Porto | Cascais
São Miguel, Azores
first visit to the Azores,
Portugal's 9-island archipelago in the middle of the
Atlantic Ocean, was in 2003. We explored four of the
islands and were particularly enraptured by the largest
of the group, Sao Miguel. We were so impressed, we knew it was just
a matter of time before we'd return to "dig deeper",
as the Portuguese Tourism
All aboard SATA flight S4 125 from
Lisboa to Ponta Delgada, the largest city on the island
capital of the Azores!
It was a perfect flight - efficient
check-in, a pleasant flight crew, wide leather seats,
good leg room, an excellent chicken sandwich, ice cream,
ample beverage choices. Two hours and twenty minutes flew
by and our luggage arrived promptly and intact.
We are fortunate in Toronto to have
direct SATA INTERNATIONAL flights to mainland Portugal and the Azores.
SATA also offers excellent service between the islands.
Since it is only a six hour flight from Ponta Delgada to
Toronto, and the time difference is only four hours, we
planned our visit for our return trip, to make our jetlag
Sao Miguel was formed by a series
of volcanic eruptions which created an island in the east.
This was followed by the emergence of a volcanic massif
in the west, which formed a second island, separated from
the first by a channel. The two eventually merged to form
the present island which is 81 km long and 15.5 km wide
at its maximum points, for a total of 746.76 square km.
Driving is the best way to explore
the island, which is served by an excellent road network.
We do not like to drive and our goal was to become
acquainted with all that we had not experienced on our
previous visit. To this end we engaged a highly
recommended guide/driver to work with us. Ana Silva, mailto:email@example.com (tel.,+351 296 498 787, cell,+351 969 721
735), who picked us up at the airport. She had read our
2003 travelogue and was prepared with a complementary
itinerary. We suggest that you read our previous
travelogue for the complete picture of all that San
Miguel has to offer.
Ana has lived and worked here her
entire life as has her family. She loves her island and
her unbridled energy, enthusiasm and ability to
communicate brought meaning and life to all we shared.
Since the driving distances are
short we chose to stay all six nights in Ponta Delgada at
Hotel do Colegio, located in the center of the city. The
building was originally a school, which Fernando Neves,
the hotel owner, attended as boy. A showcase in the
lounge contains the mementos of his days as a student
there. More recently the building served as the musical
academy of the Regional Conservatory. At first sight it
was easy to understand why the building has been
classified as architecturally and culturally valuable.
The design of the main doors, windows, staircase,
archways and stone slab flooring are beautiful renditions
of the typical masonry and local basalt work. Just inside
the main door is a platform which was used to mount a
horse and a place in the wall to wipe off boots.
Across the way, centered in an
archway leading to the reception lounge, is a tribute to
the musical heritage in the form of a graceful sculpture
of a cello. There is a piano in the bar/breakfast room
and it is not uncommon for guests to play and sing. The
guest rooms are named for traditional Azorean musical
The swimming pool in the center
atrium is a lovely focal point from all the public areas
of the ground floor as well as the rooms above.
It's a homey environment. Fernando
is your host, constantly checking, inspecting and
assuring all his guests that he and his staff are there
for their needs and comfort. Next to the Internet point
at reception are volumes filled with glowing compliments
written by former guests from around the world.
Our large twin-bedded room was
comfortably furnished with an abundance of fresh air and
light courtesy of huge windows that opened onto the
atrium. The tile bathroom was generous in size and well
equipped with quality essentials.
Ana suggested we spend the rest of
the afternoon visiting the Military Museum of Azores
located in the Forte de Sao Bras on the waterfront just
west of the city center, a 10-15 minute walk from the
hotel. The M.M.A. was created the 26th of February l993
but only started activities this year. It's a military
facility. "The mission is to collect, preserve and
exhibit artifacts related to the military history of
Azores thus preserving the heritage and providing a
better understanding of the history".
The exhibit starts with uniforms
and artillery. A tunnel leads to an array of weapons from
heavy machine guns to handguns. The last rooms are
dedicated to engineering, military communications, health,
anti car weapons and supply service. The equipment is
well-preserved, a treasure for military buffs. The
fortress walls offered views of the port, harbor and city.
Last trip we had two fabulous meals
at Acores Marisqueira, Rua Eng. Jose Cordeiro 20 so we
could hardly wait to return. A bottle of Terras de Lava
white from the island of Pico was as full of fruity
flavor and crispness as we remembered. We followed the
house-offered appetizer of fried breaded beef rolls with
a portion of the Azorean specialty, cracas. Succulent and
fun to eat, the barnacles are boiled in natural salt
water with a zing of hot pepper then you use special
picks to pluck the delicate white-fleshed treasures from
their tube-like hiding places.
We were having trouble deciding on
our next course so our waiter suggested that Linda have a
house specialty, steak topped with an egg, fries and
salad and I, tuna steak with boiled potato and salad. We
were off to a good start!
We were up early and found Fernando
busily making sure that the buffet breakfast had been
properly presented and the staff ready to go. Local
products dominated the offerings. The cheese from the
island of St. Jorge is famous for its smooth texture and
slightly spicy flavor, fame well deserved. Of course the
fresh white goat cheese from Sao Miguel is no slouch. The
fresh bread and rolls, scrambled eggs, meats, banana cake
and jams were a treat and for the health-conscious fresh
fruit salad, cereals and yogurt were plentiful. Splendid
way to start the day!
King Alfonso V ordered the
colonization of Sao Miguel in 1439. The capital was
established in Vila Franca do Campo, in the middle of the
southern coast, because it had the best harbor conditions
and was surrounded by fertile land. The search for
fertile land along the coast led to settlement of Ponta
Delgada, west of Vila Franca do Campo, and Ribeira Grande
in the middle of the northern coast.
The first inhabitants were
recruited from mainland Portugal from Estremadura, Alto
Alentejo and the Algarve. Offers of land and trade
attracted people from Madeira, Jews from around the world
and Moroccan noblemen. The island's geographical location
between Europe, Africa and America and its fertile soil
contributed to rapid economic expansion. Wheat and woad,
an herb from the mustard family from which a bright blue
dye for textiles was made, were the major crops. From
1522 to 1640 there were numerous setbacks: earthquakes,
eruptions, Spanish influence, and pirates.
Portugal recovered its independence
in 1640 and new opportunities opened for Sao Miguel.
Unfortunately the woad business was replaced worldwide by
indigo from the Americas. Oranges became the new economic
engine with crops peaking from 1860 to 1869. More bad
luck, the orange trees were wiped out by disease. The
consequence was serious emigration.
The farmers fought back with crops
of tobacco, pineapples, sweet potato (for distilling
alcohol), esparto (for rope), tea, passion fruit etc.. An
artificial harbor was created in Ponta Delgada which
brought new industries and there was growth in fishing
and cattle farming. Today the major industries are dairy
and tourism while pineapple-growing and tea plantations
continue to flourish.
Sao Miguel is shaped like a whale,
the south shore its belly. All around the rocky coastline
are villages and towns resting amongst fertile farm and
grazing land decorated with stunning Azorean flora. Down
to the sea are adorable fishing villages and beaches.
Whitewashed houses with black volcanic rock-trim dot the
landscape and line the narrow streets overlooking the
sparkling blue sea from every angle. Sao Miguel was
recently awarded a citation for the quality of its
beaches and waters by the EU.
Inland are deep blue and green
lakes surrounded by exotic, lush plantings - Lagoa das
Setes Cidades to the west, Lagoa do Fogo and Lagoa deo
Congro in the middle and Lagoa das Furnas to the east.
Incredible volcanic craters await your visit and if its
height you desire, just wind your way up 1103m to the top
of Pico da Vara. Drive the roads and thrill at the deep
green valleys tiered with farms and gushing waterfalls.
Today we would drive east along the
shore as far as Ribeira Grande on the north shore and
return southwest to Ponta Delgada. There are "Miradouros"
(viewpoints) all along the coasts which offer spectacular
views of the coastline and surrounding countryside.
After a brief stop at the viewpoint
overlooking the enchanting village of Caloura, to which
we would return, we passed by Lagoa da Furnas and
followed the road to Ribeira Quente, a lovely fishing
village with homes stacked on the hillside tumbling to a
wide bay. The road is framed by waterfalls turned yellow
by dissolved minerals as it passes through green
vegetation, a sight to behold. A deep valley carries a
stream of water from the hot springs (calderas) of Furnas
through the village to the sea.
The road to Provoacao, the island's
first settlement, winds through luxuriant vegetation,
rushing streams and a postcard-worthy water mill. Seven
parishes on seven hills form the village with narrow
streets lined with white houses at the center crossed by
three streams that run down to the sea. Palames, a dark
sand beach, is on one side and Morro beach is on the
other. The Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosario (Our Lady
of the Rosary) is one of the oldest on the island.
Although the design is much the same as every other
church, the decorative basalt trim on the facade and the
setting make this one picture perfect. There is a
memorial to the 1432 settlement of Povoacao in the middle
of a park in the center of town.
Heading north to Nordeste along
twisting forested roads and steep valleys, we stopped at
three viewpoints. Ponta da Madrugada, viewpoint of the
dawn, is famous for viewing the sun rise. We were late
for that but the coastline and sea panorama is
spectacular. Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego is laid out as
a garden with a neat picnic area surrounded by hydrangeas
and azaleas. This is an enchanting spot to enjoy nature
and the sea with glimpses of a nearby rural village,
Lomba de Pedereira. Ponta do Arnel offers a marvelous
photo opportunity of an adorable lighthouse jutting out
on a point below.
The greens of the forests and
farmlands surrounding Nordeste are carried into the parks
of the town, giving added warmth to the rural
architecture. Ana told us that Nordeste had received an
award for the best kept flowers in the EU.
The Restaurante Esplanada overlooks
the splendor of the striking Ponte de Sete Arcos, 7 arch
bridge, built in 1882. The menu features traditional
local favorites at reasonable prices. We started with
crusty rolls, fresh white cheese and pimentos which add a
pleasant kick. We ordered cozida of Abrotea, the fish of
the day, which is boiled with potatoes and served with
salad. The tender white fish was fresh and one order was
ample for sharing - a delicious lunch.
Moving west along the north coast
the landscape is breathtaking. The deep green valleys are
tiered with farm land, dotted by homes; waterfalls tumble
down amongst lush, colorful vegetation creating magical
pools and the occasional water mill adds to the
The plants, flowers and trees at
the viewpoint Despe-te-que-suas are reason enough to stop
but even more so with the contrasting rocky coastline,
rolling meadowlands and Pico da Vara (the highest
mountain). Etched in my memory are the magnificent
indigenous plants and flowers that grace the mountains,
the yellow Ginger Lilies and always the blue-green sea.
One glorious treat after another -
Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes, Linda's digital
is working overtime with all this beauty. Waterfalls flow
through ferns and palm trees, plants and flowers,
splashing onto rocks and under bridges to an exhibition
wheat mill near a pond nestled between the walking paths.
Westward ho! to Miradouro do Salto
da Farinha-Queda de Agua, where a path leads down a steep
incline to the beach below. We stayed up top admiring the
two waterfalls cascading down into natural pools at the
base, the twists and turns of the coastline and the sea.
A welcoming picnic area awaits those so inclined.
Nearby, at a high altitude, sits
the village of Salga (salt) so named for its historical
purpose as the place to which pork was brought to be
salted and stored until needed.
Fishing has always been important
along the northern coast and villages with small harbors
are home to graceful fishing boats. Porto Formoso is such
a village, with the added attraction of the very popular
Mill Beach. We were looking forward to a coffee break at
the attractive cafe on the beach but unfortunately it was
closed this day. The old mill for which the beach is
named has been transformed into a summer residence.
Renovating mills, old homes, building new is happening
all over the island as people from Ponta Delgada, the
mainland and overseas are finding happiness by the shores
of Sao Miguel. Linda disappeared for a few minutes and we
found her snapping away at a newborn family of ducks -
very cute, the ducklings and my wife.
Just down the road is the Miradouro
de Santa Iria which is surrounded by wide pastures where
cows and horses graze on natural grass overlooking the
emerald green, white-capped sea. Contented, well fed cows
that live outdoors year round provide tender, tasty meat
we'd be savoring at dinner. Grilled beef steak of various
cuts is very popular and is on every menu of every
restaurant. We skipped Ribeira Grande and headed
southwest, back to Ponta Delgada.
At Ana's suggestion, we tried Bar-Restaurante
Alianca, Rua Acoreano Oriental, 19/23. We sat in the
ground level dining room, which was filled with locals.
The menu offered a good selection of reasonably-priced
fish and meat dishes. We started with the daily soup,
tasty tomato-vegetable, and shared the Bife Alianca, the
signature thick cut of beef grilled medium rare as
requested, strewn with whole garlic cloves and grilled
red peppers - delicious. Monte Velho red from Alentejo
was a solid choice, medium dry and fruity.
After our breakfast fix of Sao
Jorge cheese and fresh bread we again headed east along
the south shore. As we passed through the village of
Populo we were intrigued by the elegant homes and pretty
beach. We had bought a ticket for the Euro Millions
Lottery (113 million euros) and prayed we'd be back to
put in an offer on one of the villas. The next village of
Altahada, no slouch either, was worthy of consideration
as well. Always dreaming..........
We had asked Ana to see if she
could arrange to show us some rural rental accommodations
that could be considered for a future visit. The first
was just up the road at the eastern end of the town of
Lagoa. Casa do Termo, mail
at Estrada Regional, #1, Santa Cruz.
The property is surrounded by a
garden and semi-tropical fruit trees and grazing land
down to the coast. They keep cows and fresh milk is
available daily. The original house, dating to the 18th
century and refurbished in the 20th, has 5 bedrooms, each
with its own bathroom, sitting rooms, living room,
kitchen and a large patio facing the sea. Two other
recently-completed buildings, one an updated traditional
design the other more contemporary, both completely
equipped for self-catering, offer two bedrooms and
bathrooms each. Any one of them would be ideal.
Next, Caloura, an isolated paradise
of calm and beauty situated on the southernmost point of
Sao Miguel. Stunning white houses resting on manicured
properties and vineyards defined by black stone walls
lead to a small fishing port and two beaches nestled
between cliffs with a natural swimming pool formed by the
rocks. Beautifully designed homes and resort hotels sit
along the sloping rocky coast and what a sight it was
with the waves smashing against the rocks and the sprays
sparkling in the sunlight. This would be our first
fantasy stop of the day!
The Caloura Cultural Center is
located in Canado do Castelo in the village of Caloura.
We stepped out of the car and entered a garden of Eden.
The fresh air was laced with pleasing scents of the
lovingly cared for flowers and plants. It was
intoxicating. The modern building is situated on land
divided by traditional stone walls that served to
protects vineyards in bygone days.
The artist Tomaz Sousa Borba Viera
conceived this project to exhibit his private collection
with the aim of communicating a better understanding of
all works of art. The permanent collection will alter
over time with new pieces and work of other artists.
There is reference material about the artists on
exhibition as well as cultural and artistic information
in various forms. Books and audio material are offered in
the shop, which has Internet access area and there's tea
service as well. The center has been open for only one
year and is part of an effort to decentralize culture
which is usually based in urban centers. The entrance fee
is just one euro, with 50% discount for students.
Ribeira Cha was recognized as a
village on the 18th of May, 1966. It belongs to the
Parish of Lagoa. It is home to the Museum of Agriculture
and the Museum of Ethnographic and Religious Arts which
together are a capsule of the history and culture of
Azorean life. It was a pleasure to spend time with the
enthusiastic folks responsible for the project who are
rightly proud of their accomplishment.
The exhibits are real - displayed
in typical period buildings. There's an array of plants
and ancient herbal remedies and information about the
uses. We saw and learned the history of the famous "woad"
plant (cultura do Pastel) that made and then destroyed
the economy. There is a large display of cana (cane) and
corn husk products which were popular crafts. The first
machine for threshing wheat, grape presser and masher,
wood barrels, and lagar (for stomping grapes) and other
agricultural utensils provided insight as to how hard the
labor was to get the crops planted, cultivated, and
Most interesting and fun is a
series of small wooden buildings depicting various
professions, each displaying the tools-of-the-trade,
donated by local people, that a shoemaker, barber,
dentist, carpenter, weaver, etc. would have used. An
original outhouse gave new meaning to the words, "I'll
wait till I get home".
There is a day center for elders,
where women do handicrafts and the men play cards and
smoke. At the end of the day it's coffee and goodies for
We visited the show house of an
Azorean lady who grew up in the U.S. and returned here to
marry. Her home has been preserved with its original
furnishings. The bedroom, kitchen-living room are on the
ground floor and the childrens sleeping quarters,
complete with a corn husk mattress, are in the attic
along with a play area and a collection of trunks.
Next to the church is the religious
museum with a marvelous collection of clay miniatures in
colorful costumes depicting historical and religious
events. There is also a collection of period clothing,
religious art and artifacts.
All these Ribeira Cha museums can
be visited with free guided tours so take advantage of
We visited Vila Franca do Campo in
2003 and today just stopped at the fishing port to admire
the colorful boats and the walls of Fort Tagarete, a
remnant of the many fortifications that defended the
coast and the town. The main reason we were here was to
have lunch at one of the town's favorite restaurants, O
Jaime. The owner is as bright and cheerful as the décor,
arched white walls, green tiles and tree stumps imbedded
in the ceiling.
We shared a platter of outstanding
grilled swordfish and a fish that is reddish in color
with huge round eyes whose name I can't recall, but its
tender flesh and sweet flavor I do remember. As usual,
the sides of boiled potatoes and mixed salad were
generously presented. We passed on dessert but the boss
insisted we try the local sweet, Quei Jada de Vila Franca
do Campo - quite delicious - try it!
We scooted up north stopping at
Telelagem O Linho, Estrada Regional 17-A, Lombinha da
Maia. A precious home of volcanic stone houses a family
weaving business. Husband and wife work old wooden hand
looms as well as a computerized version of one, making
decorative mats, blankets, carpets, scarves etc. They
also operate a small cafe in which we found an OLA
freezer chest and two Magnum Classics (the best chocolate
covered ice cream bars in the world). Have I failed to
mention that we have a Magnum Classic a day when we are
Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande, not
far from Ribeira Grande, is an ancient hot springs and
thermal station complex (open only in the summer) that
looked like a nice, quiet spot for a relaxing soaking
The story of Ribeira Grande is
water. The stream of water fed by the deep crater of
Lombadas that runs through the town to the sea led to the
creation of the water mill industry and the early
economic prosperity and growth. In the middle of the city,
stone channels indicate the location of former mills near
the pretty Jardim do Paraiso. The sea, waves breaking on
the pebbled beaches, swimming pools, surfing, fishing, is
a year-round playground for residents and visitors.
Walk through the streets of Ribeira
Grande. Note the mansions decorated with architectural
highlights around doors and windows, such as raised
diamond points, the Town Hall, Parish Church and Baroque
inspired Church of Espirito Santo with its two doorways,
and the omnipresent sea views.
Before we left this morning, we
made reservations (necessary) at the hotel restaurant, A
Colmeia, popular with guests and local patrons. Now we
were seated at a table in the no smoking section (a treat!)
overlooking the atrium and pool. The relaxing
contemporary design in rust and gold, pleasant unhurried
service and excellent cuisine was a formula for a
delightful evening. It was not long before we spotted our
host, Fernando, working the room, cheerfully ensuring all
was as it should be.
The house offered delicious egg and
spinach in aspic to start. Linda ordered a light meal (classic
case of Ola Magnum Classic guilt) of caldo rico de peixe
(rich seafood soup) and salada a Colegio com frango (mixed
salad with chicken). I had sweet potato soup and grilled
swordfish with capers and tomatoes. The house white wine
was quite nice as was the house-offered Chico Maria
dessert wine from Terceira.
It is believed, though undocumented,
that the Jewish people came to the Azores during the 15th
and l6th centuries. The first documented settlement began
in 1818 with the largest community in Ponta Delgada.
Between the inquisition and the second world war Jews
were forced to convert to the Catholic faith to survive.
Today there are no Jews on Sao Miguel, but there is the
Sahar Hassamain Synagogue, located in the downtown center
on Rua do Brum, 14-16.
Ana was able to arrange a visit. We
met José de Mello, a city hall employee, who has
recently been given the responsibility of coordinating
efforts to restore the synagogue. Other than a partial
repair and restoration of the façade, windows and roof,
nothing has ever been done to restore and preserve this
historic and cultural institution. What we saw brought
tears and anger. Pure hell. Termites have been feasting.
Water has been pouring through holes in the walls and
ceilings; stairways, floors and window casings are
rotting. The place is on the verge of collapse.
The sanctuary with
its beautiful arc, bima and dark wooden benches is
located behind living quarters on the first floor. Light
from the windows of the balcony and the high ceiling
should offer the feeling of tranquility one expects at a
house of worship. But in this case, the light reveals the
utter shame of neglect and total disregard for the
ceremonial and religious objects. We lifted the seats of
the benches where we found talesim, telfilin and prayer
books covered with rodent droppings, mold and dirt. We
found untold documents in similar condition in cabinets
and drawers. It is a disgrace, literally a "crying
The official explanation is that
the government has never been able to establish ownership
of the property and it is not legally possible to issue
approvals for restoration or allocate funds to other than
a legal owner of a property. Apparently this issue has
now been resolved. The Jewish Community of Lisbon and the
Cultural Commission of Ponta Delgada have formed a
committee to discuss funding and planning an eventual
restoration, estimated to cost half a million euro. It
remains to be seen how long it will take for the funds to
materialize and the project to get underway.
Ana picked up the key to the Jewish
Cemetery, located on Rua Santa Clara surrounded by a
concrete wall and an outer wall of an abandoned fish
factory. Approximately 160 souls are buried around a
large overgrown cactus under marble monuments, some
disintegrating, amongst litter and weeds. It saddened us.
We were in the city center looking
for a lunch spot and discovered A Comercial at Rua
Machado dos Santos, 73, where locals were lined-up making
selections at a hot table. This place became our favorite
lunch spot in Ponta Delgada. Fish and meat daily specials
with potato, rice, salad, plus daily soups (chunky
chicken soup) and rice pudding were all cheap and
As dairy is a major industry, we
requested a visit to the Unileite Dairy, a cooperative of
740 members, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in
2004. In 2005 Unileite produced 25.5 million liters of
milk, 2 million kg. of cheese and 1 1/3 million kg. of
butter. They also bottle many kinds of juices. The
factory is fully computerized. Cleanliness is essential
and rigorously maintained. We looked cute in our white
bonnets, smocks and blue shoe covers. The major
production takes place between March and July. Grazing
cows all over the island insure an abundant supply of top
quality product which is monitored at every stage of
production. We enjoyed a sampling of their cheeses at the
end of the tour.
Colegio 27, a few doorways away
from our hotel at Rua Carvalho Araujo, 27, is a
restaurant with international cuisine, a jazz club and
lounge. The 400-year old historical building, which had
been a horse stable and salt factory, was transformed
into a smart contemporary establishment with the ancient
hand-carved stones and high ceilings incorporated into
the design. Weekly live music performances include Jazz,
Afro Cuban, Brazilian and Bossa nova. Tonight was special
as they were celebrating their 3rd anniversary and we
were to be entertained with mainstream jazz by the Cool
Green Quintet, featuring none other than the owner, a
Jazz musician from Sweden.
There are several dining areas. We
had primo seating in the area directly below the
performance balcony. Actually, we did come to eat. It was
20:00 and the music was to start at 21:30.Tonight was
Linda's turn for swordfish, paired with grilled vegetable
and boiled potato while I chose supremo de peito de pato
(sliced duck breast) sauced with red wine and served with
polenta and a tomato and mango salad. A fine effort went
into the plate presentation. The portion of swordfish was
skimpy and the duck breast, though recommended by our
waiter, was tough enough to have been frozen. I guess the
menu prices are justified by the environment and
entertainment. The jazz started, the crowds piled in and
a free buffet was set up for the invited regulars who
came just to drink, listen to music, have fun and
celebrate the anniversary.
The past few days were a bit rainy
so our scheduled Whale and Dolphin Watching escapade had
been postponed until today, overcast but clear with
relatively calm ocean. Futurismo has
been offering this adventure for 15 years. Their vessels
depart from Marina Pero de Teive, Ponta Delgada. We opted
for the 3 hour session. After donning slickers and life
jackets we jumped aboard a wooden boat, like a good size
Boston Whaler, outboard engines and crew of 2 operating
in the middle. Not too far off shore we began to spot
schools of dolphins and floated around for about one hour
enjoying their beauty and antics. We then shot off to
deeper waters searching for the whales. This boat was
designed to provide maximum discomfort. Bouncing high and
low and landing with a hard thud as we hit each swell
caused all body parts to be rocked, but fear not, the
heavy water sprays drenching us from top to bottom
provided cool relief. To top it off, there were no whales
to be seen this day.
In 2003 we wrote about Lagoa das
Sete Cidades, Espelho de Lagrimas sofridas - Lakes of the
Seven Cities, Mirror of Sorrowful Tears - the legend of
lovers forced apart whose tears from her eyes of blue and
his of deep green formed the adjacent blue and green
lakes. (The lakes are in the crater of the volcano of the
Seven Cities, formed by successive collapses of the
It's a compelling sensory
experience from the viewpoint at Miradouro do Cerrado das
Freiras with hydrangeas and cryptomerias engulfing the
crater adding a colorful spirit to the luxuriant
plantings. The fog that skims the lakes, propelled by
breezes, coming and going, rising and dropping, causing
an array of changing scenes and colors as the sun moves
in and out, sets the mood for contemplation. This is a
special place - it is Sao Miguel, it is the Azores - this
is why we returned to Lagoa das Sete Cidades.
Restaurante Arco da Velha, Rua dos
Mercadores, 82a, Ponta Delgada is a newcomer to the city
and this ancient shopping street. Before the artificial
harbor was built and the harbor front boulevard Avenida
Infante D. Henrique was created, the sea reached Rua dos
Mercadores. The front of the restaurant is a narrow
corridor of stone archways with limited seating. The main
dining room to the rear was once the sea. The menu is
refreshingly different offering not only the typical
Azorean dishes but recipes from the mainland like
Cataplana from the south and leitao from the central area.
Cataplana is the name of the copper
pot in which various recipes of fish and shellfish,
chicken or meat, vegetables and herbs are cooked. Tonight's
offering was Cataplana de Cherne, one of our favorite
varieties of fish. After spending 30 minutes in the oven,
the copper pot with its hinged lid was presented to us.
The lid was removed revealing the gorgeous sight and
smell of the cherne, potatoes, peppers, onions, and bay
leaves, spiked with a touch of piri piri. There were
about 8 thick slices of fish with a comparable quantity
of veggies. The order for two was enough for four, but we
did it justice (you knew that!). No dessert - okay, we
did have Magnum Classics while walking back to the hotel.
The next evening was Leitao night
and since the owner was originally from Mealhada in the
mainland, the kingdom of roast suckling pig, we made a
reservation. The leitao was roasted properly and had the
correct flavor, but the portions were small and Linda's
was more fat than meat. When we called it to their
attention they brought a few pieces that were less fatty.
Go for the Cataplana.
The Museu Carlos Machado, in Ponta Delgada is a must visit for an in-depth
understanding of the history, culture and nature of
Azorean life. It is housed in the former Convent of Santo
Andre which is set on a luxurious property in the heart
of the city, with plantings from around the world in the
front garden. Originally the museum housed only the
Natural History collections of Carlos Maria Gomes Machado.
In 1914 the museum was named after Carlos Machado and the
collections expanded through acquisitions, gifts and
property from dissolved monasteries.
Entering the stone cloister we were
immediately struck by a bronze sculpture of Adam &
Eve by Canto da Maia (a replica of which is also inside)
named, "hino do amor", in love. The form and
facial expressions leave no doubt of the meaning. The
artist was born in Ponta Delgada in 1890, died in 1981.
His works are on display in Portugal and abroad.
The rooms off the cloister are
dedicated to regional ethnography. A carefully
reconstructed bedroom and kitchen, including models
dressed in period clothing provide insight into daily
life in rural Sao Miguel. This insight is further
enhanced in other rooms with exhibits of toys, crafts,
ceramics, pottery, detailed miniature homes, dolls
depicting costumes and customs, and agricultural and
nautical implements emphasizing the farming and fishing
heritage. The Church of Santo Andre and other convent
rooms can be visited on this main level.
The 1st floor is devoted to an art
collection representative of 15th-20th c. sculpture,
goldsmith, and ivory work. The art is reflective of the
history of the people and the land with wonderful
portraits and landscapes of island scenes. There are a
couple ancient pianos on display, one of which has
vertical strings behind the keyboard.
The adjoining building houses the
fabulous Natural History Collection. A preserved sample
of every fish, animal, bird, insect, butterfly, etc. that
has ever inhabited the Azores is on display as well as
pictures, graphs, charts and detailed explanations. It's
a scientific reflection of nature's impact and influence
on the Azores during the 19th century. The Carlos Machado
Museum is a "must see".
A short distance away in Largo do
Colegio is the Jesuits College Church, the Sacred Art
Centre of the Museum Carlos Machado, which visit is
included with entrance to the main museum. The art
collection is sensational with paintings and sculptures
from the 17th and 18th centuries displayed in the nave
and sacristy. Particularly impressive is the huge
woodcarving of the altar piece on the high altar, perhaps
the largest of its type in Portugal.
It was a lovely day for a stroll in
the park and what better place than the Municipal Park or
the Antonio Borges Botanical Gardens just a bit west of
Largo do Colegio. The pathways lead through exotic
plantings mainly from Australia and New Zealand which
have grown to remarkable size, particularly an enormous
rubber tree. Picturesque artificial grottos of red
volcanic rock, belvederes, lakes, walls and tunnels have
been interwoven to lend a romantic touch.
The distance from the north coast
between Capelas and Ribeira Grande across the island to
Ponta Delgada is just 11-15 kilometers. Combine that with
the micro climate of the area and it's easy to understand
its popularity with those that work in Ponta Delgada who
prefer to live in a rural environment.
The walled manor houses of Capelas
reflect a certain prosperity enjoyed during the 19th
century. Down at the harbor an old landing and factory
hearken to the times that local whalers were out there
catching sperm whales and bringing them home for
As we drove, we had to make
frequent stops to admire the sight and sounds of the
waves smashing against the rocky lava coastline. Ana
suddenly made a few turns and pulled up in front of an
adorable yellow house sitting in the middle of a well-tended
garden. She surprised us with a visit to her home in the
village of Calhetas. As is the custom we sat in the
kitchen and enjoyed a local liqueur and brandy carefully
mixed to reduce the sweetness, delicious, as was Ana's
Just east of Calhetas is Rabo de
Peixe where Ana introduced us to Maria and Joao Galvao
owners of the agriturismo, Quinta de Santana. A small building serves as a cozy lounge
complete with a billiard table, honor bar and internet
point. Accommodations include double rooms and apartments
situated amongst gardens, fruit trees and a pretty pool
area. It's a delightful rural living experience.
A last walk through Ponta Delgada
before leaving for the airport took us along Rua de Sao
Joao which has some wonderful 18th and 19th century homes
decorated with the creative wrought ironwork of the Ponta
Delgada craftsmen. On the site of a former convent is the
well-preserved Teatro Micaelense reminiscent of movie
theatres of the fifties.
Rua de Sao Joao becomes Rua deo
Mercado, home to the Mercado, a combination of social
scene and serious shopping venue. Markets are always a
fun place and this was no exception. At the entrance are
two cheese stores with a delectable array of all the
cheeses produced in the archipelago. At the fish section
we finally solved our biggest problem, what to call those
tiny fish that are battered and fried, picked up and
eaten whole (except for those of us who do remove the
head). Carapau is the most familiar name, but they can
also answer to mackerel or chicharro. Fresh grown produce
and meat, home baked bread and pastries - someday we'll
be back and stay long enough to do a little home cooking
Factoid: the sidewalk of each
street in the city has its own black and white stone
design to enable men to find their way home after an
evening of liquid refreshment. The attractive sidewalks
in the main square behind the magnificent city gates have
economic symbols of the island such as pineapple and
Speaking of the main square, Praca
Goncalo Velho Cabral, which we wrote about in our 2003
travelogue, remains one of our favorites. The arcades,
the high archways of the city gates, the Parish Church of
Sao Sebastiao, the streets and sidewalks, all in the
traditional black and white design of the Azores create a
striking, memorable impact.
We stopped to have a final coffee
at the popular Cafe Clipper, Rua Machado Santos, 28. Ana
knew all the patrons, as she did in the Mercado. They all
wished us well and a safe journey home. Strangers become
friends very easily out here in the middle of the
Atlantic - another good reason to return.
The Ponta Delgada airport was quite
busy with flights leaving for the other islands and the
mainland. SATA handled it all quite efficiently and we
were off for Toronto promptly at 16:30. Once again the
flight crew was polite, cheerful and efficient. The food
and beverage service was excellent. The six hour flight
flew by and with only that four hour time difference we
were back to normal in short order, with a new story to
tell, which we hope you've enjoyed.
Porto | Cascais
São Miguel, Azores
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