Gordon:  As our ferry approached the harbour at Velas, on the island of São Jorge, I was struck by how charming it appeared, nestled on a slope between a couple of volcanic cones.  This impression remained as we wandered through the historic area near the harbour.  The main square includes a fountain with a basalt sculpture of a dragon (the island is named after St. George, after all.)  The smaller square beside the town hall is the cutest one we have seen in the Azores.  In fact, I believe Velas is overall the most attractive major town that we have visited in these islands.

We took the ferry from Faial to São Jorge two days ago.  This is the last of the three islands that we are visiting on this trip.  Ruth has been struggling with back problems, so we opted to leave our bikes in Horta and travel on São Jorge by rental car.  Quite apart from Ruth’s back issues, the decision not to cycle was quickly shown to be a good one, as São Jorge is a very steep island.  It has the footprint of a battleship, being long and narrow.  The analogy continues in profile, because it has steep sides on all coasts, and a high, central “deck” running its entire length.
Yesterday morning we stayed in town for a Carnaval parade.  Lent starts next week, and, according to a local, every night between now and then will see a banquet and dance at one of the communities on the island.  The parade we watched was organized by the schools on the island.  It started with the youngest students and finished with the oldest, each group dressed in similar costumes.  There was a good turnout of adoring parents and supportive neighbours.

Afterwards, we drove up to the spine of the island, where one of the formal trails has its starting point.  The trail followed a remarkably diverse course in its 17 km length, going along the height of land, including the island’s highest point (Pico da Esperança, 1050 metres) before plunging down to the north coast.  The clouds toyed with me at the top of the island, periodically parting to reveal that I had stumbled into Middle Earth.  My destination, Ouvidor, is a picturesque village located on a basalt fajã (coastal plain).  After the four hour hike we enjoyed a pleasant dinner in a restaurant overlooking the sea.

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