Tag Archives: tourists

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!


Wednesday April 27, Trip to Furnas

Wednesday was an all-day Futurismo tour to Furnas. This proved to be a van tour, with 8 passengers and Trine as tour guide. We took the east-north highway over towards Ribiera Grande. Then further east to visit one of the two tea plantations on the island.

13903339_10103168677930876_6623881498237559308_nThe stop at the Che Guerrera tea plantation was neat – we saw rows of tea planted on the hillside, and displays inside a building showing the different steps in separating tea leaves from twigs, and the process distinguishing green tea from black tea (same leaves, just more oxidation makes it black!). There were people working, sorting and boxng teas for sale. We stopped in the gift shop and purchased a couple of varieties to take home.

13882414_10103168675675396_5558257436466246575_n Clare has an amazing knack for photography, and got some great shots with her I-phone of the tea plantation and the hillside around it.

13912508_10103168675944856_3859169919787279618_nThen we reloaded and drove down across the island towards Furnas. Furnas (pronounced “furnish”) is related to the English word “furnace” – there are active volcanic features in this part of the island.

We had the chance to walk around the edge of the Furnas lake, ending at the mudpots. 13654127_10103168675515716_8404717670343564809_nThe heat of the mudpots is used to make a traditional stew with beef, potatoes and other vegetables. After cooking in buried pots in the morning, it is hauled to local Furnas restaurants for lunch, and our tour had reservations at a restaurant featuring this specialty.   I was in the slowest walking group, and we narrowly missed seeing our lunch being pulled out the steaming mudpots. While others lingered over the wooden paths weaving around the active mudpots, as someone who has lived in Wyoming and frequented the mudpots in that national park, I wasn’t as impressed.

13698061_10103168675585576_297996122728372037_oWe had to reboard the van, because lunch itself was actually back in town, at a restaurant with a large dining room. Two huge platters of meat, potatoes, carrots and cabbage were brought for the main course, this traditional cooking style. We also feasted on, of course, fresh bread and cheeses, wine or fruit juice or water to drink. Clare and I stuffed ourselves – as did everyone.

13872791_10103168676284176_7171459776939127120_nAfter lunch the tour visited the viewpoint in town where the calderas are located. From one spot we could view steaming mud pots in town. At another there was a place where villagers were filling their water bottles with spring water.

13912885_10103168676543656_8412766774446313637_nFinally we headed to the Botanical Garden, where we had choices of what parts of the garden to walk in, or to spend part or all of the time in the shallow thermal pool.  The gardens had been established in the 1800s by a wealthy man who wanted to establish a world famous, English style garden.  I was more interested in the native plants, but he had brought in all kinds of exotics.  Clare took some photos of the flowering bushes and then captured a photo of some of the koi in the pond. 13882162_10103168676164416_4597898243764878250_n

13892270_10103168676383976_8140181874648750570_nAfter touring a small part of the garden, we went back to the thermal pool. Since my grandparents used to run “Utah Hot Springs” when I was a child, and we later enjoyed the thermal pools at Thermopolis in Wyoming, getting my now senior citizen body into a swimsuit and into a thermal pool that smelled of sulfur and would discolor my suit was not appealing. However, Clare got into the shallow, large pool, and two other couples from our tour also tried it out. I sat on the ledge, just soaking my feet, which felt good. Clare was glad her suit was dark navy, as the water discolors white and light colored swim suits!

It seemed like too short a time at the Botanical Garden before it was time to reload into the van and return to Ponta Delgada. We returned along the southern coast, so it was a slightly different route. We’d made friends on the tour with an older couple also from New York State, originally from Long Island but now living about 2 hours away. We liked everything about them except their political views (very conservative, right wing), so took their suggestion and tried out an Italian restaurant in downtown Ponta for dinner that night. The other New Yorkers had thought the much younger waitress was probably an Eastern European immigrant wife of the older restaurant owner and chef, which we also thought was the case. She didn’t speak Italian or English, and as we didn’t speak Portuguese, our efforts to ask about menu items didn’t work out really well! Our food was good – but as New Yorkers, we’ve had great Italian food, so having it just be “all right” was a let down. But it was a nice change from the steak and potatoes we’d had.

When we got back to our B&B, the other 2 women guests had arrived. Pilar was originally from Spain and was a teacher, and Emmanuelle was a librarian at the Sorbonne in Paris. We all stayed up late talking and drinking wine with our hostess Susana and her daughter – with most of the conversation in English and French, with a little Spanish and Portuguese thrown in. This ended up being the only evening we were all around and in a mood for conversation – our first 2 nights in Sao Miguel we were jet-lagged and had gone to bed early; the French women were off each day and evening seeing the sights and didn’t socialize after that first night.


La Sud du Martinique


Originally I’d planned to rent a taxi to and from the airport and just stay put during my short half-week visit to Martinique. But taxis were so expensive I decided to rent a car. And for the price of renting a car, it seemed like I should spend at least one of my 3 days exploring in the car. So I decided to head for Le Diamant, one of the more famous landmarks (seamarks? It’s just off the coast) in Martinique. Also, from my location near Tres Ilets, it wasn’t that far away. I had to head back through Tres Ilets – and toward the main North/South Highway N5. I was glad to see the landscape by daylight – I hadn’t known I’d driven by a golf course in the night! And driving during daylight I got better oriented as to where the Baie du Fort du France and where the mountains were. I got back on N5 near Trois Rivieres, which is often 4 lanes, and at least passing lanes and headed south, then exited west towards Diamant. A young couple from France was hitchhiking by the road and I gave them a lift to Diamant, where they planned to stay at a youth hostel. The young woman, who spoke more Anglais than the young man, told me she’d spent part of her childhood on Martinique and St. Martin, but now she lives in Bordeaux. The road was fairly straight west, with more roundabouts to get off to side roads and villages. We came into Diamant, followed signs towards the town centre and plages, and after passing a public beach I decided to find a place to park. The young man helped me parallel park on the left on a one-way part of the street, then we wished each other bonne journee and parted ways.

I took photos of the iconic Le Diamant sitting out off shore. I could see several sailboats around it and wished I was on one of them. When I come back to Martinique I want to take a boat trip – I love sailing. The beach was longer than Anse Mitan where I’m staying, but there weren’t many people out in the late morning. It was fairly windy out, partly cloudy but mostly sunny, so the wind actually helped keep the temperature from feeling too hot. Since I hadn’t eaten breakfast, I decided to have an early lunch and sought out a restaurant next to the ocean. I was the first patron at Chez Lucie, with open-air seating right above the beach, so I sat right at the edge of the ledge above the beach, looking out onto the water and having a view of Diamant in the distance. I ordered chicken columbo, fresh vegetables (which turned out to be green lettuce, grated carrot and grated something else) and rice. A large bottle of Chanflor water was only $2.50 E. Although the ocean view, listening to the waves roll to shore, made whatever price worthwhile, the restaurant was not expensive, less than New York certainly, and the food was better than I’d had so far in Pointe du Bout.

After lingering over my meal, adding coconut flan as my dessert, I walked back out the street the opposite direction from my car, past a church and school and more tourist shops. I cut down to the beach at a convenient opening and walked farther up the beach, enjoying the wet sand on my bare feet. After sitting on a rock for a while, watching the waves, I walked back down the beach toward the public quay and my car. I went up the steps, back towards my rental car, window shopping and observing the other people on the sidewalks. When I was walking by a mausoleum I suddenly realized I definitely didn’t remember walking past that after I’d gotten out of my car, and had to re-trace my steps to find my rental car after I’d walked by it! BTW, almost all rental cars look alike, they’re almost all white, and I hadn’t memorized the license plate. BUT I had left a brightly flowered beach bag in the back and that was how I identified the rental car I’d parked!

I headed east back to the N5, but instead of heading north towards Trois Rivieres and the Trois Ilet exit, headed southwest towards St. Lucie. St. Lucie proved to be a small village with many one way streets. I found a parking place and looked for a restaurant I could get a drink and a snack at. I settled for a restaurant overlooking the bay, but they were out of the dessert I wanted. I settled for a kind of sweet cake with cream. Then I went walking down the street by the ocean. It was fascinating – the street was one way, with restaurants and their kitchens on the land side, but outdoor seating across the street covered by umbrellas and tents on the beach side. There were a number of tourist shops, selling souvenirs and swim wear and boogie boards, etc. The restaurants offered seafood and poulet columbo (a Creole speciality), local beers and rhum.

One of the restaurants was named “Barracuda Obama” and I wondered if that was in tribute to the U.S. President. As I walked by one tent area with several young men handing around, I could distinctly smell something I remembered smelling from college in the 1970s – marijuana. I have no idea if marijuana is legal in Martinique, but I smelled it a couple other evenings back in Pointe du Bout as well.

Both Diamant and St. Lucie had some closed shops and stores, and the streets didn’t seem very full for what should be full out tourist season in February. I wondered if the zika virus had affected the tourist population – it was the reason my daughter wasn’t traveling with me. Diamant and St Lucie also seemed a little less well kept up, a little poorer, than the Pointe du Bout area. I was glad I hadn’t chosen to stay in the Diamant or St Lucie villages but in the Anse-Mitan/Pointe du Boute area. I also overheard more Americans/English speakers in these other towns, compared to the French staying in Pointe du Bout.

I left mid-afternoon, traveling back to my apartment, and got home shortly before a rainstorm hit. Great timing!