40th (Ruby) Wedding Anniversary Cruise

Azores - Sao Miguel

DAY 5 - 9/2/2018 Landed in PONTA DELGADA, SAO MIGUEL, THE AZORES

It was our 40th Wedding Anniversary treat, what you might call our Ruby cruise! We landed in Ponta Delgada and went along slightly early for our Fire Lakes and Mountains excursionand were sent away by our lovely Travel department, luckily we came back early as the coach left 15 minutes early. They failed us on so many occasions we just took no notice of them ever after #thebrokenpromisesbrigade. Anyhow we had a lovely trip to give us a feel of Sao Migual stopping at the Pineapple plantation, that and fresh milk (exported to Madiera etc) are the main produce. We stopped at Ribeira Grande where we were lucky enough to see the kids parading in the Carnival festival (there version of the one in Brazil). Our guide was wonderful. We then climbed up to the highest point on the island, such lush rainforest vegetation , but with low cloud could see nought. Returning to Ponta Delgada we walked along the sea front and into the main town, it was very sunny and we finished with carnival fave Malassada & coffee and good it was too. If you would like to read the detailed BLOG of the trip including the Captains log please CLICK HERE

Your guide to Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada is situated on Sao Miguel island in the Azores. The island’s rugged jutting out into the ocean, sheer cliffs dropping into the sea and sheltered coves, vegetation are reflected in beautiful lakes within the craters of extinct volcanoes.

The Azores are a remote Portuguese, volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, consisting of nine islands divided into three groups. They are on approximately the same latitude as Lisbon and Washington DC, and lie about 760 miles west of Portugal.

The date of the discovery of the Azores remains somewhat uncertain, although Arabian geographers in the 12th and 14th centuries made mention of several islands in the Western Ocean, other than the Canaries. They also noted that these islands appeared to be inhabited by a large number of birds of prey, and it is from this reference that the present name is derived. The Portuguese word for hawk is agor.

Gongalo Valho Cabral brought in the first Portuguese settlers in 1439, but from 1580 to 1640 the islands were subject, like the rest of the Portuguese kingdom, to Spain. During this time they became an important meeting place for Spanish treasure fleets homeward bound from the Indies, and they were a place of maritime warfare between the English and Peninsular powers. In 1591, just off the coast of Flores, a famous sea battle took place between the Revenge (commanded by Sir Richard Grenville) and a Spanish fleet of 53 ships.

The islands of the Azores are volcanic in origin and have been shaped into their present form by various geographical phenomena. Fortunately, earthquakes of major consequence are extremely rare, particularly in the Eastern Azores, and there have been no recorded volcanic eruptions since 1957.

The Azores have a temperate climate due to their location in relation to the Gulf Stream and there’s an annual mean temperature of 64°F (18°C). The coldest month is February and the warmest month is August, when the temperature rises into the 80s°F (approx 27°C). The best time of year to visit the Azores is April to October. During the winter, they are renowned for being rather damp and occasional southwesterly gales are known to blow in.

The vegetation is remarkably beautiful and varied, and practically anything which grows in temperate or subtropical zones absolutely flourishes. The Azores abound in wonderful woodlands, groves of camellia trees, cannas, and azaleas, forests of tree ferns, tea plantations, splendid pastures and hedgerows of blue hydrangeas. Land commands a high price owing to • the possibility of getting three to four crops from it every year.

Sao Miguel (St Michael's) has been christened “The Green Island”, and the explosively fertile soil has earned the island this popular nickname.

The most important trade is that of dairy products and live cattle, both of which are exported to the island of Madeira and Portugal. Other exports include beet-sugar, alcohol, tea, tobacco, cereals and tinned fish.

The production and export of pineapples is also a trade of major importance to the Azores, and there are several pineapple establishments in the suburbs of Ponta Delgada and Vila Franca do Campo, on the south coast. Pineapples are only grown on Sao Miguel under glass, with no artificial heat being used and it takes around 24 months to obtain a fruit ready for the market. Exports from Ponta Delgada tota approximately one and a half million fruits a year. Owing to their exceptionally fine quality and careful selection, Sao Miguel pineapples fetch good prices in Lisbon and several other European markets.

There are many hot springs of great interest in the Azores, as a result of the volcanic origin of the archipelago. Of special note are the spas of Furnas on Sao Miguel, Varadouro on Faial and Carapacho on Graciosa. There are also many springs of mineral rich, medicinal waters; some of which are tapped commercially.

coastline is a mixture of headlands Mountains and valleys covered in lush

BEYOND PONTA DELGADA

Sete Cidades

10 miles North West of Ponta Delgada, means Seven Cities. Whether these existed at one time or not no one knows, but visitors come to admire the ethereal beauty of the area’s two lakes that lay in a circumference of eight miles. Sete Cidades is one of the smallest parishes of Ponta Delgada by population and also the largest in area because it’s located in the centre of a massive volcanic crater (three miles across) that’s also referred to as Sete Cidades.

The natural setting of this part of the Island is enchanting and will appeal to any nature lover or budding photographer.

Fire Lake

15 miles east of Ponta Delgada, in the centre of the island, is Fire Lake; in the crater of another extinct volcano. For more than 400 years, the crater has been filled with fresh, clean water and it’s now a lake that reflects endless surrounding natural beauty. Fire Lake is one of Ponta Delgada’s top natural tourist attractions and people come from far and wide to bathe in the nearby mineral rich waters that are believed to have healing properties.

Furnas Valley

25 miles east of Ponta Delgada is an area that proves the Azores’ volcanic origin. Furnas Valley is Europe’s richest hydrological centre with more than 20 mineral springs that belch, bubble and spray hot water and mud into an atmosphere that’s laden with sulphur.

Grey, hot slime covers part of the area, rock faces are hot to the touch, steam puffs out of any hole in the earth and yellow bubbles burst as they are released from the earth. For several hundred years, housewives have cooked their sweet potatoes in the hot ground here and visitors have come to take the healing waters. Pay a visit to the Terra Nostra Hotel if you’re in the area to explore the gardens and the lake which are both well worth seeing.

EXPLORING

Sao Miguel

The largest and most important of the Azorean islands, is Sao Miguel which houses more than half of the archipelago’s population of 260,000. Sao Miguel (with its 140,000 residents) is roughly 39 miles long and 10 miles wide. Its capital, Ponta Delgada, lies on the south coast with an excellent harbour and a population of 70,000 people. Ponta Delgada has only been the island’s capital since 1546. Before then, Sao Miguel was governed from Vila Franca do Campo, further along the coast.

The main monuments of the Azores are the islands’ numerous churches built during many centuries of history from settlement times up to the present day. Their interiors of carved and gilded work, wood inlay and valuable azulejos (coloured, painted, glazed tiles) are veritable works of art. Besides the great number of churches and convents, some now housing museums, simple chapels and shrines of great charm are also scattered all over the island. There are also old forts, commemorative pillars, statues and busts that all mark famous dates and names in the history of the Azores.

Ponta Delgada

The largest city on Sao Miguel and the principal port of the eastern group of islands is Ponta Delgada; an old town of characteristic narrow roads and winding cobbled streets. The main avenues and highways are excellent and a day’s exploration could lead you from trodden tourist paths to undiscovered historical gems. Lovers of Madeira’s Funchal and Portugal’s Lisbon wiil feel at home in Ponta Delgada. The buildings are whitewashed with wooden balconies, the streets are paved with mosaics and ornate churches decorate almost every street. There’s a lovely, safe and friendly atmosphere in Ponta Delgada and when the jacaranda trees are in bloom, the bright purple blossom perfectly complements the black and white pavements and facades.

There are a few noteworthy buildings in the town:

The Igreja do Colegio is an 18th century church of late baroque architecture with a wonderfully carved high altar. This church formed part of a very rich convent founded by the Jesuits in the early 17th century.

Sao Sebastiao is the 16th century parish church with a southern fagade of Renaissance design. The main facade is influenced by the Manueline style which is most popular and commonly found in mainland Portugal. The choir stalls are carved cedar

wood and are decorated with other exotic woods like palisander. The statue of St. Sebastian on the high altar, pierced with arrows, bears an uncanny resemblance to Liberace. Valuable vestments embroidered in gold are on show, and the church is largely whitewashed like almost all the other buildings on the island.

Convento da boa Esperanga

Famous for the image of Christ, given by Pope Paul III in 1530, this church has been accumulating jewels and gifts for over 300 years. The chapel where the most treasured possessions are kept is completely lined with azulejos showing colourful, biblical scenes.

The museum of Carlos Machado is housed in a 16th century convent in Rua Joao Moreira (Dr Guilherme Pogas 65) and has several interesting ethnographic collections. It also contains works by local and foreign painters and sculptors, together with exhibitions of religious art, tiles and a wonderful collection of over 2000 bird species. St Andrew’s Church, which adjoins the museum, contains some remarkable wood carvings. Sao Jose has painted vaults over the three naves and a baroque Pieta in the baptismal chapel, while Sao Pedro towards the eastern end of this two mile long town is also worthy of inspection for its treasury. When it comes to secular architecture, have a look at the Fort of Sao Bras just outside the port area and you cannot miss the Triumphal Arch in the centre of town.

Art and Architecture Azulejos

These are coloured tiles painted and cleverly fitted together to create entire scenes. The first Portuguese azulejos were blue, or azul, hence the name. The idea of painting tiles came from the Moors and by the 17th century the Portuguese had mastered the craft so deftly, that it has since come to be associated almost solely with Portugal. Yellow, purple and green eventually joined the blue, followed by landscape and hunting scenes and abstract patterns. All kinds of buildings including churches, town halls, railway stations and private houses were decorated inside and out with azulejos and now they are everywhere to be seen in and around the city.

Talha dourada

Carved woodwork (talha) was popular for church interiors from the 15th century, but the influx of gold from Brazil in the early 18th century led to the gilding of woodwork. Some of Sao Miguel’s churches stand today, quite sober-looking from the outside, but gleam with gold on the inside.

EATING OUT

The geographical situation, the climate and the immense wealth of natural resources are responsible for the diversity of the cuisine on the Azores. The soil here is explosively fertile meaning that fresh produce grows in abundance.

Local favourites include homemade soups, fresh fish and seafood, locally sourced meat and a great selection of sweets. These include:

Seafood: Cavacos, lobster, barnacles, crab, Caldeirada de peixe (fish chowder), polvo guisado em vinho de cheiro (octopus cooked in wine), arroz de lapas (limpets), and lapas de molho Afonso, ensopado de trutas (trout stew).

Meat: chourigo com inhames (spiced sausage with yams), torresmos de moiho de figado (pork liver), and cozido das Furnas (meat and vegetables that are boiled in the heat of the earth at places where geothermal energy appears at the surface).

Cheese: Queijo da llha or fresh goat’s cheese.

Sweets: Bolo levedo (sweet muffin), barriga de freira (bread pudding) massa sovada (sweet bread).

The old brandy of Graciosa and the passion fruit and pineapple liqueurs of Sao Miguel are popular specialities in the Azores and they make good souvenirs and gifts as well as local delicacies to sample while you’re ashore.

Wine

The best known wines of the Azores are the verdelhos of Pico (which achieved fame as far away as the Court of Imperial Russia), but on Granciosa and Terceira some fine table wines are also produced, particularly the white wines. On nearly all of the Azorean islands there are the traditional vinhos de cheiro or morangueiro which have many keen enthusiasts. The best known are those of Caioura (Sao Miguel), Biscoitos (Terceira) and Sao Lourengo (Santa Maria), not forgetting a variety of wines from Pico.

GETTING AROUND

The terminal building in Ponta Delgada is split across two levels. Shore excursions depart from the car park on the upper floor accessible by stairs and lift. The ground level exit leads to the pedestrian walkway (to the town centre, via shops and cafes) and to available taxis.

Car hire

Varela Rent a Car: www.varelarentacar.com Micauto: www.micauto.com Autatlantis: www.autatlantis.com

Taxis

These are readily available. It is always advisable to negotiate a price with the driver before setting off on a journey. Most taxi drivers speak little English so ensure you have the means of explaining where you want to go and what time you need to get back to the ship.

HANDY TIPS

• The tap water is not always potable, so only drink bottled water.

• It is forbidden to sunbathe topless in the Azores.

• It is not acceptable to photograph people without asking for their permission.

• Tips and gifts compensate for quality

of service. It is therefore customary to leave a 5% tip in restaurants and to taxi drivers.

• Do not buy souvenirs made from seabased creatures.

SHOPPING

The Azorean archipelago, with its rich history and many traditions, is known for its arts and handicrafts. Artisans have saved and developed their workmanship techniques through the centuries and the handicrafts of the Azores include some that are now ancient in origin. Due to their isolated location Azorean craftsmen use primarily raw materials such as wood, fish scales, whale bone and teeth, basalt, hydrangea, piths, potter’s earth and corn leaves. Best buys

Coiourfu! pottery from Sao Miguel

Embroidery and lace from Sao Miguel,

Terceira, Pico and Faial

Woodwork created from fig

Wickerwork

Wheat straw decoration

Scrimshaws (works of art carved from the teeth and jaws of the sperm whale)

Pineapple and passion fruit liqueurs.

Most shops are dosed on Sundays, even when a cruise ship is in port, however the Sol Mar Shopping Centre and the new Parque Atlantico Mall in Ponta Delgada, are open daily from 9.30am-10.00pm every day.

ACTIVITIES

Beaches

Ponta Delgada’s beaches have black volcanic sand and are washed by the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. During the months of July and August a few beaches (Praia do Populo, 3 miles from Ponta Delgada and Agua D’Alto, 14 miles away) have facilities and the waters are generally safe to swim in. There are swimming facilities in the cruise ship harbour, near to the marina with steps and pontoons leading down to the sea from the waterfront.

Golf

There are two courses on Ponta Delgada (Batalha Golf Course, over to the west of the island and Furnas Golf Club, over to the east). Both courses have 18 holes, and clubs and trolleys can be hired.

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