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Hello everyone – we’re back aboard the Noordam, heading for the USA, but here are some of the things that happened on our last stop in the Azores.
Stef Learns Portuguese!
Stefany’s foreign language skills are really coming along. They speak Portuguese in the Azores, and Stef has learned the Portuguese word for “husband”. Apparently, it’s “Multibanco”…
But this ATM wasn’t nearly as intriguing as the next place I made a withdrawal…
The Bank of the Holy Spirit!!
This machine was a little more complicated to use, but I think I agreed to spend a few nights in Purgatory in exchange for five percent off of the exchange rate. Unfortunately though, I overdrew my account, and the “Saving” option wasn’t available. I thought we were going to be out of luck, but then a well-dressed older gentleman with a moustache and dark suit offered to exchange me some euro. He wouldn’t take anything in return, and said only that “we’ll work out later”…
Biking in the Azores!
We had arranged a fabulous bike riding, sight-seeing tour of the island today, and we got started at 9am seeing some of the fantastic sights of Sao Miguel Island. We saw the Sete Cidades region:
Which looked kind of grey and rainy.
Then we saw the Green and Blue lakes
Which were, um, grey and rainy.
And we also saw the “Lake of Fire”
Which was actually more grey and rainy than fiery.
So, if you’re picking up on the theme here, it’s that things were a bit grey and rainy. Oh, and cold. At all of these sights, it was about 45 degrees and raining with 10 yards of visibility. So the much anticipated bike tour didn’t really happen.
Fortunately though, we had booked the bike tour independently with Rent a Bike Azores. You can’t really blame them for the weather, and they helped us make the most of it. Instead of biking, our guide, Joao, gave us a private tour of the island. He was very flexible and accommodating, and we appreciated the individual attention and fantastic Azorean bread. I highly recommend these folks if you ever find yourselves a thousand miles from the nearest anything in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
There were a few breaks in the rain though, and we did have bikes available to us. The only biking I really had an urge to do was a ridiculously steep climb. This should come as a shock to everyone who has ever ridden with me. Here it is, and that yellow dot is me (in a rain jacket).
I don’t know what the grade was, but you know when you’re pedaling uphill and you have to keep leaning forward over the handlebars or else your front wheel lifts up off the ground? Whatever percentage that is – it was slightly steeper than that. The climb was only half a mile, but it gained about 500 feet. Our guide joked that the elderly Dutch couple the previous week got up it in five minutes, so I felt compelled to try and beat that. It took me six and a half minutes, so that Dutch couple must have been Joop Zoetemelk and his wife or something. And yes, I bitched about it the entire way up, but no one was there to hear me. Here’s me at the top trying to shove my lung back down my throat.
Hey Mom! I got you something!
I spent a lot of time in our last update discussing the protracted process of purchasing a present for Stef’s mother. (Alliteration! Woo Hoo!) Well, it finally occurred to me that my own mother might feel left out in all of that. So we decided to get my mother something in the Azores.
We got you a… ummm… a rock!! Here it is:
It’s very special though. It’s volcanic. Here’s me picking it out.
It really is from a cool natural spa pool area on the northwest coast of the island, and it really is volcanic. But all of this is really just a way of saying I suck as a son, and didn’t get my mother anything special from our European cruise. Sorry, mom. Maybe you should have gotten me those speed skates when I was fourteen.
But Wait, There’s More!
During one of the breaks in the rain, we visited Caldeira Vehla, which is a beautiful natural waterfall and hot spring area:
Oh. Wait. No, it was raining there too.
But when we were wrapping up, closer toward the port, it did actually stop raining, so we decided to ride the last few miles in to port on the bikes. We rode past the ruins of some old fort. Either the fort was built by people who really like to balance things, or the old fort preservation people got it terribly wrong, because I don’t think it was supposed to look like this.
Strangely, these balancing monoliths were covered with lizards. We also ran into a lot of lizards on our trip to the Grand Canyon earlier this year. I think the lizards may be following us. I’m keeping an eye on them, just to be safe.
And as we left the ruined old fort to wrap up our bike ride, we were treated to this:
We had actually been seeing rainbows all day, but only toward the end did I figure out how to get the camera adjusted so that they would show up.
Once we returned the bikes and bid farewell to Joao, we killed the last two hours walking around the town of Ponta Delgada, where I observed numerous flagrant violations of the international electrical code.
I don’t know what’s on the electrical contractor’s exam in the Azores, but I bet it’s pretty easy…
We also observed murals. It’s very common, in the European cities we’ve been in, to have the sides of buildings painted with murals. Well either that, or they don’t care and they just let them become covered in graffiti. But in Ponta Delgada, we saw this one that I found very disturbing:
I’ve had nightmares about naked, zombie, octo-lope women since leaving the Azores.
From here, it’s seven days of sailing across the Atlantic until we reach Florida. Wish us luck!
Yes, the art work is disturbing!