Six word Saturday

Some tasty leftovers for Brian’s birthday?

And there’s blue in each square

Happy birthday, Brian!  Sorry I couldn’t get a cake there in time.  Just a few leftovers from the Azores.  Debbie and Becky both have interesting resting places today.  Funny how that happens sometimes?  Go and recline, and have a lovely weekend!

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Just a day on Pico

Clear, deep blue eyes in a tanned face, and dark hair, our guide for the day, Velomar Carváo, couldn’t be anything but an Azorean.  He was waiting for us at the little agency we found, by the waterfront at Horta, a gentle smile lighting those intelligent eyes.  We hadn’t known what to expect, but were treated to a personal tour of a very beautiful and beguiling island.  First stop, the ferry terminal, and a small inter-island ferry.

We went ‘up top’ and he went inside, and we basked in glorious sunshine.  Out in the bay we picked up the breeze and the boat bobbed and rolled, riding the waves triumphantly.  ‘Are you sailors?’ asked Velomar, as we disembarked.  There’s always a strong current between the islands.  We had kept our gaze firmly on the horizon, scanning for those still elusive whales.

Into a hire car, we swiftly left the little port of Madalena, and in seconds were among the vineyards.  Mile after mile of them, enclosed by lava walls.  Briefly we left the car to walk between them, as Velomar explained some of the history.  Out on the lava rocks, punished by the tides, we saw the grooves where the wine had been ‘barreled’ down from the vineyards, to the waiting boats, for shipment to neighbouring Faial and beyond.

The volcanic soil produces a very special wine, which we were to taste, later.  Pico is the second largest of the Azores, and there was much to see in just one day.  On our way to the next stop Velomar kept us richly entertained with the history and politics of the islands, emphasizing the rivalry between Pico and Faial, the latter having grown rich on the pickings and its situation as prime distributor.

We were to stop at the Sanctuary of Sáo Mateus.  Yet another church, I remember thinking, but you should never make judgements in advance.  The beautifully carved wood was unlike anything I have ever seen.  Bom Jesus Milagroso is worshipped by thousands of pilgrims from the islands.

We were now only a few kilometres from Lajes and a planned lunch stop at ‘O Lavrador’.  The views down to the bay should have been special, but the clouds had rolled in.  We consoled ourselves with silky soft island cheese, served with a piquant ‘molho’, and a vast buffet, washed down with island wine.  The grey skies seemed to fit the mood as we drove down into Lajes.  This was the main whaling station on the island, with a museum dedicated to those sad creatures.  For Velomar, whaling was a part of his family history, and he was proud of his grandfather, whose name appeared on the monument to whalers.  An article about the industry had been featured in National Geographic, with a photo of the grandfather for whom he had been named.  Much changed on the islands after the earthquake of 1920.  The ruins of many a family home still wait for the return of their owners, fled to Canada and Newfoundland to start a new life.

Inland, and up over the mountain, fresh and green, to the town of Sáo Roque on the north of the island.  Bathing platforms tempt the adventurous.

Probably my favourite part of the island next, a wine refinery co-op, ‘for the people’.  Rustic and very beautiful, the village by the sea, the stark slabs of lava lifted with rich red and dark green doors and windows and defiant white walls.

Arguably, Velomar had saved the best for last, but the clouds consented to part again as we made our final stop.  I had read of the beautiful and innovative Cella Bar, and agreed eagerly when he suggested ending there, a mere 10 minute sprint from the port at Madalena.

What can you say to a view like that?  Sleek external lines with a stunning deck, the inside a pleasing mix of island stone and cedar wood.  We deliberated over which of the fine wines would best celebrate our day in this beautiful place.

All too soon we were back on board and skimming swiftly across the water to Faial.  Rarely have I spent such a memorable day, the charm and personality of our guide adding much to our experience.

 

Jo’s Monday walk : Porto Pim

I have just one more walk to share on Faial, before moving on to the island of Pico.  Porto Pim is a strip of sand and pellucid bay, tucked between Monte Queimado and Monte da Guia, to the west of the town of Horta, where we walked last week.  At least, it was, the day we took this stroll.  Pretty as it is, there’s a dark side to this story.  Take note of the factory on the far shore.

The beach is a conservation area, and is the first part of the island of Faial to have been settled, back in 1460.  The ruins of a fortress guard the entrance to the bay, and there was once a thriving port here.

Today all is peaceful, though we did note that a lone yachtsman, moored and enjoying the serenity, was asked to move on by the maritime police.  He wasn’t exactly disturbing the peace, and communications were friendly, but he very quickly upped anchor and away.

The shoreline is ragged with rocks and it’s easy to imagine volcanic activity here.  A straggle of houses line half of the bay.

I can dawdle by reflections and shimmering water all day, but eventually I tore myself away and continued around the bay.  I had half a mind to climb up to the Senhora da Guia, but had already been to the top previously, by taxi.  Clouds were scudding about and when the sun disappeared it was cool.  Against my better judgement I headed towards the whaling factory.

It’s a sad fact of life that man and beast often struggle to live side by side.  In the 19th century these islands were the base for a titanic battle between man and whale.  With often averted gaze, I observed the tiny craft which the islanders used to corral the whales and harpoon them to death.  Horrifying though I find it, it was a way of life and a means of survival for islands that were poor and isolated.  I can’t bring myself to share details of the industry but the Fabrica da Baleia (Whaling Factory) explains it for you.  From as young as 13, the men of the islands took to sea, rowing these flimsy vessels in pursuit of their victims.

Whaling was outlawed just 70 years ago.  I’m so happy that leisure boats have replaced the whalers.  The 20th century brought submarine cables to the islands, ensuring telegraphic communications between America and Europe, and now tourism is thriving.

Peace has been restored.  I found this bay oddly disturbing.  Perhaps because of the carnage that once took place here.  I was happy to move on, and we returned to Horta for a meal at Peter’s Sport Café, famous in these parts and full of flags and souvenirs from passing sailors.  You’ll be happy to know that I had a wonderfully healthy hummus salad.  The other half didn’t even have space for cake after his bumper burger.  How sad!

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Lots of walks again this week.  Thank you all, and please find time to visit- especially any blog you don’t know.  Details over on Jo’s Monday walk.

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Debbie has me discombobulated in old Valencia this week :

A casual circumambulation of Valencia’s Barrio del Carmen

Jackie is a terrible temptress, with a love of art :

Summer Tarts

Amazing what you can do with corn!  Just ask Janet :

Monday walk… in tall corn

Toronto looks to have some nice suburbs.  Pay a visit with Indra :

Toronto Summer- Unionville vibes

A few clouds, a bench or two and some lovely old stonework- that’s Anabel in Scotland :

Castle Semple Country Park

While Rosemay revives a few memories for me :

Valley Gardens Harrogate – Walk to Harlow Carr

And Drake is, as always, at home by the water :

Back to the Normandy

Ulli takes us to a place I know quite well from my days with Polish family :

Vast diversity of Wroclaw

Coffee and cake with Irene, but that’s not all!

A Walk to Starbucks

Ruth took a stroll yesterday.  I never mind what day we walk, so long as we do :

Sunday Stroll -Tranmere Coastal Path

Or even linger a little while, like Carol :

Behind the Walls

But if it’s a long walk you want, Cathy’s your expert :

(Camino day 25) Carrion de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza

And finally, let me introduce Anne.  Please do pop over and say hello :

Frome riverside walkway

Feeling quite virtuous with no cake in sight.  This week I’ll be taking you across the water to Pico.  You’ll love it!  Have a happy one!

A glum day on Faial

The sun can’t shine every day, right?  I only had 3 nights on Faial and a full itinerary of things I wanted to see.  Foremost amongst them, the volcanic outcrop at Capelinhos and the Caldeira at the centre of the island.  To see both in a day it had seemed a good idea to book a taxi tour of the island, which is quite small.  But there’s no accounting for weather, especially in mid-Atlantic.  Ever hopeful, we rounded the bay and began the drive up Monte de Guia to the viewing point on the top.  Senhora de Guia looked down, with arms folded in prayer.

A damp mist lingered about us as we drove up towards the Caldeira, growing ever thicker.  An impression of verdant shrubs as we gathered rain capes around us and headed for the dripping tunnel entrance.  Sometimes it clears for a few seconds, just long enough for you to look down into the extinct volcano, our driver assured us.  I peered hard, willing the clouds to part just a little, but our driver was already shrugging his shoulders and retreating to his dry cab.  I had to settle for photos of the information boards.  Sensing our dampened spirits, he kept up pleasant and informative chat as he drove to the north of the island, hoping for better.

Coffee and cake sweetened us, ready for the drama of Capelinhos.  An earthquake in 1980 had ‘thrown’ new land out into the sea, creating an extension of the island.  The surrounding land is parched and arid and a forlorn lighthouse gazes seaward, turning its back on the enemy within.

Luminous green algae glowed at us from the rock pools, and the driver talked of the venom in the Portuguese Man of War that wash ashore.  A lone fisherman struggled with the waves, and we were told that in former days whaling was the only possible livelihood on these isolated islands.  Returning along the coast we encountered many houses left in ruins by the earthquake, abandoned and never reclaimed by their owners.  Many had gone to start a new life in Massachussets and Canada, never to return.  It was all rather sad.

Back in Horta, the sky was starting to clear, just a little bit, and we wished we had taken the afternoon tour, or perhaps stayed at the underground research centre in Capelinhos.  Our driver kindly dropped us off at the botanic gardens on the outskirts of Horta, making sure that we knew our way back down afterwards.  Just as we parted company a light drizzle began.  On with the rain capes again.

The gardens were created to preserve the native flora of the islands.  A labrynth of paths wind around a small quarry and lake, the colour pallet almost all green and muted brown.  I searched for that pop of colour that I love, but it was not till we were back on the street that I found what I was looking for.  Of course, the hydrangea is not native to the Azores.

It was a gentle stroll back down into Horta, and we took our time because that reluctant sun had decided to shine.  We were surprised to arrive at a bridge over a stream, but had we paid attention to the map we would have realised that the River Conceicáo flows into the bay, beside the ferry terminal.  The sea rolled gently onto the black sand beach, barely stirring the pebbles.

The afternoon ferry was arriving.  The same one we had arrived on the previous day.  We had come full circle and there was nothing for it but to find a waterfront café, and wait patiently for Pico to reveal itself, through the misty corolla of clouds.  Our next destination!

I’m traveling these next few days, so may be slow with my response rate, but I’ll do my best.  Catch up with you soon!

Jo’s Monday walk : Cosmopolitan Horta

Our first ferry ride!  And would you believe it, the day dawned surly and grey?  Sad, maybe, that we were leaving Sáo Jorge for Faial.  In less than 10 minutes Velas receded into the mists, and we were racing alongside of Pico in bright sunshine, trailing clouds behind us.

A brief stop at Sáo Roque, on the northern coast of Pico, confused us a little, but the crew, aware of the limitations of us landlubbers, did a head count before leaving the port.  All present and correct!  Rounding the tip of the island, we whipped across the water, eyes following every movement of the waves.  Somewhere in the depths, we knew, were whales, but no mighty tail breached the water.

Soon we were sailing into the harbour of Horta, legendary in the yachting world, and gaping at the endless shoreline.  Whisking our bags off the conveyor belt, within seconds we were breezing along Avenida 25 de Abril, in radiant sunshine.  Our destination?  Casa Buonvento, a beautifully converted former captain’s house, with a sublime view of the harbour.

Our hosts, Elena and Jerry, were a lovely couple, who took great pride in their beautiful home.  And sometimes Pico joined the party, looming in and out of the clouds like a genial host.  You know the drill by now- quick check in, freshen up, and out onto the streets to see what Horta can offer.

The marina was more fabulous than I had imagined.  I had seen many photos of the artwork along the quay, but they had never done justice to the entirety of the bay spread before me.  With the fortress looking sternly out to sea, it would take a brave pirate to venture thus far.  But of artists, there were many, including one doing a little ‘touching up’. (Hint- there may be one or two July Squares in amongst the blue)

All kinds of humour, and artistry, are represented, and you could easily while away an hour or two, just reading the messages and admiring each craft.  But there’s no time to loiter- we’ve a town to explore!  I always struggle, tearing myself away from boats.

Horta curves around the bay at the southernmost point of the island of Faial, with Monte da Guia jutting proudly into the ocean, protecting her from all comers.  The lovely little bay of Porto Pim nestles close behind.  There are many fine buildings throughout the town, as befits its status as commercial centre of these islands, and the pavements are charmingly enhanced with mosaics.

As so often, I climb to dizzy heights and look back down with satisfaction.  The day was lengthening as we reached the harbour again.  People seemed to be gathering on street corners, and the distant strains of a band reached our ears.  Yet again we had stumbled upon a procession!

Nothing to do but watch it go by.  And then return to the lovely old wood and polished timber floors of Casa Buonvento, where a bottle of Vinho Verde and chocolates awaited us.  And the sun setting on the harbour, at the end of another lovely day.

It’s a special week for the lovely ladies of Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, celebrating their first year together.  Tina talks about expanding horizons, friendship and things that are dear to your heart.  Jo’s Monday walks mean all those things to me.  Beautiful islands and boats are meant to be shared, aren’t they?

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As are walks!  And here you have plenty to enjoy.  Many thanks to all of you, for your time and patience.

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First up this week is Amanda.  Apologies because I missed her link up last week :

A Famous Evening Walk – Coolangatta

And Albert sent me 2 walks, so here’s one of them :

Sherwood Homestead (Former) Walk via Blue Range Hut

Natalie has switched hosts to WordPress.  See what they made of Malta together :

Malta Highlights

Irene saw something wonderful, and…

Stayed Awhile

Ulli takes us to a fabulous building in Berlin, with a fascinating interior :

Water for The City

I do love a cottage garden, and this one from Jude focuses on some beautiful details :

A Summer Garden

Drake shows us a railway, and an old fort, on Alderney :

Give way, railway

Abandoned battlefield

While Alice has a fort from a different era, and bug spray!

Civil War Fort

Anyone for salad?  It’s hot here, so I don’t mind if I do.  Thanks, Jackie!

Mixed Salad

Anyone hankering after cool?  Sandra has a few snowy peaks for you :

Dege Peak, Mount Rainier National Park, USA

Cathy continues her personal journey :

(Camino day 24) Villarmentero de Campos to Carrion de los Condos

While Cheryl always finds somewhere fascinating to take us :

The Hidden Delights of Taehwagang Grand Park & Simni Bamboo Grove

And Susan?  Well, she’s trying to shed stereotypes :

Walking Ushuaia, Argentina

A good time had by all?  I certainly hope so!  See you next week on Jo’s Monday walk.

Six word Saturday

Azorean shades of blue, in Velas!

All’s square in love and war?  Sometimes the sixes are irresistible, as are Becky’s July Squares.  Wishing you all a happy weekend!

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