasoned with garlic, pepper and balsamic vinegar was
topped with strands of squid; Braised pork rib with
sautéed onions, mushrooms and mashed potatoes. White and
red wines from the island of Pico were perfect. We
finished with three cheeses and a tantalizing lemon
mousse. The presentation and service were superb. This
was an extraordinary experience. Kudos to the chef! And
kudos to management for fostering the dedicated, warm
hospitality of all the staff. We bumped into the General
Manager, Carlos Rodrigues, and congratulated him on a job
Terra Nostra Garden Hotel is a
marvelous choice on its own but Terra Nostra Garden puts it over the top. Started in 1775 it
has grown from 2 to 12.5 hectares. It has been lovingly
designed with trees, plantings and flora from around the
world. The pathways lead through exotic beauty and
rapturous scents. Besides small lakes and thermal
waterways there are specialty collections of annual
flowers, ferns, cycads, etc. The large oval geothermal
water pool is popular with folks of all ages. There are
many sitting areas for appreciating the works of nature
We stopped downtown at the casual
Summer Breeze restaurant, Avenida Conselheiro Pereira
Ataíde 18, well known for good food at reasonable prices
and for terrific burgers. The perfectly grilled burgers
were topped with their special sauce, sautéed onions,
lettuce and tomato on a big bun, capable of keeping it
all under control. What's a burger without fries
(excellent at that)!
We were walking
past the city gates toward the Camara Municipal on our
way to dinner when musicians and performers in the square
in front of the town hall captured our attention. A group
of city officials stood atop the graceful staircase
applauding the performance. These were PortugalTunas,
performing groups from universities all around the
country. This group from Lisbon, with their black capes
adorned with colorful badges, were here to pay homage to
Ponta Delgada. They would be performing on stage this
evening at the Coliseu Micaelense. The music and
choreography was compelling and enthusiastically
Uplifted by this entertainment, we
proceeded to our favorite city center restaurant,
Alianca, Rua Acoreano Oriental 19/23, a few steps from
the City Hall. Nuno and his happy, friendly staff
consistently deliver fresh, quality traditional
offerings, perfectly prepared. Besides the basic menu
there is always a daily menu reflecting the house
recommendations. We always opt for one of the fresh fish
choices except when we are in the mood for the Bife
Alianca, a luscious sirloin with a traditional sauce
featuring sautéed garlic.
The dense, crusty bread is always
good, particularly with the fresh cheese, piri-piri sauce
and cold local Melo Abreu beer. There were several fish
choices tonight but since cherne (in the grouper family)
was listed, it was a no brainer. This fish tops our list
and is not always available. The serving of two thick
slices with potatoes and salad was enough for two. So
Besides being a homey kind of place
with great food and kind people they are one of the few
restaurants open Sundays where you will invariably find
us enjoying a late lunch.
Dr. Mello invited us to an
exposition at the Biblioteca Municipal Ernesto do Canto
dedicated to Teofilo Braga (1843-1924), the second
President of the Republic, a prolific writer, poet,
critic, statesman, and an intriguing and complicated man.
Just up the street
from the library is the Restaurante Sao Pedro, popular with locals and visitors alike.
Photos and videos of the islands adorn the walls of the
dining room. The menu offers many mouth-watering
preparations of fish, seafood and meats.
The house offers a delicious
aperitif from the island of Pico, which calmed the mind
after being exposed to Teofilo Braga. The Sao Jorge
cheese was served with a house made pineapple/cinnamon
preserve and beef pate. Perfection. We followed this with
an island delight, grilled lapas or limpets (clam like)
always heavy on the garlic. The white wine from Pico,
Frei Gigante-2011, was heavenly with this and the
caldeirada a pescador (fish stew) that followed. A lovely
meal like this should conclude with a light treat like
crunchy pineapple ice cream and almond studded vanilla
ice cream (both house made). This was our first time
here, but will not be our last.
Our friends Ana and Frank were back
and as usual we had some wonderful dining experiences
with them. We returned to O Rabaca in Lagoa on a Saturday
for roast cabrito which was as yummy as we remembered.
Of course we had to introduce them
to Taberna Saca Rolhas in Relva, where we feasted on
incredible fresh grilled octopus.
We had heard that the best meat on
the island was served at Restaurante da Associacao Agricola de São
Miguel, their slogan,
"The Best Meat can only give us the Best
Steak", the 200gram tenderloin we each had can
attest to that. Grilled perfectly medium rare, the flavor
was to savour. The menu also offers many traditional
dishes. They are moving to a new location across the way
in the near future. Head on up to Rabo de Peixe for a
Lastly was Cozinha
d'Arlete, restaurante & take away, at Rua Professor
Machado Macedo, #12. The take out line is always long, a
testament to the quality product offered. The menu
changes daily. The owners are very accommodating and led
us to the hot table for a viewing. Back to the table to
decide while sipping a delicious Alentejo red and
nibbling on crusty rolls. Linda chose a grilled whole
Alfonsim with boiled potatoes and vegetables and I,
grilled pork chops with fries and rice with beans.
Delicious and very reasonably priced. Visitors don't find
this place. Be the first.
Right around the corner from our
apartment is O Corisco, Rua Manuel da Ponte, #28. This restaurant
is deservedly very popular for its comfy environment and
caring staff. Luis, the owner, is always around to
welcome regulars and visitors with a smile and friendly
The lovely bar and lounge are
perfect for a leisurely cocktail before being seated or
an island liqueur after dinner.
We had not had chicharros yet and
when we were passing by saw they were featured for lunch.
These small fried mackerel are an everyday item in any
eatery (served with boiled potato, beans, salad) so to
have them in the fine atmosphere of O Corisco was a
Another visit we started with São
Miguel cheese and crusty rolls, followed by grilled
albacora (tuna) and a whole cantaro (a superb firm white
fish) served with delicious yams. Melo Abreu beer of
course. Dessert was a delicious pineapple mousse and a
slice of molotov.
We went with a group of friends to
Mariserra Restaurante for the first time. It's at Rua
Praia dos Santos #61, S. Rogue, a 10 minute drive east of
the city center along the coast. We were served family
style for sharing. Fresh cheeses and olives to start.
This was to be a seafood feast; hot and cold boiled
shrimps, fried filets of abrotea, tamboril kebabs (monk
fish/pepper/onion) grilled and served vertically, hot
rice and vegetables cooked and served in a stone pot and
grilled lapas topped with garlic plus. A crisp fruity
white wine was a fine choice. Chocolate mousse and coffee
finished the meal, but an assortment of liqueurs and
splashes (white port wine with tonic water) kept the
We were joined by local celebrity
chef, teacher, author Antonio Cavaco who was kind enough
to offer us a signed copy of his book "Sabores das
Ilhas" (Flavors of the Islands). He told us he lives
in Ponta Delgada, loves the island and loves being here.
At last we visited the Bell Tower
of the Town Hall. We've walked by a zillion times and
passed, but this time the friendly attendant got our
attention and up we went. The 360 degree views are well
worth the climb and since we were heading over to the Marina Atlántico
Hotel for our annual
seaside lunch we appreciated the added appetite from the
Atlántico dining room was quite busy catering to a host
of business clients, but there was ample quiet seating
for the two of us. It was a sunny day so the marina's
waters were glistening.
Mini pastry shells were filled with
blood sausage, one with pineapple, one with apple, a
delightful start. We ordered a white wine from Alentejo
which turned out to be a fine choice with the Codfish
Volcano (a flakey pastry filled with codfish on a bed of
pureed onions) and grilled abrotea with a wonderful array
of vegetables. A sampling of passion fruit ice cream,
baklava, vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and
vanilla & chocolate mousse and garoto, espresso with
steamed milk, was leisurely savoured.
Along the waterfront is the Clube
Naval de Ponta Delgada. Inside is a bar-cafe O Garajau.
The large room overlooks the marina. The view and the 4
course daily lunch special is reason to go. We had a
splendid regional beef and potato stew with good crusty
bread for dipping complete with beer, chocolate mousse or
rice pudding (one each) and coffee. It's a deal.
A new hot spot in town is A Tasca,
Rua do Aljube 16. The translation of tasca is "cheap
eating place". This tasca is not cheap but very
reasonable, considering the quality. Located in what
appears to be an old warehouse it has been renovated
maintaining the old stone walls, wood floors, beams and a
first floor - totally laid back and casual. The menu
features small portions of traditional foods (hams,
cheeses, sausages, prawns, octopus salad, etc.) which you
can order separately or as assorted platters. Very good
bread is a must and A Tasca meets the challenge. We had a
platter of salpicao de lombo de porco, presunto de porco
preto, Queijo da ilho São Miguel velho, green olives,
and a side of octopus salad and steamed clams. A Monte
Mayur red from Alentejo was a fine choice. We were there
for lunch and it was hopping. There is music in the
evenings when things really get rolling.
Let's get practical and leave you
with some excellent choices for food shopping and
Continente superstore in the Parque
Atlântico shopping center for all your needs, selection
and good prices.
The Mercado (Farmers' Market) on
Rua do Mercado for fresh local produce, fish and meat.
Adjacent to the Mercado is O Rei
dos Queijos for the freshest and best cheese selection.
Novicol, Rua da Cruz 24 for the
best butcher in town. The personable Arthur will handle
your order with love and care. He also grills for
take-out. We often had delicious chicken and spare ribs
Fruitaria, Machada dos Santos 54,
the freshest fruit and produce in the center of town.
"Wash Now" a clean,
modern facility in the Solmar Avenida Center is the go-to
place for your laundry. The pleasant staff will take 2
hours to wash, dry, fold and package your clean clothing.
You can relax in the cafes, restaurants or do some
shopping. Free WIFI in the shopping center. It couldn't
be more convenient.
Need a facial, pedicure, manicure,
massage or electrolysis - head to "Our World"
on Rua Misericordia. The shop is sparkling clean. Helena,
the owner, and Sonia are professional, super sweet and
accommodating. This kind of special treatment and care is
rare to come by.
Manuela and her staff at Visos,
Largo de S. João 6A know hair. Cut, coloring, styling,
you're in good hands.
If you need some tailoring done
look no further than Atellier Glamour on the 1st floor of
Machado dos Santos 96. The lovely and talented Natacia
Medeiros is a whiz with her scissors, sewing machine and
Between this and our previous São
Miguel travelogues you have enough practical guidance to
serve you well from a week to a year-long stay. No
excuses, book your flights on Sata or whatever airline is
convenient for you and be on your way. If it's during the
winter you will find us wandering the streets or hanging
out at A Comercio, our home away from our second home.
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