We left Amsterdam, on the 1st March, not without some drama, as our son-in-law had forgotten his French ID card, which is too big to be kept in his wallet. As we were checking-in when he realized that, and called my daughter who was on her way to hand in the hired car. She raced home to go and fetch it and still made it in time. Luckily we had gone to the airport 2 hours ahead!
I still managed to get the IAmsterdam photo I wanted, as there is another sign (apart from the one at the Rijksmuseum) outside the Arrivals hall at the airport and it was crowd free too.
On arrival at Lisbon Airport we were greeted by my sister, and that evening we had a family dinner with my parents, niece, sister and brother in law and chatted well into the night.
|From right to left - my sister, my daughter, son in law, Father, niece, Mother, me and brother in law (husband taking pic)|
Early the next morning, on my birthday (March 2nd), we got on a plane again to Ponta Delgada in the Azores island of Sao Miguel.
Our group consisted of my sister and brother in law, our daughter and her partner and us.
We were picked up by my husband's brother J who lives there, and because of the large group a car had also been hired.
Because the hotel check-in was only after 2pm, we decided to do some sightseeing and only go to the hotel later in the day. Our first stop was at a local beach for a coffee and chat to catch up on family news with brother in law J.
|Grey skies, volcanic dark sandy beach|
A short while later we were on our way to Caldeira Velha Park in Ribeira Grande, about 20km from Ponta Delgada.
I still remember when you could actually drive all the way to the hot pools, but now the park has been renovated, it looks amazing, has modern facilities like showers (albeit cold) and dressing cabins and is more environmental friendly too.
For an entry fee of 2Euro, you can swim in the bubbling hot thermal waters. At the top close to the mountain side is another pool with a waterfall, but the water is cooler.
Take an old bathing suit and towels as the iron content in the water will stain them.
There are walking trails through the lush forest, and there is an Interpretation Centre explaining the island's volcanic formation.
|Entry to the Caldeira Velha|
|Hot bubbling waters coming from the mountain into the pool|
|Where the water falls the temperature measures 61C ! Hot, hot, hot!!|
|The pool at the top close to the mountain side is cooler and has a water fall|
|The pool at the bottom of the park is hotter and more popular with visitors|
Nearby the Geothermal plant produces 42% of the island's electricity.
It was time to go for lunch, and we drove another 20km, to the town of Furnas, to eat the typical Cozido (meat stew) cooked in the hot spring waters, which had been ordered from the restaurant at the Camping place.
At the end of this post you'll find a Youtube video about how the Cozido is made in the Furnas. This way of cooking in the hot geothermal waters makes the food taste quite different, so if you ever visit the Azores islands, don't miss this experience.
|A big platter of Cozido (meat stew)|
|The town of Furnas nestled against the mountain|
After lunch we drove to the town's hot springs and walked around the park, tasted the sulphurous waters (tastes like rotten eggs or iron). The area is beautiful, green and peaceful.
The small pools of bubbling waters are now enclosed due to the danger of people falling into them. This is where the Cozido is "cooked" during a few hours.
At the Furnas Park each car pays and entry fee to visit the park (sorry can't remember how much we paid). We then walked around the lake and the hot waters (this is the area where they have the holes where the pots with food are cooked in).
|The big lake at the Furnas Park|
|Me sitting on a wooden elephant sculpture|
The area had a few stray cats all huddled around the warm earth. I read somewhere that they get fed by the council.
|Stray cats sleeping on the warm earth|
Time to go to the hotel, check-in, have a shower and change so we can go out to dinner and celebrate my birthday.
My brother in law chose a restaurant in the city centre - A Tasca Tapas Bar and Restaurant - and ordered various Tapas. The food was delicious, service was great, atmosphere very good too. Booking is recommended.
At the end of the meal, my brother in law then surprised me with a birthday cake and I blew the candles and cut up the cake. There was still some left over and I took it to the hotel for the next day.
|One of the Tapas board with cheeses and meats|
|Cutting up the surprise Birthday cake - it was delicious too|
|The family at the Tapas Bar|
It was a day well spent, and we were exhausted by the end of the evening!
Time to rest to be fit for the next day.
Watch the youtube video about the Cozido, to see how it's made.
PS - I've noticed that all photos are dated 3rd March instead of 2nd, I had started using my husband's camera by this stage and must have programmed the wrong day.
Sunday 1 and Monday 2 March 2015