This is the third post in an eight post series about my recent Transatlantic cruise and Adventures in Europe! If you’re just tying in, don’t worry, all these posts can standalone by themselves. If you would like to see the rest of the series and any discussion about the trip, you can find it here.
Today, I want to tell you beautiful people about the Azores Islands. The Azores were our first stop off the ship after a five day period of confinement and waves. I think I can speak for all the passengers when I say I think we were all happy to finally be ashore!
We arrived to the islands on a rainy day, which was the theme for much of the trip. Immediately, I was struck by the beautiful of Sao Miguel and its port city, Ponta Delgada.
I’m a complete nerd for beautiful architecture. It drives my husband mad, because as we’re house-hunting he points out to me that the gorgeous Victorians and Colonials are usually from the last 1800s and a terrible idea for a first-time homebuyer. *sigh* The whitewashed buildings of Ponta Delgada stole my breath after days and days of nothing but fog, water, and meager sunshine.
Our excusion for the day was to the Furnas Valley. Small background on the area: the Furnas Valley is located in one of three trachytic volcanoes on the island. The landscapes are filled with geysers and hot springs, and a large lake known as Lagoa Das Furnas. It’s a shockingly beautiful area.
We stopped first at the Gorreana Tea Plantation. Gorreana is the only tea factory in Europe still in production, and to this day there are still many aspects of tea production that are managed by hand. This particular factory produces black, green, and more recently Earl Grey tea. The entire factory smelled sweet and spiced and incredible.
While there, our tour guide talked us through the various aspects of tea production, from picking to packaging. At the end we all had a lovely cup of tea, which was fresh and delicious. Because we were a tour boat of 5000 passengers and there were 10 different buses headed to the plantation, everything was quite crowded and they only had green tea available when our group reached the testing area.
After the tea plantation, we made our way to Caldeiras Das Furnas. It’s an area filled with bubbling volcanic pools and cooking holes were the cozido das caldieras was cooked. The entire area smelled of sulfur, which took me completely by surprise. I suppose knowing it was a volcanic zone, I ought to have known it would smell like that.
Still, the area was intriguing and crawling with cats! At this point, I had started to miss my own fluffy friends, so it was lovely to see the kitties lounging all over the warm ground.
So, yeah. We went all the way to the Azores, and one my favorite things was the cats.
Afterwards, we went to our lunch of cozido das caldieras. My husband loved it. I was not such a big fan. I like to think that I’m willing to eat anything, but if this trip to Europe taught me one thing, it’s that I am actually quite picky. The cozido das caldieras was hearty, and there was so much food. Loaded with six different kinds of vegetables and just as much meat. I ate the pork and some of the chicken, and carrot and cabbage and potatoes. The rest I bequeathed to Mattie, who was more than happy to humor me.
It wasn’t bad, don’t misunderstand. I am learning that I quite like spiced food and there was nothing but natural, boiled flavor in the cozidos. Not my preference.
You’ll find this is a theme as we visit various countries – I enjoy all the food I picked myself, and was relatively disappointed in the lunches that were included with tours. Which is just fine, because we learned for the next cruise!
After lunch, we began the journey back to the ship. For that, we were rewarded with more incredible views as the weather shifted between sunshine and rain.
As it turns out, there are quite a lot of cows in Sao Miguel. Also, a lot of high roads without much of a barrier between the road’s edge and certain death. I’m certainly glad I wasn’t driving!
Overall, the island of Sao Miguel absolutely took my breath away. The landscape was incredible and pulled at my heart. I would definitely revisit the Azores and explore further. It was doubly delightful because this particular port was one I had no opinion about whatsoever. I can absolutely and whole heartedly recommend visiting the Azores. Even on a rainy, foggy day, it was breathtaking.
Next week, I’ll share with you our adventures in Ireland!