Where do Azores impressions come from? Where do any impressions come from? I think they start with expectations. I came to the Azores with few expectations. I knew that they were a chain of islands that are part of Portugal. I had heard that there was excellent hiking to be found, and that the weather should be nice. When I told people that I was going to the Azores I found that most people had heard of the place, but few had a solid idea about where it is and what is there. These expectations were the basis of what became my impressions.
I got on a jet at Lisbon and we were soon free of the continent and out over the endless-seeming ocean. An hour and a half later we descended to a small, laid-back airport along the rocky coast near Ponta Delgada. Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island is the principal city of the Azores so offers the best set of connections to the other islands. I flew from there to Santa Maria and Faial islands during the course of my stay – short flights on good sized prop planes.
These are volcanic islands that each feature one or more prominent volcanic features — mountains and rimmed craters. The fourth of the islands that I visited was Pico. I traveled there by a ferry fromHorta on Faial to Madalena, the biggest town on Pico. Pico features the highest elevation point among all of the islands.
Although it wasn’t what attracted me, you can’t miss the ocean environment and the maritime culture. Each island has at least one harbor and there are miles and miles of rugged coastline punctuated with the occasional sandy beach. Whale watching boats, diving, and deep sea fishing are popular attractions.
Catholic churches are typically at the center of cities, towns, and villages. Many are ancient.
Streetscapes are often idyllic routes of cobblestone that wind past shops and follow hilly terrain.
Interesting and distinctive public art is common. The art is both formal but also in the form of ad hoc street art.
I happened to park my scooter next to a great bit of graffiti one day
The marketplaces can be colorful and photogenic. The climate supports locally grown oranges, bananas, pineapple, and other fruits & vegetables.
The old world architecture makes for romantic streetscapes.
Cobblestone sidewalks are an art form in of themselves. I enjoyed watching and monitoring the progress of a crew building a sidewalk over several days.
A “tasca” is a pub offering local specialties in a pub-like atmosphere. Wine is certainly a Portuguese specialty, but my interest is more in beer – read about my experience with the beer culture here.
Fado is a unique, entertaining style of folk music.
I think I could have done all of my getting around on foot and by public transit, but I found it convenient to rent a scooter for several of the days I was on Sao Miguel.