|April 9 - Horta on Faial Island in the Azores of Portugal
The Azores consist of 9 islands spread over 400 miles of the Atlantic Ocean; about 800 miles from the mainland of Portugal.
Horta, the Flemish port city on Faial was once an American whaling station. Its nickname is the “Blue Island” because blue hydrangeas bloom everywhere during June. The town is charming and quiet; having a big cruise ship in town didn't seem to interrupt its pace. There were no vendors hounding us as we disembarked, no taxi drivers clamoring for our business. Very refreshing!
The language is Portuguese; the currency is the Euro (exchange rate on the ship was $1.3944 = 1 Euro). Local crafts include: delicate straw embroidery on black tulle, framed delicate white flowers made from fish scales, embroidered flowers on linens, and pottery (blue pattern on white). Year round mild temperatures produce exports of pineapples, apricots, and grapes. Frequent rain results in the very lush green vegetation (cedars, myrtle, junipers, beech, ferns and mosses). There is an extinct volcano on the island but as we stayed in town we didn't see the crater.
Not surprisingly, lava is the most abundant building material so black lava rock in incorporated into many of the buildings. All the sidewalks have mosaic patterns of white or gray contrasting with black or darker gray. Amazed me that they would take the time and care to do that extra work when laying sidewalks!
We found the Tourism office soon after disembarking and got a good city map to help us with our own walking tour. We spent 2 hours wandering steep cobblestone back streets as well as the more touristy streets with shops. We found all the side streets to be one-way, very narrow with a row of cars on one side, and with narrow to narrower sidewalks. Folks definitely have to own small cars and know how to parallel park! The houses (most with shallow balconies) and stores front right onto the sidewalks so their doors, windows and garages are right next to the traffic or parked cars. We found a few small but pretty parks and several old and ornate churches. The mountain on Pico Island just 6 miles away from Horta dominated the skyline and it felt like it was on this island.
By the time we got back to the ship my feet were very weary and actually aching from all the up and down walking on uneven surfaces. But we really did enjoy our outing and found Horta to be charming. It was a lovely first day back on land after 7 days at sea.