Azores: Back Home; Final Thoughts
David here.... I thought upon return home I would put forth some observations of my own (and more photos) on the Azores, Sao Miguel in particular.
Sao Miguel — The Island
Undoubtedly, Sao Miguel (and I assume the rest of the Azores) is one of the all around most beautiful places we have visited. Greener (and a bit warmer on the whole) than Ireland; beautiful beaches; dramatic volcanic mountains and lakes; lovely European/Portuguese villages; great road; lots of parks; flowers everywhere; friendly people who for the most part know some English; hot springs; local cheeses, wine, fruit, fish and beef; and so on.
But the best part is how the people of the island appreciate the treasure they have, and the pride they show in it. Roads are carefully built and maintained to the finest detail of drainage, the ever present parks with their stone picnic tables and grills, pavilions and gardens, and of course the ever present view of the sea, mountains, village or forests and pastures, are used by both tourists and island families. We noticed how crowded they were on Sunday afternoon after church (Portuguese/Catholic). Each one had it's own squadron of feline guardians and caretakers...
The weather: April through the end of September is generally more dry and sunny, but as an island in the middle of the ocean, showers are always possible. In mid-September it was mid 70's each day; upper 60's each night, with a few scattered showers among the sun filled days. Off-season, there is more rain and less sunlight, but it never goes below 40-45F at night, and in the 50's and 60's during the day.
Simple and Fresh. If you're looking for all ethnic varieties of restaurants, or to have those varieties adapted to the local menus, you won't find a lot of that here. What you will find is FRESH fish, FRESH beef, LOCAL cheeses and breads and fruits. Prepared simply.
Grilling is a passion. Seafood or fresh fish caught within yards of the restaurant....you got it. Grilled with olive oil, lemon, garlic and herbs.
How We Came to Go There
When we were planning a trip last year, our first thoughts were of Iceland, a photographer's dream. Along the way during planning, I noticed a small group of islands much further south in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, but part of the same mid-Atlantic mountain range. They were the Azores. So I looked it up on google, and looked at images. Then I met a few people who had been there and said how wonderful it was. So we looked at maybe going to Iceland, then flying to Azores and then back home. But you can't really do that unless you want to spend a fortune and go through a country or two in Europe (or back to Boston in between).
Of course, since every photographer I knew had been to Iceland or was going there, I really wanted to go somewhere similar, but different (and less traveled), hence our trip to Sao Miguel. Options were great, inexpensive and looked beautiful. Less than five hour flight from Boston. So that's how we got there.
As I just mentioned, Iceland is a photographer's dream. Incredible landscapes and culture, AND it seems to always be the "golden hour" (low light on the horizon) because it's so far north. Our trips to the Caribbean are to beautiful places, but not great for photography because the sun is always so strong and high in the sky. Dawn and dusk are brief.
In the Azores, which are about the latitude of Portugal (or Virginia), has a better range of light than the Caribbean. Maybe not quite as good as Iceland, but add the humidity, fog, clouds and different altitude climates, and it's pretty darn wonderful. Kind of like mixing Maine and Oregon.
The main frustration that I had, as a photographer, was the pure abundance of incredible subject matter. I have to go back and spend more time exploring smaller areas. We would be driving on the way to someplace we heard was spectacular going through towns and environments that I could have easily spent a full day or more at working with the camera, and not even stopping. If we stopped we would have seen very little of the island. As a first trip there, we instead had a great overview. Someday I'd like to go back to that little seaside village on a steep mountain, or that volcanic lake surrounded by temperate rain forest. For now, week's sampler will have to do!
So I will leave you with a few last photographic images of Sao Miguel, Azores...
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My Flickr Images Tagged "Azores"