Friday, 9 November 2012

The Azores

The Azores are very beautiful. The joy was we have had a gloriously sunny day with bright blue skies and a temperature of around 19/20 degrees, just perfect.

There are 9 islands in this archipelago set almost in the centre of the Atlantic Ocean. They are like green jewels in the water with an all round year temperature of about 18 degrees, so the farmers of this fertile and luscious land get three or four crops a year! I took an excursion today as I really wanted to see some of the volcanic features, and boy was it worth it. Much of the island looks like the south of England with its hedged field and Friesian cattle, but once above 500 metres it becomes a bit more of a lunar landscape with bits of the 'misty isle' thrown in. The craters of the still very lively volcanos are huge, and are now filled with clean pure water and are full of fat trout and other sweet water fish.

We stopped at a small village where we most definitely tripled the somewhat bewildered local populous, and they stared at our neatly ticketed jumpers, with slightly raised eyebrows and small smiles - hoping, I imagine that these obvious tourists would spend some ready money and help the economy! A lady standing near me in the queue for the bus said she couldn't decide whether they were pleased to see us or not ! We were most definitely the goldfish in the bowl to be stared at.

The architecture is difficult to describe. A catholic mix of Portugese Baroque, Spanish pure white, and higgeldy piggeldy stone cottages which look like crofters houses with thick stone walls to keep out the Atlantic blasts. Maybe what I am really saying is that this remote people have simply taken bits of all sorts of cultures and used what suited them best!

We then visited a pineapple growing farm. I now fully understand why pineapples are a) expensive, and b) should be even more expensive ! We were told that they must be cultivated under glass in all but the most perfect climates, they take 18 months to mature, and one plant only produces one pineapple. When it is harvested then it must rest before it can begin again. How, I ask, can they be selling these delicate and tricky fruits for just £1 in Paradise Co op ? Where they grow here they were €2 in the market place, without any of the miles they travel to get to us. I will forever give a little reverential bow as I pass the pineapple shelf in the supermarket ! So much time and labour for such small return.

I was delighted to find a cafe just near the port where they had free wifi so I sat down eagerly with my bags and coat ( which was not needed!), logged on tried to send my photos to myself only to realise on looking around that half the crew were there and the Internet speed therefore was about as fast as a snail with asthma. Disappointed and with enthusiasm gone I got back onboard and cheered myself up with a sunny balcony, a Passion Fruit drink and some caramelised almonds.

It's tough, but someone's got to do it.

PS the building is the new venue for the next show ! The Ribiera Theatre on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores ! Any one fancy it!

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