Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 Azores trip - Day 11

Day 11 – Saturday, June 30, 2012

The weekend arrived, which meant another massive lunch at a family gathering, this time at the home of Antonio and Manuela, who live on an acreage in the north-western part of the island, near a town called Finais da Luz.  We decided to do some exploring on the north coast before lunch so left home after breakfast and drove to Ribeira Grand, which is the second largest city on the island.  Last time we were in the Azores we visited this city briefly, but didn’t find much of interest, so figured we must have missed something.  Well, turns out we didn’t.  There is a new pool complex, which is very nice, and a river flowing through the city but beyond that, it is about the least interesting place we’ve been on the island.  We walked through what seemed to be the main shopping area and even Ana couldn’t find anything interesting there.  The only place which was busy was the one big shopping centre outside of downtown, called Sol-Mar Continente, which is pretty much like a Canadian Superstore or an American Target.  Maybe this is what sucked the life out of downtown?  Once again, it reminded us of the deficiencies of North America, where you have big box stores built well outside the residential areas, necessitating a car to do your shopping.

After Ribeira Grand, we drove west along the coastal road to see the next town over, which is called Rabo de Peixe – the biggest fishing centre on the island.  Well, you could smell the fish a mile away so it wasn’t hard to find the fishing harbour.  This town too didn’t have much to offer and looked to be quite run.  It is known as one of the poorer parts of the island, so that really didn’t come as much of a surprise.  The entire north coast is a lot different than the south as the ocean side is mainly rocky, there are few beaches and the ocean is generally much rougher.
It took us a while to find the town we were supposed to meet Ana’s cousin, mainly because we had switched rental cars the day before and forgot our map in the old one, but, like anywhere on Sao Miguel, if you do manage to get lost, you won’t stay lost for too long as most places are well signed and people are happy to give directions when you stop to ask.  Of course, it helps if you speak Portuguese, or better yet if your wife speaks Portuguese, then you can just sit in the car, listen to the radio, and watch the arms flailing around and vigorous nodding as directions are given.

We arrived to a beehive of activity as everybody in sight seemed to have been assigned a job; Tio Luiz was weeding the front garden, Tio Manuel was crawling around in the bushes doing something, somebody else was cutting the grass, the ladies were all in the house preparing lunch, and even the kids were busy feeding the horse.  I grabbed a pair of gloves and helped Tio Luiz weed for a while, then found the beer fridge and henceforth avoided any sort of work activity for the rest of the afternoon.

The lunch was ridiculously diverse, massive, delicious and long.  Every species of edible animal was present and accounted for and they seemed to have budgeted two litres of wine per person, which seemed about right to me.  After lunch, we miraculously mustered the energy for a barefoot soccer game, thanks to Magnus’ pestering.  Their giant backyard includes a huge soccer pitch, so we started with an exhibition match which included many of the kids and ladies, using a giant bouncy exercise ball, which Stella took directly in the face early in the match which put her out of competition.  After a short beer break, and Magnus’ insistent pestering, we put together a three per side match and played some hard soccer.  Both Magnus and sustained toe injuries, which is expected, but despite our valiant efforts, we lost by one goal.

I was informed that this was a two phase lunch, so we sat down and ate again, which was good because I think I used up most of the previously consumed calories in the soccer game.  As we were eating, I noticed the speed and fury with which Tio Luiz was eating, and had John ask him how he managed to stay so scrawny with the amount of food and booze he consumes.  He said, simply, that the more he eats, the fatter his wife gets.  I didn’t probe for more details.

After second lunch, Antonio took the kids out in the back of the property and let them feed and sit on the horse.  Stella, in particular, absolutely loved it and had us take plenty of pictures.
The “lunch” finished around 9pm, so we packed up and head back home, stopping for a coffee at one of the beach restaurants along the way.  And we were instructed to show up the next day at cousin Natarcia’s house for family dinner at 3pm to do it all again.

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