São Miguel, The Azores
To be honest, I didn’t even know what the Azores were until this year. I didn’t know that there were nine little islands apart of The Azores. I didn’t know the name of the island we were stopping at until three days before we arrived. It fills me with wonder knowing that a place I didn’t even know existed can exist unspoiled and unheard of by most people. Other sailors we had met had said similar things. They just thought they would stop here to break up a long crossing, bad weather or need a place to find fuel. A rustic little island full of culture and infinite versions of the color of green painted within it's landscapes. Beautiful bright green pastures fenced with hydrangeas that sit safely behind intense cliffs. Volcanic craters filled with emerald and turquoise blue water. Near cobblestone streets random colorful expressions of art were painted on walls, buildings and side walks by artists. We were only here for three days, but this is one of those places that you could get lost in for awhile. Lost in a lush green abyss. The unspoiled nature calls, making it tough to leave without your heart signaling you to stay. “Go back,” it says, “you have 21 more hiking trails left!” My heart is a hiking enthusiast. We visited one of their volcanic black sands beaches. Our toes spotted with espresso colored sand. The waves crashing onto the sand changing the color of the water from pale turquoise to iceberg white. We indulged in one of the islands natural remedies for tired sailors, which was their endless amount of steamy thermal springs to choose from. Justin and I let our bones melt into Terra Nustra Garden’s thermal spring. A hot spring surrounded by a massive botanical garden that you could walk around in for days. The clouds rained on us, creating a lingering fog around the pools. We were there for hours, maybe too long because when I went to shower the pools stained my hair orange-ish for a few days. But I would still go back and do the same thing again.
The restaurants were delicious and offered a wide range of local azorean treats. I had a chance to try their local tea, local beer (which was amazing), local red wine, azorean pineapple, traditional taro root soup, and their fresh baked bread. I especially loved their bolos, they resembled a doughy sweeter version of a giant english muffin. We had the chance to stock up on groceries at their local farmers market. The produce was immaculent. Volcanic soil is very nutritious and fertile, making their produce incredibly flavorful. Hopefully we will be back soon! This place was an unexpected gem.
Lagos, was another one of our blissful accidental stops. Due to 50 mph winds going through the Strait of Gibraltar we cozied in at the reception dock at the Lagos Marina. A spot in the center of everything. Quaint unnamed cobblestone streets. Unique bars and restaurants, rugged natural beauty and laid back beach vibes. I could see myself living there. The first morning we spent a few hours perusing around in the local farmers market. Enjoying some almond pesto, local kumquat and ginger jam, fresh olives ladled out of a bucket and vegan pizza with cauliflower crust. We hopped in the longest line at the market to buy some fresh bread from a glowing Brazillian woman that wraps every loaf in twine and a freshly cut flower. While waiting in line a Portuguese woman behind me mentioned that the Brazillian woman started selling bread from her bike before she started having a table at the market. Now loads of people come to the market just for a loaf of her delicious bread.
The same day we went to check out Ponta de Piedade where dramatic cliffs, caves and rock formations met the Atlantic Ocean. We went on a walkabout around the cliffs edge and took in all the intense geological visuals. This place shouldn’t be missed. After sauntering around the cliffs for awhile we walked down to Praia de Dona Ana, which is maybe one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. I know I’ve been saying that about every beach lately, but this one is sheltered by enormous chunks of sandstone rock formations. “I’ll just put this rock here, and here…” It’s beautiful. This place I hope to come back to soon. Real soon.