Travel

And to conclude….

A lovely place to end!  We had the odd misgiving when we arrived in Vila Franca do Campo, but we were completely wrong.

Such a wonderful renovation, retaining character and atmosphere, and with smiling, helpful staff.  Convento de Sáo Francisco was a real find.

I even found a niche to watch the final of the French Open tennis at Roland Garros, while a certain other enjoyed one last lounge beside a hotel pool.  All’s well that ends well?  Rafa certainly thought so!  And as we sashayed out to our final evening meal, would you credit it but a band struck up in the distance?  Just one more procession, albeit a very low key affair, which rather suited our mood.

And the sun finally set on an epic Azores adventure.  I have so enjoyed sharing it with you.

So sorry to have confused everybody!  I intended to schedule Vila Franca do Campo, my Monday walk, for today, but I got over-excited and posted it late on Saturday.  My links to everyone’s walks are over there so please do check back for any you’ve missed.  I doubt I’ll post again before the weekend.  Have a great week!

 

Jo’s Monday walk : Vila Franca do Campo

So!  The dilemma!  Our last night, close to the airport for an early start, or a beguiling monastery, not too far away?  When we rang the bell pull at dusk, and the narrow grill rolled slowly back, we could have been forgiven for wondering if we’d made the right choice.  A small door in the hefty green one was swung creakily back to admit us.  Were we spending the night in a cell?

Vila Franca do Campo was full of surprises.  On our bed, at Convento de Sáo Francisco, a glossy magazine, open at a feature… are you familiar with Bom Jesus at Braga, on mainland Portugal?  The image was something similar, but on a smaller scale.  Definitely an expedition for the morning.

On a bright blue day, yet another amiable taxi driver arrived to wind us up, and up, and up the hillside to Senhora da Paz. (and he would collect us at six for the airport, the following morning, still smiling  🙂  )  Breakfast of island cheeses, boiled eggs, fresh pineapple and wonderful local bread and honey had set us up for the day.  Nothing to do but start at the top, and amble slowly, back down the hillside.

The views down upon Vila Franca do Campo, with its offshore islet, were simply beautiful, the subtle stripes of the ocean stretching to infinity.  The azulejo panels tell the story of Our Lady of Peace, whose image was discovered nearby, in a simple grotto.

Reluctantly I tore myself away to begin the descent.  Mingled with the ever present hydrangeas, starry bursts of delicate agapanthus.

Did you notice the islet, on the horizon?  I didn’t manage to get there in the short time we had, but the ferries leaving the marina seemed popular.  But I’m jumping ahead of myself.  We wound our way down a tree-lined avenue until we were back in the town.  The houses had interesting adornments to delay our progress, and one garden was full of ripening bananas.  Most noticeable, though, were the coloured hoops across the streets.  A festival of some kind was set to happen, connected to the Senhora, I could only surmise.

Eventually the twists and turns brought us to a central square, and thirst led us from there to the marina.  A hot and lively place from which to observe the business of boats.  Something I’m able to do for hours!

A seawall led out around the marina, protecting it from an ocean mild as milk on this particular day.  We stopped to watch some youngsters bringing home their tiny craft, the instructor bellowing at them intimidatingly.  I was glad that I was ashore.

So many fascinating jobs to be done.  But not everybody loves boats, and it was time to follow the shoreline and head back up to our monastery/hotel.  Evidence here that someone loves cars too!

Through a very attractive square, whose church door was temptingly open.  And past the prettiest bandstand ever!

I think this may be a good place to leave this walk, though I hear anguished cries of ‘what about the cake?’  You can have too much of a good thing?

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I’m still in the UK till late Wednesday.  So much has happened since we were in the Azores!  I’m in transit to Nottingham tomorrow, and as some of you may realise, I’ve just hit Publish rather than Preview!  So you have a Jo’s Monday walk on a Saturday.  Whatever next?  I hope you’ll excuse me.  There will be a brief follow up on Monday.

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Meanwhile, Cathy has been trekking, and trekking, on her spiritual journey :

(Camino day 27) San Nicolás del Real Camino to Bercianos del Real Camino

(Camino day 28) Bercianos del Real Camino to Reliegos & ruminations (week 4)

And Sandra has been enjoying the great outdoors :

Flowers, Berries and More

Naches Peak Loop/Tipsoo Lake, Mount Rainier National Park

I always enjoy a step back in time.  Thanks, Irene :

Sense of Nostalgia

Meet Elina from Finland!  She has some wonderful sights to show you :

Rainbow Mountain

And guess what?  Drake’s….

Back in town

And he has full permission to walk on a day that’s not Monday  🙂

Village with red touch

While Rupali, after a break, is…

Back on track

And Ulli takes us on a majestic tour of the Austrian Alps :

The route is the final destination in Austria

Funnily enough, Suzanne, the Travelbunny, just featured a spectacular walk in Austria that I’d love to do :

Tiefenbachklamm – Discovering Austria’s Wild Side

And Debbie takes us to ever more exotic and interesting places.  I can’t keep up!

Bender Fortress

I’m sure she’d enjoy some of the street art in Cheryl’s walk, too :

The Highest Café of Jaman Mural Village

Another newcomer to the walks- please give a warm welcome to Nandini :

A Walk on Golconda Fort

And in case you’ve forgotten Nadine, something that made me feel very restless :

15 Photos that will make you fall in love with the Camino del Norte

And I almost missed Margaret, but here she is!

Country Mouse visits the Big City

It’s great that you’ve all continued to walk with me.  Comments were closed for a while, but I guess I’m back in business now.  I’ve loved my family time in the UK but I think it will be good to be home again.

Six word Saturday

Got the blues, in the night!

My last July Squares before I disappear for a few weeks. I’m linking this to a walk in Capelas, which will explain more.  Thank you Becky and Debbie for hours of fun.  Have a great weekend!

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Capelas, Sáo Miguel- not quite a Monday walk

Sáo Miguel is quite a large island.  Needing a base from which to complete the walk around the rim of the volcano at Sete Cidades, I opted for the small village of Capelas, on the northwest coast.  Knowing nothing about it, once we’d checked into a lovely bungalow in the grounds of the Solar do Conde, it was time to explore.

A left turn took us towards the village, a walk of about 15 minutes.  A right turn led to a beautiful coastal path, according to our helpful hotel receptionist.  Village first, though the road was narrow and largely unpaved.

A sign suggested the name of Capelas comes from caves dug into the rocks by the often boisterous sea, the caves resembling chapels.  The art of the bandstand seems to be alive and well here in the Azores.  We saw some beauties.  The tile panels are equally beautiful throughout Portugal.

Certainly, the cliffs were high, and the sea a little boisterous.  Nor did the tiny port look an easy place to dock.  The square outside the church seemed a pleasant place to sit and watch village life, the locals lazing away a warm afternoon.  The church was still open so I popped inside.

We ambled back to the hotel, where a pool awaited.  Rather a nice one, too, but I couldn’t sit still for very long.  What about that right turn?  Leaving the other half to idle a while, I picked up the camera and sauntered off again.

Sure enough, the coastal path led far away into the distance.  I didn’t have much time before supper, but I can never resist the whoosh of waves.

As I approached the bathing area the clouds were beginning to gather again.  It seemed like a good time to turn for that evening’s ‘home’.

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Jo’s Monday walk is going to be missing for 3 weeks or more while I’m in the UK, so I’ve decided to include the walks I’ve already accumulated this week, here.  It’s hard to keep track of them otherwise.  Feel free to keep them coming.  I have one last lovely place in the Azores to share with you.  I’ll post it when I can, but have no idea when that might be.

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State of the art, and a few gymnastics with Janet, to get us started :

Monday walk… out and about in Sheridan

Not a walk so much as a ride with Sue, but you’ve gotta love her :

Azorean ruin

The irrepressible Jackie offers up…

Two Scoops

I mostly saw it in the rain, but Natalie had much better luck :

Day Trip to Salzburg, Austria

Boats, oysters, marshlands… Alice has it all!

Pin Point

Tiptoe through a chateau, with Drake?

Art in the countryside

A city gate, and a little history from Ulli :

A Promenade through old Beeskow, Germany

Terri admits she’s a little obsessed with fitness, but you have to admire her dedication :

No Excuses Fitness : Exercising with a Cast

How’s about this for a bridge, on many levels?  Thanks, Carol!

Over, Under and Back Again

Sweltering heat seems to have been universal lately.  Enjoy a cooling Algarve stroll with Becky :

Down by the river

Thanks for your company, and your patience.  Have a great Summer, or ‘roll on Spring!’ depending where you are in the world.  See you soon!

Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, Furnas

Backtracking just a little, our base for the first 2 nights on Sáo Miguel island was the luxurious Terra Nostra Garden Hotel.  Normally location and somewhere small and friendly, or old and quirky, are what I look for in a hotel.  The selling point for this one was its highly acclaimed lush tropical gardens with a thermal spa at their centre, in the small village of Furnas.  ‘A very pretty village’, we were assured by our young taxi driver, who still lived there, with his mum.

It was late when we checked in and I was quite happy with my comfy bed, but was horrified to wake next morning to the sound of steady rain.  Glum faces tucked away, we tucked into a very grand breakfast indeed.  ‘It’s brightening up a bit?’  Hopeful words, but by the time we’d donned macs and gone out to explore it was torrential.  The thermal pool was getting fuller by the second.  ‘Well, we can still go in there…?’ met with a disapproving look from the other half.  So, we slipped and slithered around the uneven, mossy paths, dodging puddles and treacherous tree roots.  Rain dripping off your nose, and hood, doesn’t make for the best photos, and my camera was starting to be decidedly unhappy.  Still, we were surrounded by such beauty.  And it was lovely weather for the little ducklings.

We’re not Spa people, and nothing was further from my mind than sitting in the hotel all day.  Furnas had to have a cake shop, didn’t it?  It certainly didn’t lack for water.  The mill wheel was positively racing along!

Well, some folk are gluttons for punishment so, after squeezing ourselves into a cosy tearoom and, armed with a map, we set off to find Lagoa das Furnas.  Intermittent rain accompanied us on a road with hairpin bends, but when you could pause and look at the scenery it promised to be beautiful.  The levadas to catch the run off from the hills are a hint at how much rain the area gets. (thoughtfully, inside the hotel lifts, a 3 day weather forecast is posted, if only I’d been paying attention)  Not easy to read a map on a breezy lakeshore.

It was 2 or 3 kilometres to the lake from the village and, just as we were wondering about our sanity, it appeared quite suddenly around a corner.  A translucent, green beauty.  Wisps of smoke on the far shore caught our eye- the fumaroles.  Geothermal activity makes it possible to cook a Portuguese stew in the heat from the volcano in this part of the island.  Of course, we wanted a closer look, and before you know it we’d agreed to complete the walk around the lake.

The man in blue led the way intrepidly.  Some of the trees were swimming and at times it felt like we might have to.

But gradually the skies began to brighten, as we passed the woefully decrepit Ermida de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias.  Overhead we were unable to identify a beautiful yellow bloom, but then the shore was lined again with the blues and creams I found everywhere on these islands.

It didn’t all end in tears.  The forecast in the lift was perfectly correct, and the following morning the thermal pool looked magical with a haze of steam drifting in the sunlight.  Another unforgettable memory from the Azores.

Jo’s Monday walk : Sete Cidades

I was going to save this walk till the end of my Azores saga, but it feels right to include it now.  You could say that the entire purpose of coming to these islands was to see the lakes at Sete Cidades with my own eyes.  Could they really be as beautiful as they appeared in the photographs?

They’re back on the main island, Sáo Miguel, a short flight from Faial.  Standing on the runway at Horta airport, looking across the water at Pico, I had to wonder if this second week was going to be an anticlimax.  I needn’t have worried.  Very little about the Azores disappoints.  A smiling taxi driver had whisked us from Ponta Delgada airport to our luxury hotel and thermal spa at Furnas (more about that later) and from there to the north west of the island.  The unfailing good humour and willingness to help of the taxi drivers never ceased to amaze.  En route, Maciel stopped to let us look at Lagoa do Fogo, whetting our appetite for the main event.

As so often, I got it right, but I got it wrong first!  The area is full of smaller lakes and, thinking to save our legs, the amiable driver paused briefly at Lagoa do Canario on the way up the mountain.  A quick, sunny look, and back in the car.  I had read that the viewing point Vista do Rei (King’s View) was a must see, and asked him to drop us off there.  It was growing increasingly cloudy and I was in dread of a repetition of our visit to the Caldeira on Faial, when we didn’t see a thing.  The clouds wafted around and I waited for that golden moment when the sun hits the water.  Almost in vain!  It was time to start walking, back in the direction we had come from.  Gradually the clouds melted, leaving us to hike a warm 3km along the switchback of a roadside.   The one saving grace was that it afforded us views we otherwise would have missed.

Sete Cidades from Vista do Rei

Mountain weather is predictably erratic and I had my fingers firmly crossed when we finally reached the beginning of the trail, PR4.  It makes an 11km circuit of the two main lakes, Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, after a bit of a steep climb.  Understatement!

I hadn’t known that there was rather a delightful surprise waiting for us.  A wonderful old, moss-covered aqueduct, Muro das Nove Janelas.

I gawped at it from every angle, before beginning the upward slog, gentle at first but soon arriving at a semi-vertical, narrow paved section, which led up, and up!  A couple of farmers climbed effortlessly ahead of us, turning off the path part way to herd the cattle to different pastures.

What a reward for effort!  As we climbed higher more of the lakes became visible, despite the lurking clouds.  At the top we heaved a sigh of satisfaction.  There before us spread four of the lakes, including Lagoa do Canario, our starting point.

Now all we needed to do was follow the rim of the volcano.  The trail upped and downed a little, and at one point we simply sat on a rock and gazed.  I can’t be sure but there may even have been a chocolate biscuit involved.  The view was too stunning to care.

Looking back the cloud still lingered but, as we made our way around the rim, more and more of Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde were revealed.  The light danced across the water, tracing patterns and changing colours on a whim.  On the horizon, the wild Atlantic, becalmed.

Wild flowers created beautiful borders for me, until finally I found what I had been hoping for- a wonderful spread of hydrangeas.

Gradually we came back down.  I had run out of superlatives and my feet were weary.  It seemed to take an inordinate time to reach the lakeside- we’d been walking about 4 hours- and as we did the cloud rolled back in.

How did the area come to be called Sete Cidades or Seven Cities?  It’s a historical reference, explained fully in the link, with explanations of the volcanic activity which gave rise to the lakes.  For us the big question was how to get to our next destination.  The only taxi in the village was busy, but the lady in the TI assured us he would come in half an hour.  He was late, but smiling, and singing to himself as he drove us back down the mountain, into the sunshine.

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The year is flying by, and one of the reasons I’ve chosen this walk is that it’s likely to be my last for a few weeks.  Next Monday I will be in England with a lively 6 year old to entertain.  Great fun but not conducive to lengthy posts.  I’d like to finish my Azores series this week, but there still seems so much to show you.  I’ll be away for 3 weeks so Jo’s Monday walk will be temporarily suspended.  Please do enjoy the following :

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All this lies on Lynn’s doorstep.  And orchids too!  What a privilege :

Local Walks: Kukutali Preserve

Carol has been walking with difficulty lately, but she can still contribute a wonderful browse around a market :

Let’s Go Shopping!

Drake honours the departed, 75 years on :

Remembrance of partnership

The island of Maui, seen through Irene’s eyes :

Just a Glance

While Alice has found us the prettiest little lighthouse :

Rear Range Lighthouse 1879

Beautiful views, with Janet, whichever direction you look :

Monday walk… Look out!

Anne tells an interesting tale of quarries and disaster :

Coombe Down and the story of Bath Stone

While Candy is exploring the green spaces of Deptford :

Margaret McMillan Park in Deptford

And from one Margaret to another…  🙂

Tabariane: New Light on the Dark Ages revisited

Golden light streaming from this one of Cathy’s :

(Camino day 26) Calzadilla de la Cuenza to San Nicolás del Real Camino

I don’t know that this totally fits the bill, but I think Ann-Christine would agree that these are Dreamy landscapes.  Certainly I dreamed of seeing them for a long time.  And Cathy has an ongoing Photography Invitation you might like to join?  Have a great week!

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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