Well, we dusted off the passports after 3 years and The Wandering 5 are back on the road. We pulled out our carry-ons, and after months of talking about it, we are in Açore Islands off the coast of Portugal. The Açores are a group of 9 islands about 850 miles off the west coast of Portugal, and although we are only on island #1 of our trip, I can safely say that they are beautiful! Why did we choose the Açores? Well, my great grandma is from the island of Faial and my mom has been wanting to see where her family came from for a long time, so we decided to tag a long. The Wandering 5 have added 4 more – my mom and dad and my brother, Krieg, and his girlfriend, Jen.
After a long journey from SFO to Boston and then onto the island of Teceira, we arrived at our hotel, Pousada de Angra do Heroísmo São Sebastião. This is not your ordinary hotel, this one is built in a former fortress commonly known as the Castelinho de São Sebastião. It is amazing. Built overlooking the water, with one side looking like the original fort and the other side, a hotel perfectly situated right along the wall. You can still walk the rampart and envision what it might have been like to be a soldier protecting their land.
Day 1 was a tough one with naps taken by all, and Grace almost missing dinner sleeping the day away. We walked the cute cobbled streets of Angro de Heroísmo, a world heritage site. To me if felt a little like Lisbon, a little like Switzerland, and a little like Austria. It was quaint, with black and white cobbled streets and sidewalks, and streets lined with lights above. Quite picturesque.
After a tour through a local church, we stopped for a light snack at Cafe Pastelaria Athanásic for some delicious Portuguese treats – beef pasties, Pasteis de Nata, and mini quiche. A great stop to hold us over until our dinner at Tasca das Tias. This place was delicious! We feasted on limpets, barnacles, Azorean tuna, the local beef stew called Alcatra and morcela, a Portuguese sausage called Black pudding that is a blood sasuage. Sounds disgusting, but I’ve grown up eating it and tasting it here was even better.
The next day we took our first full day tour of the island. Our guides, Tiago and Gabriel, of CommunicAir, were fantastic!! For those of you who may travel here, please look them up, you won’t be disappointed. The island, though small, took us all day to visit. It was green, volcanic, and beautiful, with wild hydrangeas growing all over! We learned so much from our guides about how the Azore archipelago was formed, the plant life, the local economy of dairy and meat cows; it was a great day!! The Azoreans are very kind people and very proud of their culture.
Two interesting things we saw that day, were the Piscinas Naturais Dos Biscoitos – Natual Pool of Biscoitos, and Algar de Cavão – coal pit.
The Piscinas Naturais Dos Biscoitos, were amazing natural pools that were formed by the volcanic eruptions. Stairs and railings have been built so that you can swim in many of the pools. It is truly an amazing site to see! There were cute little vendors selling fresh fruit juices, local nuts, chips, fruit and jewelry.
Algar de Cavão was amazing! There are few places in the world where you can go inside a volcano and this is one of them. You walk down stairs inside a volcanic chimney and secondary magma chambers where the the cave walls are formed from dark black lava . It was a once in a lifetime experience!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our lunch. We went to a cute little restaurant called Ti Chao, in the village at Serreta. It was delicious!! Run by two sisters with a wood oven, all vegetables home grown and animals raised by them – Portuguese farm to table. We had all of the best Azorean cuisine, in an intimate setting: morcela, linguica, masa sovada, alcatra, a marinated pork dish, and of course, some local vino. We have been drinking a lot of local vino at lunch – it’s great!
To end our fantastic day, we drove up to the side of a crater to get a view from above. Tiago and Gabriel treated us to a warm cup of tea and a local treat called a D.Amélia cake – mini cakes made of corn flower, raisins, sugar cane molasses, and cinnamon from a delicious bakery called O Forno.
An amazing end to our day!
PS – I’m behind on the blog due to too much fun! More to come!