Monday, November 26, 2012

Azores – November 9, 2012

Azores – November 9, 2012

The Azores are nine volcanic islands 800 miles west of Lisbon and belonging to Portugal.   The ship stopped at Sao Miguel, the largest of the islands, at the port of Ponta Delgada, the largest city in the Azores.  The islands are tropical, despite their northern location, and the climate is very mild.  High temperatures vary between 27 degrees C in the summer to around 17 degrees in the winter; it never freezes in the Azores. With the warm, pleasant weather, the islands are vacation islands for Europe much like Hawaii is for the U.S.  The islands are deep green and look much like Ireland, only with tropical plants, like banana trees. The population of Sao Miguel is about 150,000, with about two-thirds of the population living in Ponta Delgada.  As the ship sailed into the small harbor, I was surprised at the tall buildings and the modern appearance of the city.  When I went ashore, I was struck by the similarity between this island and Madeira Island, which is also a Portuguese island.  The two are remarkably similar islands.  Most of the buildings are white, a sharp contrast to the black volcanic rock and the emerald green of the island.  The development of the island surprised me; it is completely modern with beautiful streets and roads, and very modern buildings and hotels.  Volcanic rock is plentiful, and it was used in the construction of many of the streets and sidewalks.  As in Madeira, the sidewalks contain black and white patterns, each one different from the others and very elegant.  White patterns were constructed into the black streets for crosswalks. 

All of the materials that I had read about this port indicated that there was not much to see, so I had decided to walk around the town and take a few photos.  The one place of interest on the island seemed to be a small town on the north side of the island, Ribeira Grande.  I was able to find a taxi driver to take me there and wait for me as I walked around and took photos – all for only 20 Euros.  The write-ups were correct; Ribeira Grande is a picturesque town with narrow lanes of cobblestone streets, lined on both sides with low row houses.  Each door was capped with a religious tile.  I walked around there and took photos of the interesting narrow streets, the interesting houses, churches and other interesting sites. 

After my visit to Ribeira Grande, I returned to Ponta Delgada, the town where the ship was docked, and walked there for the rest of the day until time to return to the ship.  I really enjoyed being in Sao Miguel; it was very pretty.  I was struck by the neatness of the Portuguese.  Everything was extremely neat and clean, as it was in Madeira.  It truly was “picture perfect”. 

No comments: