Day 03: Back Over the Atlantic to the Azores

After a fairly restless night, our alarm went off at 6:15am because we had a plane to catch. We showered, ate, and were out by 7:15ish. The streets of Lisbon are pretty quiet at that time, other than the sound of luggage being dragged on cobblestones.

Although the Ryanair flight ran 45 minutes late, it was uneventful and we landed safely to the small island of Sao Miguel, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Azores island group. Sao Miguel is the largest of this 9 volcanic island archipelago, and it seemed to make the most sense for our first foray here. As an aside, the Azores served as an important strategic location for the Allies during WWII, and the US military has had a base on the island of Terceira ever since (although they recently announced plans to start closing up shop, which could come at great economic impact to the islands).

Ponta Delgada waterfront

Ponta Delgada waterfront

Once the rental car was picked up, we headed into the town of Ponta Delgada, the largest town of Sao Miguel, population of about 69,000 people (of about 140,000 total on this island). I had Google mapped the route between the airport and the hotel before we left, and it was a good thing, as when we landed we discovered our trusty GPS did not have maps of the Azores loaded in. This meant we had to revert to old school map reading techniques, which largely involves Jim driving and me turning the map in the direction of travel to follow along (otherwise I will claim we are always going north). However, this technique works best when there are street signs that we can read, and somewhere along the way things went sideways and I lost where we were on the map. Up and down streets we went, some of them a few times, until we found ourselves on the outskirts of town again and were able to regroup and come at it once more. The second time around was successful, as I’d had a long time to think about where things had gone bad. Jim drove like a champ up and down the narrow streets in an unfamiliar stick shift car with a navigator who kept repeating, “I’m just really not sure where we are on the map.”

City Gates, with fancy sidewalk mosaics, which we've found all over

City Gates, with fancy sidewalk mosaics, which we’ve found all over

We checked into the Antillia Hotel Apartamento and were delighted to find they had upgraded us to a one-bedroom apartment. It was fantastic, with a foyer, living room, kitchenette, bedroom, and semi-private terrace. Once our gear was offloaded we set out into the center of town, a short walk away. It was nice to now see the sights while not whizzing past them.

Ponta Delgada is not super large, and we passed an outdoor market, an important-looking church, several impossibly narrow streets, and wound up along the waterfront. From the waterfront you can see how the hills rise behind the town, and it is green in every direction.

All the streets on the island seem narrow, steep, and/or bumpy.  This one has it all!

All the streets on the island seem narrow, steep, and/or bumpy. This one has it all!

After weaving our way up and down town for quite some time, we decided to get the car and head to the large supermarket on the edge of town for some provisions. It was a busy day at the supermarket, and parking was every man for himself. We lucked out in that department, scooped up some groceries, and then headed back to the hotel for a rest. Jet lag is still a bit of an issue, and besides, we were on sleepy island time now.

Later in the evening we rallied and headed to a Mexican restaurant called Arriba for dinner, where Jim had a chicken burrito, I had chicken enchiladas, and they came out looking almost exactly the same and were both exactly as delicious. Once we ate and strolled back to the hotel, it was lights out.

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