By Inge Perreault e-mail Inge at email@example.com
Azores Journal 1
Azores Journal 2
Azores Journal 3 Azores
Journal 4 Azores Journal 5 Azores Journal 6
ITS A NEW YEAR IN THE AZORES BUT LITTLE CHANGES
||Well, the Ano Novo celebrations were as low-key as the
Christmas festivities compared to US standards. Yes, there were some fireworks to be seen
but mostly it was celebrated in the home with heavy emphasis on family, otherwise no big
deal. Little seems to change and the Christmas lights strung across every street in towns
and villages promptly came down after the Feast of the Epiphany.
Life has returned to normal quickly. The weather, though off-season, is delightful and I spent the afternoon sitting outside in the garden under the blossoming Camellia bush taking notes for this journal.
After just two short months I have gotten used to waiting my turn patiently at the post office, bank or any other governmental institution.
|To be frank, I
sort of like it, I am being slowed down by force! There have been more invitations to
parties by local Azoreans and eccentric expatriates who were most delightful.
We met some really interesting folks and an amazing amount of really nice and open-minded
Germans to boot.
Last Sunday we attended a free piano concert of pieces by Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, Strauss and some Jazz thrown in for good measure, performed to two female Russian pianist virtuosos(four hands) that was exquisite. The concert took place in Ribeira Grande and we were in the company of our new British friends as well as a German couple who just retired here. Naturally we heard plenty of stories about the fun of having belongings shipped via container to their old remodeled Azorean house by an Italian Shipping Company. They have been coming here since 1997 and decided to leave the larger
||The concert was given free of
charge at the newly refurbished baroque-style theatre in the above mentioned town of
While on that side of the
|So this afternoon
taking notes for this journal entry, I was sitting outside around a table made of an old
mill-stone with the sky as blue as the ocean and flowers blossoming in profusion while my
wash was flapping in the breeze on the clothes-line. Taking my chair out of the garage I
noticed that our landlord had filled-up our bin with yet more batatas (sweet
and regular potatoes), coracon negra (a fruit that is delightful and in translation means
black heart,) fresh bananas which are mini- Chiquitas but more
flavorful, cebolas (onions) plus various other treasures I could not identify but will
certainly cook-up this week.
The flowers continue to be spectacular in temperatures ranging from the low to high 50ies during the night to the high 60ies and low 70ies during the day. Veggies grow while you watch and I am not exaggerating, Id better start picking Kale before it goes to seed.
While I thoroughly enjoy the flowers I have stopped picking Hibiscus and Camellias (they attract fruit flies like mad) enjoying them outside as well as the Bird of Paradise, Calla Lilies and Clivias growing wild all over the place. So does honeysuckle in white, bright red and orange as well as Narcissus which seem to have naturalized somehow in the most unlikely places. Sometimes I forget it is January, easy to do, and just today more German tourists with knapsacks crossed my path chatting amicably while heading for the mountains in the center of the island.
If this is off-season and the WORST, I cant wait for in-season and the BEST. Maybe I shall venture to the
||One plant I have relearned
NOT to touch and to avoid is the stinging nettle (Brennessel) I remember well from
my childhood in
Should you be tempted to visit these shores,
|I thought it
might be advisable to enlighten you about some of the rather odd customs practiced
in this part of the world. My friend Mechthild (they have adorable
bungalows for rent at Quinta Altamira on a 16 acre estate with tennis court, swimming pool and wonderful flora by the ocean) filled me in
recently and I thought it wise to share some of them to
spare you the embarrassing moments I experienced.
First off, I have become Dona Inge and my spouse Senor Roland. You can be a menina (unmarried), a senora (a woman who is married) or a dona once you reached a certain age commanding respect. If a friendship develops or even an acquaintance, the proper way to address a person is by their first name preceded by one of the above.
Then there is the kissing and
hugging bit. Unlike the French who air-kiss, Azoreans tend to be more outgoing in
their greetings, a kiss on the left and then on the right cheek but only between
women/women, women/men and men/woman. Some men tend to take advantage of that privilege
but you catch on fast and avoid the hug that squeezes the breath out of you by keeping
your distance. I am a fast learner in this regard. Let it be said that this ritual not
only applies to good friends but also extends to mere acquaintances as I have
Going out to eat to a restaurant required
more finesse that might seem particularly vexing to a German/American. The first item you
are being served will be a round piece of farmers cheese with a spicy red pepper
sauce on the side and fresh bread not as an appetizer but standard fare and once
used to this treat it is quite tasty. Next is the choice of wine, which is very good and
rather inexpensive. Vino Cheiro is red wine that has not had a long time to ferment,
comparable to an Italian Chianti. Then I recommend you ask for the specials of the day
which are usually very tasty. If you do not like fish served with the head and all plus
lots of bones you have to work your way through, do not order fish. The grilled sardines
are eaten often even with the bones but they are not to my taste. I do miss the large
pieces of flaky cod, scrod or haddock but they do not exist in these waters. The
cod is salted and imported from
are mentioning TV, dont be surprised either if the minute you enter the home of an
Azorean the TV will either be already on or switched on. While this may be considered rude
in other countries, the technology came late to the
|sides. Now this
is when it gets tricky especially for apost-WWII German like me who was indoctrinated
early on in her childhood to eat everything on her plate. In the
Do NOT complain because your vegetables are lukewarm or even cold. That is the local custom because the chef is concerned you might burn your delicate palate and would be very insulted should you complain about the temperature of your vegetables. Yes, it is a strange custom since meat and French fries are hot but veggies are quite a different aspect of the local cuisine. Mostly they are used in sopas (soups) or stews with beef bones to which tender and tasty meat is attached, but you regularly get corn, peas, carrots or beans that are at best lukewarm. Naturally I committed the Faux Pas by pointing that fact out to the waiter. However, in our favorite restaurant he knows we are weird Americans and the chef has actually started actively teaching us Portuguese. Meanwhile I am continuing to give English lessons and tutoring pro-bono ..go figure.
Nobody will rush you, eat, stay as long as
your heart desires and enjoy the congenial atmosphere. The desert menu
Nobody will rush you, eat, stay as long as your heart desires and enjoy the congenial atmosphere. The desert menuwill be presented and by all means, try some of the delicacies you have never heard about. It is well worth the adventure. Their flans and custards are excellent in tropical flavors, as are their baked goods to be topped off with a tiny cup of coffee (similar to Italian Espresso) also available in decaf which I prefer at the late hour Portuguese eat their big meal. Most restaurants do not even open until and like in
Once you have really had your fill (and by the way, Germans and those of German descent will enjoy the local beer which is quite good as well) ask for the bill (conta). Unless you pay by credit card, be prepared to have change on you and leave a 10% to 15% tip, then get up immediately and leave. That is the custom, you do not get change back or if you do, it is supposed to be left something that is simply understood.
When ordering a couple of beers, remember that they do not start with the thumb when it comes to counting if you give a gesture by hand. They start with the index finger and the thumb is the LAST. So if you wish to order two beers or drinks of your choice, hold-up your index and your middle finger, NOT YOUT THUMB, otherwise you will end-up with ONE. I did not know that either and when ordering two coffees I was surprised to only receive one after having held-up my thumb and the index finger; lesson learned! However, let us not underestimate the importance of holding-up your right thumb as an indication of approval. It NEVER fails to generate a huge smile, give you the right of way and convey your appreciation if you hold-up your right thumb you immediately made a good impression and possibly a new friend.
Parking in a city like
Likewise look out for speed bumps to slow
you down when entering or exiting a major city like
So far but for a few
Guess what, I made a new friend today the local donkey but about that next time
Also about the farmers market and the local fishermen with a special chapter thrown in on Lagoa do Fogo.
Tumbleweed Journal Copyright 2006, Inge Perreault All Rights Reserved
The Tumbleweed Journal reflects the views, opinions and experiences of the author.