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Sunday May 1 – Boston, then Amtrak back to Syracuse

Clare and I landed back at Boston airport late at night, but she caught a late flight back to the New York City area.  I had booked a B&B in  ________________, outside Boston.

I loved the old house, with a view of the water looking west towards the airport and Boston itself. It would have been a lovely place to stay longer and explore, but I was only there overnight, then caught an Uber back to my Amtrak station in Boston.

The train trip back to Syracuse seemed to take longer than the one I’d taken to get there – I think I was let down after my wonderful trip. The layover in Albany to change trains seemed especially long. But finally I got back to Syracuse and was met by my friend.

My week vacation to the Azores was one of the most fantastic experiences of my whole life.

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Saturday April 30 – Last Day in Azores

Our last morning in Sao Miguel was partly sunny. The other guests at Casa dos Hibiscus, Pilar and Emmanuelle, had left by 6:00 AM to catch an early flight, so we didn’t get to see them again. I had told Susana that I’d be down for breakfast about 8:30 AM, so I finally got up and dressed a little after 8 AM. There was again the wonderful assortment of breads and homemade jams, passion fruit yogurt, hot green tea, juice, and some of the homemade chocolate cake from the night before. I was not able to eat very much… I told Susana I felt full from all the food I’d been eating all week. She laughed and said that was the Portuguese way, to eat and enjoy meals and company.

I made comments in her Dos Hibiscos Guest Book – and remarked over a water color a guest had painted last fall when visiting. I promised to write a good review for her on Trip Advisor; she already has some good reviews on AirBnB, and had just started listing on Trip Advisor as well. She was happy that, the night before, two young “Nederlander” men had booked for the coming week, as it had been empty till the following Saturday. We conversed about our stay, her plans for the day (including a vet visit to give the younger dog Lyka an injection), and the story of how she got her current cat Shawnay, and her daughter’s sadness that the black cat had still not reappeared and it was now a week since it had disappeared.

I went upstairs to the room to finish packing. I tried to carefully pad the Azorean ceramics I’d bought in the middle of my suitcase to be checked at the airport, and also wrapped clothing around the ceramics in my carryon bag. Susana told me the blue flowered ceramics are the most difficult to paint, so I was even more pleased with my choice. Hopefully nothing will break on my trip home!

After packing I got some more photos of the house and garden, and a photo of Susana and myself together in front of the orange hibiscus flowers. I felt a little bad that Susana had gone to all the trouble to clean the swimming pool and make sure the pH balance was just right, but I had been gone during the days on activities, and it was still a little cold to be swimming. We both agreed that it wasn’t wasted effort, as probably the Nederlanders will take advantage of the pool during their stay this coming week.

Since the flight back to Boston wasn’t until 5:00 PM, there was time to try once more the route above Ribiera Grande across the mountains to Lago Fugo and hope it wasn’t foggy and rainy this time.

Sure enough, although there were low clouds, there were great views both to the north of the island at one viewpoint, a view down to Lago Fugo at another viewpoint. Clare and I laughed at how the clouds could cover the peaks, or one part of the island, while another part was enjoying sunshine – talk about localized weather! Lago Fugo looked grayish green due to the cloud cover overhead.

 

13895013_10103168678200336_774287882524539514_nComing down the mountain, which was a bunch of hairpin turns, at one place the Atlantic Ocean could be seen both to the south (near Lagoa) and to the north (Riberia Grande)! Although there were clouds above the mountain peaks, the ocean in either direction looked bright cerulean blue, reflecting clear skies above the water.

It wouldn’t be a day of me driving without trying a few wrong turns and getting lost. I’d taken back roads out of Fenais da Luz, and ended up doing a kind of zig zag until I caught up to the highway. And again coming down off the mountain, I didn’t want to go straight to the big city of Ponta Delgado, so tried first a small village, then got turned around on one way roads and ended up way out in the country, circling round again to where the Lago Fugo highway came down from the mountain again! Clare was wishing she was the one driving instead of me. Then I gave up and tried the new highway towards Ponta, getting off at the Marginal highway exit and going towards S. Roque at the first roundabout.

Deciding against patronizing Cais 20 again, signs were followed to “Oceanwaves” (Ocas do Mar), which turned out to have parking available, and was situated next to the rocky beach. Cheese fondue, beef kabobs and light salad… enjoyed with white wine sangria… was the13872654_10103168678260216_7609863916163914721_n perfect lunch.

Finally it was time to head west toward the aeroport, return the rental car and check my larger suitcase. Hertz charged me 7E because apparently I returned the gas tank at 4/8 instead of 5/8 (it had looked just over ½ tank to me, but oh, well). Aeroport security is very tight. I had to produce my passport and boarding pass several times, had my bags looked through at security (the x-rays of my ceramics did look a little strange, I admit). I like to visit the restroom one last time right before boarding, but the boarding area for Gate 5 to Boston was past another checkpoint, so I had to go back to the snack counter area, use the facilities there, and then go to Gate 5 to wait another ½ hour.

13901499_10103168678270196_2237531371828405184_nAs the Azores Airline A330 Airbus soared out over the ocean, beginning its steep climb in altitude, I felt a mixture of completeness at having made the most of my week-long vacation to Sao Miguel, and sadness it was over too quickly. However, I really missed my Sheltie, and was happy that tomorrow I’ll be home and see my puppy dog again!

Friday April 29 – Nordeste Tour

The last full day in the Azores had already come. The sky was a mixture of clouds and sun, but since weather is both so changeable and so localized, there was no way of telling what the day would bring. At breakfast I tried some of Susana’s pumpkin and coconut jam on my bread, and enjoyed a passionfruit local yogurt. Then it was back over the hills, the 15 minute drive to Ponta Delgado. By now I had a routine of heading east to catch the marginal highway close to the ocean and docks, parking underground, then going to wait at the Futurism kiosk for my daily tour.

Claude, who had brought me back from Mosteiros, was the jeep driver and tour guide. He was going to offer the tour in English and Portuguese; we were going to meet up at Villa Franco de Campo with another vehicle and the 2 German speaking ladies in our jeep were going to change to that one, because Sandy was going to give the tour in German. 13906871_10103168677371996_6351612697461400340_n

Villa Franco de Campo was apparently an original settlement in the 1400s, and the original capitol, but, being nestled in extinct volcanoes, there wasn’t as much room for expansion and agriculture, so eventually Ponta Delgado, on the flatter southwest coast, became the largest city. Our first stop was a Roman Catholic chapel built into the hillside. Steps up to each level brought one to a beautiful ceramic blue tile painting of one of the scenes from the life of Christ and Mother Mary.

13782069_10103168677441856_2841864274931637838_nAt the very top, there were 5 more paintings of the Ascension and Mary being crowned Queen of Heaven. Looking at them against the vibrant green of the hillside where cows were grazing was a wonderful contrast.

13900088_10103168677496746_7208217142941723200_nAt Povacao we got out to see the remains of a freighter accident from 1977 – anchor, chain. This was originally the busy port for the island, Ponta Delgada didn’t get established until much later.

 

13876687_10103168677591556_1711896459264823534_nThe sidewalk designs indicated it’s importance as a port city. While there, we walked to a plaza and had a wonderful treat of café and fofa (éclair) at a sidewalk coffee shop.

We really needed the jeep for the next portion of our tour, which began on the west-east dirt road up on the rim of the crater, lined with the majestic plain trees, then we were off on a dirt road, crossing through the Nature Preserve, carefully crossing culverts and places where there was road damage from water runoff.

13906726_10103168677631476_5705964701107331730_nClaude talked about some of the history of the Azores as we drove. The laurel trees were native to the Azores, but fast growing cedars have been planted in the last century. Early settlers in Sao Miguel tried first wheat production, then sugar production. With competition from the Canary Islands and other places, they changed to growing oranges for export in the 1700s-1800s. But some kind of blight took out the orange crops.

13907155_10103168677317106_6455166855215820947_nMuch of the island is currently engaged in dairy farming, and both fish and beefsteak are features of island menus. There is a soft Azorean cheese which is served with a spicy tomato sauce. Hard cheeses are mostly imported from the mainland.

Much of the island is still unspoiled by tourists and modern buildings. There are impressive churches around the main square in each town. We felt like we kept going back in time. Our tour guide took us to a traditional lunch at a restaurant in the small town of Lomba da Fazena above Norwest, which was delicious.

13903424_10103168732371776_8804256746012014442_nAfterwards we went southeast to a garden and picnic viewpoint, then back up to a viewpoint of an old lighthouse. Nordeste means “northeast” – apparently sailors followed the northeasterly tradewinds between the Portugal mainland and the Azores. A lot of the island has very steep drops from the mountains down to the sea, so there are just a few natural ports where ships could come in.

13907186_10103168677726286_7608923100571503890_nFor a change the clouds were gone and there were brilliant blue skies as we looked north to the old lighthouse. I finally got the picture in my mind that the Portuguese who immigrated to the coasts in Massachusetts and Connecticut as ship builders and whalers were actually from the Azores! That was why there were decent priced direct flights from Boston to Ponta, then on to the Madeiras Islands or onto Lisbon on the mainland.

While visiting the viewpoint, we ran into our newly made friends from New York State, who’d driven their rental car to see Nordeste and the various sight-seeing locations. They strongly recommended we have dinner at the Cais, in a village just east of Ponta.

13669680_10103168677920896_8658272421135961943_n13661978_10103168678175386_462904648402373678_oThe remaining stops on our Futurismo tour were going to a old lookout point for whales, then an old water millhouse and waterfalls. Everything was so scenic we again felt like there was no way to take a bad photograph.

We had to go on the old road to reach the millhouse – the tour guide is very proud of the new highway that helps connect Nordeste to Riviera, which was the way he took us back to Ponta Delgada.

After the tour ended, for the evening meal, we tried out Cais 20 in S. Roque, both because it was recommended and because it was not far from Ponta Delgada, and we were tired from the long day. We didn’t have as grand a time as our friends had described, but the food was good, and we liked having a view of the ocean as we ate. By 8:30 PM we drove back over to the north side of the island to Dos Hisbiscos, saying again how glad we were to stay in our lovely B&B and not in one of the modern hotels in Ponta that other tour clients were staying in.

Susana greeted us and invited us to share some chocolate cake she had for her birthday. Clare just had a small slice and soon retreated to our bedroom, but I wanted to relish my last night in the Azores by visiting with Susana for the final time. Since I also was a single parent raising daughters, we share some similarities to our lives beyond country and culture differences.

 

Thursday April 28, Sete Cidades Tour

Two different Futurismo tours went to Sete Cidades, in a high volcanic crater in the western part of the island. One was more adventurous – biking, kayaking the lake, and some hiking to King’s Viewpoint, led by Claude, which is the one Clare chose.

I took the “easy” hike, which was about 11 kilometers around the rim of the big crater overlooking Blue Lake and Sete Cidades. This was led by Trine, the young mother originally from Estonia. But due to my injured arm and fear of falling again on uneven or slippery terrain, I ended up alternating walking with the group (most of the uphill climb) and riding in the accompanying jeep with Pablo (downhill during steep portions and when it was raining).

 

We drove to Sete Cidades via Arrife, where the large milk production plant was shown to us, then off on “farm roads” (similar to county dirt roads in the US).

We had to stop for about 15 minutes when a large herd of about 200 cows came down the one lane road toward us, being moved to new pastures. I laughed that the bull was being driven on a flatbed truck at the very end; I guess it would have been too tempting to turn him loose with all the bovine ladies.

13920746_10103168675635476_6360016487763148021_nPart of our morning hike took us through private land, where the Japanese cedars had just been clear cut. I explained that in the Western US, clearcutting damages soil, so that even though it is more expensive, not all the trees in one area are harvested at the same time. I was told that since the land is private, and the trees mature in about 30 years, each generation depends upon the income from one tree cutting.

When we met up with the jeep again, the group was going to go down a steeper, more slippery part of the hike, so I joined Pablo in the jeep, until we could meet up again. It started raining about then, so I avoided both the steepest part of the walk and getting wet in the rain.

We parked at the Queen’s viewpoint overlook of two lakes, where we would meet up with the rest of the group again. I had a private explanation of the color of the blue and green lakes at Sete Cidades from Pablo. The scientific explanation has to do with the depths of the water and whether they reflect the sky or vegetation. But the local myth is that a royal princess fell in love with a farmer, the king found out and of course, forbade their love, and they met one last time at the bridge, the young man crying tears from his green eyes, the young princess crying tears from her blue eyes. (Since women weep more than men, Blue Lake is larger.)

After documenting the view with our cameras, I joined the group continuing to hike downhill, until the last mile, which was steeper and rugged, so I waited for someone to come from the village and fetch me.

13882165_10103168677132476_2614808377527652793_n13895583_10103168676518706_3658950179309975100_nMy pick up guide said he’d been with Clare at the mountain rim earlier, and seen her kayaking on the lake before I got there.

She got a gorgeous photo of the Lagos de Sete Cidades with a blooming azalea bush in the foreground.

Cete Sidades has picturesque houses, a large church, a couple of restaurants/cafes, some tour offices. I enjoyed a café at the lakeside snack bar. I imagine in summer it is full of visitors and tourists.  But fall through spring the population is very low.

Apparently a large hotel was built to accommodate anticipated visitors, but it went out of business after a couple of seasons.

There was a church to St. Nicolau in the town center, set again in a beautiful plaza area. The Azorean blue tiles decorated the sides of the sanctuary.

For the mid-afternoon we headed north up to Mosteiros. This is where the most recent volcanic eruption in 1811 added some “land” to the western tip of the island. There is both a “piscine natural” there – a rocked in place to bathe fed both by hot thermal water and incoming tidal water from the ocean, and also a spa with a swimming pool also using the thermal waters.

Unlike the Furnas thermal pool in the Botanical Garden, the minerals in the water were not yellowish but clear and did not stain clothes. Clare tried both the natural piscine and the spa one you had to pay for. The volcanic rocks made it hard to get to the piscine natural, and since the tide was high, the water wasn’t very warm. But the spa thermal pool was warm and delightful – Clare hated to leave so soon.

I was able to switch tour vans and travel back to Ponta with Clare.The return trip went around the southwest part of Sao Miguel, retracing my route on Monday, but Clare hadn’t yet seen this part.

Instead of heading back across the island to Dos Hisbiscos, we wanted to stay in town to eat dinner. We’d had such a great meal at A Tasca in downtown Ponta the first night, we tried that again. Instead of entrees, we tried 5 tapas dishes. Although one of the same dishes was ordered as Sunday evening, it wasn’t quite as tasty. The sautéed mushrooms were also pretty salty as well as garlicky – if I have one complaint about Azorean cuisine, it is that even the most delicious sauces and meats were a little too salty. But then again, the saltiness did encourage the consumption of not just water but wine.

For dessert, the appeal of the passionfruit meringue at the Palmeras de Quinta back in Lagoa was too strong to resist, so instead of staying in Ponta, we drove the several kilometers back to Lagoa. The waiters were puzzled when we said we only wanted dessert, but understood when we explained we’d been there a couple nights earlier. We promised a good review in Trip Advisor.

When we returned to Dos Hibiscos, Clare went on up to our room, but I stayed up and talked a while with Susana. I was very impressed with her efforts as a single mother of a teenage daughter to provide. She’d been widowed when her daughter was very young, and moved from the Madeiras, where her family still lives, to the Azores, where she works as a special education teacher. Only the 2009 economic recession had been so back that Portugal and the Azores still hadn’t recovered. She hadn’t had a raise since 2008. She originally got the house in Fenais da Luz with a former boyfriend, but he wasn’t good for her and was soon out of the picture – leaving her with a house she couldn’t really afford alone. But she got a loan, did renovations to make two bedrooms into rentals, and was using the income from the B&B to help sustain her. 2015 had been her first year to open, and it wasn’t all year. Her last winter booking had been in November, and April was just the beginning of new seasonal bookings. While we were there, she got another booking for the few days between our leaving and new guests coming, so she was quite content.

 

 

Tuesday April 26 – Whale Watching, Eastern Sao Miguel

Our B&B hostess had again provided a wide variety of breads, her homemade jams, cheeses, tea and fruit juice to drink. I enjoyed the morning conversation before she had to head to work; Clare again stayed busy upstairs applying makeup, and when she came down, didn’t want anything but yogurt.

Having mastered the art of leaving town from our mistake the morning before we made a quick 15 minutes across the island and back to Ponta, parking underground and walking up to the tour kiosk. Clare had agreed to go morning whale watching with me, which wasn’t her first choice. We were again booked with Futurismo, and the day started off great, with waterproof macs provided to protect against water spray, and a trained marine biologist as one of our guides.

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We saw dolphins right after we pulled out of the port, and enjoyed them frolicking around the boat. Then we headed off, first one direction, then another, according to directions given from watchers on the mountain with telescopes as to where they’d seen a whale blow. Besides the native whales to the region, in the spring there are migrating herds of whales.

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Our hopes were very high to sight some whales, but as much as we chased around we were the only tour that week NOT to see any whales. Since Futurismo guarantees sighting whales, I got our money back (a few others chose to reschedule). Between no whales spotted and the seasickness, the morning was a disappointment.

However, we had the rest of the day to enjoy, so we decided to try the pottery shop the Azores are known for. Clare and I carefully combed through the pieces available to buy, each choosing to take back several to the States. Then we headed back out on the highway, counter-clockwise around the east and north sides of the island. The wider, straighter highway gave way to narrow roads with switchbacks, often steep mountain sides on one side of the road, and drop to the ocean or down a cliff on the other.

13903424_10103168732371776_8804256746012014442_nWith some clouds and fog, parts of our drive had limited visibility of the amazing coast line and forest we were driving through. Still the drive with hairpin turns, and just a few scattered villages until we got to Nordeste, was thrilling. Although Portuguese have inhabited the island for over 400 years, clear cut forests had regrown or been reseeded, and the population density is not great, so there are large tracts of wild lands. Due to volcanic nature of the island formation, the peaks rise steeply above the sea. We could see where landslides had started with a lot of rainfall causing trees and soil to start sliding down hillsides, and were glad we could get around road damage, and that nothing came down on top of us! We finally ate a late lunch outside of Nordeste, then followed signs to a much larger highway taking us back towards Ribiera, where we took our cut off to Fenais da Luz.


After resting a bit, we decided to go back across to Lagoa to one of the restaurants that had been recommended, Palmeras da Quinta. It turned out to be a very modern looking building connected to a spa and hotel, right outside the historic village. Once seated inside, we were given computer tablets to order our menu items from. Since I don’t like seafood, I again treated myself to a delicious steak, while Clare again experimented. For dessert I got as passionfruit meringue and Clare got a different dessert. The passionfruit meringue, which Clare also tried, was about the best dessert we’d ever enjoyed in our entire lives. It was light and sweet without making us overly full. We were satiated and happy as we drove in the night back to La Casa dos Hisbiscos, our temporary home in Fenais. We were still not adjusted to the time zone, so just went to bed right away, even though it was early.

 

Monday April 25 – West End Sao Miguel

We woke up early to get Clare back over to Ponta Delgada for her 9 AM day hiking tour with Futurismo. I enjoyed a breakfast of delicious cheeses, breads, homemade jams, juice and Azorean green tea… while Clare only wanted yogurt. Due to one-way streets in the village and in Ponta as well, we didn’t go the shortest route, but did make it over the hills and to the pick-up location at the kiosk next to the harbor on time.

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Clare was off on a day hike to Lagos de Fugo. Unfortunately, it was extremely foggy and rainy, but she had a great time and befriended the young woman who was their hiking guide.

After dropping her off, I went back to the B&B for a nap (she’d gotten that long one the day before, but I was still disoriented). A couple of hours did a lot of good, and I wanted to have my own adventures – driving, not hiking.

With still a half day to myself (approximately 3 hours, anyway), I decided to explore the west end of the island (two of our tours were going to take us to the east). I turned left onto the highway through Fenais da Luz and headed west towards Capelas. With the exception of Ponta Delgada and Ribeira Grande, the villages seem unchanged through the centuries – houses built right up next to the street, red clay tile roofs, mostly some kind of building material that looked like adobe. The areas between settlements were small fields bounded by waist high rock walls, with cows or crops. The highway covering the west end was not at all a super-highway, but more of a paved road, with lots of curves.

I kept missing photo ops – like incredible views of villages or the ocean on my right side. A youth on a horse went galloping by on a horse, and I was so amazed I forgot to even try to get a photo on my smartphone. Finally, I did get a photo of a man leading a goat down the highway near Santa Barbara.

The day was partially overcast and cloudy – to have hillsides and fields that green of course means a lot of rainfall! But the sun was out periodically, and the outside temperature was delightful – in the mid 60s F.

I turned off the highway at the west end to check out Mosteiros, but otherwise stayed on the main highway on the hillside above the coast. The sun came out mid-afternoon as I passed through Candelaria, then Feteires. When I got near the airport at Relva, I recognized where I’d gotten off-track the day before and managed to get back to EN-1A along the harbor.

I wasn’t sure what time Clare would be back from her hiking tour, so arrived early, parking as close as I could to the kiosk so she’d see our rental care. I checked at the Futurismo kiosk, and they thought she wouldn’t be back for about an hour. I walked down the harbor side sidewalk, amazed to see three different cruise ships in port. The sidewalk cafes closest to the cruise ships were all full, and I decided not to wait to get a drink as I planned.

I wandered back to the main plaza, where a festival was going on and red carnations were being passed out. I heard what appeared to be a high school band, then more singers. Coming back towards the kiosk, I got in line for an ice cream at a shop next door when Clare showed up!

We decided to go back to the B&B, then try out the Agricola for dinner. The Agricola was on the north central side of the island near Rabo de Peixe, between the village of Fenais da Luz where we were staying and Ribiera Grande. We managed to find the Agricola with only a couple of wrong turns. We were pleased to be seated right away even without reservations, and our order was taken and delivered almost immediately. Unfortunately, the steak was a little overdone, and the restaurant got very busy and we got ignored. It took forever to get our bill, then nearly half an hour before we could pay it. Instead of driving back to the B&B by evening light, it was full dark when we tried to navigate the roads. We ended up going through Pico da Pedra instead of Calhetas along the coast. We finally made it back to Dos Hisbiscos, glad to find our way to our temporary home.

 

 

 

Sao Miguel, The Green Island, April 24

Sunday April 24, 2016 Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel

Our overnight flight from Boston was over a half hour late. With talking going on around us and losing 4 hours as we flew east, we arrived tired but also excited. We exited from the rear of the large plane, were guided across the tarmac, and made it quickly through Azorean customs. A stamp in our passports! We got the rental car, an island map from the tourism office and set out to try and find the Futurismo kiosk next to the water because of the tours we’d booked and wanted to confirm.

We found the kiosk, confirmed Clare’s plans and added a walking tour for Monday that had been left off, added me to a Friday jeep tour to Nordeste. Then we decided to walk around a little bit and explore the plaza area of the city. There was a statue to Cabral at the end of the plaza close to the harbor.

The sidewalks in Ponta had typically Portuguese patterns made of black basalt stones from the island and imported white stones.


We were hungry and looked around for a restaurant, but nothing struck our fancy. I suggested we head out to our B&B, which was 15 minutes out of town in a small village on the north side of the island. After doing my best to get lost and ending up back at the airport. I found where I had saved the directions on my phone, and we finally took the correct exit north. As we drove up over verdant hills with black & white cows serenely grazing, clouds covering the higher peaks, we looked at each other and exclaimed “It’s so beautiful!”

We turned off the main highway, and went back in time. Other than the fact the road was paved, it could have been 400 years earlier. The narrow road snaked between low rock fences, marking different pastures. Calla lilies graced the edges of the fields – I learned later that cows won’t eat them. We descended the sloping hill towards the village and, after the roundabout, found Casa Dos Hisbiscos on a narrow, one way street.


Our gracious hostess, Susana, was glad to see us – I’d sent her the time the plane was supposed to have landed, and she’d started to get worried. We explained the plane was late and that we’d gone into Ponta first to confirm our eco-adventures for the week. Susana showed us around our guest quarters upstairs, and explained we were welcome in the family room/TV room or back yard – depending on which dog was lose. She graciously offered us a late breakfast – I was grateful to eat something, but other than get a drink, Clare was so tired she went up to bed to nap.

Clare’s “nap” turned into several hours, while I got a tour of the backyard gardens (with many colors of hisbiscos – most just starting to bloom in late April) and was shown the swimming pool. Then I read and rested on the upstairs couch, trying not to disturb Clare in the bedroom.

When she finally awoke, we decided to drive into Fenais da Luz – which is a very small village on the North Coast. We pulled over at a small park and looked at the ocean. Then being, hungry, we wanted try out one of the restaurants13659157_10103168674837076_9149873005185357408_n recommended – A Tasca, back in Ponta in the downtown Plaza area, not far from where we’d been that morning. Although the restaurant is usually booked and needs reservations, we were early enough to be seated immediately. A musical duo of Spanish guitar and harp were playing upstairs, with music descending to the small dining hall. The restaurant was small, the atmosphere was timeless Portuguese, and the food so good we decided we would have to come back again.

13876537_10103168674956836_6729648379166490204_nFor appetizers we got a cheese filled puff pastry and a skirt steak in tomato sauce. Clare accused me of being a picky eater – I chose the safe option of steak, she was the adventurous one, ordering limpets for her entrée – which turned out to be some kind of shell fish served steaming hot on a cast iron skillet. Since I am not a lover of shell fish, I was very glad that, in addition to all the seafood specialties, steak is a specialty of Sao Miguel. (Apparently not just dairy cows on those hillsides!)

It was evening as we headed back over the hill again from the south side of Sao Miguel to the north side. In the gathering dusk we agreed that we were glad not to be staying in the city itself, but in our charming B&B in the rural village. Still recovering from the time zone change, we went to bed immediately (it was Wednesday before we were awake enough in the evening to stay up and visit!).