Some weather I’ll feign
My trip I’ll explain:
Portugal dry to a pain,
the Azores gave rain.
This would be our last day in Portugal and so we packed everything up and walked down castle hill. One of the really nice things I remember about that is that in the midst of all that cobblestone they have a flat runway on which you can run your wheeled luggage nearly all the way down to the square.
A nice cross-dressing person showed us a parking lot locker where we could stuff our luggage.
So unencumbered we could shop, mail our post cards, go back (almost) to where we started our trip in the Praça Rossio and share a bench with a very nice Portuguese lady. She helped us eat the last of the food that we couldn’t bring on the flight.
Of course some rain must fall. We needed to call the emergency number on the locker to get some of our luggage out but that obstacle was a small one and we caught the subway to the airport with all our belongings. Actually the strange thing about my rain comment was that it didn’t rain on any of the days we were in Portugal but did, every day, we were in the Azores. Huh.
And the guitalele was no problem to get on board the TAP flight: now that’s an air line that doesn’t annoy their passengers.
Getting home meant getting back to our old lives but isn’t it often the case, as with many vacations, that you’re refreshed and eager to get back to it? Nope. Not this time. We miss Portugal!
The Reverse Tower Noun
I climbed tower down
to the cool smooth floor renown
but tunnels play ground.
A 7AM train left for Sintra in the near dark.
Accompanying two friendly Mexican girls we stiffly hiked all the way up to Pena castle in the early morning light and were the first in line to buy tickets. One of the girls held a place for us in the entry line which was very nice since it became a massive queue by the time the ticket booths opened for business. This castle and the 200 hectares of gardens/woods around it look as if they come straight out of a fairy tale.
The current Palácio da Pena was constructed between 1836 and 1854 in Romanesque Revival and neo-Manueline styles. That was over the ruins of a monastery destroyed in the 1755 earthquake except for a beautiful chapel which was a highlight for us. The Palace itself was clearly a place for play and leisure for royalty and untold wealth was funneled through many exceptional artisans to create a building of exquisite beauty.
We bought a ticket for entry into the Moorish Castle nearby as well. Unlike Pena which is imposed on the landscape that, older place, conforms to its mountain top. Though its stone walls have been built and rebuilt many times it strikes me as more natural and less hubristic. Perhaps less sophisticated but its naturalness has a great appeal. I particularly liked the views of the ocean and Lisbon as well as the archaeological exhibits and dig sites.
Our plan was to visit the Quinta da Regaleira next but we didn’t want to go on the narrow road so we considered ourselves lucky, even if we weren’t totally sure about it, when we found a hiking trail down the hill. It went past the base of a rock cliff where several climbers were getting ready to ascend with ropes. Then, surprisingly, it lead to a gate in a stone wall which was open. Inside that we went from the natural to an artificial planned garden for the Sassetti Vila. That was a delightful walk through plants from all over the world, fountains and sculptures.
But if Pena was a fairy tale and the Moorish Castle, a lesson in history then the Quinta da Regaleira is a remarkable blend of both with imagination pushed to the limit of the looking glass and possibly through it. This place is a Disney land for adults.
Italian set-designer and architect Luigi Manini (1848-1936) who also designed the Palace Hotel do Buçaco was the genius behind the design of at least some of this magical place. I could have spent a week there and still not see everything. My favourites were the reverse tower and tunnels, the small but mind-blowingly beautiful chapel and the incredible statues and other art built into the interior rooms of the ‘palace’. Just before the place closed we shared a small portion of dinner at the cafe.
Then we walked down to Sintra for mass. We were early so we went into a roadside cafe to get something to drink and they let us power up our devices.
The 7:15pm mass was at the Igreja de São Martinho in Sintra and the gospel was read in English as well as in Portuguese which was a very pleasant touch.
An 8:50pm train took us back to Lisbon and the Rossio Station
The Life and Death of a Flea at the Feira da Ladra
Fred Flea sought bajra,
was stuck in muck on Seurat
fake. Ant cries rah-rah!
We had a nice slow morning: I wrote and Karen played her guitar. Around noon we ventured out into the heat downhill toward the Feira da Ladra or Mercado de Santa Clara (Campo de Santa Clara). Along the way we bumped into and, of course, entered the Church of São Vicente de Fora (Largo de São Vicente) in which I was told I wasn’t allowed to take any more pictures. Too bad since the use of clear glass for windows instead of stained for a brighter interior. It was one of the most beautiful churches I’d seen thus far.
We continued on to the market and got some stuff for the kids. The Feria or Flea Market is a bustling place on a Saturday where you can buy almost anything. Cork wallets to beautiful artwork to cheesy artwork to porn to azulejo tiles to old tools to used teflon frying pans! Oh so tempting.
The Panteao Nacional (Campo de Santa Clara) is a tall landmark locals like to use. It was right next to the market so we went for a look-see. It was a little pricey and since I didn’t consider it a real church and Karen was somewhat indifferent we gave it a pass and walked back to our love nest in the castle walls.
It shouldn’t be surprising when a quiet day, one with less highlights to tick off some crazy list, is one that I recall fondly. After all that occurs, if there’s no re-creation time then when can there be creation time? And make a difference?
Vinho (Vinho Branco,Península de Setúbal): Moscatel – Contra Forte
Queijo (ovelha) Serra da Estrela: Vale da Estrela
Expensive Bastard Pirates, arr!
We flew Ryan-Arrrrr,
had to pay for wee guitar
now we can’t go far—
Karen and I had to get up very early in the morning to do all we had to do to leave our airB&B duplex in Sete Cidades and get to the airport. I had no problem with the rental car but we did go through an ordeal to get Karen’s guitalele on board the plane. The Ryanair Gestapo insisted it had to be put into luggage and that we pay for it.
Karen was in tears at the idea: that would destroy the instrument for sure and, later, we saw proof of that in Lisbon as the luggage from the hold came down the belt and we saw multiple broken handles, zippers and all kinds of baggage mayhem and horror.
So like on our trip to the Azores I had Karen carry my bag and I put the guitalele over my shoulder and covered the baggage sticker with my iPad and coat. We were the first out on the tarmac since we had been brought up to the head of the line to pay for our 100€ baggage sticker. So I walked right to the baggage guy and pointed questioningly at the stairs to the plane’s font door. He nodded and smiled and I smiled back and quickly I went for the stairs without giving him the guitalele. I hid the instrument at our feet once we boarded.
When we were safely in the air I told Karen that that little guitar needed a name for having survived Ryanair twice.
It was a safe landing at Lisbon and Sylvia, who manages our next airB&B, whisked us directly to the apartment early by car for a small fee. This was to the Beco do Forno do Castelo (and they’re not kidding: it was right in the walls of Castelo Jorge).
We relaxed for a bit, put some wash on and then went to find the closest Pingo Doce. I promptly got us lost BUT we did find the Sé (the Lisbon Cathedral) and toured through both the free and paid portions. It’s a beautiful igreja.
In the Tesouro rooms they had the most incredible (and probably the most expensive) monstrance I’ve ever seen and a piece of liturgical equipment I’d never heard of before and so had to research: an asterisk. Nothing like the Gaulish warrior at all.
Unsure whether the guy selling them was a scam artist or not we bought tickets to a concert in the Se cloister that evening hosted by Lisbon Classical Guitar Concerts.
Then came the time to actually find the Pingo Doce. We bought chicken for supper and enjoyed it in the apartment along with the rest of a red vinho we’d opened earlier and some of our landlord’s homemade ginja licor.
It turned out that our tickets were real and the guitarist Miguel Vieira da Silva was fantastico. His performance was one of the trip highlights for Karen. The stone cloister behind the altar of the Sé had fabulous acoustics. And Miguel’s wonderful selection of music included the Spanish composer Francisco Tarrega, Leo Brower, Alfonso Correia Leite, Thilo Krassman, Angustin Barrios Mangore and more. For anyone interested his biography is here and he’s a member of the Lisbon Guitar quartet which has a great website with lots of music links including this great YouTube video.
Vinho (Vinho Tinto,Alentejano): Ocidente – Reserva 2015
Miradouro cats Retort
Cats hold their boxed court
on long points of land athwart
green. Free they cavort.
This was a disappointing day. Our plan was to do Nordeste (Northeast in English) and Furnas. We ended up doing a lot of driving and seeing a lot including the Reserva Florestal de Recreio do Viveiro in Nordeste and the Farol do (Lighthouse) Arnel but neither were too impressive. We piled into the Fiat and just kept driving around to the south coast of São Miguel.
Cats infested two scenic viewpoints on the way: Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego and the even more remarkable Ponta da Madrugada. This latter one has mossy paths and stone picnic tables on the slopes to either side that remind me of a fairy realm.
Steamy Furnas has its bubbling hot springs, boiling mud and many other geothermal wonders. We walked around the town a bit. Then we drove out to the Lagoa das Furnas. The famous Capela de Nossa Senhora das Vitórias (Our Lady of the Victories) arrested our attention from clear across the lake. In a beautiful and romantic gesture and to fulfill a vow he’d made during her terminal illness, José do Canto had a beautiful neo-gothic funerary chapel built for his wife Maria Guilhermina Taveira Brum do Canto. They are both buried inside it.
Karen and walked down the long path to it but it and the botanical garden do Canto had created were both, unfortunately, closed.
Upon reflection we should have stayed in the car as we went around Nordeste and enjoyed the sights. We could have made a few stops at Sossego and Madrugada, done a quick walk through Furnas and spent the rest of the day at the Jardim da Lagoa das Furnas, the botanical Mata José do Canto park and particularly the Capela.
That evening we were busy getting ready to fly out the next morning.
Licor (Lemon,Acores): Licor de Limã
Cows up on the slope
never show their gear, their rope.
How are they so dope?
A sunny morning dawned for us as a change but…no. Pause for effect. Then torrential rain descended. I’m reminded of an old saying from Nova Scotia: ‘If you don’t like the weather wait a minute’.
It was a good thing. We’d had an intense schedule on a lot of our vacation so far so the rain was a blessing in a wet disguise. We could enjoy time with each other and relax. Karen played guitar, I wrote, did some tai chi on the garage and we both caught up with our homework: reviews for the various Air B&B’s we’d stayed at in Portugal.
It cleared up in the afternoon and we drove west out of the crater for the first time. At a parking lot at the top we stopped for the view. There’s a trail there that you can take going around the rim. We didn’t do that as it would take several hours but it looked interesting. Instead we carried on to the hot spring at Ponta da Ferraria. This is a U-shaped cove in the Atlantic sheltered by black, sharp volcanic rock.
Several ropes are tied across the cove to hang onto as big waves of cold water came in to mix with the hot water coursing up at the head. Floating on the water was an unappealing light brown scum but there was a lineup behind me at the swimming pool style ladder so I didn’t turn back. Onward. In fact the ‘scum’ was actually a variety of flotsam comprised most surprisingly of floating pumice rock and some vegetative matter.
Floating rocks! That’s not something I saw every day.
This was a truly idyllic and wonderful place to relax.
Indoor hot water but outdoors.
A hot spring but underwater.
There is a spa there but the core is absolutely free unlike the Caldeira Velha which charges admission.
Looking back on this part of our Azores adventure both Karen and I wish we’d spent more time at Ferraria.
Vinho (Vinho Verde,Vinho Verde): Alvarinho – Via Latina 2017
Restaurante da Associação Agrícola de São Miguel comes across
Steak in pepper sauce
is Restaurante’s fare’s boss.
Mmm. An absence loss.
The day started out with lots of rain but that changed to torrential rain before it went back to lots. We took the opportunity to relax, organize, eat a nice breakfast, do some work and dishes.
Manny and Michael met us in Ponta Delgada at the Convent called Santuário de Nosso Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres (Avenida Roberto Ivens). To get there we had to cross the Praca 5 Outubro with its famous bearded tree supported by pillars to keep it aloft.
The Chapel of the Lord of Miracles in the Convent was an ornate space of honour for this famous statue but I found the church through which you have to proceed to get to it more interesting and beautiful. The story of the nun who made the place famous is beautifully told in azulejo tile paintings on the walls and the ceiling and altar area are gorgeous. The nuns there are cloistered and you can only see them extramuros on very special occasions. However you can donate through a turntable offering device. I put a 5€ note in it and spun it about. Back came a rosary and prayer card.
The next places Manny wanted to show us were on the northern coast. We stopped at the Miradouro de Santa Iria for a great view of the coast which has a colony of stray cats (and we learned later this wasn’t the only scenic spot with a feline component). There aren’t many wild animals in the Azores left: most are ‘domestic’ like the ever-present climbing cows and sheep.
Our next stop was the only place that grows and makes tea in Europe: Gorreana Tea Factory (Plantações de Chá Gorreana) with its beautiful tea hedges all lined up and the very interesting factory where they treat the leaves to make tea. Manny’s ex once work there and we were introduced to his sister-in-law who still does. Michael was interested in all the old equipment in the factory and in the huge spiders outside it.
Very close to where Manny was born is the Restaurante da Associação Agrícola de São Miguel in the Campo Do Santana which had the best steak I’ve had in Portugal! The four of us had a delightful meal and Manny told us many stories about the area including the beach where he’d frequently swam as a child. We went down to check it out after parting from our guides. The beach was completely washed out and there’s no access down to the water any longer.
As we drove back we stopped at the mall in Punta Delgada to get supplies and so arrived in Sete Cidades once again in the dark, though this time we used the correct road.