Monday, July 2, 2018

"a pineapple, for you"

Did you know a pineapple takes two years to ripen to maturity? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First stop today was Ponta da Ferraria. As you know people swim in the Atlantic here. It's not freezing (like the Pacific) but it's not exactly warm.
But at low tide, on this volcanic island, hot water emerges from the vents on the ocean floor. And if you happen to arrive at just the right moment, during the 4 hours of low tide in the morning or evening, hot water mixes with cold water for a unique soaking experience.
Yes, it's a scene. This was the first time in a week I saw so many people in one place.
I was glad I had hiking sandals and a stick for navigating the sharp lava. Highly recommended.

This is the westernmost part of São Miguel. There's a farol (lighthouse) nearby.
 Dairy cows, working hard on that delicious Azorean cheese.
The view north to Mosteiros, a village with really narrow streets
where I had amazing prawns in garlic sauce for lunch. Everyone else was eating octopus, but I remembered Soul of an Octopus and stuck to crustaceans.
More enormous wild hydrangea lining the roads. I felt guilty taking photos while I drove, until I noticed everyone else doing the same thing.
 Next stop: Sete Cidades, or the 7 cities. These brightly colored aqua lakes lie inside a dormant volcano crater.
 They are also why I wanted to come to the Azores.
The lakes turn bright blue and green when the sun comes out. The skies were never blue, but the sun kept right on trying.
(These ducks are for my mom.)
 So many exquisite flowers.
At the lookout at the top of the hill lies the ruins of a luxury hotel, which closed 7 years ago. It says you can't go in, but there were people up on the roof. I took a quick look at the "lobby" and spiral staircases.
Last look at Sete Cidades. Although this is when I knew I had to come to the Azores, it doesn't even rank among the best things I've done here. You can make a day of it and hike down from the crater rim to the town at the bottom.
My final stop of the day was one of many pineapple plantations in the Azores. 
Getting there was comical. I don't have a European sim card for my phone, so I rely on wifi and offline maps. I mapped the route with Google before I left the wifi at the restaurant.
The freeway part was fast and easy, but then I got off on a series of roundabouts. Google would say unhelpful things like "make the second right" (which was a left) or "turn southeast." There's nothing like a roundabout in an unfamiliar place to make you lose your sense of direction.
Pineapples are grown in greenhouses, with their peers at similar stages of development. 

Are you hungry yet? They sell pineapple liqueur at the gift shop, and pineapple pastries at the gazebo.

They even have a private collection of pineapple-iana. Cases and cases of pineapple kitsch. I loved it. Is it any wonder Portuguese cowboys known as paniolos went to Hawaii?

Clear skies walking back to the hotel in Ponta Delgada. It's weird to be back in the "big" city again. The streets are incredibly narrow. People tailgate and honk. My hotel is on a pedestrian mall, and all the streets nearby are one way. So parking nearby is kind of a nightmare. 

The Hotel Alcides is also home to the Restaurant Alcides. And whenever I mentioned to locals like Antonio and Felipe that I was staying here, they commented on how good the steak was.

And was it ever! Along with my perfectly rare steak, served with melted butter, I had a copa de vinho tinto made by the Freitas family. The cheese course is extra, and I asked if they could wrap it up for me; my server did that and more, adding some bread and jam and more pieces of cheese.

The only thing missing from this deeply satisfying meal is the grilled pineapple, which I devoured.

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