Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Azores 2024 – Grey Parade, Cow Jam, Lando Calrissian

I’m happy to learn that this is still the land of the lost radio song. They have a surprising number of FM radio stations for such a small island, and most of them play English songs, but songs that have been mostly forgotten by the rest of the world. Maybe they get a great deal on them? Yesterday I heard that song “Hazard” by Richard Marx. This morning I heard “Sign Your Name” by Terence Trent D’Arby. I’m sure Roch Voisine and Wang Chung can’t be too far off. Listening to the radio here is like thrifting – once in a while you get a real gem, but it’s mainly junk.

We finally got our bed rigged up just right. I think the mattress on this bed is a vintage 60’s model that was a big step up from the duck feathers and straw they used to shove into burlap sacks to sleep on. She’s firm she is, but lava rock firm, and I haven’t been drinking enough to knock myself into a motionless stupor so my rolling around has been bruising my bony hips. Yesterday Ana’s mom found some extra blankets so now it’s much better and I’m back to rolling around pain-free.


After a big breakfast we gather up the Grey Parade and all five of us take off in the car to explore. We take the side roads up and across the middle of the island. The scenery is beautiful – rolling green hills, small stands of forest, stone fences, pasture lands, and cows – so many cows. At one point in the road we have to stop as a large village of cows is coming at us three astride, taking up the whole road. These classic black and white beauties pass by us gracefully, and acknowledge our presence with a slight nod and wink.


As we drive westward the road starts ascending and soon we are in thick cloud cover and in the Freguesia of Sete Cidades (Seven Cities, but I’ve only ever been able to count one or two of them). We stop at a viewpoint along with a bunch of tourists who are wandering down a path towards a barely visible aqueduct, getting soaked and nearly blown over from the crazy strong wind. At any moment I expect Lando Calrissian to come blasting out of the fog in his Twin Pod Cloud Car. When that doesn’t happen, we continue along the road first higher, then down a series of switchbacks into the valley of Sete Cidades which is famous for its two joined lakes; one green and one blue, at least on sunny days, which rarely happen here, so usually they are both grey, like they are today.

This is the most popular tourist destination on the island, but I’ve never really understood why. There’s just not that much here. It pretty, I suppose, and they have built more since the last time we were here – now there is a tourist restaurant alongside the shoreline of one of the lakes, plus a whole lineup of ATVs and side-by-sides which simply make me shudder with the thought of tourists ripping around on them up and down the streets and through the fields scaring the milk out of all the nice cows.


We stop for a coffee and a piss then move along to the Ponta da 
Ferraria thermal spa on the south-west and take a walk along the black lava stone pathways to look at the natural warm pool, which is currently a foamy froth of wind-swept surf, far too rough to risk a dip. I think Tio Manuel is really enjoying the day as he’s mentioned that it’s been decades since he’s visited some of these places. And the three of them in the back seat haven’t stopped talking once so they are definitely not getting bored.

Next stop is the town of Mosteiros, the western-most village on the island. It is famous for its series of natural ocean pools you can swim in, but today its more of a Perfect Storm scenario so there’s not much swimming going on. We go to the restaurant Brisa do Mar and have an excellent seafood lunch with beer and wine. This is the place we always lunch at in Mosteiros and it does not disappoint. Our server is the same lady who was working here when we first visited twenty years ago.

From here we drive north around the corner of the island then east and make a few stops to check out the vistas, and one at a small restaurant in Capelas where we sit on the outside patio, have coffee, and watch the endless sequence of 2000’s era music videos on the MTV playing on the large panel. Something about The Ketchup Song just makes me unbelievably happy. I need to learn that dance so I can break it out at the next family party.


As I sip my decaffeinated espresso, I can see that Ana and her mom are getting on each other’s nerves. They have this exchange.

 “Is there a bathroom here?” Maria asks.


“Mom, it’s a restaurant. Of course there’s a bathroom here,” Ana replies.


“What if I can’t find it?” Maria says, hinting that perhaps Ana could guide her in.


“God Mom, everybody in there speaks Portuguese! I’m sure they’d be happy to help,” Ana says, standing her ground.


“We’ll see,” Maria says as she purses her lips and squints her eyes, slowly nodding at Ana as she rises. “We’ll see.”


It is definitely time to go. We cruise back home, drop off the folks, then Ana and I finish up the day with a few chores, including ordering a bunch of food for John’s 80th birthday party which we’re hosting at Tio Manuel’s house this coming Sunday.

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