Still in the 80's
Sete Cidades, a pair of lakes in the crater of a dormant volcano
I’m still in the 80 percentile range on how I feel. My voice hasn’t come back and I coughed a lot at night, but I’m still plugging along. One of our readers sent me an email and commented that she liked that I wrote about what it was really like traveling, and that it wasn’t all perfection and bliss like other travel writings. She said it was more real than things she had read that only mentioned the good stuff.
The reality is, we’re human. We get tired, we get sick. It is part of the experience we are having, and I want readers to understand that you will run into adversity when you travel. I also want them to understand that you can overcome it and still have a good trip. Yeah…..it’s a pain. But you deal and keep on going. Don’t be afraid to travel just because it may not be a perfect experience. Few things in life are.
Fog bank rolling in on the Bluesmobile
After my coughing a fair part of the night we got up and it was still raining. We’ve dealt with weather this trip but this afternoon it was supposed to clear off. We head out driving west on the coastal road, with flexible plans to adapt to changing weather. The weather will dictate what we see and do.
We planned on going to the hot springs if the rain continued, but about 30 minutes into our journey the weather cleared up and we actually started seeing sunshine. It was patchy and intermittent but it was sunshine. We caught a pop up shower and a bit of fog here and there, but you deal with it, just like you deal with not feeling well. You have to adapt to the reality of what is going on and not what you wish was going on.
Our place, looking up from the beach
The weather affords us large sections of the day where we have great visibility and it isn’t raining. We drive through whatever coastal village catches our eye, stopping at “miradouras” all along the way. “Miradoura” is Portuguese for overlook or viewpoint, and they have a lot of them here. From them, you can see a long way, and watch a wall of fog or rain bear down on you.
We drive tight streets where people park on the sidewalks, or in random patterns that we can’t figure out. It’s like driving on one way streets where traffic is two way. There is often only one travel lane and if you meet someone, one of you has to back up and let the other pass. We will be driving down a main highway and suddenly run upon a car parked in the travel lane with no one around. The rules for parking here seem flexible, IF there are any rules at all.
Elephant rock. Yeah, you can see it.....sort of.....
In one of the larger towns we wind up eating lunch in a bar near the water. We meet two couples from Wisconsin and chat with them a bit. They seemed like nice folks and I gave them one of our cards with the website on it. If they happen to read the blog, they’ll notice we wrote about them!
Our lunch consists of hamburgers and french fries. We read in travel books that most cuisine on the island is “uninspired” and nothing adventurous. It is simple fare and sometimes a bit bland. The oddest thing is most of the vegetables and such with meals are frozen or canned, very odd considering the Azores are a major grower of fresh produce.
A tidal pool in a small town. Warm thermal water feeds in and mixes with cooler sea water.
We continue west, and continue randomly stopping at places that catch our eye. We see overlooks with small block buildings looking out to sea. At first, I thought these were military outlooks at some point. I eventually figured out that these were for whale watching. A person would sit in the little building looking out to sea. When they saw a whale they would relay the information to others who would go out and hunt the whale.
Whaling didn’t stop in the Azores until the 1980’s. It was a major industry and we saw the remains of a whale processing plant, and winches used to pull the whale up a ramp from the ocean so it could be brought to the factory to be processed. Most if not all of these factories have been torn down or abandoned. There are a few old whalers who are still alive, but they are in their 80’s.
A watch house where whalers watched the sea for whales to hunt
We eventually arrive at Sete Cidades, the most photographed and most popular attraction on Sao Miguel island. Sete Cidades are twin lakes that are in the crater of a dormant volcano. We drive up and over the dormant volcano to see them.
We wanted to hike some but we arrived later in the day. The parking lots at the trail head were all full, it was late. On and off during the day, I would just sort of hit a wall. I would suddenly feel bad and it would slow me down. I was hitting a wall...so we decided instead of hiking we would go to one of the other overlooks.
Sete Cidades, the lakes in the volcano crater
There are really great views by an abandoned hotel on one of the ridges. It was called the Monte Palace Hotel, built in 1989, and was one of the nicest hotels in Portugal when it was built. It has fantastic views, but the hotel failed and was closed a year after it opened. It was apparently before it’s time and they couldn’t get people to stay there.
It fell into disrepair and became derelict. The building has been stripped and it’s really not safe to go in. Many “urban explorers” do go in, but I’ve built buildings my entire life. While people wanting to explore only see the adventure, I see thousands of ways to be killed or injured. Access would also involve some rather sketchy climbing, so we stick to the public overlooks which are still fantastic.
The abandoned Monte Palace Hotel
We decide to head into Ponte Delgado for dinner then back to the place we’re staying. We had good seafood. Laurie really enjoyed clams cooked in white wine, while I had fried shrimp. I expected breaded and deep fried, but what I got was whole shrimp sauteed in a light red sauce. It was not what was expected but it was very good.
We head back and call it a day. Tomorrow is our last full day and we plan on wrapping up a few things we haven’t done. We’ll probably do a bit more exploring as well. And I’m hoping to feel better than 80 percent tomorrow. Goodnight everyone!