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Sao Miguel

Posted by Tni Newhoff on Monday, July 23rd, 2007 at 8:44 am
Position: 37.7405 by -25.6580 map

I realize that I’m going backwards but I would be remiss if I did not tell you about the final island that we visited in the Azores, Sao Miguel. It would have been a shame if we had bypassed it altogether…which we had considered doing. Besides the stunning natural beauty which is so indicative of the Azores, the amazingly kind population, and the the antiquity and history that oozes from its every pore, there were two simple highlights of the island for me during our all too brief visit. One was its spectacular (and I mean a kind of unrivaled spectacular) fresh market and the other was our tour of an old tea factory. I spent a solid hour roaming through the market salivating over the most perfect tomatoes you’ve ever seen, trying to come up with meals to make on the next passage that would justify my buying way too much produce, and wishing that we hadn’t lost an essential part to our barbecue to the depths of the ocean mid- atlantic so that I could buy some fresh fish.

As you know, we toured many a rum factory in the Caribbean but when I suggested we visit the tea factory it was met with only the mildest amount of interest. Well our expectations were exceeded b/c it was actually very fascinating. First of all, they allow you to roam freely throughout the entire factory. You can only imagine what a liability this would be at home but it really enhanced our experience. The factory was opened in 1883 and they still employ the same techniques today using the same equipment as they did back then. We happened upon a young guy working in the drying room who basically gave us an overview of the entire process. In the second to last room that we visited there were four woman sitting around a table drinking…what else, but tea, and sorting through the final batches leaves to remove any stray stems before it was bagged…by hand. Talk about, “if it ain’t broken, why fix it” kind of a system. And so, as I said, they continue their age old techniques and produce really lovely tea that I’ve been enjoying every morning since. The final room was the tasting room and by the point we were hooked and loaded up on a dozen bags. After leaving the factory we were invited to explore the grounds which were beautiful and serene with their rows and rows of tea bushes.

Something cool that I learned after the fact is that a friend of ours from SF Opera’s family is from this island. That just kind of made it that much more special b/c truthfully I had only vaguely heard of the Azores before planning for our trip and they have ended up being one of the most wonderful surprises of the trip…not to mention a treasure that offered us a much needed sanctuary after our passage.

Oh, and in case you are wondering what that steam is that David is walking through, they are geysers. The mounds are where they cook meat and fish using the steam from the geysers. If you visit the north part of Furnas Lake around 11.30 a.m., you can see the staff from local restaurants collect huge casseroles, where they are placed everyday around 04.00 a.m.

Touring beatiful San Miguel, Azores     Tni resting in the Azores                      

2 Responses to “Sao Miguel”

    Wow, again what beautiful places and great photographs!! You are to be commended on your adventuresome spirits and all you’ve accomplished this past year. I related to Rich how you’ve been doing and know it’s something we would never have undertaken, you must have certain qualities, that’s for sure! We are leaving this weekend for a very “sedate” cruise to New England, checking in at Manhattan, Newport, RI, Martha’s Vineyard, and possibly Nantucket if the mood strikes us. We are not returning to WPB, found a new marina in North PB. Stay in touch, Becky and Rich

    Okay, we’re jealous, all right. Wish we could be touring these beautiful and fascinating new places with you. No guts, no glory, though.
    Following your travels is truly enjoyable. The tea factory sounded so interesting. And I’m wondering if you sampled any of the casseroles steamed by the geysers; it’s such an amazing phenomena.
    Meanwhile, the crew of Aurora is back in Annapolis, with Captain Paul hard at work. I’ll start next week. That Boat Show needs to be built!
    We miss you.

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