A Hundred Million on Sāo Miguel, The Azores – Portugal

Six weeks before the trip to The Azores we didn’t know the islands existed.  A cheap flight to them popped up on the Google Flights.
We soon bought our tickets with the official airline of the Azores, Azores Airlines.  $575 canadian, return and direct YYZ – PDL, João Paulo II Airport.

After doing the initial online scout of Sāo Miguel,  we knew that we wanted to make it a Hasselblad exclusive trip, even though the company is pushing the X1D, a mirrorless medium format camera, as an ideal travel camera.  We picked up the flagship H6D-100c, as we have a decent kit of H Series Lenses (all purchased as stellar BGN grade from KEH.com).

After we announced our trip, many people emerged from the woodwork with information and stories.  It appeared to be held closely in the hearts of friends. One of which, was a local friend of ours, and travel blogger, 5 Globe Trotters 5 Globe Trotters 5 Globe Trotters .  It looked like they were there a season ago, and gave us plenty of travel tips!

 

Day One

Ponta Delgada Azores Kate: We hopped off the plane, spent way too long waiting for a rental car, then hoofed it along the quaint, decorated streets of Ponta Delgada so Ryan could find a SIM card for his phone. Nearly 24 hours of traveling at that point, we were pooched.

Ryan: Walking around Ponta Delgada early in the morning before all the shops open there is a calming experience.  Something I would suggest, as it shows the city in a different light then when it’s all hustle and bustle. Don’t bother asking people for a place to buy a SIM card. We asked a few, and were met with casually dismissive responses.  I was about to give up, but we found a Vodafone store at a square.  5 mins later we had a working phone with 30Gb of data for 20€. I turned on the Hotspot on the LG G6, and we both had plenty of data for the 10 day trip.

Ponta Delgada Azores Kate: I have to admit, I had one of those “Oh no” moments as we got off the plane, early in the morning of the first day. It was raining, windy and cold. Our last 4 trips have been to more extreme warm climates, so this was a bit of a shock. Getting to our AirBnB, and taking a nap for a couple of hours, the sun was shining, and the air was pleasantly warm, with a cool breeze. It was only about 18-20 degrees C there at this time of year, but I don’t think I minded not sweating through my clothes, for a change.

Ryan:  A thing to note.  TripAdvisor and Google Maps, list only 100:1 of actual cafes, restaurants and anything else there.

Ponta Delgada Azores Ryan: I was told the food was going to be amazing.  A mix of fish, shrimp, lobster, crab and East Indian flavors.  With all the emphasis on fish, I only had one fish meal. It wasn’t even that great. We did have pizza twice. One from Canadiano Pizza in Ribeira Grande. Ponta Delgada Azores Ryan: The city of Ponta Delgada had a rich street art vibe to it. If we cheated down an alleyway to get somewhere quicker, we were always met with some art that ended up making our tours slower.

Kate: Ponta Delgada was definitely considered more of a “modern” city, compared to the rest of the island, but all of the old traditional architecture shone through at every turn. Ponta Delgada Azores Kate: Despite doing plenty of research about currency, food, rules, etc, we failed to think about how to pay for parking at a meter when we arrived in Ponta Delgada. We had exchanged currency back in Sarnia, but we both only had bills, and no coins. A man with a young son (no older than 3), stopped, and asked us in broken English if we needed help. He got the parking meter sorted, AND paid for an hour for us when we painfully tried to explain that we only had bills. I was floored by his generosity, and kindness, especially while trying to look after his toddler.

Ryan: I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure the man was our second airBNB host.  He looked pretty close, and it’s hard to tell with how flustered we were.

Kate: It wasn’t, but he was just as nice.


Portas da Cidade Ponta Delgada Azores Ryan: These are the city gates. I can’t remember any other city we were in having gates in any of our travels. Although we didn’t ever search for them. Now every city here had a rainbow after it rained. The Azores were the place for rainbows. We had no idea before we went there.

Ponta Delgada Azores Ryan: all the sidewalk in the Azores were this busted up what and black cobblestone tiles. Something I would really like to see here in Canada. With Canadian sidewalk widths and not there not even shoulder width sidewalks.  Ponta Delgada Azores Ryan: I had a goal to get photos of star trails photos while we were there. It was cloudy every night. I was able to get this before yet another storm rolled in. As you can see, I did get a little trail on Venus, but that’s about it. Ponta Delgada Azores Ryan: Expect rain every day while you’re there.

Kate: But not necessarily for long. Since the island is sort of situated in the middle of the ocean, weather tends to change and move around really suddenly and unexpectedly. I can’t for the life of me imagine how they ever make weather predictions.Nordeste, Azores Kate: Our first outing after a refreshing nap, and shower. With a four hour time difference, we had to will ourselves not to go to bed super early. I, for one, was extremely jet-lagged. Luckily, the sun gave us the energy for a bit of an explore into Nordeste. Nordeste, Azores Kate: Nordeste is so picturesque. This first day, we ventured out, once again, with a pit stop here to pick up groceries. Every little town has a church, and they all look very similar to the one at the end of this bridge. Nordeste, Azores Kate: It was fairly overcast, and calling for storms. As I mentioned before, however, it was sort of tricky to know what to expect in terms of weather. Luckily, we only got light mist most of the day, until about 5pm when the downpour started. But that was fine with us. Nordeste, Azores Kate: Nordeste is beautiful. Located about a 15 minute drive from our AirBnb in Santana, Nordeste is such an eclectic little town, with tons of old buildings (most of which have newer additions). I loved the arches of the bridge leading to the centre of town. Ryan’s hiding in this photo. Nordeste, Azores Kate: Buying some groceries at a supermarket in Nordeste, we knew we wanted to do a little exploring. We had passed a little driveway-like exit off the of the main road on the way to Nordeste, and we decided to pop in, to see if there was anywhere to park (we had snacks). Down a spiral road, there was this gorgeous little park with pretty trees and concrete tables. The whole setting was under an overpass, and it was surprisingly serene for being so close to the main road. Nordeste, Azores Kate: Ryan, with a few of his newer toys (would you just look at what Hasselblad, and LG hooked him up with for this trip?!), and snacks, of course.

Ryan: Doughnuts are always something of a new place or culture is something I have to try.  I would say you can tell a lot about a place by their doughnuts. You don’t have to try them when you’re here, they’re nothing special.

Kate: I believe these were actually the cheap, crappy version of doughnuts. Nothing to write home about… not like the rest of the pastries we were lucky enough to sample throughout the rest of the trip.

Ryan:  Also this was the last photo of the drone alive. It died the next day.

Nordeste, Azores Kate:  The overpass in question. What I’ve seen of Sao Miguel island is absolutely stunning, in such a unique way. Every time we went around a curved road, or over a hill, I found myself gasping and saying “Wow, that’s gorgeous!”

Ryan:  I wanted to explore past that gate.  I had no idea if it was a home, a park or something else.  I still don’t know.

Ryan: In typing that I had to google maps it. There was a waterfall there ?!?!?!? It’s Jardim Botânico da Ribeira do Guilherme, it appears to be a really good flower garden…. Even one worth going back for.

Santana Nordeste Azores Kate:  To find an automatic rental car in Europe is painful, and pricey. Our little rental was a manual, and Ryan had to relearn how to drive one. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified when we stalled 5 or 6 times in the rental lot at the airport. However, after a handful of minor mishaps, he had pretty much mastered it. Getting comfortable behind the wheel of a manual car had certainly made our “quick photo stops” much easier.

Ryan: If you’re going to get good at driving stick, do it in a rental car. Ours was an Opel Corsa Turbo. I could really do without relearning it on pretty much all uphill roads. Then uphill on loose gravel, on a road that’s the same width of the rental, with cliffs on either side.  I do have to give it to Opel their little Corsa could handle a newb in all of those trying conditions.

Santana Nordeste Azores Kate:  On the drive back from Nordeste, we went over one of many bridges, and had to pull over, and take a few photos… The reason why is (hopefully) self explanatory. This continues to be one of my favourite shots, as I feel like it captures much of the driving on the East coast, to a T.Santana Nordeste Azores Kate:  This little buddy was hanging out in the driveway of our AirBnB during our stay. We had been instructed not to touch the cats, as most of them are semi-feral, and/or carry transferable diseases (not clear about that, but figured I’d rather be safe than sorry). He was a chatty guy, and meowed at us over and over until he proceeded to spray the stone wall next to the driveway. He didn’t seem threatened or territorial though, so I’m not sure why he did it. In the end, we all became friends, and I’ll admit I felt rather guilty when we left.

Ryan: He came back and I kept giving it the scrapes of our cheese.  He was all about it.

Day Two

Jardim do Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego, Açores Portugal Kate: Jardim do Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego On our way to Faial da Terra, we happened upon these incredible gardens. The thing I love about Sao Miguel is that all their little parks are beautifully landscaped, and thought out. Not just a chunk of grass with play equipment, like back home. Every bit is designed to drink in the spectacular views, and calm your mind. Let me tell you, it really works. Looking back, I wish we had had more time to revisit this place on a warmer day, to take full advantage of the serene surroundings.Jardim do Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego, Açores Portugal Kate: Here, kitty, kitty! Cats. Cats were seen everywhere on the island. And all of them acted like they wanted to come close for a pet, but were too scared. Jardim do Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego, Açores Portugal Kate:  Basically, this was a garden of Eden. You can see some sort of coniferous type tree in the background… They’re very strange, and the needles grow upwards. I felt a little bit like Alice in Wonderland walking through here. Plus, we passed by many other travellers, most of which sounded like they were from Germany. Jardim do Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego, Açores Portugal Ryan: Around every bend on the highway you can be greeted with a vista like this. I don’t see why everyone goes to the usual spots. The whole island is great.

Jardim do Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego, Açores Portugal Ryan: 1600km’s in the distance is Morocco. Pure horizon photos are always my favorites. I could stare at the small details that can’t exist in anything other than stills. Jardim do Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego, Açores Portugal Ryan: Halfway though our trip I started looking at the real estate websites for the Azores. A few of the houses in the picture are probably around the €3000. Move to the Azores now.

Kate: I had to keep discouraging him from the idea of packing up his life, and buying a small cottage on the side of a mountain. Let me just say, I didn’t have the heart to discourage too much, as the idea sounds wonderfully dreamy.

Ryan: On the way to the waterfalls we never found, we stopped off at Miradouro do Pico Longo.  One of the islands many scenic points.  All the scenic points are labeled as you come up to there. A blue sign with binoculars, is the goto for a great view.  They’re the most common road signs there.  I wouldn’t be surprised if over half of all the signs on the island are these scenic signs.

Miradouro do Pico Longo Azores Portugal

Kate: I was pretty bound and determined to get a few photos of us together on this trip, and had to figure out where the timer was on my camera.

Miradouro do Pico Longo Azores Portugal

Miradoiro do Pico Longo Açores Portugal Kate: My partner in love, life, and travel. I’m so lucky to be with someone who is so eager and hungry to explore the world. As much as I love travelling, I tend to naturally want to hole up at home, most of the time, but this guy pushes me until I give in. I’m incredibly glad he does, because my soul needs travel. They say travelling becomes an itch that needs to be scratched, and it’s so very true. Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal Kate: While trying to find a hidden waterfall (which we failed to find, I might add), we went down a random road, which led to a very small lot, and then a dirt walking path. We figured we might find what we were looking for down the road. As it turns out, the dirt road/path led to Faial da Terra, but we didn’t walk the whole way, as it was gravelly, and a bit hard to get good footing.

Miradouro do Pico Longo Azores Portugal

Ryan: With our extra days on the island I reached out to Chris Hua ( Chris Hua Know Hua Media Chris Hua, KnowHuaMedia Instagram  )  of Know Hua Media. I asked if he know of anything we should check out.  He said to just explore. I would chalk that up to a brush off message, but that’s all you need to do on the island. Just explore.

* Chris had done tourism videos of the islands if you want to see the common tourism things to do on the Islands.

Ryan: A series of Photos from when we got lost looking for a common touristy set of waterfalls. We found this back road that head into Faial Da Terra.

Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal
Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal
Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal

Kate: On our drive around the bend, I spotted a wee little daschund trotting up the road. I ran back to find him, but alas, he had gone.

Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal

Faial Da Terra, Azores, PortugalRyan: If you’re going to the Azores you need to hire a rental car, and the added insurance that goes with it.  There’s a few in the airport that are island specific. They also can negotiate, never pay full price.

Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal Kate: Faial da Terra. I’m not sure what the name means, but this gem of a town is hunkered down in the valley, surrounded by huge hills. A stream runs down the centre of it, creating two sides, which are connected by a little bridge in the middle. I loved being here. Everything was so pretty, so photogenic, and the coffee shop we stopped at had amazing tarts.

Ryan:  That was our first introduction to those tarts.  I ate maybe three dozen on the trip.

Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal Kate: Faial da Terra had such a homey feel to it. Ryan’s words were “If we were going to relocate ourselves in this island, this is where I’d want it to be”. That more or less sums it up, I think. Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal Kate: The coast at Faial da Terra. The sheer cliffs were enormous. The kind of huge that makes you a little dizzy when you look up. With a narrow footpath running the visible span, there really wasn’t a need for a beach. I felt a bit like a character in Game of Thrones, moseying down the coast line.Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal Kate: The storm rolled in as we were exploring the coast line. It came in lazily and slow. Once we were done here, we can planned to move on and try to find those hidden waterfalls, but the rain rolled in before we even got back to the car.

Ryan: You’ll also have to note that you’ll be in 2/3rd gear going up steep hills.  The other half of the time you’ll be riding the brakes going down hills just as steep.
Faial Da Terra, Azores, PortugalRyan: A road in Faial Da Terra.  This is the standard goto road width in the Azores.  Yeah that’s why you need the add-on insurance on the rental car.  Driving down roads like this, only to be met by an oncoming greyhound sized bus coming in the opposite direction Happens.  We know, it happened to us. The bus driver was completely boss about it.  He directed us with hand signals while backing the bus up.  Dude pretty much drove a car and a bus at once down a street that’s the width of a sidewalk in Canada.

Ryan: As you can see from below, the roads also can get thinner for no reason.

Ryan: I never understood the push for a light mirrorless camera for travel.  If you’re going on a once in a lifetime adventure, why would you value weight over quality.  Add decent lenses in it the weight difference is negligible.  A comfortable padded strap, and who care, grow some muscle.

Kate: As someone who doesn’t generally use a Hasselblad is her main body, I’d like to add that I didn’t mind having this baby on my shoulder the whole trip.. except while I was trying to climb mountains, and it was swinging all over the place. More on that later.

Ryan:  Below, is just a bit east of Faial Da Terra. A wild walk, less than 4 minutes just outside of town. The cliffs would be something I’d attempt to climb.  I’m only a indoor 5.8er right now, so it might be in a few more years.  The cliffs looks to be about a 2-300ft 5.10er.

Faial Da Terra, Azores, Portugal
Kate: It was windy as hell, but in a good way. I daydreamed the whole length of the path we walked, and thought of mythical worlds, and fairytale creatures.
Santana Nordeste Azores
Kate: Technically speaking, this photo is all over the map, and wrong in pretty much every way. That being said, I’ve never been a pro at long exposures (it also would have helped to have a tripod). We went out late tonight so Ryan could really put the Hasselblad H6D-100C to the test. Make sure to check out his shot, because it’s way better than this one.

Ryan: Being able to have all this information in the pixels is amazing to have.  The H3DII-50 starts to tap out at about 1ev, this was about a min exposure at dusk, and I didn’t even notice any noise or reciprocity failure on the sensor of the H6D-100c.

Santana Sāo Miguel Sunset

Day Three

Ryan : Heading into the trip. Furnas looked like a good home base if we were only going to have on rental on Sāo Miguel. It’s pretty central, there’s a lot of airBNB‘s with good reviews and it had a good amount of stuff the tour. It’s the tourist trap of the Island. Las Vegas without the casinos, museums, mobsters or adult entertainment. It’s Las Vegas without anything Las Vegas. Furnas was uneventful.  It was boring, and as quickly as we got into it, we wanted to leave it.  I’m glad we didn’t get our airBNB there, I think we would’ve had a whole different opinion, one not so good, of the Azores if we had set up home base in Furnas.

Kate:  To be fair, Furnas had a lot to offer, just not so much for us. We don’t really like crowds, and were more so looking for an authentic experience, rather than a carefully westernized one.

3dr solo azores
Ryan: I was really stoked on getting aerial photos and video of Sāo Miguel on the new drone. I took this photo, then crashed the drone. Lesson, bring both.

Furnas, Azores, Portugal

Furnas, Azores, Portugal

 Furnas, Azores, Portugal
Kate: Today, we trekked to the city of Furnas, known for hot springs, and a lake. Once again, it was an overcast day (much to my dismay), and most of the skies in these photos were a hazy grey white. Originally when we booked this trip, I was adamant about staying in Furnas. It seemed like the “it” place to be. While it had a certain charm, I’m so glad we ended up out in the country, as driving through this city was a bit stressful.

Furnas, Azores, Portugal

 Furnas, Azores, Portugal
Kate: The churches on this island left me in awe, and I’m not even religious. I have such a huge appreciation for gorgeous architecture. Also, while in Furnas, we saw a really big cute dog peeing on all the parked cars.
Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: Lagoa das Furnas, or “Lagoon of Furnas” was a lake situated in what used to be a massive extinct volcano. It was really pretty, and serene, despite the misty weather.

Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.

Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.

Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: If Ryan doesn’t get his feet wet during an outing, then we didn’t go hard enough.

Ryan: I have an explanation of that further down.  Don’t skip over anything, hold your ponies.

Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: During preparations for this trip, I just assumed it would be warm the entire time. I went out and bought several new pairs of shorts. Little did I know, I’d be cycling through the 2 sweaters, and 3 pairs of long pants that I brought for the whole trip. Sao Miguel is chilly in May!
Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: Again, really desperate for some “coupley” photos. The misty mountains here made me think of The Hobbit.
Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: While away on past trips, I always lament the lack of photos we have together (other than El Salvador, when we met photographers there!) This time around, I made good use of the timer on my camera.
Salto do Rosal, Açores Portugal
Ryan: Kate setting up the above shot.
Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: We had planned to venture away from Furnas to go into another city for more sight seeing, but there was just too much to see here.
Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: In this section of the park, we happened upon a gate, with a toll booth to get into another area. The signs showed a waterfall, and since we failed to discover another waterfall the day before, I really wanted to hunt this one down, so we each paid the 3 Euros to get in.

Ryan: The walk in the park was one of my fondest experiences on Sāo Miguel. Funny, at first I said “fuck it”. The park around the lake was pretty lame. There was a little spiral maze that looked half assed, probably made by that one solo lonely duck. That’s why the duck was lonely, because he built lame mazes.

Ryan: I like those actually “fuck that, fuck this” moments.  When you decide not to do something, out of no reason other than being lazy and moody.  Then you decide to do it, because fuck it, prove yourself wrong. Spit in the face of being lazy and moody.

Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: These tall-as-hell, straight, reddish trees are everywhere here, and they’re absolutely wonderful to see. Not to mention, the incredible number of trees means fresh air, here, there, and everywhere. I don’t think my lungs have ever felt quite so fresh!
Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: Most of the time, I use Ryan as a subject within a scene, as a point of interest. Honestly, I could photograph this guy against a plain white wall, and still enjoy the angles of his face.

Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.

Triato of the Holy Spirit Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: We’re constantly on the hunt for a house back home, and I’ve always adored converted churches

Triato of the Holy Spirit Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.

Triato of the Holy Spirit Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.

Triato of the Holy Spirit Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.

Triato of the Holy Spirit Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate:  … so we bought this one. Kidding, but isn’t it just a gem?

Miradoiro do Pico Longo Açores Portugal

Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: While on the hunt for the falls (which was a much longer, muddier hike than we had anticipated), we found this old concrete hovel, with no roof. Abandoned buildings are the best.
Salto do Rosal, Açores Portugal
Kate: FINALLY found the waterfall in question, Salto do Rosal. It took us long enough, and I feel like it could have been better, but it was very tall, and still pretty.
Salto do Rosal, Açores Portugal
Ryan: Take note, this was one of the first times I asked for Kate to pose nude for a photo, that she rejected. I got jeans and a sweater instead.

Kate: It was much too chilly, and damp for me.

Lagoa Das Furnas, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: Ryan, again, in the hovel.
Salto do Rosal, Açores Portugal
Ryan: This is one of the thicker roads.
Miradoiro do Pico Longo
Ryan: Kate getting one of the Hovel Shots. If we took over this place I’d vote to keep that patina.

Day Four

Pico da Vara Açores Portugal
Kate: This was our first real day with clear skies, so naturally, I came down with a cold. It was one of those bad ones with cold sweats, and body aches, and I was really annoyed about it. Regardless, we pushed on through, and hiked up a mountain. To be fair, I was led to believe the walk was quite short, when in actuality, it was almost 2 hours long. About half way up, I realized I’d pass out if we walked any further, and I made camp on a wet rock, while Ryan continued on. I waited on that rock for an hour. In typical Kate fashion, I assumed he fell off the side of a cliff, or abandoned me, or something equally as horrific. Evidently, the last half of the trek was much longer than he had anticipated. Ryan also passed by another couple and told them to tell me that he was ok (because after over four years together, he knew I’d think he was dead).
Pico da Vara Açores Portugal
Kate: Eventually we found each other again, went back to the car, and drove back to the AirBnB. I basically passed out the rest of the day, and got ALL the sleep.

Ryan:  I felt bad for  the one couple I meet walking up the mountain.  I always accept the fact that my feet and everything from the knee down will probably end up wet and muddy eventually so I don’t dodge puddles. Most of the walk up there was dry and fine, there was a few little sketchy areas that were wet and muddy.  In my go-to fashion, I was covered up the leg joints in wet mud. Back to that couple. They saw my wet and muddy legs, and quickly decided to turn back. From the looks if it, they had walked the 7km up the mountain, (we drove it,) and decided to turn around about 700 metres from the summit.

Pico da Vara Açores Portugal
Ryan: You can’t tell me she doesn’t look fine. Kate: I most certainly didn’t feel it. In fact, Ryan asked me to hold my camera up so he could take a photo of me taking a photo. It’s all a ruse, really.
Pico da Vara Açores Portugal
Ryan: When we showed up to the climb the mountain, it looked like this. About half way though, where Kate bowed out, it changed. Sunny and warm for the rest of the climb. I got some horrible sunburn. It was the first time in a while that has happened.
Pico da Vara Açores Portugal
Ryan: I’ve been obsessing over bonsai trees for the last little while. Can’t let him steal the show tho.
Sāo Miguel Island Açores Portugal
Ryan: It’s wild from up there. You can see the whole Island from side to side, or top to bottom if you’d prefer that way. North to South – better?

Pico da Vara Açores Portugal
Ryan: Coming down the from the climb we went through these tall pine trees. That is the said rental car, still in 100% mode.  Kate: This was yet another “fake it” moment for me, while I was internally dying.
Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: We left our darling little AirBnB in Santana (weep), and headed west, back towards Ponta Delgada, where our next AirBnB is located. We chose to split the trip in half, and stay one half on the far east side of the island, and the other half closer to the west side, so we could explore each side thoroughly. As it turns out, it’s much easier to get around than we had anticipated. Therefore, we probably could have just stayed in one spot (ahem, on a mountainside in Santana), and been perfectly happy. This was the charming city of Ribeira Grande. It was a little touristy, but not too bad.

Ryan: I had actually gone to Ribeira Grande the night before, when Kate was sick.  We needed to top up the gas in the rental car, and grab something for supper.  They had a pizza place there, so we went with pizza.

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Ryan: There were tons of these Portuguese man o’ war washed up on the beach of Ribeira Grande.
Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Ryan: This was not one of them. At least a not normal one anyways.

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Ryan: This was really the only good chance to get a sunset there. The weather isn’t as co-operative as I had hoped.

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal

Day Five

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: One thing I noticed about the island of Sao Miguel is how safe we felt. There’s no question of whether we should or shouldn’t venture to a certain spot, or to be careful at certain times of the day… Basically you can go anywhere and everywhere, and if anything bad happens, it’ll be of your own doing… and chances are, a local will help you out in your predicament anyway.
Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Ryan: Ribeira Grande was one of the more colourful cities on Sāo Miguel.

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: Why doesn’t Canada build more houses out of concrete and adobe? I think the pretty coloured boxy structures are just so nice to look at. Vinyl siding is the worst.
Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: Also, there should really be more cities with streams or rivers running through them. We spent the majority of the morning in Ribeira Grande. This was where I had my first proper mocaccino (it was supposed to be a cappuccino, but definitely wasn’t – still good).

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: We lazed around and enjoyed the sunshine, while discussing our plans for the afternoon.
Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: When I imagine any sort of island, I just naively assume the entire perimeter consists of beaches. Sao Miguel however is an exception to this generalization. Ribeira Grande was the first beach we had encountered the whole trip, to this point. Most of the coast had been completely rocky, or entirely cliff faces. I was actually surprised there weren’t more people hunkered down on the sand.

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: I love Portuguese architecture. At least, I’m assuming this is all typical Portuguese architecture? Everything is so clean, yet ornate, and classic at the same time.

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: Sao Miguel spares no effort in their landscaping. Any spare bit of land that isn’t being used for buildings, roads or farmland has been carefully thought out, and designed to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. As a photographer, it’s pure heaven.
Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: Ryan can usually be found on the ground. At home, we get strange looks. Here, not so much.

Kate: This is a little central square in Ribeira Grande where we popped into the most darling little ice cream parlour, and tasted genuine handmade Portuguese ice cream. I got strawberry, with real chunks of sweet delicious strawberries. Heaven.

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: Every city, and town has a church. Most of them look the same, and some are a little fancier than others. All of them are absolutely beautiful buildings.

Kate: Even when I like to think I know what I’m doing, I really never do. I’m glad I’ve found a partner who’s much more eager to hop into new experiences (even when he also has no idea).

Ribeira Grande, Azores, Portugal
Kate: Even when it’s cloudy, the views are nothing to be pooh-poohed at.

https://goo.gl/WtroVw
Kate: While driving down the winding cobblestone road that lead out of Ribeira Grande, we happened upon an impossibly narrow and steep dirt driveway up to an abandoned house. Abandoned buildings are not uncommon here, but many of them have been boarded up to some degree. This beauty sat on the side of the mountain, wide open, and glorious. Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who thought so, as two other groups of tourists stopped their cars (which, on the eeny weeny road, isn’t an easy task) to come check it out as well.

https://goo.gl/WtroVw

https://goo.gl/WtroVw

https://goo.gl/WtroVw
Kate: I can’t tell you how many times Ryan has told me that we should just move here. It’s dirt cheap to live, dirt cheap to buy a house, and stunningly gorgeous. I won’t tell him this, but I’m inclined to agree with him.

Sāo Miguel Island Açores Portugal
Kate: Once we were out of Ribeira Grande, we found an old, dormant volcano on GoogleMaps, and definitely had to check it out. We drove up a road, had a quick argument about not driving the rental up another pot-holey road, then continued on foot to the top. We never actually saw the inside of the volcano, as you couldn’t really climb that part, but we did get to a mini water fall. When I say “get to” I mean, we went off-trail, and literally climbed the side of a volcano. “No, I don’t want to” I said, “You got this,” he said. Then we did. I grumbled the whole time, got lots of dirt and gravel in my shoes, and had to frequently prevent my camera from swinging forward and smashing against the rock faces.

https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
https://goo.gl/r7S3VF

https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
Kate: The misty bit in the background is where the little waterfall was. It was more like a water trickle… not that impressive. But of course, we HAD to climb down, then up, then down, and up again to see it. I nearly cried.
https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
Kate: This guy has to climb to the top of everything. Even if there are no paths, steps, ladders, ropes or other helpful devices. He gets there, no matter how many times I say “I don’t know if you should do that…”
Sāo Miguel Island Açores Portugal https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
Kate: This was when he said “We should go look right where the fall are”. I literally could not.
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Ryan: “See it’s not that Hard” – Ryan

Kate: I could not understand why we had to go “off-roading” when there was a perfectly decent and available path.

https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
https://goo.gl/r7S3VF

https://goo.gl/r7S3VF
https://goo.gl/r7S3VF

Ponta Da Garça, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: Finally, after getting away from the volcano, we drove to Ponta da Garca for some dinner. We ended up eating at (what I believe to be) the only place in town that was actually open… and I can’t remember what it was called. It was located directly next to the docks where all the fishing boats came in from a day’s work. Sort of an interesting, fishy view. The view in this photo, however, was from the side of the mountain before we drove into Ponta da Garca.


Ponta Da Garça, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/3uucNT
Kate:  Another view from Ponta da Garca. The weather was so fickle. It was sunny all morning, got slightly overcast in the afternoon, and was full on cloudy in the evening.

Day Six

Fajã De Baixo, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: We arrived at our new AirBnB in Fajã de Baixo on the evening of day 6. It wasn’t quite as well equipped as our first place, in terms of kitchen options, so we quickly realized we’d be spending even more time out and about for the final days of the trip, but that was fine with us. We started by eating a huge and hearty breakfast on a beach in Ponta Delgada.
Capelas, Azores, Portugal https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu
Kate: After breakfast, we basically just drove, in a general west direction. We came to Capelas. We figured we might as well stop, and explore a little, since the town seemed fairly well developed. When we walked down to the coast, we found a spot with a view of some amazing cliffs and caves. Ryan had planned a quick little dip in the water, but was thwarted by an insane mass of sea urchins.
Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu
Kate: Ryan has pushed me a lot this trip, to do daring things I don’t necessarily want to do in the moment. He will never take the road most commonly travelled, which tends to be the route my inner compass leads me to. I hate to admit it, but nine times out of ten, he’s right. Sometimes (ahem, like the day I was climbing unnecessarily down a volcano wall, when there was a much easier route just up the way), his idea isn’t quite as wonderful as he’d like it to be, but rarely.

Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu

Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu
Kate: Again, always wants to be out at the end, or at the top, or at the bottom. He must go as far as he can physically go. It’s one of the reasons I love him, and it’s one of the reasons he drives me mad.
Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu
Kate: Today, I led the way into the new path. Not that he wouldn’t have, had he not gone out onto the rock to the left first.
Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu
Kate: This is where Ryan wanted to take a swim. The water here looked so clear, and blue. I’m annoyed that it didn’t translate the same in the photos.
Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu
Kate: Note Ryan in the top left. I can only imagine how his mother felt when he was a child. I’m sure he had her on her toes, and having panic attacks every three minutes. Must. Always. Climb.

Ryan:  The sense of scale of this photo is throwing me and everyone off.  I look like a little figurine on stock beach rocks. I also slid down cliffs to get there. That brown on my butt isn’t shit.

Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu

Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu
Kate: That morning, I diligently put on my spf, and set out for the day. A couple of days prior (up on that bloody mountain, when I was sick), we both got a bit of a sunburn, so I figured I should take extra care this time, to make sure it didn’t happen again. Not only did I sweat it all off, but got a burn on top of my burn. My chest, ears and back of my neck were SO red and sore. Ryan too had it on his face, and back of the neck. We ended up having to pop into a pharmacy on the way home to get some sort of topical stuff to help.

Ryan:  Yeah, I didn’t do that.  I now know why people slather it on their nose.  By the end of the day my nose had a eggshell of dead destroyed skin all over it.

Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu

Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu

Capelas, Azores, Portugal. https://goo.gl/nEf3Fu
Kate: The big wide blue. I was told that you’ll see whales and/or dolphins 98% of the time that you go whale watching out here. I’m not entirely sure where the best spots are for that, but to anything involving whales, I say NAY. From here, we walked back up to where the car was, drenched in sweat, and found a cafe, where we had water, and a delicious slice of some sort of almond tart. I have to say, if there’s one thing Azoreans do well, it’s desserts.

Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: Lagoa das Sete Cidades, or Lagoon of the Seven Cities. Basically, there are two lakes (or lagoons) down there. The larger blue one is at the front of this photo, and the smaller green one is at the back left, and they’re separated by a bridge. Here’s the story, from Wikipedia. It’s kind of cute: The ancient story recounts the tale of a bad-tempered widower King and his daughter in a Kingdom in the Western Sea. He was a King, Lord of Alchemy and sorcerer, who lived exclusively for his daughter, Antília, and who would not let the Princess speak to anyone. Apart from the King, the Princess was raised by an old nurse, after the Queen had died. As the years progressed, the princess grew up to be a beautiful young woman and able to attract the attentions of any boy in the kingdom. However, the King restricted her movements to the castle and garden, and few ever saw her. But, unintimidated by her father, and with the help of the nurse, she escaped to the local hills and valleys, as her father slept after his lunch. During one of her escape adventures, she heard a song: the music was beautiful and enchanted her to follow it to its origins. Hiding from view, the princess found a young shepherd playing a flute, sitting on top of a hill. For weeks she returned, listening to the young shepherd, until she was discovered behind some bushes. The shepherd boy fell in love with the princess, and they continued to meet afterwards, talking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company, until the boy decided to ask the princess in marriage. Early in the morning, the couple knocked on the door of the Castle, and asked the servants to speak to the King. Very nervous but determined, the shepard asked the King for his daughter in marriage. Reacting angrily, the King refused and expelled him from the Castle, and forbade his daughter from seeing the young boy. Not wishing more ill feelings, she followed the orders of her father, but met secretly with the shepherd that afternoon in order to tell him that she would never see him again. Antília and the shepherd boy cried all afternoon, embracing, and their tears formed two beautiful lakes, one green, for the Princess’s eyes were green, and the other blue, for the shepard’s eyes were likewise colored.
Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal.
Kate: We decided to make our way to Sete Cidades, which seems to be one of the number one tourist spots on the island. 75% of the photos I saw when researching Sao Miguel before the trip were taken here. It is basically a town, surrounded by massive mountains, with two lakes (more about those on another photo). We took the rental car up a VERY precarious, narrow, and bumpy dirty road to the very top. Azorean people don’t seem all that concerned with guard rails, or barriers to prevent people from flying off the edge… it’s more or less a system of “don’t fuck it up”. I was white knuckled, the whole drive. But when we got to the top, it was pretty exhilarating!

Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal https://goo.gl/y6DxCc

Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal https://goo.gl/y6DxCc
Kate: As far as I could see, we were the only people who brought a vehicle up the entire way. The road was bumpy and terrible, and there were times when we had to fold the side mirrors in. The entire way, I just kept thinking “Oh god, this is a rental“.

Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal

Kate: I have to admit, I was really bummed that it was such a gloomy, overcast day when we explored this area. I had intended on taking some spectacular, sunshiney photos, and it just didn’t happen.

Kate: While driving back down the mountain, we flew across roads I don’t think we were meant to be on, past a handful of loggers doing their thing, and stumbled across this beauty. It appeared to be a ruin of an old aquaduct, and it was truly a sight to see. Naturally, we took some photos with it.

Day Seven

Kate: Hotel Monte Palace is perched up on a hilltop, not too far from Sete Cidades. In order for guests to arrive, back in 1989, they would have had to drive up several winding roads. Approaching this beast of a building is somewhat intimidating, particularly when it’s super foggy and rainy. The first bit of graffiti I found said “Don’t Go”, which freaked me out… until Ryan reminded me that no real warning would be written in English.

Hotel Monte Palace

Hotel Monte Palace
Kate: Since it was (what I expected to be) our last full day on the island, we really only had one last place we wanted to check out; Hotel Monte Palace. Hotel Monte Palace was built in 1989, and was closed less than two years later, due to lack of business and lack of funds. I read somewhere that it was really luxurious for the time, and was considered a 5 star hotel, with about 88 rooms. There had been a security guards watching over it for years, until eventually, they stopped getting paid as well. After that, the entire building was looted until it was left as a shell of itself. Literally every door, every window, every sink, toilet, bathtub… everything is gone. All that’s left is rubble.
Hotel Monte Palace
Kate: I love abandoned buildings, but I get freaked out easily. The hair stood up several times on the back of my neck in this place, and though I can’t find any evidence of bad things happening, the desolate interiors, mixed with the less than desirable weather played tricks with my mind. I wasn’t really at ease until a few other small groups of tourists came in to check the place out as well.
Hotel Monte Palace
Kate: Every time Ryan turned a corner when I was looking the other way, I had to shout for him. I get way too scared, too easily. This shot was from the rooftop (where it was flipping back and forth between pouring rain, mist, and fog). There was tons of bright and cool graffiti pieces all over the building.
Hotel Monte Palace.
Kate: As seems to be standard in on Sao Miguel island, safety is more so left up to the individuals. There may be a casual board nailed up across an empty elevator chute, but that’s it. No guard rails, no plywood with DANGER written all over them, no danger tape. Nothing. And yet, the people here know better. Maybe in Canada we should start implementing that sort of safety standard?

Hotel Monte Palace
Kate: Down in the lobby. It really could have been quite grand. I have a strong suspicion that it could have survived just fine, had it been built today. Hotels here seem to get tons of business.

Hotel Monte Palace Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal Hotel Monte Palace Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal Hotel Monte Palace Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal Hotel Monte Palace Sete Cidades, Azores, Portugal

Praia de Mosteiros
Kate: We were only passing through Mosteiros, but it did seem like a sweet town.
Praia de Mosteiros
Kate: Like I mentioned previously, we’re taking it easy this day, so we casually drove through Mosteiros, where Ryan grabbed a couple snacks. After that, we went back out to Ribeira Grande, for more ice cream, because… shut up.

Ryan: The ice cream was still good, the weather was a little weak, but that’s the Azores for you.

Ponta Delgada Harbor
Kate: Our (not so) last night led us to what I imagine is “the strip” in Ponta Delgada, right next to the water. There are a ton of restaurant and shops in strip-mall style, conveniently located. We found a place that made incredible pizza, and we both ate more than we should have. Then we ventured to the top of some really huge concrete bleachers (I’m still unsure what they were there for), and saw some of the bigger ship.
Ponta Delgada Azores
Kate: We had intended to wait up here for sunset to capture it, but Sao Miguel hasn’t been the best, in terms of sunsets anyway. The clouds always seem to come in, and completely cover it. This evening brought more maze and rain, so we packed it in, and went back to the airbnb to get our bags ready to go for the plane trip home the next morning.

Day Eight

Kate: The day we were supposed to leave to come back to Canada, our flight was cancelled. There were at least a dozen other flights cancelled that day as well, due to a strike with Azores Airlines. When our flight had a whole 43 people waiting in the departure lounge, I had a sneaking suspicion they wouldn’t be flying us anywhere, with such a small passenger load. I was right. We were put up for two days in a hotel in Ponta Delgada, with our meals covered. Unfortunately, by this point, we had already given our rental back, and had no way to continue exploring the island, so we bummed around Ponta Delgada, and did some shopping, and general hanging out.

 

Kate: We didn’t take many photos on day 8, and none on day 9. Since they weren’t supposed to happen at all, I like to consider them the “lost days” of our trip to The Azores, 2017.

Ponta Delgada Azores
Ponta Delgada Azores
Ponta Delgada Azores
Ponta Delgada Azores
Ponta Delgada Azores
Ponta Delgada Azores

Ponta Delgada Azores

 

 

 

 

Kate: Overall, Sao Miguel was amazing. Even now, I’m finding myself thinking about the winding mountain roads, that are impossibly narrow, and the breathtaking views around every hairpin turn.The quaint little towns, with modest eateries, and adorable parks. The pink, and blue and purple and green houses, all in a row. The hilly roads and sidewalks (my legs have never been so beefed up in my life). So many perfect little details, that I’ve tried to capture in photo form, and so many more that will get lost in the recesses of my memory. We’re already dreaming about where to go next, and if the next #TwoFarrAway venture is anything like this one was… I can’t wait!

Ryan: That’s it. Our Journey across ten days on Sāo Miguel Island the Azores portugal. With a Hundred Million and fifty million pixels, exclusively shot on digital Hasselblad Cameras.

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