Wanderlust Azores- What Terceira is All About and Good Bye 2015!

This post marks the end of my incredible vacation at the Terceira island in the Azores Archipelago, Portugal. This is also my 300th post on this blog. I am a little sad to say good bye to the beautiful island but am very happy to say good bye to 2015. Today ends a very challenging year for me. I am looking forward to a new adventure in 2016.

This trip has been amazing and here is what I think captures the soul of Terceira:
imageWhaling and fishing tradition in a picturesque villageimageLushly green rolling hillsimageMobile milking of the cowsimageAll the delicious milk products: milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt.imageFriendly animals on the roadway (cows, goats, cats, dogs), anytime of the dayimageBreathtaking coastlines and rock formationimageBoats and bays – all water, all the timeimageBiscoitos’ swimming basin, complete with crystal clear aquamarine water and yellow ocean foamsimageBiscoitos’ dramatic landscape and north Atlantic waves punishing the basalt rocksimageVast and colorful sky that bewitches the mindimageSunsets that touch the soul and make me cry. Pictures are terribly inadequate to properly convey the beauty of this island.

Good bye, Azores. Good bye, 2015.

Cheers to more spectacular journeys in 2016.

Love and peace to all my new and loyal readers. ❤❤❤ Happy New Year!

Wanderlust Azores- Dramatic Waves of Biscoitos, My Favorite Place on the Terceira Island

Believe it or not, these are the natural swimming pools for the Azoreans. This is what they called the Ponta dos Biscoitos in the town of Biscoitos, located on the northern coast of Terceira Island. These are enclosures formed by mostly basalt rocks and some man-made structure. It is here I was the closest to the dramatic waves of the North Atlantic Ocean. This is my favorite place on Terceira.imageA big wave about to hit the rocksimageLook at that!imageThe water fallsimageSigh…Aah…

Unspoiled by the tourists, the natural beauty of Biscoitos is unparalleled. These waves and the sounds they make will stay with me for a long time. This is why I travel. This is wanderlust.

This experience took place at

Biscoitos
Northern coast of the Terceira Island of the Azores Archipelago
Portugal

Wanderlust Azores- Algar do Carvão Volcano Cave and the Quality of Life

When I landed in Terceira, Miguel stood by the Azore Gateway’s little podium greeting the passengers. He told me that the full day tour is the best option since it included the volcano cave, Algar do Carvão, and this volcano lava vent is the highlight of the island. The icing on top is that the cave is only open on Wednesdays. As a dumb American who is not used to the Azorean ways, I asked why the volcano cave is only open one day a week. He said that he does not know but it’s probably because the cave is run by a non-profit organization, OS MONTANHEIROS, implying that there is no reason to open more than one day a week since they don’t want money!

Now, that’s a concept. Control the number of tourists to your natural beauty and have a balance in your work life because profitability is not your goal. Hmm. I believe Bhutan has the same policy.imageTunnel that leads to the volcano cave.imageThe decent down to the lagoon. The stairs went zigzagging down.imageFurther decent. When I finally reached it, the lagoon was black and blue iridescent but infinitely deep. It also felt icy cold and wet in the air. With the dark surrounding and the iridescent water, the experience was surreal.image The opening to the top as seen from the bottom. The opening is 148ft up vertically. However, this picture was not taken from the bottom. The darkness inside the cave made it close to impossible for my Samsung S5 to capture the beauty and the essence of the cave. This is one that must be experienced in person. imageStalactites

It felt weird standing back at the tunnel entrance heading back outside. I know light is at the end of the tunnel. Do I want to walk through it?

This experience took place at

Algar do Carvão – Monumento Natural Regional
Porto Judeu, 9700-000 Angra do Heroísmo
Phone:295 212 992

Wanderlust Azores- Brunch at Athanasio Pastelaria and the Inevitable Change

Who would have thought that it could be so difficult to eat in Terceira on a Sunday afternoon? But it was. Very few stores were open in the UNESCO city of Angra do Heroismo. Luckily this pastry shop, Athanasio Pastelaria, was.
imageApple turnover and almond pastryimageHot chocolate with ham and cheese quicheimageEspresso with cod and chicken puff pastry
imageWhen we were in the shop, many fellow tourists were also in the shop, talking about how few stores were open. I can see how tourism will definitely change this town, with how aggressive the travel agencies are marketing these trips with incredible deals (6 nights, hotel/round trip airfare/airport transport included for $699). I upgraded my package with a better hotel, a rental car and various day trips. Still, a trip to this pristine island for a little more than $1k per person? Amazing.

I would not be surprised if years later, there are plenty of shops open on a Sunday. My brunch was pleasant and delicious. The young woman in the shop spoke English and was friendly. The best part is that it was open on a Sunday afternoon. Happy happy me.

This experience took place at

Athanasio Pastelaria

Rua Sé 132
9700-191 Angra do Heroísmo
Phone: 295 213 702

Wanderlust Azores- Hotel do Caracol’s Breaded Octopus on Coriander Risotto

I finally made it to another restaurant! At Hotel do Caracol, they serve regional food with an eye catering to the international tourists. You find a lot of beef on the menu and the waiter strongly recommended the steaks. I went against his recommendation and ordered the octopus.imageBreaded Octopus with Coriander Risotto. Ok, there. You cannot blame me for trying. Where have you seen breaded octopus on risotto before? NO WHERE. Yet, there was a good reason why you have not seen it before because it is just wrong. Breaded octopus kills all the flavor octopus brings and degrades the octopus to just a protein, any protein. The risotto was decent but made with way too much oil. In general, this was a very poorly conceived dish. It’s a mistake that is made by a novice chef who tries to do new combinations that just don’t work together. imageSpaghetti with Meatballs. My little photographer’s favorite meal is spaghetti with meatballs but she was so thoroughly disappointed that she could not finish the pasta. The pasta was way over-cooked; they were stuck together because no efforts were made to separately them; they were also randomly cut up into smaller pieces. The entire presentation was just weird although she did say the meatballs were decently eatable. image In general, I find the service in the restaurants very slow in the Azores. Perhaps they work on a different pace. Parmesan cheese was not offered. Water was not poured. These are small things… yet they are pretty consistent across both four star hotel restaurants. I don’t believe this is intentional; I think they just work in a slower pace than what I expect as a New Yorker.

Service aside, this meal at the Hotel do Caracol was not good. 😦 I have got one more day of eating octopus…

This experience took place at

Hotel do Caracol
Cozinha do Caracol Restaurant

Angra do Heroísmo
Phone:295 402 600

Wanderlust Azores- Praia da Vitoria, Second City and An American Military Base

Praia da Vitoria is the second city on the Terceira Island of the Azores Archipelago in Portugal. A big reason that this city was developed was because of the American military base. The base was built because during World War II, we needed a place in the middle of the Atlantic to refuel our war planes and ships on the way to Germany. We picked Praia da Vitoria and consequently shaped the development of the city. The city built houses for our troops and prospered commercially. However, there are now only about 800-900 military personnel left on the base.
imageThe bay of Praia da VitoriaimageThe main street where there are four restaurants in a row. This is as close to a restaurant scene as it gets on Terceira.imageThe best souvenir shop on the island. It’s not bigger than a 10×15 bedroom.imageThe largest beach on TerceiraimageThe statue of the saint they made up to protect the people during the stormy days
imageThe entrance to the cobblestone part of the townimage

imageEmpty beachimageSunset on the beach

It’s a nice city but a little boring in comparison to Angra do Heroismo. I guess that’s what happens when the American culture invaded Europe.

This experience took place at

Praia da Vitoria on the Terceira Island of the Azores Archipelago, Portugal

Wanderlust Azores- Running Through Angra do Heroismo on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Christmas is a big deal here at Terceira and life stops during these two days. That sort of sucks for tourists. So I put on my sneakers and went for runs through the city of Angra do Heroismo. I saw a few things when I picked up my head and a few things when I kept to the ground. image Empty road into the cityimageEmpty city square on Christmas Eve!imageA bull statue representing the strong culture in the bull fighting tradition: one bull jumps on the person, one stumps on the person, and one drags the person away.imageThe city’s bull fighting arena. From middle of May to middle of October, there are on average three bull fights a day on the Terceira island. Each town will buy or commission a prized bull to represent the town in the fight. The more experience the bull, the more euro (from €1k to €3k) it commands.imageA loyal city resident that was barking at me
imageAnother city resident that didn’t trust me
imageMany city residents here. This was open on Christmas eve and I jogged through it. 🙂
image There are many patterns on the cobblestone road. This one made me smile because it looked like a child throwing a tantrum.imageFor the car enthusiast, this is an Audi A1 TDi, not sold in the US. imageKind of cute? Yet comes with a parking ticket. Warning: All adorable things in life come with baggage. imageAudi A2 TDi, not sold in the US and looking like a Pontiac Aztek or an ugly tennis shoe.imageNot as cute as the A1. Warning: Less attractive things in life tend to be less expensive and simpler to handle. imageAudi A3 TDi. Also not sold in the US. imageThe US version of the A3 is much sexier and more savvy looking.imageIn Terceira, there are no lights at major intersections. They use roundabouts. When Google Map lags behind, I go around in circles again and again until I know what directions to take. I miss traffic lights. So far, I have only seen three traffic lights in the entire Terceira island. This is on the road into the City.

What a different way of life at Angra do Heroismo. Oh, it’s about 4 miles if you stretch out the loop of the city by adding in side streets. Watch out for wetness on the uneven cobblestones.