Art Takes Many Forms

Thank you for following my blog or just checking in occasionally to see what we were up to on the magnificent islands of the Azores. If you would like more information about this untapped paradise, just let us know.

I truly enjoyed writing about our Azorean adventure, knowing you were somewhere out there reading about the experience and hopefully sharing the lovely time. I’m saying goodbye to you readers. I appreciate your responses and support.

Journey on,
Beverly

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Cemetery

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Bras in the shop window

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Village chapel

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Tribute to the famers

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Sculpture of the legendary water creature on Lagoa do Fornas

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Topiary

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The faucet in the mall

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The dragon that St. Jorge fought

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Antique weaving

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The family of weavers in Faja de Viagem

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Always Room for Originality

Most villages were filled with stone houses and other plastered and painted white.  I loved the colors that some people dared to paint their houses in the midst of tradition.

Looking down on a town from a windmill

Looking down on a town from a windmill

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The Door Series

Many of the doors of the houses opened right onto the road, since the houses have often been around for centuries. I became fascinated by the various styles and colors of the doors.

Enjoy

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From a New Perspective

Hello folks who were traveling with us vicariously in the Azores~

We’ve been home now for ten days, faced with temperatures dropping below freezing every night.  We have had time to readjust to life in the mountains of Northern California, to go through the photographs, and incorporate all the wonderful experiences of our month in the Azores.  The ending occurred in steps taking three days and two nights in different cities, and three plane rides plus a five-hour drive home.  I felt like I didn’t put closure on the trip and blog, so here I am again sharing some of the photos, answering a few questions, and just generally unpacking memories from the trip.

You’ll be hearing from me again soon.

Bev

Location of the Azores in relation to Europe, 900 miles away

Location of the Azores in relation to Europe, 900 miles away

Of the nine islands in the archipelago, we've now visited four.

Of the nine islands in the archipelago, we’ve now visited four.

Ricardo, who has designed four beautiful guest houses on the northeast side of Sao Miguel.

Ricardo, who has designed four beautiful guest houses on the northeast side of Sao Miguel.

Joao and Helena, our friends from Pico who introduced us wonderful food, a large group of their friends, ocean fishing, traditional crafts, and their love of the Azorean lifestyle.

Joao and Helena, our friends from Pico who introduced us wonderful food, a large group of their friends, ocean fishing, traditional crafts, and their love of the Azorean lifestyle.

On the ferry from Sao Jorge to Pico

On the ferry from Sao Jorge to Pico

Still thinking about all of those gorgeous hikes

Still thinking about all of those gorgeous hikes

Getting to Know the Azoreans

We have had glorious weather for our time on Pico. We have hiked in the highland lakes, sinking into a foot of bog lichen and sphagnum, visited the tide pools, and walked through the villages. One morning we went down to the natural swimming area, which is affected by the waves but protected from the open ocean. In the summer, there are ladders and diving boards, and we assume the area is visited by locals and visitors alike. We shared the pool with only one German couple, but most of our hikes have been solitary at this time of the season.

After Mitchell and Joao fished, we were invited to their home for a traditional fish stew served on toasted bread to soak up the delicious juices of all the different fish, clams, and vegetables. Of course, there was homemade wine and good company.

Yesterday on our hike, we wandered into a dusty shop Pulsar, which was stuffed full of Portuguese made clothes, many of which looked like they had been there for decades. Mitch had a great time trying on 1980 style clothes and leaving with two coats and two hats. Very European and eccentric.

For our last night on Pico, we went back to the home of Joao and Helena for more of his tasty traditional dishes. This time he made a special rice dish with beans and fried pork liver. I remember my mother’s calf liver with onions; however, this dish was much more tender and subtle in flavor. We have thoroughly enjoyed the company of this couple and learned so much from them about life in the Azores.

One of the local parks

One of the local parks

 

Preparing the fish stew

Preparing the fish stew

 

There's always a place to fish, but there aren't always fish caught.

There’s always a place to fish, but there aren’t always fish caught.

 

Pulsar

Pulsar

 

Mitch's new look

Mitch’s new look

Traditional Life

Hey there,

I’m sitting on the terrace of our house in Pico this Monday morning. Mitchell got up and left early to meet our new friend Joao for another fishing experience. Yesterday he met up with Joao in Santo Amaro, and they fished off the cliffs into the surf with long poles. After Mitch got the feel of the heavy pole and the pull of the waves, he caught a pretty ocean fish. I spent a few hours with Helena, his partner, and we talked about creativity and how to make a new life without work. She is taking classes at the the Escola do Artesanto, learning how to make traditional arts, such as jewelry from fish scales and dolls from corn husk and dried flowers.

The real treat came when they brought us to a village party after the killing of the pig. It’s a three-day event with the butchering, the making of the sausage, and the party to consume the first of the bounty. It was a very traditional celebration at a long table in the garage with the bowls of kale, sweet potatoes, yams, roasted pork, and boiled pork. There was bread on the table, gallons of homemade wine and fresh squeezed orange juice, a different sweet bread, and a tasty caramel cake at the end. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality, the acceptance of us foreign people, but not tourists, and the wonderful food.

Our last few days have been exploring Pico, hiking in the mountains near the crater lakes, skirting along the coastline above the breakers, and taking trails down from the spine of the mountain. Pico is the youngest of the islands and the highest mountain in all of Portugal. Actually measured from the ocean floor, the volcanic peaks that make up the Azores are some of the highest mountains in the world. The soil on Pico is still very porous with fissures and less topsoil, and rivers that start at the top of the island’s ridge after rains rarely make it to the shore before being absorbed into the terrain. For centuries vineyards were created with lava rock walls to protect the grapes from the winds and the salt air and to absorb and maintain the heat. Many of these vineyards have been abandoned, but there are currently attempts being made to recruit new growers. Still we are enjoying the Pico tinto wines. We like the north side of the island, which has gorgeous views of Sao Jorge less than ten miles away, villages of white houses with red tiles roofs visible in the day and lights twinkling along the coastline at night. At the west end you can see Faial, which is only a couple of miles across the channel.

Still three more days of exploration before we start the trek home.

Sending greetings to you all,
Beverly

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Dragon Tree

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Mitch fishing with Joao

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These grapes make tasty wine.

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Whitewashed wall with lava rock

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Looking over to Sao Jorge

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The land of the crater lakes

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Wild horses and cattle graze in the highlands

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The greenest of pastures land and the ever-present lava rock fences

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The maze through the ancient vineyards. See the national trail marker.

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Mural at the football stadium

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Beauty everywhere

Hiking in the woods

Hiking in the woods

Moved to Pico

I’ve been offline for a couple of days due to internet connection issues and moving to a new island. We arrived on Pico by ferry from Sao Jorge yesterday. The ferry took about an hour and cost 10 Euros, so it’s a good way to travel in the center five islands, especially in the summer when the ferries run more often and have more routes.

We enjoyed the experience of being of Sao Jorge and would return to explore the wildness and areas that we missed. The weather was unpredictable with sudden and fierce rain storms washing down the steep slopes with rocks tumbling onto the roads. The roads were narrow and the drivers were a bit terrifying. Still the hikes and vistas were astounding, and waterfalls flow down the ravines and into the ocean. We loved Luis and Margarida’s remote and remarkable house in Faja do Bodes, sitting in the deck watching the sunset and the lights of Calheta blink on as the skies darkened.

Now we are staying in Calheta do Nesquim on Pico in the house of Fernando and Maria Jorge, whom we met in Ponta Delgada for dinner. It is a renovated stone vineyard house, adega,  with a terrace perched above the village and a 150 degree view of the ocean. I have the binoculars ready, looking for whales and dolphins, but all I see are two small fishing boats. We are drawn to this island with its clean villages, fishing ports, and different vegetation. Today I saw poinsettias, bourganvillas, and chestnut trees. This island is famous for its wine industry. The old vineyards were planted in lava stone sections to protect the grapes from the wind and ocean air.

Another industry that has affected this island since the 18th century was the whaling trade. I now understand the major connection between New Bedford and the Azores due to the American whaling community running between the two points. There are several whaling museums here, and whale watching boats, which began in the 1980’s, now has competition with swimming with the dolphins and most recently, swimming with the sharks. Count me out on that one.

Keep an eye out for the tail of the whale.
Bev

Ageda de Figuera

Ageda de Figuera

The bedroom

The bedroom

Christmas all year

Christmas all year

Life in the Azores

Hello to all of you out there,

Thank you for following my blog and commenting on our activities and what we are experiencing. I thought I might take a day to talk a bit about the Azorean culture and life on these Portuguese islands. These islands were first discovered in the 15th century during the Age of Discovery. They were used as a stepping stone to the New World and were visited by many different European and Scandinavian sailors for centuries. English and French pirates lay in wait for the explorers to return from the New World to rob them of their bounty—gold from the Americas and spices. Many of the old stone villages were set up on hillsides, so the pirates could be spotted before they landed.

Portugal is the closest country, so the Azores which are part of the Micronesia Islands, became a part of Portugal. The Azores people call it the Mainland. Many young people go to school or move there; however, another breed of middle-age people are moving to the islands or investing in property here. Many ancient stone homes are being restored and renovated.

Part of the draw of the islands is the easy pace of the life here. We’ve found the people very kind and helpful. They can be reserved, but seem genuinely concerned that the visitors are safe and content. We haven’t met any aggressive people, and those you pass on the road smile and nod. Several people we have talked to have said that they know they won’t get rich living in the Azores, but that is a choice they have made. Life itself is rich here.  The simplicity is inviting. There is enough to choose from, but certainly not the over-abundance we’ve grown accustomed to.

Some of you have asked about the cost of travel here. We have been pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive life’s basics are here. The bread truck comes here to the road above our house every morning with fresh loaves for one Euro. For reference, we have gotten about 75 to 80 Euros to a dollar. So one Euro is $1.27 to $1.30. Of course, it varies day to day and bank to bank. The cars are mostly very small, which is good for the narrow streets and roadways, so the gas, for us, hasn’t seemed expensive. I haven’t quite gotten the liters versus gallons down yet, though.  We think gas is about $7.50 a gallon.  However, the distances on the islands are limited. The houses we have rented are about 70 Euros a night. The months of June to September are peak with higher prices, flowers abounding, and perfect weather, but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time without the onslaught of tourists. We’ve had most hikes to ourselves and haven’t waited for anything anywhere.

Food is inexpensive. We have been delighted by the wonderful local cheeses, the four-Euro bottles of excellent Portuguese and Pico wines, the one-Euro beers, the fresh fish, and locally grown vegetables. Being the lovers of good food and our own cooking, we have enjoyed cooking at home, grilling on the wood fireplaces, mixing fresh salads, and trying new pastries. We eaten out a half dozen times, and we’ve never been disappointed with the taste, the service or the cost.

Beverly

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Serving the fish stew

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Potatoes with onion and prosciutto

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Grab a coffee at the snack-bar

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Another fine creation

Trying fried sardines

Trying fried sardines

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One of the larger markets

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Local specialties

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They clean the fish for you at the point of purchase.

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Grilling on wood at home