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Azores Journal Entry Number 10 by Inge Perreault  e-mail Inge at ladyauthor@sapo.pt

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 Azores-Journal 10

Fall......

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Mowed fields of hay wrapped in large rollls.

Well, fall has arrived in the Acores and it is lovely. It does not get light until almost 7 am and darkness at 8 pm has robbed us of our evening walks. The days and nights are cooler ranging from the low 60s during the night to the mid 70s to high 70s during the day but we are still swimming, riding the waves in the warm ocean and the air is clear as the finest crystal.
Slowly but surely the lower fields and grazing lands are turning greener again while the profusion of flowers has definitely picked-up. Before too long the milk-cows will be. brought down from the higher mountain meadows and the yearlings be
impregnated by the fine bulls you see tied-up alone here and there in a fieldThey are magnificent animals and will have their “work” cut out for them.
Most tourists I talked to over the summer marveled at how green the Azores are and would not believe me that what they saw was hardly comparable to the GREEN off-season. But I have photos to prove that fact; some brown meadows due to lack of rain this year but green depending in which mini-climate you find yourself.

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Peaceful view on a September day.

Most “summer veggies” have been harvested and the fields are already planted with potatoes and sweet potatoes. Likewise the tobacco harvest has taken place and the rather large leaves are drying in the tobacco-drying sheds which can be found in certain areas of Sao Miguel. Empty during most of the year, they are now filled to capacity. I t has been a good year, much to the delight of native Azoreans as most Portuguese still smoke like “chimneys,” although you are beginning to see signs indicating that smoking is forbidden in certain areas. The lure of being “cool” hooks the youngsters easily, especially since most of their parents are still smoking.
The grapes have been picked for this year’s wine and also in this regard it has been a good year. Personally I had sort of looked forward to assist in the picking of the grapes here andthere but unlike in France, Germany, Italy and
other wine-growing nations, the actual picking of the grapes is not a big event here. That will come once the barrels of wine are opened to taste the new vintage on November 11th, a feast day we were unaware of last year just having arrived here. Chestnuts are roasted and wine-tasting events will be on the agenda this year for sure.

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Harvested tobacco leaves drying in sheds.

While tourist season has not ended and will not until mid-October, actually Scandinavians and Russians visit year-round, we never found the island overrun or crowded. The “knapsacks” are just getting less and less as time goes by. From now on the people who come are the TRUE connoisseurs and TRAVEL SAVVY – flight prices drop most significantly as well as hotel prices to half of what they were during the summer months beginning with April and ending in September.

While I am sad to see the “fig-season” come to an end soon as there is hardly anything more delicious than a ripe fig, sliced and put into the freezer for ten minutes to be topped with ice- and whipped cream.

Truly hard to beat! They are also delicious on cereal in the morning and in many ways life here concerning food reminds me often of my youth in Germany. Fruits and vegetables were eaten IN SEASON, flavorful and much appreciated. The constant offer of all types of fruits and vegetables in American super-markets may be pretty to look at in their perfection, but all too often I found their taste akin to cardboard, the beauty of the outside cannot be compared to the flavor of freshly picked produce in season. By the way, bananas ripen here year-round and our landlord freely shares his bounty with us refusing to accept a penny. That would be considered an insult. Sharing with friends and neighbors is just a way of life in this part of the world.

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Beach at Agua d'Alto in September
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Weekend cottage hanging like a nest of a bird near Nordeste.

We have been swimming and riding the ocean waves becoming experts by now at avoiding being tossed and are able to enter the ocean as well as get out easily. There are so few people at the black-sand beach in Agua d'Alto it is difficult to believe when you consider that the rest of European beaches are packed with people like sardines in Spain, the Cote d’Azure or all of Italy as well as Greece.

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Lighthouse at Ponta do Arnel in Nordeste (steepest most demanding curvy road in the world)

But don’t all rush here PLEASE! I have received a lot of inquiries from people in the USA and all over the world as these entries can be found on Azorean sites now. Apparently my entries are most informative as far as the culture and traditions are concerned.So let me tell you that there is little nightlife on Sao Miguel or any of the other islands. Yes, there are cultural events and many of them but the “Disco Crowd” would be most disappointed while fans of classical music, opera and cultural exhibits are delighted, as they are plentiful and if not free of charge, most reasonably priced.
There are many bars and caf?s but those are largely frequented by men only. As a woman, I would feel most uncomfortable in these establishments. There are a few “Gentlemen Clubs” with mostly “hot” Brazilian pole-dancers or whatever in Ponta Delgada, but even their advertisement had to be toned-down. So if you are looking for an active nightlife, don’t expect to find it here unless you are with a group of people and in a restaurant in mixed company creating your own.

Two weeks ago on a Sunday we drove back to Nordeste with the tallest most densely forested mountains. Here the least populated area can be explored on many well-marked hiking trails. This time we went via Povoacao, a lovely spotlessly clean community where we had lunch in a beautiful restaurant right by the ocean. Our target for the day was the famous lighthouse just outside of Nordeste and we descended on foot the steepest and most curvy road I have ever encountered (other than on the island of Saba in the Netherland Antilles) with glorious views on either side.

 

Once at the lighthouse we admired the ingenuity of some local folks who built weekend shelters on the steep slopes and were having barbeques, took some photos and then began the climb back up.
Well, I must admit to not being as young as I used to be, hence I truly thought I was going to die during the slow ascent which was so strenuous that on the way home I did not feel well at all. I actually spent the next day resting in bed. Granted, I have COPD but being 60 likewise has a lot to do with it, in spite of my swimming 2 km at least 3 times a week.
Never in my life have weekends come as fast as they do in the Acores and it has become an in-joke between my husband and myself that every time we turn around it is FRIDAY yet again. Ever since we moved here time has simply flown by miraculously.

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So last Sunday we visited the Jardim Jose do Canto in the very center of Ponta Delgada which is virtually deserted on Domingos it seems .This is a botanical garden planted in 1840 containing specimen of fauna and flora from all over the world with the most charming paths which would never make you realize that you are in the center of the capitol of the Azores. The garden has been visited by dignitaries from all over the world since its inception and is well kept but never crowded. I believe during our stroll we encountered one Danish and one British couple admiring the extraordinary design and beauty, but that was the extent of the company we had.
Domingo, Sunday, is a family day in the Azores for gatherings and shared meals as well as indulging in their great passion of watching soccer “futebol” on TV. Quite a lot of stores and also some of the restaurants are closed; the family forms the core of the celebration of Domingo.

Admiring trees in the Jardim Jose do Canto
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I received some e-mails from tourists who visited the Acores and were not happy with the Portuguese food, the preparation of fish (remember the eyes) and large amounts of meat as well as tons of French fries and/or cold rice. No, you will not find a great variety of vegetables on your plate (they belong in a “sopa” according to the Azorean custom, nor a salad-bar unless you stay at one of those non-descript, typical modern hotels which can be found anywhere on this planet and offer totally generic fare. If that is what you are looking for and find no appreciation in the local culture, food and all the natural beauty these islands have to offer, then this is NOT the place for you and you would be better off on a cruise ship or in the Caribbean. However, experience has taught me that even there you would have to leave some of your prejudices and deeply engrained habits behind; in addition you have to deal with ever increasing problems of crime and drug-trafficking.

This is one of the few places left where, though great cultural changes are most likely imminent, the present must be savored for now and the adventurer in you allowed to roam freely - the suggestion is to keep an open mind and truly relish what you are experiencing. London, New York City, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm etc. will still be there on your return……

 

 

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