“Over the centuries, they were rumored to be the remnants of the lost continent of Atlantis or the last kingdom of the Lusiads, founded by Lusus, the son of Bacchus, the god of wine. Some Azoreans told me they believe their ancestors to be disgraced Portuguese nobles and bastard sons.” -~ Diana Marcum, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Tenth Island.
“Scattered 800 miles west of Portugal, the Azores islands are named for açores, birds of prey, which greeted explorers.
The nine islands totaling 800 square miles and span 400 miles of ocean are, Santa Maria, São Miguel, Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Terceira, Graciosa, and the two western-most islands, Flores and Corvo.
The islands were originally settled by the Portuguese and Flemish, whose influence is still visible in the traditional oxcarts and windmills, religious icons and festivals.
In later years, Azorean society became a complex melting pot of settlers, captives and slaves: Catholics, Jews, Protestants, non-Muslim, Africans, Moors, French, Italians, and even English and Scots.
The Azores now have a resident population of 240,000 people, Azoreans worldwide number more than a million. Today, the Azores, like Madeira, are an autonomous region of Portugal, with close links to emigrant Portuguese communities in Bermuda, the United States, Canada and many other parts of the world.” Source – National Museum of Bermuda.
I visited the Azores at the end of August this year. In the space of one week, I took so many photos and visited so many places, only on the island of Sao Miguel, each so unique, that I will have to share my experiences in at least three blog posts.
I will start with the night I arrived in Sao Miguel.
A direct flight of 4.5 hours on the Portuguese, SATA airlines, across the Atlantic, takes you from Bermuda to the main island of Sao Miguel.
São Miguel Island, named for the Archangel Michael (Portuguese: São Miguel), is also referred to locally as “The Green Island“, is the largest and most populous island in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores.
I booked a a Airbnb centrally located between the airport, Joao Paulo and Ponta Delgada, the administrative capital of Sao Miguel.
The night I arrived in Sao Miguel, my Airbnb host’s mother, Flavia, took me to see the city of Ponta Delgada at night.
Ponta Delgada first had me with its cobblestone streets.
We parked on Avenue Dom Infante Henrique and walked along the waterfront. Dom Henrique was a central figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and in the 15th-century European maritime discoveries and maritime expansion.
The first notable site we stopped at to admire was the Portas da Cidade. Portas de Cidade, City Gates in English, is one of the most iconic monuments of Ponta Delgada. It was built in the eighteenth century next to the old quay and then transferred to the Gonçalo Velho Cabral Square during construction of the seaside Prince Henry Avenue. It is composed of three arches, featuring in the middle, the royal and the city’s coat of of arms.
Another notable site at night is the Igreja de Sao Sebastiao, the Church of Saint Sebastian. In the day it’s black and white.
“Together with the Portas da Cidade (the arched gates to the city), St. Sebastian’s Mother Church is Ponta Delgada’s most iconic example of Azorean white walls with black basalt trim. Built in 1547 and refurbished through the years, it reflects the changes of styles in Portuguese church architecture. Manueline, Baroque and Gothic are its main influences, with the altar of carved and gilded wood being the center of attention.”
Ponta Delgada has many dining options with a lot of the restaurants being outdoors. What I especially liked about this city is that it is so muted in a good way, very different from the crowded streets of Lisbon that you would see during the summer months.
We didn’t spend a long time in the city as we had an early excursion the following day.
I am looking forward to sharing Part 2 soon.
Have you ever visited the Azores?