Our flight to Azores was at 6 a.m. and no matter how many times I promise myself that I won’t fly at this hour anymore, I still end up doing that. 🙂 The upside was of course that despite the layover in Lisbon, we landed in São Miguel at 1 p.m., so we had plenty of time for sightseeing the same day.
We booked a car from Ilha Verde Rent a Car as it seemed most people. 😀 There were Ilha Verde, Hertz and some other car rental booth right next to each other, but there was a long line just for Ilha Verde. We chose a small car because we figured that São Miguel island is quite small and the roads would be narrow and windy and we were totally right. We got a tiny Renault Clio, which ran on diesel fuel and despite it being really crappy at accelerating fast, it was small enough to fit on any road and the four days of driving cost us 21,06€ in fuel and the car rent was 111€.
So we got our car and headed towards a restaurant called O Silva in Ribeira Grande. We had some plans in that direction and this restaurant was recommended to us by the Airbnb host. We woke up really early and had just a sandwich, so we really needed lunch. It took us some time to find the restaurant as the GPS guided us to a residential street, but after driving around for a while, we found it.
We got served this homemade type of cheese with a really spicy pepper sauce and we loved it! Apparently you can say no to this, because they did charge us 1,50€ for that and the bread, but without this, we would’ve probably never tasted this, but the cheese and especially the spicy sauce were really good!
I ordered squid and my boyfriend ordered tuna steak. The food was okay. The squid was pretty good, but had these tasteless potatoes and vegetables on the side. Boyfriend’s tuna steak was well done and quite dry and of course accompanied by the same vegetables. The service was very friendly though and we were much happier after gotten some food. 🙂
After the restaurant we headed towards a place called Caldeira Velha. As I’ve complained before the Visit Azores web pages are truly atrocious. The only thing it says about Caldeira Velha is: A waterfall of warm, iron water where you can take a dip, it is located on the north slope of the Fogo Volcano. No useful information and no real description what to expect.
So what was Caldeira Velha like? There was a small parking spot, but apparently even in October it is not enough and there were a lot of cars parked along the road. And by the way, the roads (like everything else in Azores) are ridiculously pretty. Just look at this:
We bought entrance tickets, which were 3€ per person if I remember correctly, and we got into this lush and green park.
After a while we reached a place with some naturally boiling water, which was really cool. I’ve never wanted to touch the water more. 😀
Nearby this small boiling water lake there were two smallish thermal pools with people sitting in them.
As we were coming directly from airport, I was wearing my dressier shoes and not the sneakers, so walking around wasn’t the best. It’s not that it is difficult, but some of the land was wet and my shoes didn’t have enough grip in some places. Also as we didn’t know what to expect, we also didn’t have any of our swimming stuff with us. But even if we got back to the car and got them, we didn’t have any towels because we haven’t yet checked into our Airbnb apartment. So if you want to take a dip, be prepared. 🙂 There are some booths for changing clothes.
We walked around the park some more enjoying the greenery. I think the visit took us max. 1 hour, but then again we just strolled around the area and took pictures. There weren’t actually that many people when we visited around four o’clock.
After Caldeira Velha we drove to Lagoa do Fogo, which was a lovely lake surrounded by mountains. There is a viewing spot on the top, but there is a way to get near the lake as well. We ended up just enjoying the view as we had agreed to meet our Airbnb host at 6 p.m. at the apartment.
On our way back we stopped at a viewing point. There are plenty of viewing points (miradouro) in Azores, but the sign for them is usually literally 20 meters before it starts, so you really need to think on your feet whether you want to stop here or not.
We rented a cool Airbnb apartment in Ponta Delgada and it turned out to be located in a perfect spot. Yes, it was a street level apartment, so you could hear cars passing by, but there was always an empty parking spot on the street and you could reach any restaurant in the city within 10 min walk. The parking cost 0,60€ per hour from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., which is nothing compared to Helsinki parking fee of 4€ per hour until 9 p.m. 😀 The owner gave us the key, we agreed on some practicalities, and she also gave us some tips on what to see on São Miguel. The wifi also worked really well in the apartment. Also all the restaurants in Azores seem to offer free wifi of good quality.
We haven’t booked any restaurants for this trip in advance, which was partially a good thing and partially a bad thing. If you want to eat in popular restaurants, you absolutely need to book a table, but you need to call them. I have sent an email to a couple of places, but never received any answers, so phone is the method for communication in Azores. The good thing was that for example on our first day we had lunch so early that we weren’t really hungry. So here it was lucky that we hadn’t booked anything. I had a list of restaurants we wanted to visit on the trip, but this time we wanted to have something light, so my boyfriend suggested that we go to a wine & tapas bar called Reserva. It was a bit tricky to find it and when we found it, it looked closed. But we went and pushed the door and it was open, but there wasn’t anybody there. The staff said that it was quiet this time of year on Wednesday. We decided to stay and were joined later by two other couples. We were so glad that we ended up in Reserva. We ordered cold cuts and cheese plate and some tomatoes baked with honey. We also asked for wine recommendations and the local wines were super good. The plate was huge and the tomatoes were amazing. We enjoyed the evening very much and it was a really good place when you are not really hungry.
I would say that our first day was a success. 🙂