Monday, June 25, 2018

island time

Bom dia from Ponta Delgada! Where? you ask. The Azores. 
Part of Portugal and occupied since the 15th century, the Azores are 1500 kilometers west of mainland Europe, in the middle of the Atlantic. So sailors have been arriving at these volcanic outposts for hundreds of years.
Delta began nonstop service a month ago to Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel, the largest town on the largest island. It only takes four and a half hours from JFK (plus delays) or two hours from Lisbon. 

There are 9 islands in three groups, and Sao Miguel is the easternmost. Later this week, I'll fly to the middle group.

The little I've seen so far is drop-dead gorgeous. I saw Joel and Sheila's photos from a trip two years ago, especially the lagoon-filled craters, and knew I had to come.


I was also exhausted (a combination of jet lag from flying in the wrong direction plus a week in Florida resolving family health issues). So I'm going to take it easy. Fortunately, that's not hard to do.
Antonio sent me to the market, and warned me to wear heavy sunscreen. The climate is temperate (68 to high 70s) but very humid, so everything grows in the rich volcanic soil.
Including pineapples! There are pineapple-shaped platters in my room. The pottery that's not shaped like pineapples is shaped like cabbage leaves.

Did I mention they make cheese? Don't worry, I will.

I promised Aunt Barbara more food photos, so here's lunch from Tasca, a traditional local joint.

 The menu looks like a newspaper. (Remember those?)
This was a fresh cheese topped with sweet pepper jam and nuts and wrapped in leaves. It was pretty incredible.
Garlic toast made with bolo levedo, the Portguese version of English muffins, but much better.
Vegans, look away! This is morcilla, blood sausage, served with grilled pineapple. An odd but delicious combination. I also had a glass of wine (which they cultivate on Pico and Graciosa), because in Europe, house wine (<$2) is cheaper than water.
 Then it was time to head to the square, where people were sitting in the shade, drinking coffee.

There's a public swimming pool, but most people swim in the sea. The Atlantic is warmer than the Pacific, but still a little chilly.

 I dipped my toes in and people watched.

Oh yes, it's Açores. (Like açai.) Portuguese is a strange and beautiful language. So close to Spanish when written and yet so far.
 Scenes from my adorable guesthouse.
 The dining room table reminded me of a papaya.
 
Portugal just advanced to the next round in the World Cup tonight, defeating Iran. So I guess I need to learn a little about soccer while I'm learning Portuguese. Or just drink gin and tonics and pretend.
 A whole cabinet of teas. What's not to love?
Tomorrow: off to explore another side of the island, with a hike at a crater and more delicious food and culture. Obrigado!

More info on the Azores, which will make you want to come here.