The captain had us into port in Ponta Delgada before the scheduled 7am arrival, so most of us missed arriving into this port on the southern side of São Miguel Island. Largest and most populous island of this archipelago, the city is also the biggest in population and the executive capital. We would be in port today (Wednesday) and tomorrow until 14:00. Our time zone was GMT +0, or four hours ahead of Florida.
When making my plans for the visit to the #Azores, I checked to see if there were any cathedrals here. Only one, and not on this island! I determined it was on the next island to the northeast, #Terceira. Located in Angra do Heroísmo, a second (of three) capitols, I found out that I could fly a local carrier over and back, however, the airport on Terceira is a good distance away. Unsure how quickly I could debark and then get to the airport, I elected to not attempt the last morning flight at 8:30, but instead take the first afternoon flight. This would give me the morning to explore the port city on foot.
From the Internet I’d pulled down two walking guides to PDF files which I had on my laptop and sent to my phone. At 2- and 6-pages, with pictures, I would be able to make my rounds of the city after I left Waves and breakfast and grabbed my camera, ship ID, passport and journal. Stepping off the ship into #PontaDelgada, the temperature was in the mid 50°Fs, with 80% humidity and overcast skies. Leaving the harbor, my first stop was an ATM to get €300 as my leftover cash from the Spain/Portugal trip in 2018 was meager. Through stone archways, I came into a major square, and noted that the comments I’d read on CruiseCritic
about it being a black and white city were somewhat valid. A church tower caught my attention, so I headed over to the church of St Sebastian. Inside, the main side altars were ornate and gilded. Wanting to head to the airport, I began walking west, passing the Sinagoga Sahar Hassamain, which was unfortunately closed. Google Maps said it was a 4km walk, or about 50 minutes, so I decided to walk for a bit and then find a taxi stand.
Probably 20 minutes later, in front of Café Madruga, I hailed a cab and continued to the airport. My instructions indicated that I’d go to the SATA desk, who gave me a sheet of paper and sent me to the Azores Airlines desk. There I collected a boarding pass and was sent through security. My 1:30 flight boarded at 1pm, and I was one of 4 in the small jet which held 18. With no airfield traffic, we were up and away after getting unblocked, heading to Lajes Airport in northeastern Terceira.
Landing at 2:10, I was out of the terminal building in 10 minutes and found Felipe of #AzorBus waiting for me with a silver BMW sedan. The temperature was the same as Ponta Delgada, with similar high humidity, but the skies had cleared. With just less than 4 hours to explore, he began our circumnavigation of the island. Passing through Vila Nova, our first stop was the beach and resort town of Quatro Ribeiras where we stopped to overlook the inlet where these four riverbanks joined the
ocean. Continuing again, the quaint town of Biscoitos lay down beside the water, with its tall church front facing west into the sun as we stood at an overlook.
Felipe and I had communicated about my desire to see and photograph the cathedral, but he wanted me to visit his church in Raminho, the Igreja de São Francisco Xavier. A beautiful parish church with dual bell towers, the white walls were trimmed in a mossy green color which fit with all the greenery I’d been seeing. Inside, the curved vault over the nave and the side walls were white, with beige stenciling. A large color mural of St Francis Xavier was on the back wall above the altar.
The circuit road took us through the Forest Reserve of Serreta where a side road inland up the slight hill was lined on one side by hydrangea in full bloom. Continuing, we drove past the salt flats of Santa Barbara, with brilliant white pens at the base of low hills. We transited through São Bartolomeu de Regatos and then São Mateus da Calheta. At the latter, another tall, two-tower imposing church rose over the village waterfront.
Angra do Heroismo
Approaching #AngraDoHeroísmo, Felipe took me first down by the waterfront, where a particularly lovely pale blue church stood out amongst the whitewashed port buildings with red roof tiles. We paused in front of the church, so I could get a photo, but the clock was ticking, and this (Igreja da Misericordia) wasn’t the cathedral! It reminded me of the tourist-favorite blue church of St Elizabeth in Bratislava which I’d seen on my second week cycling the Danube in 20117.
Sitting back behind a large white building facing the port, Sé Catedral do Senhor / Cathedral of the Holy Saviour has pointed white capped towers over the light gold-colored trim on white walls. Inside, the exposed stone columns are thick with round arches and the main altar sits on a dais covered in a rich red carpet.
Felipe had one more stop for me to make on our return to the airport. We cut inland to head towards Lajes, turning off as we reached a summit. It was the lookout of Miradouro da Serra do Cume, where I could barely see Praia da Vitoria, the eastern and main port for Terceira, as well as the agricultural fields below. After a bit of backtracking, we got back on the better roadway and got me to the airport at 6:10, giving me time to get another boarding pass, walk through security scanning and head out onto the field to board the 18:55 return trip to #SãoMiguel.
With tailwinds, we were back at 7:30, and my taxi ride to the port took 10 minutes. Walking onto the #Meraviglia, I was scanned and my backpack was checked, and my id card read. I climbed a flight of stairs and headed to my cabin, dropping my camera off and starting to charge one expired camera battery, and headed up to the Panorama Dining Room for the 8pm dinner seating, right on time. For a change, I wasn’t last, as the 5 Canadians were a half minute behind me. We all began comparing notes about our day, and most decided that my adventure was more exotic than theirs; plus they were all as pleased as I was to have added another cathedral on my list.
Very hungry from skipping lunch (breakfast had been oatmeal, fruit), I decided to have 2 asparagus starters (there were only 3 spears on the plate under a rasher of bacon) and this intriguing dish that was red and white beet pieces at the base, with a basil gelee topped with fresh, ship-made burrata mozzarella and topped with sprouts, with balsamic and beet puree drizzle decorating the plate. It was actually very good. Beef tenderloin, with four roasted
potatoes and three (more) spears of asparagus, topped with gravy and a few rosemary leaves was my main. Tiramisu finished off the meal for me. I’d ordered a bottle of wine after checking with the somm, being very pleased with the Chateauneuf-de-Pape he managed to find for me. I took the last half of my second glass with me as we cleared the table.
Preparing for the Thursday morning tour, I had to contact my three couples to ensure we all were fed and off the ship by 8:30. Heading back to my cabin, I rang and reached Shirley, Judy and Thuy in turn, each of whom promised me they’d have their “boys” dressed and ready – we’d try to meet in Waves at 7:45. Plugging in the camera to download pictures and charge its battery, as well as recharge the phone, I finished this blog and will post it now.