Off to a flying start in the clouds last week, today we’ll have our feet much more firmly on the ground. I’m taking you back to the beginning of our Azores adventure, and arriving in a rather dull, grey Ponta Delgada. Quite a contrast to the sunny Algarve we left behind, but I was full of optimism and happy to finally be there. It was mid-afternoon when we landed. A 10 minute taxi ride from the airport, check-in, and we were out on the streets. I needed a flavour of Sáo Miguel’s main city, and capital of the islands, because I would not be returning. The following day we were flying onwards, to the island of Sáo Jorge.
My initial impression of Ponta Delgada was not kind. Much of it looked neglected and unloved, the architecture reminiscent of an outdated Madeira. But first impressions are not always fair, and my judgment was clouded by the heavy skies. Nevertheless, the display at the airport should have alerted me that something special was happening here. The billboards in the street were a definite clue.
The penny still not quite dropping, I wandered on. The doors stood open on the church in the main square, and I ventured up the steps.
Sáo Sebastiáo, the Igreja Matriz or Mother Church, was magnificent. I said a quick thank you for my safe deliverance and continued, drawn towards the waterfront. I peered at the distant hills, willing the cloud to clear. Down in the marina I was surprised to see paintings along the quay. I associated these messages of goodwill with Horta, on the island of Faial, but the tradition must have spread to other islands.
So often my wanderings are defined by boats and churches, and this was to be no different. I lingered hopefully, for just a patch of blue in the sky. It was still warm enough for frolics in the outdoor pool, but I crossed the road to mount the hill to Sáo Pedro.
When I came out of the church, my husband was chatting to a mischievous looking small boy and his older, more sensible, sister. They were giggling over their 4 or 5 words of English, while he manfully practised his Portuguese. All were delighted with the situation. We parted ways, in need of a coffee, and were amused to then find them sitting at the bus stop opposite our café. They waved cheerfully as they waited for their bus home, and we ate our first Azorean pastries.
Our spirits lifted along with the clouds, and we strolled on along the waterfront. By the Fort of Sáo Brás a bustling market was in full swing. Across the Campo of Sáo Francisco, past the fountains and beyond the bandstand, a wonderful sight met our eyes.
The Church of Sáo Francisco was adorned with flowers. Curious, we went inside. Living in Portugal, as we now do, we are well used to splendid panels of azulejos. Still we gawped at the walls and ceiling before us. Yet these were not the main attraction. A throng of people were gathered at the end of the church opposite to the beautiful altar, with their backs turned to it. Slowly we edged forward to find a gap. Behind a glass panel, this is what we saw. We had inadvertently arrived on the island for the Festival of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres.
This link contains a video which you do not need to watch all of to understand the significance of this. We had missed the parade but could still revel in the beauty of the flowers and decorated streets. And our first hydrangea!
After supper we returned for a look at the illuminated streets. The City Gate looked far more imposing with its wash of blue.
And Sáo Francisco? Well, judge for yourself. A bit of a dazzler!
The night time shots have too much glare, but I think you can feel the atmosphere. Perhaps I misjudged Ponta Delgada.
I’m back in the Algarve now, but still marveling at the many sights I saw in the Azores. Join me for more here on Jo’s Monday walk next week. And many thanks for all your wonderful contributions.
Starting out with Ann-Christine’s beautiful homeland and a tribute to a remarkable man :
Then a little test for your fitness, with Suzanne :
Something cool and soothing next, from Xenia :
Not so hot in Toronto, either, but quite interesting. Thanks, Indra!
Some street art can be disturbing, but that’s part of its function, isn’t it, Ulli?
By contrast, lush growth and planting, from Jude. I’ll make it to Cornwall yet!
Carol’s been in the wars lately, but she’s a real trooper :
You can have such fun with photographs! Sometimes I forget to play. Thanks for reminding me, Lynn :
The first of a series of walks by the Murrumbidgee River in Australia, in the company of a Wombat :
While Cathy soldiers on, taking the good with the bad :
And Drake… well, he’s always off somewhere interesting. Giverny is a favourite of mine :
The following morning we saw just a little more of Ponta Delgada. I’ll share it with you during the week. Have a good one!