best albums of 2016
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
time goes fast and at sunset, we had a new boat to get and return to faial before 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.
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 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 desert 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.
the youth hostel in calheta is always a safe option. alternatively, explore some local or new lodgings such casa dos moinhos, aldeia da encosta, the intact farm and são sorge spot.
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.
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.
faial, azores | august 2016
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…
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.
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.
estrela do atlântico is a cozy guest house run by the lovely ruth. the feeling of well-being and familiarity was immediate when we got there. ruth is a true hostess, making us feel as if we were at home. sounds like a cliché, but it was hard to get out of there. we could live in that house.
peter’s café sport is the classic binding spot in faial! after anchoring the sailboat in horta’s marina, drink a sailor’s gin and brag about your latest feats at the great and unknown sea, still with the taste of salt on the lips and skin cracked by the cold atlantic.
years of endless conversations, miles and stories on the walls …