Monday, April 8, 2024

Azores 2024 - Morning Walk, Visiting the Farm, Sofia and Tiago

I’m up at 8, but feel a little groggy from yesterday’s activities so I go downstairs and have a coffee with John, who instantly tells me that yesterday was the first time in his life he’s ever drank wine at seven in the morning.

After breakfast Ana and I take a long meandering walk down to the ocean and along the coastline to the row of restaurants and snack bars in front of the beach Prai Populo. We have a slow coffee and watch all the action in front of us: surfers and boogie borders trying to catch a wave, municipal works cutting grass and trimming dead leaves off palm trees, a driver in a “Sao Miguel Fruiteria” delivery van unloading boxes of bananas, oranges, papayas, and apples, joggers running back and forth along the pathway, and several stray cats prowling the premises looking for scraps of food. Mondays on vacation are really something special, being able to fully enjoy not being at work.


We wander back home and run into Tia Genoveva along the way, who is out for her own huge morning walk, but without Tio Luis as his legs were hurting from all the dancing yesterday. We gather up the Gang of Grey back at the house and drive to Cidalia and Francesco’s home, which is just down the street in the Socas neighbourhood, where Paulo and Natercia live. We first met them the last time we were here and had an incredible meal and afternoon at their house, and here we are again. After a slow and magnificent lunch of baked fish, cod casserole, fried chicken, quiche, fresh bread, wine, and Francesco’s homebrew made with cinnamon and honey, I’m ready for a nap but instead they take us on a tour of their farm. We walk down into the main property across the street from their home, passing pasture land and happy cows then arrive at a long line of greenhouses which are full of new plantings, but also grown tomato and cucumber plants. From here we continue walking into another property, all of which are bordered by ten foot high ancient stone fences. Here, their son Dario is building a new home for him and his partner. It is a concrete house and they take us through every room. I don’t remember ever seeing this kind of construction before – it’s fascination. Concrete is far less forgiving than wooden 2x4s and drywall so you better figure out exactly where you want your switches, plugs, and lights because you’re aren’t moving them later.


Just when I thought our short lunch visit was complete, we’re taken back to the house for more drinks, freshly baked bread, and fresh Sao Jorge cheese. We’re now into our seventh hour of lunch and have just one more thing to do before we move onto the next party. Francisco takes us behind their house and down a hill into the huge fruit orchard we didn’t know existed. Our target is the avocado tree, which is hung heavy with hundreds of avocados, so we pick the “low hanging fruit” (do any of the idiots in the business world ever get to actually see low hanging fruit, or just talk about it during Powerpoint presentations?) then start exploring ways to get the higher ones. I find a long stick and start jumping up and beating the fruit until they drop, and I get about eight of them using that method. Francisco has climbed up a rock and yanks down on a branch so I can reach a few more. Ana’s been shaking branches which has shaken a few more loose. They are all extremely hard and will take days to ripen, but they send us off with a big bag full, along with some black heart fruit and a bunch of cucumbers. It’s been a glorious afternoon.

From here we drive into Ponta Delgada and barely manage to squeak through an impossibly narrow street, with both mirrors tucked in and spotters measuring the remaining centimeters on either side of the car, before reaching Ana’s cousin Sofia’s place. We’re welcomed in by her husband Tiago and daughter Matilde and they tour us through their incredibly cozy and cute apartment and the surprisingly large outdoor space and garden out back. Every house here seems to have a garden, and that’s the first place they take you to when you visit. I love it. 

Of course, there’s a huge spread of food on the table so we eat again. Blood sausage, chorizo, Azorean pineapple, chocolate covered cream balls, cupcakes, crackers, chocolate cake, nuts, and I can’t even remember what else. We have a great visit, but the oldies are fading fast. Manuel is falling asleep sitting up. John has developed a neck cramp and is scowling. Maria quietly sits in her chair, struggling to keep awake. Before leaving, we offer them our house and hospitality if they even find a way to visit Canada, and I hope they do someday. We say our goodbyes and are back home in about twelve minutes – nothing is far here.

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