PONTA DELGADA AZORES Date: 10th April
Weather: Cloud and some light rain at first, cleared away to give a sunny day 16c
Position: Latitude 37 deg. 44.3 min. N Longitude 25 deg. 39.8 min. W
The Azores, or the Western Islands are a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic ,consisting of nine islands which are in three groups. These three groups are all on different tectonic plates, which meet at that particular point in the Atlantic. They are all of volcanic origin, with the last eruption of Capelinhos in 1957.
The Azores have a temperate climate, due to the Gulf stream, with an annual mean temperature of 18 degrees Celsius , in winter the lowest would be 11c and a high in summer of 26c, these weather conditions being temperate means practically anything will grow and flourish. Our island for the day, Sao Miguel is known as The Green Island, with land commanding a high price because it can produce three or four crops every year. One of its important products is the dairy industry, where cattle can graze in the open all year round, but also beef on the hoof, which is exported to Madeira and Portugal. Another big industry here, is the Pineapple with several producers.
Sao Miguel is the largest and most important island of the whole group, with more than half the total population, which is 260,000. It is 35 miles long and 9 miles wide, with Ponta Delgada as the capital.
Our first view of the island, was of mountains and hills covered in mist and cloud, but the town of Ponta Delgada fully visible, the place itself was quite large, we were expecting something a lot smaller. Our berth was inside a guarding breakwater, shaped like the letter “ T “with the upright of the T connected to a promenade and Lido, first impressions were, the place looks very nice. We also learnt later, that housed on this berth were many shops and cafés ,and also a terminal building. In the waters around the berth was an open swimming area one side, and a yacht marina the other.
The plans we had for the day were to just explore the place itself and see what it had to show us, so it was a late breakfast, then out onto the top deck to get our bearings. By this time the sun was beginning to show, but not enough to convince us not to wear a rain jacket ashore as we`d had some light rain earlier. For me also it was the first time for a while, that I was out of my shorts.
So now ashore we strolled along the promenade, and it was at this time that the sun decided to come out, leaving a clear blue sky. It seems that a lot of the Portuguese cities use a black and white natural stone to make their pavements, and sometimes roads, and this place was the same, for as we walked around it seemed that each road or street had its own design. But in general there were very few buildings with any colour, you may say how boring when the dominant colours are black and white, but actually they looked very nice. The streets we walked were tidy, and some of the smaller side streets with tiny iron balconies looked very quaint.
After a while you got the feeling that it was a place which was out of season, not that it would be a great tourist destination anyway, because of its remoteness, being in the middle of the Atlantic. After walking for a while and following our map, we came upon a sunlight square, where the café culture was in full swing, so we decided to stop and watch the world go by. By now it was jumpers off, and a cold drink the order of the day, but the most exciting find was custard tarts, we`ve had them in Lisbon before, so they must be a Portuguese treat. They are not huge, may be the size of a christmas mince pie, and these were still warm, Very yummy! ( we learnt later that evening that all of our friends had done the same thing, and had some pies). While in the square we did notice that there was a tourist horse and carriage, also an open top bus went by earlier, so there must be a demand for these things. Now fully rested we consulted the map and picked our route, during our walkabout we were in and out of quite a few shops, and I would say that things are very reasonable, in fact some things are cheap, compared to some places we`ve been in the world.
Having done quite a big loop of the town, we made our way back to the ship for a late lunch, while we were in the town we could see that most places have WI FI, and you must admire our crew, because no matter where you are in the world, they just seem to know where you can get connected to the outside world.
Sitting on our balcony in the afternoon sun, we had a great view of the whole town and its promenade, and now the early morning cloud had gone we could see the distant hills and mountains clearly. These hills are all covered with fields, with hedgerows very similar to the UK, and herds of cattle, all very rural. We did hear from some friends on board, who did a trip to another part of the island, that the majority of the roadside hedges are kept very neat and tidy, and lined with Hydrangea and camellias.
So for us this last sail away was quite a sad occasion, this being our last port of call, the next port, will be our home port of Southampton. So I hope all those of you who have followed us on our travel blogs, have enjoyed what we have experienced in the flesh. For us it has been a great journey, even now when we go back and look at some of our early photos, the memories come flooding back. While on the subject of photos, I believe they have been missing from my blog since Huatulco. I don`t know if I can fix it before I return home, but just keep looking and I`ll try to make my blogs complete.
So it`s goodbye from Colin & Angie