Day 2 – Thursday, June 21, 2012
After a wonderfully sound sleep we awoke at 7am to Ana’s chirping iPhone alarm which I had set the night before, and my first discovery of the morning was that Apple had installed the “snooze” function, which was put to good use. Once I remembered the breakfast that was awaiting us downstairs, I got my butt out of bed and started getting people moving. My favourite part of the day in the Azores is the morning meal, which at tia Ana’s house, consists of black coffee, fresh buns, fresh cheese, and these delicious little bananas she grows in her backyard. From the kitchen you can hear the sounds of the morning vendors passing by, each with their distinctive horn blast, identifying them as the bread, fruit or fish man. But you have to be quick to catch them as they pass rapidly.
We decided to make a trip to Ponta Delgada to see the new cruise ship port and marina called “Portas du Mar”, so we walked down to the bus stop and the kids did some lizard hunting while we waited and watched the cars, trucks, tractors, motorbikes and horses passing by. After a short bus ride we arrived downtown and immediately bumped into Ana’s cousin Natarcia, who works at a rental car company, and she hooked us up with a car at a great price so for the next ten days we’d have wheels. Yes!
We started with a nice walk through the marina, totally impressed with the facility, and even the prices – monthly dockage on our sailboat would be less than 300 euro per month, so we plan on retiring next year, just need to find some foster parents for the kids. As part of the marina they have built a giant commercial complex with restaurants, bars, shops, and even a small bowling alley! They also upgraded the existing pool and built an amazing recreational area. In short, it’s probably the most amazing marina we’ve ever seen and we look forward to the day when we will be sailing our own boat into harbour.
After a light lunch and a wonderfully cheap mug of lager, we moved on to explore a few of the shops downtown, where I picked up some wine and beer and Ana bought shoes, then we decided to head back to the house and get our swimsuits so we could get down to the pools in Lagoa to enjoy the sunny, warm day. Driving around the Azores is quite easy, and since we’re familiar with the main roads, it’s no problem getting around. We stopped at Ana’s other aunt’s house on the way to say hi to John and Maria, and they decided to join us at the pool, so we continued on home. Along the way I was shocked to see a sign for “Azores Veterinarian Hospital” which I assumed was some sort of local code word for guns and ammo shop, but was later informed by one of Ana’s cousins that they do indeed treat animals from time to time, though you’d never know it by the scruffy dogs everyone has chained up in their backyards.
By the time we made it down to the pool, the sky had clouded over and the wind had picked up, making that cold water a little less appealing than expected, so while the cold-resistant kids jumped into the water, the rest of us sat on the edge, and John and I enjoyed a nice glass of beer. It wasn’t long before we all went back to tia Ana’s house for an afternoon chitty-chat session where, among the more interesting topics discussed in rapid fire Portuguese, were the benefits and drawbacks of cousins marrying cousins, which was (or perhaps “is”?) common in the Azores. Ana’s grandparents on her mom’s side were actually first cousins, so we discussed the resulting genetic afflictions in the family, which ranged from detached retinas for several of the cousins, to partial insanity in Ana’s brother’s case. One big happy family, whose belly-buttons are all just an inch or two off center.
Tia Ana cooked us an amazing meal of swordfish, which I stuffed myself on, as we watched the quarter finals of the Euro cup, which featured Portugal versus the Czech Republic. By half time there was still no score, so we decided to take the kids down and find a cafe somewhere to watch the rest of the game. We drove down to one of the beach areas, found a nice little spot with a tv, got the kids an ice cream, the mom a coffee and the dad a beer and watched the rest of the game where Portugal eventually scored a nice goal and took the game. As we watched, I was reminded of a conversation with my brother Curtis a few years back, where we were trying to figure out what language these guys were speaking in when they were yelling at each other all the time. Between the players, the referees, the coaches and everybody else on the sidelines, there must be at least a dozen languages flying around at any particular time. It does make you wonder how they manage to communicate. Through careful research and intensive lip reading, we were able to determine that the phrase “What de fuh?” is all these guys ever say, and it is as universally understood as it is versatile. An English player gets a yellow card, he’ll say to the German ref, “What de fuh??” A Spanish attacker gets tackled by a Swedish defender, he’ll get up and say to him, “What de fuh??” A Brazilian net keeper gets caught by the ref pushing over a Costa Rican scoring star, and the Japanese ref will say, “What de fuh??”
Watch and you’ll see.