In the 80 percent range....AGAIN
On the rocks at the beach
As for my percentages on how I feel, I’m still running in the 80’s. Part of the day I feel great, then I’ll hit a wall and want to take a nap. I don’t take a nap, but it does slow me down. Laurie has been incredibly patient with me and I appreciate that, but I’ve been sick for a week now and I’m getting tired of it. I’m not coughing as much, and think I’m getting better, but still don’t feel totally right.
Laurie has told me if I’m not better by the time we get home, she is making me go to the doctor. She also had a dream last night that she was running around in Lisbon (our next stop) taking me to the hospital. It is my sincere hope that this dream does not come true. I don’t feel horrible, I just don’t feel great. Luckily, we have driven most places on the island which has made pushing on easier.
The arrow shows "our beach", where we are staying
Our plan today was to drive around, check out more of the island and at some point bathe in the hot springs. We are staying on the north shore in the middle of the island. If you consider the road around the island as a circle (it’s not but let’s say it is) we’ve driven the left half. Today we hope to do a fair part of the right half.
We head east along the shore and stop just a few miles up the road. Overlooks are everywhere and we stop at more than we pass. The view over the ocean and towns below is always gorgeous and never disappoints. It is misty and this lends a haze to the view, but it’s still great.
The swimming area /beach we explored
I’ll see a sign in Portuguese and make a guess as to what it actually says. We’ve figured out what a few words mean and one is “praia”, which means beach. Beach is also a relative term here as they may be rock instead of sand. There will be a pictograph on the sign showing a person swimming. We head down the road to check it out.
Laurie is always nervous when I head off on these side roads. While the main road is up on the top of the hill, the beach is of course at sea level. The road goes down very steep grades, and I’ve seen numbers on signs from 10 percent to 16 percent. We’ve driven up and down a few roads that have to be 30 percent in spots, maybe more. Just a tiny bit of moisture and you can’t go up them.
The bridge from the parking area, across the river, to the beach
We get to the beach area and it has parking, rest rooms, changing rooms, picnic tables, and grills. The pool fills up by wave action from the ocean and a fresh water stream flows into the ocean by the pool. It’s winter so no one is here and we have the place almost to ourselves with the exception of a local fishing. It’s also not really a beach but more of a jetty as there are few spots where you can actually enter the ocean.
It’s a gorgeous spot and would be a great place to cook out and take the family in the summer. We take photos, crawl around on the rocks, and just enjoy exploring. A cliff goes straight up from the ocean and I wish I could take a better photo. We’re shooting right into the sun, mist is coming up off the ocean, and while very nice to look at it doesn’t translate to photos.
The restroom at the beach, surrounded by succulents and aloe
We also notice huge areas of succulent plants. There are areas that look like grass but when you get close you notice that they are huge bunches of succulents. There are also a lot of aloe plants around the island as well. The plant life on the islands is fascinating.
We head back up and don’t travel far before we stop at another miradouro (overlook). There is a shelter and under the shelter and the surrounding area are, at our count, 19 cats. They’re everywhere! Calicos, stripey cats, they’re eating out of a huge pile of dry cat food under the shelter.
Cats everywhere, sharing a pile of cat food!
We’ve seen a lot of cats around the island. They appear to be strays or feral, but will let you pet them, are well fed, and seem healthy. We saw a similar situation in Croatia and like in Croatia, the locals love the cats and feed them. The cats seem to get along well with each other as well.
Our next stop is another overlook but this one is different. It isn’t just a small overlook but a collection of sculpted gardens with picnic areas. A crew is on site mowing and trimming, and the place is immaculate. I’m not a garden guy, but it’s pretty cool. It also has a restroom over the face of the cliff. In my opinion this restroom has the best public restroom view on the planet.
The best view from a public restroom that I know of
We continue our trip around the island and I try to take a dirt road up a mountain. There are huge ruts and washouts and our little putt putt car quickly bottoms out. Laurie is quick to point out that she recommended against going up this road, and while I think I can make it, I back out to make my wife happy.
We come into a town called Povoação. I copied and pasted the name from an internet search so I could get all of the accent marks on the word. We had lunch in a cafe, walked around in the town, and headed towards our last planned stop for the day, Furnas.
Our lunch place in Povoação
Furnas is the home of steam baths, steam vents, and mud pots. The volcanic activity is most evident in this area and we’ve seen mud pots and steam vents before when we visited Iceland. The vents and mud pots in Iceland had boardwalks where you could walk among the pots and vents and were fascinating. It was one of the high points to our Iceland visit…...but I cannot say the same about Furnas.
All steam vents and mud pots have a distinct smell. I can best describe it as a boiled egg fart mixed with a burning tire. It’s pretty funky and very distinct. We smell this as soon as we step out of the car. We see plumes of steam rising up so it’s easy to know where we need to go.
Laurie said the shepherd is telling the sheep to stay away from the steam vents or it will cook them alive. Decorating steam vents for Christmas seemed so odd.
We walk through the steam vents and, for the first time on this trip, we are disappointed. The steam vents are behind walls and you can’t get very close. As it is the holiday season, whoever is in charge decided to put plywood cutouts of the nativity, Roman soldiers, castles, sheep, wise men, etc. randomly around the vents and mud pots. After seeing a well thought out and tasteful nativity in one of the towns where everything was handmade....this just seemed cheezy.
We don’t spend long here and leave as soon as possible. The steam vents weren’t that impressive and the fact that they were obviously pandering just made it worse. But walking through the area, we did find out that the fumes irritated Laurie’s eye.
The wise men at the cool nativity scene NOT at the steam vents
Most of you know that Laurie has issues with her eye and we don’t want to do anything to bother it. Consequently, we decide to pass on bathing in the hot springs and head back to the apartment.
Tomorrow, we fly to Lisbon. This is our last full day in the Azores and for me, it’s been the highlight of the trip so far. There are a couple places I would love to go back and visit, like Iceland. Let’s add the Azores to the list. Laurie has a bit to say about the Azores as well and it is below. Goodnight everyone.
Laurie's thoughts on the Azores
Manicured gardens at a roadside park
Sao Miguel, the island we have spent the last 4 days on, has been the highlight of our trip for me. It is the biggest, most populated and easiest to get to, of the Azores. These islands were formed by volcanoes and have been inhabited for centuries. There are amazing views from on top of the mountains. Small towns nestle along the coast and there really isn’t much undeveloped land that we saw. We didn’t explore the interior of the island due to lack of time so I don’t know how much of that is natural forest.
This is a hiker’s paradise. You can literally hike the entire island. We didn’t do any real hiking because Bill has been sick the whole time. We rented a tiny Fiat that has done very well getting us around. It has climbed up and down steep hills and around hairpin curves. Because the towns are old, the streets are very narrow, and gas prices are very high, all the cars are small. Locals drive very fast, clearly with confidence and guts.
The lighthouse in "Nordeste" (Northeast)
People who know me know that I drink a lot of water. Consequently, I am always looking for a place to pee. Finding public restrooms in Europe is always a challenge and they almost always cost anywhere from 20 cents to 1 Euro. This little island has public restrooms everywhere - free and relatively clean. Cleaner than any we found in Porto. All the parks have public restrooms, each town has at least one, and all the swimming places have them too. I love it.
In general, everywhere was clean and well cared for. The public parks, look outs (places to pull over and see the view), etc were all very clean and well groomed. Cats are everywhere - and most of them seemed well fed. One park we stopped at had 19 cats that we saw, and someone had opened a big bag of dry food and surrounded a shelter column with it. At our last stop to see a lake, there was a kiosk and I asked the woman there who feeds the cats. She indicated that she and her husband do - he was raking the dirt in front of the kiosk. Reminded me of Dubrovnik, another cat loving place. How can you not love a cat lover’s paradise.
Everything is FAR
It was a relief to get out of a city and come here. Porto was OK. People weren’t unfriendly, but they also weren’t really warm toward tourists. And that’s OK. I don’t feel like I need to go back. Nothing really grabbed me there. It didn’t help that Bill got sick, we didn’t sleep well because of that, and I got really sick the last morning we were there.
Being sick traveling sucks. It makes me just want to go home. Luckily, mine didn’t last since I was throwing up. It is very unusual for me to get a stomach thing so I have no idea what caused it. But I haven’t had anything alcoholic since then. I don’t generally drink much at home, and Port wine is something I have never really drank. So lesson learned, stick to what you know.
Views like this everywhere you go
Having our own apartment here has also been a real relief. Being able to spread out some, have our own little kitchen, and not needing to be anywhere at any time has helped us recover and enjoy this place. I absolutely love hearing the ocean when I go to sleep. Waking up to the sound and the view has been wonderful.We didn’t really spend time in the only city on the island, just went in to do laundry and had dinner Sunday night. We came here for the natural beauty, not the city. Honestly if I could stay here and skip Lisbon I would. But then again, Lisbon may be great.