Day 06: We Reached the Western Shore

Today we were up and out by 10am and ready to have a leisurely day touring the western side of Sao Miguel. It was mostly cloudy upstairs, and we were hopeful by the afternoon things would burn off a bit, especially since we were going to see a huge island attraction, the side-by-side crater lakes called Sete Cidades.

Shades of green

Shades of green

We took our time, meandering west along the coast a short stretch before turning inland toward Covoada. There were a few viewpoints along the way, and we hit most of them. It almost seemed like this part of the island was even greener and more pastoral, which was hard to believe given how green the central and eastern parts were. But there it was the greenest green for miles.

Eventually we reached the first viewpoint for Sete Cidades, the Miradouro da Vista do Rei, that is located about 600m above sea level and was a bit breezy. Now, on a sunny, clear day apparently one lake reflects turquoise blue and the other reflects emerald green, but at this cloudy time both lakes appeared to be identical shades of water. It was still a beautiful setting, though, with the lakes below and the little town perched along the shores.

Shades of water

Shades of water

One thing I’d researched prior to leaving was that you can enter the abandoned hotel that is just behind the viewpoint and get a better view from up on the deserted terraces. Not noticing the big staircase in front, Jim and I walked around back and must have come through the former service entrance, which appears to be the theme of this trip.  The walls were crumbling concrete, the vaulted ceiling had hanging wires, and the tile floors in the lobby and hallway downstairs were broken into pieces. We found an oddly carpeted, circular staircase in the middle that must have been grand in its heyday, and went up to the first floor to discover that indeed, you do have a better vantage point from which to see the lakes but it is a bit creepy and has horror movie setting written all over it.

Shades of decrepit (hallway of most certainly haunted deserted hotel)

Shades of decrepit (hallway of most certainly haunted deserted hotel)

We left the viewpoint and continued down the hillside on the curvy road toward the lake and entered the town of Sete Cidades in search of coffee. It was a sleepy little town and the restaurant along the waterfront was closed so we headed straight for the northwest part of the island to the coastal town of Mosteiros.

Mosteiros is awesome. Not only did it have a great café stop at the far northern end of town (and by that I mean they had easy parking, €0.60 espresso, and a bathroom), but the Atlantic Ocean hits the jet black lava rock shoreline mightily along this side, creating turquoise blue waves, a lot of froth, and pools. It’s mesmerizing.  We stared at it for quite some time before moving up the shore about 100m, stopping and staring at it again, moving a little, staring, and so on, until we got to the other end of town and parked the car at a viewpoint to have our lunch. One thing to note is that there were gale force winds to create those beautiful waves, and a trade-off for admiring them outside was my perfectly-quaffed hair from morning had become a natural disaster by this point. Jim’s hair stayed put and remained perfectly quaffed.

Shades of black and blue

Shades of black and blue

A little further down was a black sand beach, which was empty on this overcast, windy day, but there was an adventurous surfer out a little ways who we watched bob around the water for a great deal of time before he found “the one” and rode it to shore.

Back in the car, we went to Miraduoro Escalvado, a former whale-watching viewpoint, but there were no whales to see today. From the viewpoint, however, we could see a lighthouse and headed in that direction along the narrow, steep coastal road. We did indeed find the lighthouse, called Farol da Ferraria, and there was an official sign for it, but when we reached it we found no parking, just a dead-end street, and it looked like someone was living there. Thinking it would be awkward and possibly not super legal to walk right in, we continued down a steep switchback road to the nearby Ponta (point) da Ferraria.

Shades of Do Not Enter (Farol da Ferraria)

Shades of Do Not Enter (Farol da Ferraria)

Ponta da Ferraria has another thermal feature, where hot spring water mixes with sea water to create a warm bath. A pool has been constructed so that one may safely take a dip without being either carried out to sea or smashed against the black lava rocks, which was very thoughtful.  They even provided ropes across the pool should things really start to go badly.

It was getting late in the afternoon and time to start heading back to Ponta Delgada, but we decided to take a detour to the nearby town of Faja de Baixo to suss out the pineapple greenhouses. Along with tea, Sao Miguel is known for pineapple production, which grow year-round in greenhouses. It should come as no surprise that finding a greenhouse – any greenhouse – in town was challenging (signs? Who needs signs?), but we finally found the Arruda-Azores company and once we did it was mind-blowing.

Am I the last one on earth to learn pineapples are grown in the ground? Wait, you mean there aren’t giant pineapple trees out in the world where bunches of fruit hang from their spindly green, hairy heads?

We were able to go into several greenhouses and see the fruits at different stages before stopping into the gift shop and having a sample of pineapple liqueur. We didn’t find the liqueur to be nearly as tasty as one thinks it might be (it’s very syrupy and not very pineapply), and were hoping for a taste of fresh pineapple juice or a small piece of the fruit itself, but there were none offered.

Shades of wait, what the...??

Shades of wait, what the…??

We left supremely enlightened and headed back to the room for a rest before strolling down the waterfront into town for dinner at Tian Le Chinese Restaurant. The food was spectacular. Jim had a spring roll and a spicy prawns dish and I had orange chicken, and it helped erase the memory from the night before that I’ve already told you I don’t want to talk about, so let’s stop bringing it up.

Back to the room we went to pack up our gear and have one last glass of wine on the terrace because in the morning we were headed back to Portugal’s mainland, destination unknown. You see, we will be by the seat of our (dry) pants for the next two weeks.

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