The Azores are a group of islands spanning a length of 373 miles. The islands formed 50,000 years ago through volcanic eruption. Ten major islands surfaced and two were later joined through another eruption, leaving nine primary islands in the archipelago. The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, are 2100 miles from the US mainland and 900 miles from mainland Portugal.
Discovered in 1427 and settled in 1432, the primary language is Portuguese. The Azores dialect sounds slightly French because of the people who left Britannia during the Napoleon wars.
It took us six sea days to reach our first port – Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel, The Azores, Portugal.
The currency in the Azores is the Euro and we exchanged money on the ship. This is really only a small sample of the denominations we eventually used both in bills and coin. There are a lot!
As we were entering port, our captain commented on this ship, the Borealis of the Fred Olsen line. She was launched in 1996 and christened in 1997 as part of the Holland America fleet. She was the sixth ship in the line named the Rotterdam. This ship was sold when the newest Rotterdam was planned. The new, seventh, Rotterdam was in Fort Lauderdale with us and was in sight for much of of our journey across the Atlantic.
Our feet touched land for the first time in almost a week and we joined our guided tour – destination the Sete Cidades Crater.
However our first stop was at the A. Arruda pineapple plantation. Originally brought from Brazil, pineapples are grown here in glass greenhouses. A crop takes two years to grow as compared to six months in Brazil.
Smoke pots trick the plants to grow faster.
We tasted pineapple liquor. It was good.
On the drive up to the caldera crater, our tour guide told us a variety of things about his homeland.
There are no snakes on the islands, but there are ferrets, weasels and rats. They were stowaways on ships through time.
In the lush lands, they are able to grow food and sustain cattle. As a result the Azores do not generally import foodstuffs.
Education for kindergarten through university is free. All majors are available on the islands. Engineering, Medical and Law students transfer to the mainland to complete advanced degrees.
The United States still has an Air Force Base in the Azores, Lejes Field.
There are commercial flights from Boston every day.
At the top, we parked near to this abandoned hotel. Built in the late 1980s, the Hotel Monte Palace was a five star resort and voted the best in Portugal, but lasted only eighteen months. It just couldn’t succeed financially. The drab concrete seems like it could be featured on the TV show Mysteries of the Abandoned.
Just steps away was a viewpoint for Sete Cidades Crater. We visited on an overcast day and, although still beautiful and lush, we didn’t see the lakes when the color differential was most vibrant.
This is a picture of an advertising photograph.
We journeyed to the town at the bottom and explored a bit. There is always a church!
And there was food. This is fast food pizza – Azores style. It was okay, but cold. We didn’t know it then but it was foretaste of the challenge to come for us regarding the temperature of food in Spain and Italy.
After a good tour we had some time on our own at the port. We walked to the Military Museum of the Azores, housed in the Fortress of Sao Bras – a Renaissance military fortification.
There were many interesting displays and objects throughout the museum,
The military objects and equipment spanned centuries. We looked around and learned what we could but very few placards had information in English.
After two more sea days we were to the part of the cruise that has a new port almost daily. Next up: Cueta, Spanish Morocco.