Saturday, March 30, 2024

Azores 2024 - A Triumphant Return to My Village

The time difference is just three hours but it still messes you up a bit. We went to bed last night around 10 and didn’t have any cheater naps during the day, and woke up at 8am feeling reset and ready to go.

Remember that “death row” dinner I wrote about yesterday? Well today I have my first of many death row breakfasts. Breakfasts in the Azores are simple and they are the greatest. After picking up fresh warm buns from the local grocery store you slice one open, spread some butter made from the milk of happy cows, then put in a slice of ham and piece of fresh cheese, also made from the milk of happy cows. You also have yourself one or two mini bananas, pulled from one of the banana trees in your backyard or your neighbour’s backyard. You can accompany that with hot coffee, or perhaps a tall glass of milk, made from – you guessed it – happy cows.


It is again rainy, cloudy, and windy and the winter season is not quite ready to fully release its hold on the island, so we grab John and Maria and go for a car ride. First stop is the farmer’s market downtown where we pick up a bunch of vegetables then head upstairs to the fish market, where there’s only one stall still open. The fishmonger had a cross section of a huge tuna and slices off a quarter of it then places the long and deep red slab on the chopping block. He slides his blade slowly up the slab until we say stop and he cuts there. He weighs it and tells us it will be seventeen euro, and there’s likely two kilos there. He cuts them up into steaks and puts them in a bag with ice. Ana passes him a twenty, which he receives with his scaly and bloody hands then offers to throw in four calvalhos (sort of like mackeral…they might actually be mackeral) to bring the total up to an even twenty euro. I expect every customer evens up to avoid a pile of fishy euro coin in the pocket.


It's been at least two hours since we’ve eaten so we stop at a waterfront cafĂ© on the Avenida for a light snack. The Pink Queen of Bifana, as she calls herself, rewards us with four tall milky coffees (called galao) and pork sandwiches and we sit there for a good long while envying our own current situation in life. To me, not a thing has changed since we were last here six years ago. There are still just a handful of tourists walking around and I recognize many of the stores.


We get back in the car and drive west through the rest of Ponta Delgada and up the coast to Feteiras so we can check on our property. We bought a building lot here nearly twenty years ago so you could say this is my home village, and I have Ana take a photo of me in front of the FETEIRAS sign to celebrate my homecoming. Our original plan was to buy the lot then in twenty years after Feteiras had developed and was full of trendy restaurants, cool bars, and diversions of all types, we’d build a house. Well, Feteiras hasn’t changed at all in twenty years. The only difference is that our lot is the only one remaining empty of the six that were sold by the previous owner of the land.


Last time we were here the lot was overgrown with bamboo and there were some stalks of it reaching up and over the neighbouring houses. Sometime in the interim, the village must have sent some of their boys down with machetes and chainsaws and they cleaned it up completely. That was nice of them. We admire our lot for a while then drive down the impossibly steep road nearby to the coast. Here, we are surprised to see a number of vehicles and tourists taking selfies over the punishingly rough waters and the black volcanic landscape. There used to be a pool here many years before but it had been completely destroyed during one particularly nasty storm. That was the other thing we had hoped may have developed over the years, but nope. Sowe’re not sure what we’re going to do with the land. The ocean views are simply stunning from here and it could be a magnificent place. But we don’t plan on ever living here full time, we don’t love the town, and we certainly don’t want the hassle of managing a rental property. I dream that the extended periods of time we do spend here on the future could instead be on our sailboat in the marina, which offer 360 degree ocean views and walking access to everything. Of course, we’d need to actually sail the boat here, but that’s a larger discussion. So we may sell the land. We’ll see.


We drive back towards Ponta Delgada then turn north and cross the ten kilometres across the island to Ribera Grande on the north shore which is being pounded by huge waves and a watery gale from the north. Ana has an address of a care facility where we think her aunt Ana is at. We find it in the inner recesses of Ribera Grande and wander around inside but can’t find her. One of the workers makes a call for us and confirms she is living in their other facility in a different town. Because it’s getting on in the day we decide to abandon the plan and come back in a day or two.


On the way home we stop at the supermarket and pick up some food. I stand mesmerized in the wine aisle and am faced with a tough decision. The five litre boxes of wine come in many varieties and prices. I go with the high roller option and grab a box for eleven euro instead of the cheap-assed six euro plonk. I will be told later by Paul that this wine is good for only two things: cooking Wednesday food or cleaning power tools. He underestimates the simplicity of my palate.


We have a quiet dinner of leftovers and my freshly procured Cardboardeax. Delicious. Natercia arrives some while later and entertains us with an hour of stories then she is off like a flash and I am out like a light.

No comments:

Post a Comment