We woke up land! It was really weird to see land after 7 days at sea. We were in Ponta Delgada, Azures Portugal. Until we booked this cruise, we had never even heard of Ponta Delgada. It is the largest “city” on Sao Miguel island in the Azures. Basically it’s a little cluster of islands in the middle of the ocean a days ship journey away from Portugal.
When we started researching the island the one thing at least one of us wanted to do was go to the Terra Nostra Gardens and Furnas. We first looked at getting to Terra Nostra Gardens on our own. It was a decent drive away, and with it being such a small island, there really wasn’t a great way to get there. We looked at other tour groups but they didn’t offer what we wanted either. We ended up booking our Port Adventure through Disney Cruise Line because they offered the best option. We wished we could have more time at the garden, but the tour we booked offered us time at the garden, a chance to see Furnas, and several of sight seeing opportunities.
We had pretty early meeting time for our departure group on the tour. Around 8:00am. With all the time changes we’ve been through, that early hour was painful. There were a lot of people half asleep waiting in the holding area. By 9:00am we were on the bus and driving first to the Botanical Gardens. This was a popular tour and we were split up into multiple groups and busses. Each bus departed around 15 minutes or so apart.
By 9:50 am we had arrived at the Botanical Gardens, checked in and were told we could wander until our meeting time back at the bus. Most people headed for the flower area, but we headed for the iron rich natural spring pool to take pictures. The water is rust-orange colored. If we were there on our own, we might have tried swimming. Although we were technically allowed to, with the short time you would have to forgo seeing the gardens to have enough time to swim, wash off (the water turns your skin orange almost instantly until you wash it off) and change back into clothes for the rest of the tour. We did see a few local families getting in the pool later in our tours.
We headed away from the flower gardens into the plants and trees sections. It looks like something out of a jungle movie set. It was amazing. We ran into our guide as we were walking. He told us he loves this part of the garden because you can just lay down on the soft mossy “couches” and relax. Thats what he does while people tour. Other then the guide, we didn’t see hardly anyone. We went the opposite way from the group and made our way around the gardens. We loved the gardens. There was lots of wildlife, mostly birds and small insects, and tons of different varieties of plants. We had to be back at the bus by 10:45am. After a short 15 minute bus ride we arrived at the Furnas area. This is an area on the island with lots of thermal jets. Picture bathtub side holes in the ground that release steam hotter then boiling water. They were awesome to see. Some places on the island cook meals in the thermals that you can then eat. The main area we went to was actually in the center of a town square. There were a few shops around so we picked up some postcards to mail. This was a short stop, we only had about 20 minutes, but it was enough to see the thermals and get a feel for the town.
We were back on the bus for another short ride. We ended up at some type of park. Normally the busses could drive all the way up to the top for a great look out view. But due to some new regulations ( I don’t remember why or if it was temporary or permeant) the busses had to park at the bottom of the hill and walk up. A lot of people decided to just forgo the walk up. We figured why not? The hill was a huff and puff up, but the view was extremely worth it! It was a sweeping view of the valley below. At the top they even had a few little souvenir carts. We had about an hour to hike up, enjoy the view and walk back down to the bus. It was plenty of time to get a good experience at this stop.
Next we loaded back on the bus for a short 10 minute drive to a scenic pull off. It had started to sprinkle rain here a bit, but nothing that stopped us from getting out and enjoying the view of the beach. There were some old stone bath houses from when this was an area for the rich to come and “take the sea air”. As we were enjoying the area another bus pulled up. It turns out it was the tour that was supposed to be in front of us, but ended up behind because two people didn’t get back to the bus on time and they had to go find them. They did a really good job pacing the tours. There had to be at least 5 or 6 busses out at the same time, and this was the only time we really crossed paths. At the Botanic Gardens there were multiple busses but it was so large that we all spread out and it wasn’t noticeable at all.
As we were getting back on the bus it started to rain a bit harder. By the time we ended our 40 minute or so bus ride back to the port, it had stopped raining again. We got back around 1:00pm, so we had plenty of time to walk around the port. We walked over to the main square and took pictures. Walked away from the ship down the oceanside to get some great pictures of the ship in port, and then we just started wandering around the little streets in town. We stumbled on a bakery, and decided to try a hand sized custard pie they had. They didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Portuguese, but a bit of pointing and gesturing and we got it all figured out.
We sat in this little bakery with several locals, enjoying our custard pie. It was AMAZING. One of the best desserts I’ve ever had. It was such a great experience, one that was pure “local”. All we had to do was walk a few streets away from the tourist track to enjoy it.
By 2:30pm we had walked all over the towns back streets. We saw almost no tourists and enjoyed a quite afternoon in the town. We got in the boarding line and were back on the ship within 15 or 20 minutes. We went and enjoyed the now sunny weather from our verandah and by 3:45pm we were sailing away from Ponta Delgada.
We went back to Rapunzel’s Royal Table for dinner that night. There is no record of what we did that evening. No notes or pictures or anything. Probably just passed out after a long day touring. Or saw a nighttime show. Or who knows. The paper navigators in the closet could probably help. But the effort to get those….. we will just have to imagine the fun we had that evening.
Tomorrow is another sea day while we complete the crossing of the ocean to mainland Portugal!
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