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PORTUGAL
Fall 2003

Azores | Madeira | Lisbon | Algarve

SãoMiguel (1) | Terceira | Faial and Pico | São Miguel (2)

Faial

The SATA flight from Terceira to Horta, the largest city on the island of Faial, is only 30 minutes. Again an excellent well served flight and a very efficient, rather new airport at Horta.

We dropped our bags at Hotel Horta which sits high above the city with nice views of the marina, the sea and the island of Pico in the distance from the balconies of all the rooms. Our room was a good size but repair and renovation were overdue.

Life in Horta begins and ends at the marina, where sailing ships and yachts stop on their trips across the North Atlantic. The hub of the activity is at Peter Cafe Sport, the name brought to life by the zillion of sports pennants on the walls and ceiling. This is the meeting place for yachtsmen, locals and visitors to gather, enjoy a drink, and do a little or lot of socializing. There is a tempting menu offering sandwiches to more serious offerings. Lunch time business was brisk but we did manage to find seats and enjoy a very fine swordfish plate. "Peter" has been around since 1918. The seamen passing thru loved the experience and spread the word. The art of Scrimshaw started with these seamen as they looked for things to do while at sea for long periods. Over the years Peter's family began to collect these works of art. This incredible collection is on display in the Scrimshaw Museum upstairs from the Cafe.

High up at Conceicao, just out of town, we stopped for a special photo moment of the Horta coastline and the beach of Praia do Almoxarife below. Driving counter clockwise around the island to Ponta dos Capelinhos, on the west tip, took us by comfy seaside villages with their white washed homes many of which were trimmed in bright blues and yellows.
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On Sept. 27, 1957 a submarine volcano erupted on the west coast. There were four stages during the eruption the last one ending Oct.24, 1958. This eruption of Capelinhos enlarged the island by 2.4 square km. It's a barren sight of lava sand leading to the central vent of the volcanic cone which is being eroded by the strong winds. Amazingly the lighthouse of Capelinhos resisted the eruption and serves as the best memory of the biggest volcanic eruption that took place in the 20th century in the Azores.

The Alto dos Cavacos Capelo in Horta produces and sells the work of local artisans. The amazing craft of working with fish scales is intriguing. The fishermen scrub them off, wash and dye them in various colors, and these ladies painstakingly turn them into lovely pieces of jewelry and art. The shop also has a photo collection documenting the stages of the Capelinhos eruption that blows the mind.

Just off the coast of Horta, Monte da Guia offers a spectacular view of Faial and Pico. High atop is the Chapel of Tomas of the Fisherman. During the first week of August a procession starts here and goes down hill, where the religious icons being carried are placed onto waiting boats which proceed around the mountain.

We found an excellent internet service, "Hortanet" at Rua Walter Bensaude 11. It was clean, comfortable and reasonably priced and the owner a delightful guy. He recommended the Restaurante Captilio just down the street which was very good. After delicious bread and cheese we had the mandatory vegetable soup followed by wonderful grilled fish fillets and boiled potatoes, cabbage, carrots and Kale.

Now comes the tough part, walking up the long steep hill to the hotel on a very full stomach. Guess it worked out well because we were hungry enough in the morning to enjoy the fine quality buffet breakfast in the hotel.

Pico

The 07:45 boat got us to the island of Pico at 08:15. The boat was old but well kept with comfortable sitting inside and standing room outside. It was raining when we left but it cleared by time we arrived in Madalena on the north west corner of the island.

Pico was formed by 3 volcanic eruptions and beauty is everywhere. Lava rock homes, lava rock formations, lava rock covered by rich, lush vegetation, vineyards, and orchards all attest to the brilliance and determination of nature and man.
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Our journey started just north of Madalena in the wine growing area Cais do Mourato, Cachorro, Lajido and Arcos. Cais do Mourato is a village of ancient homes made of black lava rock with the windows and door openings set off in whitewash and brightly colored timber. Each house had a wine cellar. The owners now use them as summer homes. There are natural swimming pools along the shore and the green grounds are well kept and attractive.

As we drove along, the sides of the road were filled with lava stone walls arranged in half circles protecting the fig trees. Approaching Cachorro the sight of totally black buildings high over the sea was stunning. In addition, these homes were built without glass windows. They were built defensively, to protect from the weather and from the pirates. Down at the sea there are incredible lava rock formations piled high in intricate shapes - like a moonscape, with the waves and waters rushing thru and bouncing in all directions. It was mesmerizing, and a perfect time to stop at a shop and sample the local wines. We had already enjoyed the Terras de Lava white and red on other occasions and now we sampled the liqueurs, which come in many different flavors. My favorite was fig.

Lava covers the ground and where vegetation has not taken over you can see ruts etched in many places that indicate the routes the wine wagons took. As we approached São Roque do Pico we saw indications of old homes being restored; new building is tightly controlled, as well the availability of rural accommodations which are very popular on the island.

We visited the whaling museum and the last whale factory in São Roque do Pico where we learned everything about whaling we ever wanted to know, from the hunt to the melt.
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Further along the coast is the natural forest reserve of Praina de Cima. This is a park and recreation area of rare beauty and care. Enjoy a walk, a good hike, rest in one of the picnic areas and if you like use one of the barbecues (wood provided). Toilets are strategically located. At the nearby shorefront there is a natural swimming area if you get the urge. Forest Rangers are around should you require help or information.

n nearby Praina there are some very nice ancient mansions now being used for rural accommodations. This fishing village also has natural pools at the shore. Another neat village is Sant Amaro, where they used to build boats, but today boat repairing is the trade. Here we found the Escola Regional de Artesanato (regional arts and crafts school). It was founded by the Neves sisters to preserve and spread the culture of Pico's people. The highlights of the work are fish scale art, lace, dolls made of corn, and jams. Adjacent to the school is a preserved old house with its original furnishings.
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At the south side of the island we found lush greenery compared to the lava in the north, each gorgeous in its own way. As we approached the old whaling town of Lajes we stopped above in Arrife for a panorama of the coastline. The cove of Lajes attracted the first settlers to Pico. There is a monument to them at the end of the pier at the Marina. There is another whaling museum here which is housed in three former boat houses. A varied collection of exhibits depicts the history of whaling on the island. Whale watching is a very big tourist attraction and Lajes is a good place to get started. A few blocks from the Marina at Largo do S. Pedro we stopped for lunch at Cafe/Pub/Restaurante Lagoa. It's getting boring but once again it was bread, fresh cheese, vegetable soup and swordfish. Don't fight a good thing.

After a leisurely lunch we had just enough time to get back to Madalena and the 15:45 boat to Horta and then to the airport to catch our flight to Ponta Delgada.

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