Day 9 – June 13

I guess you can say this is technically my last day as my flight isn’t until 4pm. I woke up early again, not to fireworks and revelry in the streets, but to merchants honking their car horns and church bells. When I heard the bells I knew this was my last chance to check going to church off my list.

The sermon was of course in Portuguese but I didn’t mind because the Priest had a pleasant voice. I took out my sketchbook and pencils and started sketching right away. It was hard to choose a composition as there were so many options. In the end I went with what you see here. Needless to say, it was a great opportunity to practice perspective. I learned soooooooo much this trip. I must have caught the tail end of the service because after a song and a prayer, everyone shook hands next to them (I was in a pew all to myself) and started to leave. I stayed for as long as I could. The priest walked around strumming his ukulele as he turned off the lights. When he approached the back, my time had run out. I’m told he’s Brazilian. For a man of the cloth he’s quite hot. I’m sure I was blushing when I said hello and showed him my unfinished sketch. Having the most basic English, he congratulated me on my drawing then we kissed European style – a peck on each cheek. I was absolutely blushing after that. I wished I had gone to service everyday.

The house was still very quit when I poked my head in to see what everyone was doing. The girls were still in bed. I made my way back down to the docks to sketch the light. I was fascinated by the way the break wall folded into a spiral, the golden mean. It was the most difficult sketch this trip. I loved siting on top of the wall watching the men below me go about their daily rituals. I didn’t have to leave for the airport until 2pm so I let time stand still.

It’s hard to describe how I felt when I left. I was thankful for the silence. Sad to leave this beautiful landscape. Frustrated because there was still so much to explore. I left with an invitation to return in my back pocket. Who knows? I may return, would like to, but would love to have Mom with me next time. For now, I’m excited to get back to my apartment and I can’t wait to go home to my own island.

Day 8 June 12

For a few days now, we were talking about going to a salt spring or swimming somewhere. I thought perhaps returning to Robida Grand and swimming there would have been fun. In stead, we went to a place much better and more unique. Once piled into two taxis we set out for the heart of the island where there’s an active volcano. On it’s slope lay thermal pools, natures hot tub where people sit and relax gazing up to the sky through thick palm tree fronds.

When Jeniffer was here 7 years ago, the pools were coveted by the locals who use to drive straight in. Today it’s a park with bathrooms and change room facilities even a little museum illustrating the volcano’s history, geology, flora and fauna.

There are actually two pools. The original one has cooled down since the last time Jeniffer and her family were there. But it’s a larger, deeper pool with enough room to spread out and swim from one side to the other. The other pool was a tepid 30 degrees. Too hot for my liking though I did take the time to relax. But if you know me, you know I cannot JUST sit for long. I’ve gotta be doing. Which is why I eventually went to the cooler pool to stretch out. When we all piled out, I tried to sketch the pool, without the people, but I’m not as fond of it as the ones I did with buildings in it. Probably because I was never that good at drawing foliage and in this case,  there was too much of it.

For lunch, we spent the rest of our time at a picnic area with a chip truck perched at the mouth of the entrance way. Next to it and I suppose owned by the same person was a gift pavilion where I bought most of my gifts to bring home. Since being here, this was bar-none the best place for souvenirs. I would buy something, see something else, buy that, see something else, until I hard to reign myself in. The most unique gifts were those made with cork. I didn’t know it until this day, but Sao Miquel or Portugal as a whole grows cork trees. Corks for whine bottles, and other things are from the bark of a cork tree which is torn off the trunk and laid out to dry out then processed. I bought a shot glass for FFC (Friday Fun Club) covered with cork and a cow painted on it. 3 women’s and 1 men’s wallets made with cork. a clay bird whistle that actually sounds like a bird when you have water in it (for FFC), a combo shoehorn/back scratcher for my sewing family, Marianne and Hans, and I can’t remember what else!

What a fun day!! Nature in places unfamiliar is just as mesmerizing and wonderful as in your own backyard. I’m sure there are many great parks on the island, but I highly recommend this one. Especially since the entrance fee was only 2 Euros.

Before I close this article, a cute thing that happened before we left for the thermal pool. Up until this day, my allergies were non-existent. Yet, somehow……. this morning….. when I went for a walk outside the village  towards open space, I stopped at a street sweeping up from the ocean to the main road. Along it were three stone row houses with a field of bamboo at the end. At intervals, I would sneeze. As a did so at one point a taxi with it’s windows rolled down called out to me, what assumed was “bless you” in Portuguese. How sweet and funny. I called out, “thank you!” in English and Portuguese, as he sped away through the round-about.

Day 7 – June 11th

OMG! I can’t believe my trip is coming to a close! I leave on Tuesday around 4pm. Although I’m sad to leave this place, I long for my quiet apartment. Many aspects of the island are like home – Cape Breton and Newfoundland – so when I do go home, I’ll get to compare the geography and culture.

I was the first to rise this morning. I got a shower, had breakfast and made my way up the street to see if there were any stores open to replace my Tom’s. It being Sunday and still mid festival, none of the shops were open except convenience stores. I rather expected this, so brought my sketchbook and pencils and found a quiet courtyard of a smaller church with an attached playground beside it. I sat on a sunny wall sketching the edge of the church and the buildings beyond. This time, my perspective was better. When I got back to the house, none of the girls had arisen from bed. I was sorely tempted to venture out again, but I knew we were to go to a family dinner not too far away for 1pm. As it was, we didn’t arrive until 3pm. Not quite sure what happened there. Maybe this is just another example of island time.

At first it was a little awkward. As there were many more people there. Then there’s the language barrier, but that soon passed when I gravitated towards the younger kids playing volleyball and monkey in the middle. Some things are universal and gestures help. So does beer, wine and port. All the food was prepared on an outside wood burning BBQ. Everything was amazing. The cold slaw was not as vinegary as we Canadians make it. The mayo in the potato salad was made from scratch and also less vinegary. The chicken wings and ribs were large and seasoned to perfection. They also cooked sardines, but I haven’t developed a taste for this particular fish, so I left those alone. There’s something to be said for a family feast.

We walked home. But oddly enough, I seemed to be the only one to find our way back even though it was only a left onto the main road leading to the house. It was pretty much low key after that. I reorganized my suite case as I tend to do when it gets a little too chaotic, contributed to my blog and was sociable when visitors arrived.

Day 6 – June 10th

Oh Lala! Up until a few seconds ago, I completely drew a blank. How could I have forgotten this day! The first day I arrived, Jeniffer said that Pedro, Edwarda’s boyfriend was going to drive us around the island at some point during the week. Here is an account of most of the places we’ve been to, but not necessarily in order.

You know me and abandoned places! First stop was an abandoned hotel, Mount Palace It was apparently built in the 80’s, stayed in business for a year, then went out of business. Throughout the years of neglect, it deteriorated. It’s ironic that it has more visitors now than at it’s hight of regalness. Everything about it must have been opulent. The doors to the bar or the dining room are still on either side of the entryway. At one point they must have been a beautiful green or maybe it’s the mould that have given them their beautiful colouring, contrasting against the gray cement walls.

Second stop was the oldest aqueduct in Europe. Jeniffer wanted to find it soooooo badly. Although Pedro got directions from someone, we wouldn’t have noticed we had driven right past it if Jen didn’t turn around in her seat at the right moment. On the road side were strawberry-like berries, even grew like wild strawberries small and close to the ground. They were not at all sweet. They tasted exactly like water. I had to try a few before I got a really juicy one. MMMMmmmm… To get a good view of the aqueduct, Pedro, Jeniffer and I ventured into a muddy cow field. The cows had not been there for sometime however, but we still had to be careful, picking our way across grassy patches. I was not so successful on my return. My right leg sank nearly knee deep into a muddy hole. No this is not how my Toms met their demise. I’m so glad this was not a fresh field of cow dung as it would have been a much different story. On the third stop, I managed to find a stream to wash my leg and shoes off.

This third stop had many trails branching off in many directions. One was a trail atop of many peaked hills that encompassed a lake. In fact, we were standing above a once active volcano. I’m not sure how the hike around the parameter would take, but I’m going to assume more than a day. We only walked a ways up to see the view then back to the car. Another shorter trail led to another smaller lake surrounded by cedar trees.

After this, I lost track of all subsequent stops we made. We passed through 15 towns in total that day. I exclaimed that I had never seen as many towns in one day in my entire life. After driving through so many villages, each one became a blur.

Although, we have a windmill somewhere in Ontario and not too far away from Toronto, here, is the first one I’ve ever seen! It was not as tall as I expected, though I had nothing to compare it with. At its wall along the roadside, were blue and white tiles that depicted the windmill in a beautiful landscape. Had I thought of it before, I would have taken photos of most of the tiles I saw as they were so lovely. They are used as signs, indicating a type store, bakery, fish monger, etc.

In most of the costal towns there are community pools. Some have both a chlorine pool and a natural pool. Others are just a tidal pool or inlet with stairs and metal banisters. On one side of the island, one of these pools had waves higher than any person crash into the inlet making even the locals leery of swimming for fear of being sucked into the ocean. One brave woman held onto the banister as the waves came in. On another day, if I had my bathing suite, I would have liked to linger on the stairs to feel the force of the waves. On the other side of the island however, was a different story. It’s Typically 7 degrees hotter and the water was much calmer. Children were jumping in the inlet and having a great swim. Others were sun bathing, taking advantage of the beautiful holiday for it was Portugal Day. When I thought about it, the Canadian Maritime coast, with similar coast lines could have the potential for developing the same thing. There are already many hidden gem tidal pools where we locals go to relax and swim. The Fairy Holes is one such place I can think of North of the Bible Camp on Campbell Rd. Those who have been there will know what I mean. Such a thing could possibly increase inner tourism and could employ more summer jobs for students. Then again, they would not be hidden gems anymore. Another swimming area we went to was the corner of a cove down the narrowest road I’ve ever driven down. Pedro was an expert driver however and handled it most skillfully. I can’t imagine anything larger than his little car going down that road.

Pedro delivers to stores all over the island. This is why he knows so many great places to bring us to. This is also why he knows all the great places to eat. He’s told me horror stories of restaurants he delivered to were the kitchens were filthy. In one place, a cook had coughed or sneezed and didn’t wash his hands. GROSS! He brought us to a fantastic restaurant that was completely packed when we got there because of a tour bus. Thankfully there was room outside where they served only snacks. That was fine, because the snack menu consisted of hamburgers, fries, other fair and pizza slices. I had two slices of pizza and they were oh, so good!!!!!!!!! The crust was thick and soft. Lots of cheese, chorizo sausage, ham, olives and tomatoes, MMMMmmmmm!!!!!!!!!

As breathtaking as the landscape may be, the photos I wanted, should have the respect due to the environment in taking more time and care composing them.

Oh! Then there was the beach is Mostieros. Here I took of my shoes and let the crashing waves lick my feet. Again too dangerous to swim in, but at least I was in the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

At the end of the day, we brought back KFC for supper. I can’t wait to have Chicken Joy when I get back to Toronto. Better yet, I can’t wait to have Lick-A-Chick when I get home!

Day 4 – June 8th

It was decided that we would go to the next largest town, Ribeira Grand, to buy gifts and Edwarda a patio table with chairs. We all pitched in, 20 euros each. What a fantastic surprise this would be for her after everything she’s done and will do for us to make our stay comfortable.

The town it seems, has one main commercial drag of shops restaurants and other stores. The first store we went to was a gift store along with a . . . FABRIC STORE! There was some beautiful fabric there, especially one bolt of printed linin of soft blue colours at 28 and change euros a meter. I was not surprised, as linin seems to be consistently this expensive. It is a natural fiber after all. After searching their buttons for something for my Bib front skirt, I settled on a pretty navy blue taffeta ribbon that I will use to decorate a straw boater hat I have. The ribbon cost 1.50 euros per meter.

Further east is a beautiful park with waterfalls and an old mill. This appears to be the central park of Ribeira Grand lined with stones walls and oddly enough a tennis court. Its gardens are lined with hydrangeas and birds of paradise. Hydrangeas are the national follower here growing like weeds. They are one of my favourite flowers! After this we searched for a place to have lunch. There were signs directing you to the areas of interest including the community pools and restaurants, but there wasn’t anything that really tickled our fancy until we found a place right by the ocean called Azores Spot. The view was fantastic! Below were 4 chlorine pools including a wadding pool, one with a diving board, a kiddies pool and “C” shaped one that encompassed the rest, I’m assuming, for lane swims. A fifth pool was a large pool filled with salt water from the ocean. I hope to go back here before I go. I don’t think this will happen as there’s talk about going to a hot spring. Either way, whatever we do, I’ll be fine with it.

We got a taxi back although I was really tempted to walk back as it was one straight road minus the rotaries back into the fishing village.

Not much to relay from the evening. I dumped my DSLR photos onto my computer and edited some of the images. Local family members came to visit with a Portuguese style carrot cake. MMMMMMmmmmmmm….. The fishermen’s festival; in it’s second night, raged until well past midnight. We had caught some of the acts. One a traditional folk band singing the praise of the village and another of young things singing more modern songs accompanied by the local hip-hop dancers. Unfortunately, I can’t upload the video to my blog, so I’ll try to add in my instagram announcement.

Day 3 – June 7th

It was slow going in the morning. One by one we all got showers. Breakfast consisted of bread and a ricotta – like cheese, tea or coffee. When I arrived yesterday, it was one of those rare occasions where I had an espresso. I think it was this that gave me the energy to go all day. This morning however, I had an instant Nescafe coffee. In any country, coffee is still a necessity to start my day. Edwarda, the matroness of the house, made me a perfect cup. She is ever so kind and generous. But as the morning wore on, I was getting a little antsy. As the family was still preparing for the day, I brought out my pencils and sketch book to the balcony, perched myself on the step ladder against the wall and sketched the rooftops that stretched to the ocean horizon.

At around 10:30, Jeniffer and I finally got out of the house, walking towards the docks. It was perfect timing as the fishermen were coming in with their catch of the day. So many fish I’ve never seen before! Others I have, such as; octopus, manta ray, eel and squid. From the docks, we walked along the wall to see the coast line. On the ocean side there is a break wall of well-fitted boulders, no beach. To the left is a high cliff with houses perched on top. To the right, the land gradually rises to a high cliff with a succession of other cliffs one behind the other. With-in each cove are villages much like the one I’m staying in.

It does my heart good to be so close to the ocean again. Although my parents place is a 45 minute drive away from the Atlantic, I feel so blessed that the Atlantic Ocean is almost at my door step. The weather here is like a Newfoundland Summer. It’s not hot or tropical although there are tropical trees and flowers. I may have got some sun since being here, but not the tan I thought I was going to get. Despite to cooler spring weather, one can still get away with wearing a sundress.

I see more men hanging about than women. They walk down the street, sit on the wall or sit on their doorsteps taking in the day, talking with friends. They are even in the ocean in wet suites diving for sea-life that are closer to the rocks. Octopus, lappish – oyster-like shellfish – and the like. Today while I was sketching, I watched a diver across the street peel of his wet suit, a second skin, to show his lithe body underneath. Oh-la-la!!

At some moments within the house when it seems to me a bee hive of activity with Portuguese droning in the background, I’ve find solitude on the balcony. Here, there’s a white lap dog called Mofley, who loves attention and begs to be petted and near you. Marty, Jeniffer’s brother-in-law, is convinced the dog is going to get depressed when we all leave. In stead of 12 people in the house, there will be only 3.

That night, Jeniffer, the girls and I went back to the docks to do a photo shoot at night. I’m so glad to have brought my new light-stand, speed light and umbrella with me. It was a fun night and I got some good shots. I hope I’ll have another opportunity to do this before I go.

Portugal – Sao Miguel

Day 1 – June 5th

This morning, almost the first thing I did, was go to the bank to get money exchanged into Euro’s. My friend had said they use cash for everything in the village where they are staying, Rabo de Peixe. Although I had been looking up this information online, I saw mixed information or information that was only relative to the area people went to. I learned that you cannot use your usual debit card, but must have a euro debit card or a debit card that takes Portuguese currency. VISA and MasterCard however are accepted. I had made sure I put enough on my CC to use it. Perhaps if we go to larger cities, I can use it there. In the end, I marched myself to the CIBC branch in the Beaches and exchanged more than $400 Canadian into more than 300 Euros. I have to admit, I felt a little unsteady on my feet after the whole ordeal, wondering if it was enough. Well, It’s going to have to be. But I wish I had known about the cash before hand.

I made it to the airport in plenty of time, taking an Uber X. Traffic bottle necked in areas, but nothing to worry about. The fellow was a new driver to Uber so as we got closer to the airport, I had to direct him into the correct lanes. SATA was not open when I finally found where they were located, but there was a queue. I managed to get through with my camera bag as my “personal bag “ and another bag I use for my tripod and light stand.

At brunch yesterday with Janet, she asked if there was an itinerary. Jen and I had talked about things that we wanted to do. She arrived in Portugal earlier than me, so I ‘m sure she’s not waiting for me to do things. Nor do I expect her to. Some things on my bucket list however, are:

– Take pictures of Jeniffer’s nieces
– Go to church
– Swim at a hot spring and in the ocean
– Hike

Jeniffer also talked about going to a new site like Pompeii and doing an island boat tour. Lol. My friend from work asked if I was going whale watching. I told him I can go whale watching when I’m home. Seriously though, I’m ok with doing whatever because I have more time than I had in Iceland and secondly, I’m going to be staying in a little fishing village; right in the thick of a Portuguese community. Listening to all my co-workers talk about their “resort” experience always made me feel the “experience” of a new country was lacking and (I love you guys!!!xoxo) fake. Why go a beautiful place only to have specialty built experiences within the resort and never feel what it’s truly like to BE in that country. That’s not how I want to spend my money.

We were late boarding, but once we were all on the plane. Things were efficient enough. There were 2 screaming babies beside me belonging to very young parents. But, God bless them, they did everything in their parental power to keep them quiet knowing how bothersome they were to other passengers. These things happen of course. You can hardly expect to be on a plane without one, though you may hope against hope. All this screaming however, resulted in a mild migraine the next day. When the babies had quieted down, I thankfully managed to get a catnap. Myself, and others in the seats close by were forgiving enough when the plane landed.