Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Portugal


Scenic Views

Hubby at tea factory
Marco explaining the tea growing process...
Workers sorting tea leaves

Tea Plantation
Scenic view
City Gates
City Center 
Sete Cidades 
Sete Cidades
Caldeira Velho
Overlook
Breathtaking Views
Frunas 
Firelake
Furnas 
Where do I begin to explain the beautiful island of, Sao Miguel! There are simply not enough adjectives in my vocabulary to describe Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal, or do it justice. It is lush along with flourishing fauna, therefore known as “green island,” due to it’s mild climate and substantial rainfall. Green, however, in more ways than one, very energy conscious, 60% energy efficient. Geothermal energy and wind turbines help to make this possible. 
Sao Miguel, is part of the Portuguese archipelago and the largest of the Azorean Islands. It was devastated in 1546 by an earthquake. Today it depends on tourism, agriculture and fishing for it’s economic survival. It is an autonomous possession of Portugal.
We docked at 7:30AM and were enveloped by land on three sides, a welcomed sight. 
We met our guide Marco Pavo, upon exiting the ship. We had cancelled our tour through Holland America, because of reported weather conditions. If it is foggy you will see nothing, we had heard from other passengers. Our plan, was then to walk around town and visit some of the churches and enjoy the feast of Santo Christo, which is held here once a year. 
Marco, (who I dubbed Marco Polo, for the day) convinced us otherwise. The weather will be fine, he promised, as the sun was peeking through. He offered us a tour encompassing into one tour, three of the cruise ships destinations. Fifty euro was the price pp, if he could acquire two more couples, which he did successfully. Deal of the century as the same tour through the ship, for six people hiring a private minivan, was $1354.00 US, for seven hours. Marco, had been dockside since 3:30AM, enabling him to be first in line, insuring employment for the day. It is said that there is a 17% unemployment rate here. 
Marco Polo was a very enjoyable chap with a great sense of humor. He found my limited Portuguese vocabulary, very amusing.
So there we were, six unsuspecting and trusting souls, in for a ride, filled with adventure. Our vehicle, a nine passenger Mercedes van, with hopefully great breaks. We drove a short way through the city. The streets were paved with marble and basalt in mosaic patterns. The beaches adorned, with a formal black sand. The islands are said to be the remains, of the, Lost City of Atlantis.
Our first stop, Sete Cidades Crater Lakes, located atop a rosary bead height mountain! A few Hail Mary’s on the way up, folks! The views of the countryside, breathtaking! Very pastoral, tended to by local shepherds looking after their flock of sheep, but mostly cows. The roads lined on either side with hydrangea, mile after mile. Chemicals and fertilizers are not aloud on the hillsides. The island, organic and definitely a ride back through time. So neat clean and organized, fields separated by stone walls and gardens laid out in a haphazard grid-like fashion. 
Marco Polo, our delightful guide, relayed the following information. “Sete Cidades (seven cities) is filled with legend, myth has it that it was destroyed seven times by volcanic eruptions.” It was cold, a bit rainy and very windy here, but probably the most beautiful sight I have ever witnessed. The lakes take on two different colors on a brighter day, one blue and one green! Marco, tells the legend of a beautiful princess, who was kept hidden by her father the king, so that she would not marry a commoner. Of course she falls in love with a shepherd boy. When forced to abandon him, she fills the first lake with her tears and he, the shepherd boy, fills the second lake with his. The color of the lakes represents the color of their eyes. The bridge in the middle represents the king who broke off the forbidden love. The big mush that I am, I began to cry! REALLY!!! 
You can google these legends for more accurate information. I cannot research online as it would be cost prohibitive. The internet is very expensive aboard ship! 
We stopped at several viewing, overlooks on our way to Caldeira Velho. The ocean visible from almost any turn. Spectacular! 
Caldeira Velho, is the, for the lack of a better description, the boiling water falls. Signs, warning of the boiling water temperatures in this area, were highly visible. A short, lung exercising walk, up a hill to view this phenomena. Water boiling in the ground creating little pools all around us. Frogs croaking loudly were a very distinctive sound. Not sure if they were accidentally taking a steam bath or not??? The air much warmer here, clear and crisp, the sun was now shining brightly. The smell of sulfur scented the air. An exhilarating experience! 
A few more overlooks and then on to Firelake for more breathtaking and panoramic views. There are also pineapple plantations in this area. We did not stop there. Sensory overload by this time!
Up the mountain, then down the mountain though the Botanical Gardens, where we soaked our feet in the mineral springs. The water a bit hot, but a fun experience. Lucky for us Marco, brought a towel and also bottled water.
We then visited the, Furnas Valley and Hot Springs. Here they place a panela (Portuguese, for a large pan) into a concrete rimed, reinforced steaming hole in the ground. Several meats layered, along with different vegetables, covered by a lid, are then placed in the hole, covered with dirt and clearly marked for timing. It takes about six hours to naturally steam in the ground. Marco, assured us that it was delicious. Families come and enjoy the feast sitting at surrounding picnic tables close by. We enjoyed locally grown pineapple from a vendor. Sweet, ripe and o so good. It is said that the Royal Family of England, only eat pineapple from Sao Miguel. Very interesting, Marco Polo. 
On to the tea factory. We enjoyed locally grown teas and met with some of the locals at work. The tea plantation was so neat and organized, a memorable sight. Blue skies and calm oceans waters as the ultimate, backdrop. Back up one of the many mountains to view a wide expanse of the island. Once again, breathtaking and panoramic views. This last tour alone, was $189.00 US, pp, for four hours by motor coach, through the ship.
It was now about 3:30PM and we were warned not to miss our ship, as they would not wait for us. Boarding time was 4:30PM. I still wanted to view the city of Ponta Delgada and visit a church, but time would not allow. Marco, so kind, drove us by the City Gates so that I could get a few photos. 
We just loved his spirit, he created for us a most remarkable day! Thank you kind sir! So glad this young man is studying and getting an education! His English, very understandable and he, very knowledgeable. 
We arrived back at the ship at 4:15PM, just in the nick of time. My only regret, I did not text or call our children, from a free wi-fi area. Next port, I promise kids! We love you so! XXOO

Lessons learned: Sometimes I feel like a schmuck, compared to all the brilliance aboard  this ship. I keep on asking appropriate questions and they just keep on talking about themselves! Think I’m doing pretty good! 
Wisdom: Think I used it up, in lessons learned!

I would like to thank the persons responsible for changing the day of the week rugs in the elevators. Without this service I would have no clue. 

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4 comments:

Gail Dixon (La.Belle) said...

Oh my GOSH! What a magnificent place. So glad you are enjoying yourself. :)

Deanna said...

Oh thank you, thank you, thank you for taking us along on your beautiful journey!! I am so enjoying your sites.

TexWisGirl said...

gorgeous views! what a marvelous countryside! loved the tea plantation!

Charlotte Wilson said...

Rosemary,
This is a trip of a lifetime! The tours are expensive all right but the shots and experiences you will have forever! So glad that you are having fun!

charlotte

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