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- Singing in a Sao Sebastiao Church on Christmas Eve, Reflecting on Wants and Needs

I am in this tiny tiny tiny little town that is called Sao Sebastiao, settled in 1503 now with a population of 2,000. It has one main square, one tiny main street, one ATM, a couple of churches and cafes and a big tour bus that brought me. image Main Street image A colorful place of worshipimage The outside of the church with the service

Pastor singing? image Fresco that was destroyed and is being restored.

Sao Sebastiao or Terceira is remote and unspoiled by the tourists. It’s very quaint, quiet and simple with natural beauty. It’s making me think of how life should really be if I were not committed to the New York metropolitan area the next six years. Our way of life is not everyone’s way of life. I have a choice.

The average Azorean’s monthly salary is 700€ or 8400€ a year or $9240 USD. In NY, an annual income of $12k USD puts one below the poverty line. The houses in the upscale and desirable northern coast of Biscoitos cost on average between 85k€ to 250k€ and they are darn nice; they are by the ocean with a micro climate to stay warm and sunny. The Azoreans seem to have everything they want and need.

Wanderlust Azores- Caldera of Guilherme Moniz on The Terceira Island, Portugal. Go Milk Your Cows Where Your Cows Are.

The Terceira Island is a center island among the nine islands that belong to the Portuguese Azores Archipelago, located in the North Atlantic ocean. Azores are only a four-hour flight east of Boston, MA, and a two-hour flight west of Lisbon from the mainland of Portugal.

In the middle of the Terceira Island is the Cauldron of Guilherme Moniz, with 15km diameter, formed by the eruption of the Algar do Carvao volcano. This is the panoramic view of the caldera.image

Here is how windy it is at the lookout point for the caldera.

With the population of 56k, the Terceira Island has double the number of the cows. Milk production is the primary output for the island’s economy. The cows are free range and feast on the vegetation of the caldera. The farmers bring their mobile milking device to the cows, twice a day. This is a true definition for being MOBILE- Go Milk Your Cows Where Your Cows Are.
imageSadly, most farmers are considering changing milk production to meat production because their profit is only about 20 cents per liter with each cow producing 40 liters of milk on average per day.

Even sadder, the Terceirian farmers used to produce wheat for cereal, exporting to the rest of the Europe which was highly profitable. However, since joining the European Union, Portugal had to agree to cease wheat production and change to milk production. Now, their milk only supplies the Azores and a few supermarkets on the mainland of Portugal.

This is an injustice caused by a socialist economic practice, benefiting the strong and the ones in power.

Wanderlust Azores- Day One Food Adventure. Well, Disappointment is More Like it.

Because of jetlag, I made no effort for food. Instead, I relied on Terceira Mar Hotel restaurants for breakfast and dinner and a random cafe by the bank for lunch. They haven’t been poor but they also haven’t been what I came for.imageHam and Cheese Crepe with a Boiled Egg from Petiskaky Cafe. Not bad but also not memorable.imageLemon Frize drink. This was the highlight of lunch.imageCheese Burger with Fries from Terceira Mar Hotel. Decent, my photographer says.imagePrawn and Pineapple Salad from Terceira Mar. It’s a shame that they are called prawns. They are the European prawns where everything is downsized from the American standards. These are not even large shrimps! The salad was lame and bland.

Luckily, I’ll be hungry again tomorrow and will have another opportunity to right this wrong.

These experiences took place at

9700-016 Angra do Heroísmo, Portugal

Terceira Mar Hotel
9700 Angra do Heroísmo, Portugal

Wanderlust Azores- Tiny, Tiny Airport with Only One Booth for Immigration

Did you know that one of the Azores islands, Terceira, is only a four hour flight from Boston and it’s only four hours ahead of New York? I landed at 7am this morning with only a short nap.image Picking up my rental car. It has the European style automatic where the gear often defaults to neural; it looks and feels like a manual car. Took me a while to figure out how to reverse. The patient rental car lady came out to the parking lot to show the dumb American me how to drive an automatic!

The funny thing is that the car rental lady told me that they are not used to the tourists yet… You return your rental car right outside the airport front door. Park it right there and they will come out to get it from you. What wonderful customer service!imageThe entrance of the airport. Yes, that’s the entire building.image View from my room. This is such a beautiful island. It’s lushly green, sunny, with bright blue sky and a vast ocean. So remote, too. I was one of the very few cars on the road/highway… because I was driving in the middle of farmlands.

More to come. So far, I’m loving Terceira!

Wanderlust: Leaving for The Azores Islands Tonight- Do You Know Where That is?

At Boston Logan Airpot. I am leaving for the Azores Islands. Most of the time when I tell people about this destination, I am met with a question in their eyes. Azores are archipelago islands that are located in the North Atlantic Ocean and are about a 2-hour flight from Lisbon, Portugal.  I booked this trip in a matter of minutes when a friend forwarded this great deal to me. Azores has always been on my Wanderlust list.
image I fell in love with the Azores when I read this:

“Regional Gastronomy
Cozido das furnas (stew made in the hot springs)
Octopus stewed in wine
Barnacles and limpets
Wines: Vinho de cheiro, verdelho and liqueurs”

Follow me in the next week while I stay at the Terceira Island whose capital, Angra do Heroismo (port of heroes), is a World Heritage UNESCO site. Let’s go on glorious food adventures and possibly more together! Are you with me?