Tuesday, June 26, 2018

water nymphs

A day that involves swimming and soaking in hot springs warmed by a volcano is a very good day. Especially when it ends at Lagoa de Fogo, in a volcanic crater, above. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Antonio recommended I take the hop on/hop off bus to Ribeira Grande, a village on the north shore of Sao Miguel. Highways are good here, so it only took about 15 minutes. Each seat has a headset jack, so the drivers play a tape that corresponds to the location. Not a bad deal for 14 euros.
Last month was the ghost festival, which happens on all the islands. Sao Miguel is known as the green island. You'll see why soon.

Azorean buildings have distinctive black lava bricks. They're used in the streets too.

According to the bus audio, which also featured the music of Madredeus!, Sao Miguel was first discovered by Europeans in the 14th century (not sure if there were any indigenous people), and was a frequent stop of Genovese in the 15th. 

Christopher Columbus came on the way to the Americas to restock, and was arrested. In the early 19th century, Jewish merchants began to come here. Portugal has perhaps always been a melting pot, with Christians, Jews, and Muslims and sea farers. These islands off the coast of where Europe meets Africa even moreso.

I took a short walk to the northern edge of the bay. There's a big public swimming pool (1.5 euros admission plus .5 euros for a locker) and a public beach.
 Don't forget sunscreen.

This is the view facing west from the swimming pool and public beach. There's a cove famous for surfing to the far left.

Cheese break. I headed back to the main square for a snack. This is Sao Jorge (aka St George), an island I'll be visiting. Not a coincidence that one of my favorite Sonoma cheese is St George, from the Matos family. 
Laranjada is a local orange soda. Portugal grew oranges for export to Britain until a blight wiped them out in the 19th century.

Traffic light condiments. Back on the bus. The next stop was Caldeira Velha, a park on the edge of the volcano. 

 The forest is breathtaking.
 Spring water from the volcano feeds a variety of pools.

I probably could have gotten a better picture, but I wasn't willing to risk my phone for a selfie under the waterfall.
 This place wasn't even on my top ten for the Azores, but it was unmissable.
 A whole ecosystem in miniature.
 I don't remember Costa Rica being this lush. Maybe because it rained so much.

The last leg of the loop took us up to Lagoa do Fogo, up Fogo volcano, for a view in every direction.


I headed back to the guesthouse, where Antonio created a completely custom itinerary for the rest of my days on Sao Miguel. It's that kind of place. Also he offered me a home-made snack, a quiche with asparagus. He and Lino are excellent cooks. They are also both on diets and can't eat the banana cinnamon bread or breakfast burritos they lovingly prepare for guests.

After a shower, I thought it might be nice to see the sun set, and jokingly asked if there was a rooftop bar in town. Turns out the fancy hotel around the corner has one—with a sushi bar.

Who needs a Wimpi snack bar when you can have this?

To get here, I had to find the entrance behind a hidden door on a hall full of guest rooms. (It's the white doorbell on the right.)

Local fish for the win. With passionfruit sauce.

A little pricey, by Azorean standards. But well worth it.

Tomorrow I'm flying to Horta, in the central Azorean group. Lots of excitement to come.