Gordon: Our visit to the Azores has coincided with an extended period of unseasonably poor weather. When we arrived at the beginning of February the locals were talking about the great winter they were enjoying. That changed almost immediately, and since then it has rained almost every day. There have also been periods of near record low temperatures, though from a Canadian perspective they were still quite pleasant. The long term forecast is for more of the same. While we would rather have better weather, we have enjoyed ourselves very much, and we will happily return to the Azores. Here are a few reasons why we like these islands.
In Calheta de Nesquim, where we stayed for eight days, there is an older, avuncular neighbour who came by each evening to feed and sit with our landlord’s cats when she was working elsewhere on the island. He is one of the few people we have met whose English is poorer than my Portuguese, so we would chat a bit in Portuguese. On the evening before our departure I told him that we had to leave the following morning. He gave me a warm handshake and told me how much he hoped we would be back next year.
We cycled the length of Pico on a very windy day. At one point we turned down a short side road to visit a viewpoint overlooking the sea. The scene along the shore was primeval, with foaming white water surging and crashing over lifeless black basalt. Much of the coastline on Earth must have looked like this during the first two billion years of our planet’s history. After a few minutes if oohing and aawing, our glasses were covered with salt spray. Looking about through the haze, I noticed a sign for a washroom. Seriously doubting that it would be open, I went over to give the door a tug. To my surprise, it was in fact open, and moreover, well-supplied with soap, toilet paper and paper towels. Coming from a province where we are constantly told that we cannot afford public services, the level of free, public infrastructure in the Azores is astounding. In addition to the numerous washrooms, there are frequent roadside rest areas and viewpoints that are meticulously maintained. Many are horticultural marvels. Almost every village on the sea also has a public swimming area. These generally involve some modification of the shoreline to allow access to the water, but they are typically scenic and charming, with the open sea metres away from a safe swimming area.
On our cycle along the coast we escaped one rainshower by ducking into a posh bakery. Like many bakeries, this one was also setup as a cafe. We each ordered a chicken sandwich from the display case. Made with a pastry dough, and filled with chunks of chicken in a sauce, it was sublime. Encouraged by this delight, we went on to share an enormous piece of “the French cake,” chased by rich espressos. It was so good we ordered the same again to takeaway (minus the coffee). Throughout the lunch the server chatted entertainingly with us. She also complimented me on my Portuguese, which always gets me chuffed. The bill for two excellent meals for two people: 11 euros, less than $17 Canadian.
Although we have no interest in purchasing a second home in Europe, if we were to do so it would probably be in the Azores. As the neighbour in Calheta suggested, what we will do is return again.
Ruth: Gord chatting up one of the rare uncommunicative locals. He was trying to warn her of the dangers of wearing the traditional capote in modern crosswalks.