Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Azores: San Miguel - Sete Cidades, Capelas
We had breakfast and started our day at 9:00 am. The weather is much improved from yesterday where it rained all day. It was sunny and bright for most of the time we were out. We visited a pineapple plantation which would ordinarily be uninteresting but in the Azores, pineapples are grown only in greenhouses. It takes about two years to grow them and about two minutes to eat them but I have to say, that for all the trouble, they are really not worth it. We had pineapple several times already – I think it’s considered somewhat of a specialty but they were sour almost all the time. They do however, make pineapple jam, chutney, liquor and other things pineapple. The jam was good but I think the jam I got when I was in Guyana was much more superior.

Then it was off to see a the volcanic area of Sete Cidades where we could stand at the top of the crater and see the twin lakes of Lagao Verde (Green Lake) and Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake) separated by a bridge. It’s really an illusion. The lakes are not really green and blue but appear to be that way because of the depth of each and the reflection from the sky. They were rated as one of the seven wonders of Portugal. It was pretty enough but not what I would have thought would be a wonder.

We left there for the actual hamlet of Sete Cidades. That is a quaint little sleepy town where old and new co-exists in harmony. Some of the houses are constructed from stone and look like they belong in another century; indeed some of them are more than 100 years old. It’s quite something to see laundry hanging on the fence, right next to two satellite dishes. Then there are the horse-drawn carts sharing the road with the BMWs and the tour buses. Then there are the men sitting outside of the bars and cafes drinking their morning coffee and chatting as if they have no cares in the world and their only duty for the day is people-watching. I could feel the pace of the place and with a little more time, I could easily let lethargy take over and just enjoy the tranquility after days of rushing from one place to the next. Apparently the people of the town have sort of preserved the way of life from a century ago in a way that makes me feel like I have travelled back in time (minus the hulking tour bus and the BMWs).

Off to Capelas for lunch where we had the most delicious buffet – with more excellent choices than I could possibly eat – mackerel, potatoes and octopus, pork, chicken, salad, rice, blood sausage and pineapple, beans (similar to pork and beans). I had salted cod and potatoes in cream sauce (that was good but could have had more fish), octopus and potatoes (a bit too chewy) and generous helpings of small grilled mackerel and potatoes (this was my very favourite so I had five of them) and salad. There was custard to finish off the meal. You could easily overeat when there is such good food but I am trying to be selective about what I eat.

After all that good food, I wanted to have a nap in the bus but we went to see a small museum which was a series of small rooms set up like the way things were decades ago (and some of those decades were from the 70s). There was a piece of artwork that was made from the skin of garlic. You wouldn't believe that garlic skin could look so amazing.
Boy did I feel old when they had a newspaper from 1970! When you start seeing things in museums that you remember growing up with, you know you are old! Not getting old. Just plain old!  They had a store for fabrics set up just like they still have in Guyana where the fabrics are laid out in bolts on shelves and the storekeeper takes it down and cuts the amount you want. That’s old?
They had some old scales like Auntie Betty used to have at Belair where she would weigh the salt fish and other things. I’ve seen some shopkeepers using those scales with such sleight of hand that they could throw the meat or fish on the scale and remove it so quickly that you were hardly aware that they were selling you at least 2 ounces less than you thought you were buying. I remember Mom going to a butcher shop owned by one of her cousins in the market and she asked for two pounds of beef. He did his sleight of hand and started wrapping the meat. Mom asked him to put it back on the scale and he said that he already started wrapping it. She insisted that he put it back on the scale and it was almost 4 ozs. less than he was charging her for. She told him that he needed to put the extra meat on the scale and he was not happy that he got busted cheating his cousin but he did so reluctantly. The next time she went back, she warned him that he was not to do the same thing or she would tell other people that he was a cheat.
It’s funny what you remember when you see those “museum” pieces. I also saw a pot like the three-legged dhall pot Nani used to use. When she passed away, Mom asked if she could have it. Then there was the milk can similar to the one Dad used to use. And of course there was the hot iron that Nani had – the one that you have to heat on the stove. I think my cousin Shakeela still used one like that until a few years ago because her house had no electricity. So those were all in a museum.
After the museum, it was on the bus and off about two minutes later to stop at a viewpoint. I didn’t get off the bus this time because the scenery looked much like any other oceanside scenery. We were going to try to go back to Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake) but it was drizzly and foggy so we skipped it and went back to Ponta Delgada to do some shopping. I haven’t bought anything except for my grandchildren. Most things are quite expensive; prices are the same as they are in Canada with the difference that we are paying in Euros so it’s twice the price. I'm not sounding like I am enjoying the trip; it's mostly because I feel so rushed most of the time that I hardly have time to appreciate my surroundings. Robin was telling me that the schedule sounded packed but I thought it would be manageable. It's turning out to be rushed everyday which takes the pleasure out of the experience. And with several people sick with a cold, I am troubled that I will end up getting sick too. I am going to say good night and try to get some rest.

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