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

Northern coast of the Terceira Island of the Azores Archipelago

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- 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- A Tiny Street and A Very Nice Man

My Sunday started out as a day of random exploration. I took my Opel Corsa along with my 12-year-old out on the open road with no destinations in mind, going wherever and stopping whenever we feel like it. No GPS and just let the forks in the road take us on our island adventure.
image We got on the road to this look out point. It’s a tiny little road (only one compact car can pass and with stone walls on both sides) through the hills. We kept on climbing and climbing through the hills. The angle became sharper and sharper to the point that it felt like we were on a rollercoaster going up. My little Opel was making all kind of noise because this automatic car drives like a manual pretending to be an automatic, not knowing when to switch gear.

At one point, I became concerned. I was in the middle of nowhere with a child, in a car that I was not completely familiar with, going up on an angle that is closer to 90 than 45 degrees. But I was at the point of no return…Can’t U turn and even if I could, I was not sure I wanted to head downhill. Voila! I did make it to the top and got this awesome picture.imageOn the way down, I was all pumped and decided to go down this very deep decline via a narrow cobblestone road in the town of Ribeirinha. I was stuck. The road was not big enough to have two lanes. Instead of backing up to let the cars through, I went ahead and became stuck on a very tricky spot next to the wall and inside a pothole. The loud noise my car made drew attention and men came out from their houses and cars. They were yelling at me by this point! In Portuguese! Loudly!

I was this idiotic American woman who stopped traffic and didn’t know how to back up. I was a little embarrassed. This Portuguese gentleman sensing my distress quickly came out of his car. Without one word, jumped into mine, maneuvered out of the pothole, and back my car up all the way to the paved road, with my 12-year-old inside. That took him about 5 mins.

This is wanderlust in the Azores. I got my adventure and more. I was very thankful for the hospitality the Azoreans extended to a single traveling female with a child. I could have kissed him! Lesson learned: I have got to learn how to drive a manual vehicle.

This experience took place at Ribeirinha, Terceira Island in 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.

Wanderlust Azores- Octopus, Limpets and Ice Cream with Azorean Hospitality!

I am a big fan of Octopus. Let it be grilled, roasted, or stewed, I love them all. When I realized that one of the popular dishes in the Azores is Octopus, I was ecstatic. image Look at the tentacles. Rosted in olive oil and garlic from the Terceira Mar Hotel. Unfortunately, they are over done from being in the buffet tray.image This is what my plate looked like. Gluttony…
imageThese are limpets in sauce from a corner restaurant in Praia do Vitoria. When the tour bus stopped for the souvenir shop, I headed straight for the local food. It’s very tasty but so little meat. The cup is filled with mostly shells. Some of the shells have the mossy growth on them. Although I’m a girl of seafood, the mossy growth decreased my appetite.imageOctopus salad from the same corner restaurant. This was delicious. I like it more than the roasted octopus because the vinegar brought out more of the octopus flavor. The octopus was cooked just right.imageAmazing Magnum ice cream bars, made with the Terceira cows’ milk. Terceira’s dairy products are amazing.

Do you know how amazing the Azoreans are? The owner from the corner restaurant in Praia da Vitoria knew not one word of English but we managed to communicate that it’s a to-go order, I needed them in plastic containers in a bag for the bus ride, I needed to heat up the limpets in a microwave before eating but I couldn’t since I am in a hotel, and I needed a plastic utensil. Since they don’t use plastic utensils, he handed me a stainless fork instead! So much love exchanged. Simply amazing.  

P.S. Since the first writing of this post, I had gone back to the corner restaurant in Praia da Vitoria and found the name of the restaurant. It’s called Tropical Point!

This experience took place at

Terceira Mar Hotel
Angra do Heroísmo
Phone:295 402 280

Tropical Point
Rua Álvaro Martins Homem 11,A
9760-412 Praia da Vitória
Tel. 295542167
Tlm. 91 820 86 49 / 91 990 88 83
Sub-gerência: Manuel da Silva Rodrigues
E-mail: gerencia@tropical-point.com

Wanderlust Azores- Terceira Mar Hotel’s Christmas Eve Dinner, the Sweet Sweet Butter

Not realizing how small Terceira is, I didn’t anticipate the small number of restaurants and neither did I anticipate no place to eat on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Luckily, some fellow travelers were smarter than me and figured out that the best option is the hotel because everything else is closed! I had to reserve my spot for the Christmas Eve Dinner buffet. I wasn’t too enthusiastic since the hotel food has not made a positive impression.

I am so happy that Terceira Mar has redeemed itself! They can cook. Now this is more like a four star hotel.image May not be much to look at with the bad lighting but this was excellent. The pork loin was slightly dry but seasoned well. The steamed cod was moist and buttery. The cabbage, mushrooms and white asparagus hit the spot.imageMy little photographer’s plate.
image Second serving with a slight variation on the vegetables
image Buche de Noel, the Azorean version made with cornmeal, honey, cinnamon and powder sugar.image Flan! I was happy! Made in the Latin American fashion, with lots of eggs.
imageThere were a lot more food that were offered… the extremely tasty butter and cheese produced by the local cows, the Azorean bread muffin, the fruit salad, etc.. I can’t get butter like that in NY even if I’m willing to spend the money.

I am just loving the Terceira’s cows and Terceira. Merry Christmas to all.

This experience took place at

Terceira Mar Hotel

Angra do Heroísmo,
Azores Portugal
Phone:295 402 280

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.