Friday, October 31, 2014

The Green Island, Sao Miguel, Azores

We enjoyed a sea day between the ports of Lisbon and Ponta Delgada in the Azores. These beautiful pink cotton candy clouds were on one side of the ship.

While the sun came up on the other side...

A view of the city of Ponta Delgada as we arrived...the Azores are made up of nine volcanic islands and the island of Sao Miguel is the largest. The Azores are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Europe and America. Ponta Delgada is also the largest city on any of the nine islands with a population of about 45,000.

As we set out to go ashore, we stopped to admire the carved pumpkins and the ship beautifully decorated for Halloween. 

The chef?

Frankenstein with an oil can...look at the tongue on the chef!

This was our view of the pier with the many buses ready to take people out on tours. There were at least that many on the other side of the pier as well.

Once again we had a private tour organized and our guide, Pedro, was waiting for us as planned. Our first impression of Ponta Delgada was that it was extremely clean.

This building used to be a hospital and is now a seniors' residence.

Some impressive artwork...

This was our first look at these amazing stone walls. On the island, there are two ways to partition land--one is with these stone walls, and the other is with natural fences of hydrangeas. The stone walls are put together without any mortar and have been standing for hundreds of years. Amazing!

We were heading to Sete Cidadas, the twin lakes.

One thing you’ll see lots of in the Azores is cows. The largest industry is cattle and milk, followed by fishing, and then tourism. They are working very hard to increase tourism. Pedro told us several times that they have 4 hour direct flights to Boston or 2 hour flights to Lisbon. Many people from the Azores have settled in Boston. So even though they're in the middle of the ocean, they are easily accessed from Europe and America.

Here are some of the natural fences of hydrangeas which are seen all over the island. They bloom in June and July, and are mostly blue and pink. It would be something to see them in bloom.

No wonder it's called the "Green Island." Look at this natural beauty. It kind of reminded me of Ireland.

Stunning rolling hills leading to the ocean...

This was easily one of the prettiest places we've ever been...

Another picture perfect day...we have had the most amazing weather on this trip.

This aqueduct made with stones is now covered with vegetation. This was their original method of getting water into the city. Now their water is supplied by a desalination plant.

Some of the cows seemed more like mountain goats...

Our first stop was Lagoa do Canario, a lake that is a popular spot for hikers. It was a bit of challenging trip down with tree roots that provide natural steps.

Gorgeous and peaceful...

We were getting up quite high. This was our first view of the big crater or caldera. Everywhere we looked the scenery was stunning.


The town inside the crater has a population of 800.

The twin lakes inside the crater...the one on the far side is blue and the one closest to us is shallower and green. The lakes are divided by a narrow passage with a bridge.

We stopped here at a lookout. This is a hotel that was built overlooking the crater. You would think that would be a real draw for tourists, but unfortunately a good part of the time you can’t see the crater because of fog. The hotel only survived for two years. People prefer to stay in town where there are restaurants and shops, and drive up to see the crater if it’s a nice day.

The crater and the lake...

This was just breathtaking...

Pedro remarked that they often equate cruise ships with rain. He said we were lucky to have such a great day. Sometimes they get up to the top and can't see the crater because of low hanging clouds or fog.

On one side of the lookout was the crater, and on the other side was a view going down to the ocean. This island is a little paradise.

Indeed...

The view on the other side of the lookout...

Our van for the day...

Pedro on the left talking with one of his partners...

Stunning...

You don't get all this greenery without a lot of rain though...

We were heading down now...from this lookout you could see the lakes and the bridge.

A group photo: Ted and Janice; Steve and Wendy; Steve and Karen; Jim and Kim, Les and Suzanne; Josie and Larry; Ed.

This is Santiago Lake, a crater within the crater. The colour reminded me a lot of glacial water.


Here we are at the bottom about to go across the bridge between the two lakes. I personally didn't notice a huge difference in colour between them, but did see some other photos on-line where it was more evident. According to legend, the coloured lakes were created when a princess and her lover, a young shepherd, were separated from each other when the King didn’t approve of the romance. The tears they shed at their farewell became the two lakes, with the water coloured like their eyes.

Our next stop was the little town of 800 residents. Someone had asked Pedro about the crime rate on the island and he said it's very low as everyone knows everyone, and you wouldn't get away with much.

We stopped for a washroom break and a chance to look around. The sign for the church...

Which we wandered over to...


The church was very interesting in that everything on the walls had to do with the crucifixion...





With this life size figure at the back of the church...

 We were welcomed at the local bar to use their washroom facilities.

We were heading back to the city...you could see these huge rock formations close to the shore...

The scenic drive...

An abandoned windmill on the hilltop...

We drove through many little villages...

Each village starts with a church and then houses are built up around it.

Neat trees...there were pink lilies on the side of the road, which they call "girls go to school," as they bloom when school starts.

Beautiful homes in this village...Pedro said right now the homes are very cheap. I'm not sure what cheap is by their standards.

The airport is very close to Ponta Delgada with their own airline, Sata.

Back into the city...

Our last stop was at a pineapple plantation. The system is unique in that they are grown in hothouses. Each pineapple takes two years to mature.

Pineapple plantation...


Never mind the pineapples...I spotted a cat. Look at its cool markings. Sadly, the cat was very intent on something in the grass and he was quite good at pretending not to see me.

Pedro explaining the life cycle of a pineapple. He said the next time you’re eating a pineapple enjoy it, because it took two years to grow. You could smell the sweetness of the fruit. They are picked when they are ripe and are not exported.

The glass roofs are painted white to reduce the amount of sun beating down on the plants.

Inside the hothouse...

The pineapples are smaller and sweeter than those grown in other areas...


Time to head back to the ship...look at the workmanship in this wall. Perfectly flat...how do they do that?

Back in Ponta Delgada we had some time to spare before getting back on the ship.

We went with Josie and Larry in search of the usual stamps and a place to mail postcards. You could take a tour of the area with the horse and carriage.

This is the church in the main square...everything was so clean.

Marina at the cruise terminal...

That was a day of some of the most spectacular scenery we've ever seen. And now, four wonderful sea days before we reach Bermuda.


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