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Pico, the magic mountain

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pico is the youngest island of the archipelago and, of course, its youth reveals an explosion of uniqueness nature in the middle of nowhere. a perfect communion between the dark and naked basalt, the vineyards in the rocks, and the peaceful and lively blue of the atlantic.

nothing is simple here; its an island of hard and lonely workers and was the set of brave fishermen that for years feared the whale hunting as a way to survive in the isolation of times. nonetheless, it’s a land of dreamers; a characteristic of all insular men and women growing up with the companion of a perfect horizon, trying to discover what is beyond that line.

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up! to the magic mountain
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wine and lava in our blood
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the faithful companion (view from terra alta)Processed with VSCO with c2 presetProcessed with VSCO with c2 presetProcessed with VSCO with c2 presetProcessed with VSCO with c2 presetProcessed with VSCO with c2 preset

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the youth hostel at são roque do pico, an old convent rehabilitated, is a good choice. not a luxury place, but the view from our room to the fields and sea offered us unforgettable awakenings and sunsets.

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pico was, probably, the island where we had the best meals. at são roque do pico, casa âncora, by the hand of the chef timur abuziarov, is a modern restaurant using fresh produce from local fishermen and farmers. amazing how he managed to seize the azorean flavor in a unique and creative way. a must to do at the island, with the restaurant and lounge just by the sea. perfect at sunset. at madalena, across the canal, a huge sperm whale lies in the rocks, resting for long time in the atlantic. cella bar, winner of 2016 hospitality architecture award, combines the pico’s tradition on whale watching, long days whale fishing and the dark basalt landscape on an exquisite design bar/restaurant. nice flavors with some unusual twists of local food and contemporary tendencies accompanied with local wines. also at madalena, ancoradouro a classical seafood house by the sea had the best fish cataplasma we ever tried.

the map

São Jorge, the lonely one

we woke up early to get the first boat to são jorge. due weather forecast we had to short our stay there for one day and cut some of the sightseeing we wanted to, otherwise, we could get blocked on the island some days. rosais and the unique azorean coffee plantation at fajã dos vimes were some of the spots we regretted not visiting.

amazing view arriving at the island – from afar the island of são jorge looks like a long reptile resting in the ocean, hiding mysteries, and old prohibited lovers.

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arriving by boat, we can see that there are some strips of land that enter the sea at the base of the cliffs caused by ancient landslides. the so-called fajãs. one of them, fajã do santo cristo (holy lord christ), remains a sacred place. unrivaled in its distance for the world  (see the full post about this fajã here).

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we were dazzled by the mixture of gross dark green nature and the calm of the lagoon followed by the infinite atlantic. the ecosystem is unique there, even with the presence of exquisite bivalves that no one really knows how they got there. the chapel of the holy lord christ, a constant in the fajã’s skyline, could be our home at the end of the world.

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after a quick lunch at the local bar, unfortunately, it was full of tourists that day, we set sail for one of the most remote ends of the island. after passing the mysterious fog of the central massif, almost deserted, we arrived at the peaceful village of topo, resting by the sea in love with the peculiar islet-plain.

são jorge is well known for its curated cow cheese. we arrived a little after the cheese factory had closed, but the friendliness of one of the staff members allowed a small guided tour of its operations and method of manufacture. we finished the tour with a taste of cheeses cured at different times. it will not be easy to find but the 3-month cure is supremely good (maybe even better than the easily marketed 6 and 9-months).

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we returned to velas, the largest village on the island, to catch the boat. we strolled a bit through the streets while we waited for the boat and took the opportunity to snack at the central cafe. finally, we bought the famous espécies and ate all of them! we do not know how, but we could not find photos of that late afternoon.

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time goes fast and at sunset, we had a new boat to get and return to faial before the weather turns. the storm was arriving even if the day was so beautiful and sunny. guess this was the perfect example of the unpredictable microclimate of azores.

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to eat
the clams of the fajã of santo cristo are obligatory on a visit to São Jorge and can be found, with quality, in many local restaurants such as fornos de lava, o amílcar,  o manezinho and o borges. this last one at the fajã do santo cristo, usually full of tourists in summer; leave you to note on the wall or cartoon on the ceiling or while you wait for the meal entertain yourself reading the messages of other travelers. fish cataplans and limpets are also are specialties of the island. são jorge cow’s curated cheese is perfect for every meal as an entree or as a dessert with jam, for example. try to find a 3-month cure; the 6 and 9-month are a bit of spicy for a newbie in this kind of cheese. a final highlight (again) for the espécies, this particular spice cakes of secular flavor that contain secrets in their preparation that leave anyone fascinated when tasted.

to stay
the youth hostel in calheta is always a safe option. alternatively, explore some local or new lodgings such as casa dos moinhos, aldeia da encosta, the intact farm and são jorge spot.

the map

Moon safari

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i guess azores are unique in all the diversity of landscapes you can find there. capelinhos volcano is an example of this unique archipelago. imagine, for instances, that you are landing on a moon surface – the new world is yours.

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a volcanic eruption lasted for 13 months, from september 27, 1957 until october 24, 1958 changing faial’s landscapes and the life of many families with more than 1500 emigrating to the USA. now this area is one of the most visited places on the island and the lighthouse, once buried under the volcano ashes, is now an interpretation center that deserves our curiosity and respect.

nature reinforces itself in how we are small.

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The Hideout​

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away from the city, o esconderijo, as the name stands  – the hideout –  is an almost familiar restaurant that stunned us. vegetarian, rustic-kitsch decoration, personalized menu according to what there is the pantry or what they fell on us, friendly and welcoming staff.  booking is mandatory, it is important to call in before and ask to be received. an exceptional experience which is increasingly rare when we talk about restaurants these days…

Tea time

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cozy tea house by horta’s hill, CASA. enjoy the surroundings and the city view (and, of course, the majestic pico) inside you have a great collection of tea perfect for a wintery day or a cloudy classic azorean day.

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one of the nights there, we had the opportunity to listen to a show by medeiros/lucas, a great portuguese pair with azorean roots. check on them, please.