I am starting to believe that Flores Island is actually the lost world of Atlantis. It turns out that the world is not in itself lost, but the people who find themselves here run the risk of never returning to their homes. Take our host Neil, who came here with his wife twelve years ago for a short holiday. On a lark, they looked at a house that was for sale and the island’s magical force began to tangle them in the ivy that would hold them here. Their house in Edinburgh was sold and roots were quickly grown in this little village. Stories like this are not uncommon. This morning we met a guy from Finland who claimed he had to get away from the Zoloft haze of Finland to finally discover unmedicated happiness here. No, he will not return, he firmly reported. Now his trilingual toddler is making new friends at the local grocery store/bar/meeting place. The owner of the grocery store speaks perfect English and describes her abandonment of the Bay Area in California to return here permanently. I can feel the pull myself as I Google real estate listings to see if there is a tempting house waiting for Gord and I.
A view of Corvo, the smallest island in the Azores, population 400.
The current population of Flores is less than 5,000, down from more than twice that number 150 years ago. The smart ones either never left or returned. As a toothless local with a Boston accent said, “There’s no money here, but I got cows, chickens, a lot of land and my pension.” When I asked the bar owner if he was from here, he said, “I’m from this island, from this town and from this house. I was born in this house.”