Hello, again……Let’s move on to the second in the Transatlantic Cruise series and visit the Azores!
Before I booked this cruise, I had heard of the Azores, but had no idea where they were! I thought they were islands in the Caribbean!!! But, when I looked it up to get more info about the port I would be visiting, I discovered they are off the coast of Portugal! The Azores are actually an archipelago – a group of islands made up of inactive volcanoes that are part of Portugal. The island that we docked at is Sao Miguel and Sao Miguel’s capital is Ponta Delgada – the port we spent two days in. I really enjoyed exploring this island — it was beautiful and I learned a lot!
The wildest animal on the island is the rabbit — nothing poisonous and no snakes!!! Dairy is a huge industry for them – lots of cows and they told us that they adapted to be able to climb the steep hills like goats do! Since the islands consist of inactive volcanoes, there was really nothing growing on the island when it was first discovered and began to be inhabited……all the flora was brought in from other places, there is very little, if any, native plants – mostly just mosses. Winter is the azalea season and summer is hydrangea season — we saw LOTS of azaleas in full bloom just ending their season growing wild all over! I wish we could have seen the hydrangea, too – I’ll have to go back during their season to see them!
Our tour guide said, “The Azores is a place where you remember to breathe.” What a beautiful way to describe her island!!!
We arrived in Ponta Delgada about sunrise and spent one entire day, over night, and most of the second day – till I think about 6:00 pm – there. The following photos are my first views of Ponta Delgada.
As we were approaching……still a bit in the distance!
My daily veranda selfie…….dressed and ready to go ashore for my day one shore excursion!
The first day was foggy and rained off and on and was quite chilly. My shore excursion was a Whale Watching Tour, so I knew I’d be out on a boat. I put my hair up in a pony tail and wore my ball cap. I had a warm, water proof jacket laid out to pack, but somehow it didn’t make it into the suitcase! The day before we arrived in Ponta Delgada, the forecast looked like I was going to be really sorry I didn’t bring it, so I went to the on-board shops and found one to purchase at a very reasonable price! Score! And, boy, was I glad I did!!! It was not only about 55 degrees and rainy, it was very windy, too……I would have froze with the lighter jackets I had with me! But, the one I bought was perfect! (when I got home, there was the jacket I planned to take with me laying on the top of the “changed my mind – not taking” pile!!! UGH!!!)
I was a bit disappointed in the Whale Watching Tour…….I was so excited to get to say that I have been whale watching in Hawaii, Alaska, and now Portugal……but, it wasn’t to be! The fog was so dense that they couldn’t find whales with their instruments or the spotters on the shore……they sailed around the bay for the full 4 hours and we never saw a single one……saw LOTS of dolphins (which actually are much more fun than whales, anyway), but no whales! AND…..because of the high winds and rain, the water was VERY rough — we spent the whole time hanging on for dear life to keep from falling. So, I wasn’t even able to get any good photos of the dolphins we saw! But, it wasn’t a total loss — I did enjoy the dolphins!
Our ship from the shore……we were one of four cruise ships in port while we were there!
Later in the evening, I went ashore, again, for another group excursion — we walked across the inlet to a local restaurant for a Portuguese dinner and traditional folk song/dance show. It was amazing!!! We had such a good time and the food was delicious!
Yam Cream Soup with Crispy Shrimp and Coriander Sauce —- YUM!!!!
Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Mousse, greens, and an amazing sauce —- sooooooo good!!!
Fresh Cream with Sweet Egg and Toasted Almonds – awesome!!!
Our very sweet and handsome waiter
We had a private room just for those from our cruise ship that chose to attend — we had a wonderful view of our ship from the dining room across the inlet
The singers and dancers were wonderful — they explained the various traditional clothing and the meaning behind the dances and songs — very nice!
This guitar contains several traditional symbols that tell the story of their ancestors
Our ship from across the inlet at night after the dinner
The restaurant was in the Grand Hotel – the windows on the second floor is the dining room we had our dinner in
Luckily – this was our only yucky weather day for the entire trip. The next day the sun came out and it warmed up enough to just wear my jean jacket. AND…..I made the best decision on which shore excursion to do on which day!!! Maybe I missed out on seeing the whales and had a bit of a rough ride searching for them, but the people who did the country side tours on that first day didn’t get to see any of the beauty of the island because of the fog — they got up on the crater rim and couldn’t see any of the crater lakes or anything……that was sad!!! I, however, did the scenic tour on the second day when there was no fog, no rain, and LOTS of wonderful visibility!!! SCORE – AGAIN!!! LOL
Day two in Ponta Delgada – Daily Veranda Selfie…..
The shore excursion I booked for day two was a scenic country side tour. We toured the city of Ponta Delgada, stopped at a beautiful botanical garden (one of several city parks with botanical gardens on the island), visited a pineapple plantation, and stopped at the upper rim of one of the inactive volcanoes – inside are what is known as “twin lakes” – it is two small lakes separated by a narrow strait – one lake is blue one and one is green — more on that later!
The Botanical Gardens – although this was a very large and beautiful park, it is actually the SMALLEST of its kind on the island!!!
This was my best photo of the entire trip……I was attempting to take a photo of this amazing stone staircase and this young girl ran down the steps into my shot before I noticed her! I thought it ruined the shot and took another one without her…….but, this one was the keeper!!! Looks like something you’d see on a Harry Potter book cover, doesn’t it? 🙂
This is an ancient ficus tree…….when I think of ficus, I think of those trees we used to have as house plants back in the 70s and 80s – sometimes with white Christmas lights on them! LOL How’d you like one like this one in the corner of your living room???
The ficus from the other side
More of the country side from the bus window
The Pineapple Plantation – pineapples first came to the Azores as a decorative house plant – people loved the beautiful flower that blooms on the pineapple. Then, they realized they could grow them and export them. But, the climate isn’t right for growing pineapples in the ground, so they grow them in green houses! It takes 18-24 months to grow one fruit!
This is a pineapple root ready to plant in the green house
They need a lot of water, so there are large pools in the center of the green houses to use for watering the plants
The buckets are used to smoke the plants at certain stages of growth – they believe this helps them grow
A big product for them is Pineapple Liqueur — they gave out sample tastings – I tried it – it was VERY potent, but surprisingly tasty and mild going down!
One of many fields of cows we saw along the tour…….dairy is a major industry for them!
Sete Cidades – Crater Lakes – This is the second largest crater on the island and is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal! We drove to the rim of the crater to view the Sete Cidades Crater Lakes. Inside the crater are twin lakes separated by a narrow strait. When the weather conditions are right, you can see the “two” lakes take on different colors – one is blue and one is green. There is a legend explaining this phenomenon – I couldn’t remember what the legend was, so I looked it up — according to Wikipedia:
The ancient story recounts the tale of a bad-tempered widower King and his daughter in a Kingdom in the Western Sea. He was a King, Lord of Alchemy and sorcerer, who lived exclusively for his daughter, Antília, and who would not let the Princess speak to anyone. Apart from the King, the Princess was raised by an old nurse, after the Queen had died. As the years progressed, the princess grew up to be a beautiful young woman and able to attract the attentions of any boy in the kingdom. However, the King restricted her movements to the castle and garden, and few ever saw her. But, unintimidated by her father, and with the help of the nurse, she escaped to the local hills and valleys, as her father slept after his lunch. During one of her escape adventures, she heard a song: the music was beautiful and enchanted her to follow it to its origins. Hiding from view, the princess found a young shepherd playing a flute, sitting on top of a hill. For weeks she returned, listening to the young shepherd, until she was discovered behind some bushes. The shepherd boy fell in love with the princess, and they continued to meet afterwards, talking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company, until the boy decided to ask the princess in marriage.
Early in the morning, the couple knocked on the door of the Castle, and asked the servants to speak to the King. Very nervous but determined, the shepherd asked the King for his daughter in marriage. Reacting angrily, the King refused and expelled him from the Castle, and forbade his daughter from seeing the young boy. Not wishing more ill feelings, she followed the orders of her father, but met secretly with the shepherd that afternoon in order to tell him that she would never see him again. Antília and the shepherd boy cried all afternoon, embracing, and their tears formed two beautiful lakes, one green, for the Princess’s eyes were green, and the other blue, for the shepherd’s eyes were likewise colored.
In reality……there is an ecological reason that has more to do with how the water reflects its surroundings…..but, it is really cool to see the two different colored lakes side by side and the romantic side of me wants to believe the legend!!!!
A lake leading up to the rim of the crater
The conditions were perfect — we could see the two colors……but, unfortunately, they didn’t come out well in the photos I took!
This photo is the closest to showing what we saw…….it doesn’t do it justice at all, but it gives you an idea……it was so much more vivid and breathtaking in person!
It was an awesome day…….again, I am so very glad that I did the tours in the order I did — as much as I was disappointed I didn’t see a whale, I was so happy I got to see all the beautiful views on day two — missing THAT would have been a tragedy……the folks from the ship that did it the other way around did see several whales, but missed all this beauty!!! I was very blessed!!!
Pulling out of port……good bye, Sao Miguel…..I hope to return some day!!!
So — that’s the end of our first port of call…….after leaving the Azores, we had two full days at sea before we docked in Cork, Ireland! My next post will show you all the wonders of the amazing land of the Irish!
…your whale watch beats anything that I’ve seen!
Have you been whale watching in Hawaii? If not, you should……we had a blast doing it when I was in Hawaii and then in Alaska!!!