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.
Serving the fish stew
Potatoes with onion and prosciutto
Grab a coffee at the snack-bar
Another fine creation
Trying fried sardines
One of the larger markets
They clean the fish for you at the point of purchase.
Grilling on wood at home