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Azores Journal 15 by Inge Perreault  e-mail Inge at ladyauthor@sapo.pt

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Natural hot water pool at Terra Nostra parque
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Terra Nostra Park

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Easy does it

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Field worker at the Gorreana tea plantation

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Tabacco shed

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Proud Parent

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Heavy winds

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Church at night

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Ready for the swimmers

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Yves, the artist with a big heart

A Trip to the Occidental and Central Islands

Portugal wins 16 of the top honors in the prestigious choice of European
Holiday Destinations at the 2014 Awards Ceremony in Athens, Greece!

The above did not surprise me in the least, nor that the Terra Nostra Garden
Hotel with the incredible hot mineral pool and the fantastic surrounding
gardens, kept meticulously clean and being a world heritage biosphere on
Sao Miguel, were amongst them.  The Azores have maintained their reputation as THE best eco-tourism destination in Europe, attracting guests from all over the world. Being one of the best-kept secrets, the Azores draw more travelers to eco-tourism as the world keeps surprising us with disasters of a toxic nature. Thus I thought the Azores Journal deserves an up-date due to a lot of positive factors my husband and I have been fortunate to experience over the past 8 years of living here.
We have seen changes and progress being what it is, has replaced to our great
regret many of the very traditional special and cultural ways, such as pick-up
trucks replacing many of the horse-drawn wagons carrying milk-cans and the
Azorean Herding Dog, but we still have them, if in smaller numbers, taking farmers
up to the fields of happy cows. Of COURSE they are happy,
very much so, and why would they not be, munching all day on juicy green grass
with a landscape offering the most magnificent views you can imagine? Naturally
the Azores are GMO-free, being an autonomous region of Portugal and having
rejected "Frankenfood," with the temperate climate allowing the population at
large to grow their own vegetables in the most unlikely spaces I have ever seen.
The speed at which veggies grow still amazes me, as does the fact that this is the
only place in Europe where tea and tobacco are being grown and harvested.

Having purchased 4 years ago a lovely condominium with ocean views from all
windows as well as the balconies in a 500 year-old village, yet close to the capital
Ponta Delgada, I relish the quiet interrupted only by the occasional crowing of a
rooster, a chicken announcing egg-production or a barking dog. The banana plantation next to us is yielding the delicious Azorean sweet fruit, so different from their cousins in South America which are so popular in the United States and I never tire of the views that present themselves to me, no matter which season it is.

Over the past few years the world at large has gone through an unprecedented
financial crisis which came late to the Azores, but to their great honor I must say
that Azorean people are coping amazingly well with hardship caused by job-losses
as well as rising prices. Their history of being located in the midst of the Atlantic
ocean and having to be self-sufficient, caused them to be a mellow people not prone to violence but on the contrary, more FESTAS have been arranged over the past years since I made my last entry than ever before. There is nothing like a good FESTA with music, dance, good traditional food and wine to take troubles away. This summer it seems our particular small town is having an event to celebrate just about every weekend. Today on our way back from Lagoa do Fogo where we happened to come upon the nicest young couple from Denmark, we noticed the banners crossing the main road alerting everybody to the upcoming FESTA DAS SOPAS (feast of soups), which form a large part of the Azorean traditional cuisine and are not only highly nutritious but equally delicious as well.

Tourists, mostly from Scandinavian countries or Germany, visit Sao Miguel and the other 8 Azorean islands and can be seen hiking with knapsacks in the most remote places, while others prefer to ride bikes or take a tour-bus, showing them the most interesting sites of Sao Miguel they otherwise might have missed. Whale-and Dolphin- watches are tenfold what they were when we first moved here, the amount of these species are amazing and we can observe them right from our windows. On a recent boat tour we sat amongst a group of jolly Danish folks whose enthusiasm was contagious, and though we all ended-up wet from bouncing on the waves, a wonderful time was had observing the ocean life and the purity of
the water, that allowed us clear view of mothers and baby dolphins accompanying our boat. Often it seems that people are the ones being observed, these wonderful creatures are truly curious and seem to love human interaction as well as showing off by jumping for joy in the waters surrounding this Archipelago and warmed by the Gulf-Stream.

Summer and thus main tourist season having arrived, although we do see tourists during all times of the year due to the temperate climate year-round, draws many people to the beaches including your's truly, who at age 67 still enjoys riding the waves which is one of my favorite activities. Equally the picnic areas are fully occupied during the summer by families encompassing 3 generations, nothing has changed that week-end custom of taking food, blankets and pillows to
retreat to one of the many areas provided by the Azorean Government and equipped with barbecues, all of them spotlessly clean. If anything, the islands have become even cleaner if that was possible in the first place, and this year the hydrangeas are truly spectacular in masses of blossoms and color unlike anything we have seen before.

While some stores or restaurants have closed down, others have opened their doors and the farmers' market on Saturdays where we purchase our fresh vegetables and fruit, is as busy as ever. Being able these days to converse in their language however does not seem to deter them from speaking English to me, so that sometimes I wonder if I have my usual language written on my forehead. I do ask them to please speak Portuguese with me, after all, if I am going to live for the
rest of my life in a Portuguese-speaking country I should try to speak the native tongue. (It is the 7th most difficult language in the world - bet you did not know that!)
We hardly watch the news; who needs to surround themselves with negativity when being privileged to reside in such natural beauty. Looking out of my office window right now I overlook the ocean and white puffs of clouds  with green meadows in the distance where the cliffs fall off into the deep waters, and the happy cows are taking a siesta as well they should. It never fails to amaze me how many inquiries I receive regarding THIS Azores Journal from all over the globe. Just recently a family from Tasmania wanted to know about moving to Sao
Miguel and what was involved with bringing their animals. I can answer some of the questions directed at me, however I would like to stress that since our arrival 8 years ago many laws have changed, and thus I would kindly ask the reader of this Journal to contact their nearest Portuguese Consulate regarding specific questions concerning legal procedures.

Last but not least, our friend Yves keeps reminding people with his continued effort of painting hearts in the most unusual places all over the island, (nearly 300 by now) that Sao Miguel will greet the visitor with an open heart and great courtesy as well as friendship and being helpful in many ways. Yves hearts can be spotted in all Freguesias (communities) of Sao Miguel, leaving you with a feeling of warm welcome, a glorious nature and a "mellow" population who will welcome eye-contact, a friendly Bom dia, Boa tarde or Boa noite and if in a car, giving a thumbs-up when a local person will give you the courtesy of a break. I could not
imagine living anyplace else for the rest of my life, and for those of you who are retirement age,this is the perfect place to do so and rest your weary bodies and minds, assured by an excellent healthcare system that by far surpasses any other I have known. The investment opportunities are enticing and you WILL be welcomed with open hearts, just like we were when we first left the airplane and I stepped on Azorean ground, feeling that I was finally HOME.

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The Tumbleweed Journal Reflect the views, opinions and experiences of the author.