Horta

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?

walking logo

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.