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.
The 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.
Then 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. The 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.
We 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.
After 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.
Finally 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.
After 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.