Category Archives: travel

Azores Adventure

In an effort to try to continue to document some of the places we have been, I thought I would include a couple of thoughts about the Azores.

We had been planning this trip for a while.  By planning, I mean me fantasizing.  I am again gainfully employed by an airline, so I refused to purchase tickets even though they were ridiculously cheap.  To all, buy tickets to the Azores. Worth it.

We flew on Sata Airlines from Toronto to Ponta Delgada and then on to Pico.  Plan was to stay on Pico for a couple of days with a day trip to Horta, Faial.  I desperately wanted to climb the tallest mountain in Portugal.

First, the Azores are beautiful. Stunning. Absolutely. This can not be overstated.

Dani looking from the Madalena harbor
The two islets at the entrance to Madalena harbor, formed from a submerged crater

Another reason that I wanted to visit Pico was the wine!  I had read about Unesco Heritage site, Pico Vineyards and was curious to see these vineyards made of volcanic rock.  This is how we spent our first day trying to stay awake from the early morning arrival.

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This was a short walk from where we were staying. Obviously, I wanted to wander through the maze of the lava rock.  Dani did her best to seem excited about it.

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As we were spending only three days on Pico, the following day was my hike.  The weather certainly did not cooperate. It was raining unbelievably hard and the mist on the mountain was so thick that it was difficult to see the trail markers.  The lava rock was slippery and it was cold.  I went with a group of about 8 people, a couple of Germans, a few people from Porto and a few others from Spain. The group of 8 turned into a group of 4 with the Spaniards turning back after our guide suggested that it might be a good idea.  The rest of us carried on in the awful rain hoping that it would eventually clear up.  We made it to the top with a few moments of sun breaks.  The tallest mountain in Portugal (2,341-metres)! Done!

I wanted to celebrate this triumph with Dani with dinner at Cella Bar which I was extremely excited about visiting after reading about it.  Sadly, it was closed for the week we were there.  We still managed to admire the building and the sunset!

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After a short day trip to Horta where we did some lovely walks, we headed back to Ponta Delgada.

We drove our tiny little car (so tiny it only had one windshield wiper) to Furnas.  Here we were going to stay for five days thanks to SPG Points at the Furnas Boutique Hotel. We were excited about this hotel because it has thermal water pools to enjoy which we took advantage of!

Again, it can not be overstated how beautiful the Azores is.  The drive, although Dani found it a bit stressful and long, for much of it I felt like we were driving through a storybook.  We spent the next 4 days exploring including the Gorreana Tea Plantation, Vila Franca do Campo, Ribeira Grande.  We had some beautiful lovely walks thanks to the wonderfully marked trails.  This is more easily shared in photos.

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A day trip was also planned to Lagoa das Sete Cidades.  After seeing this in my Instagram posts for so many months, I was so excited to finally do this hike. Unfortunately, it rained.

One minor hiccup occurred in our travels. Fly standby is not always as amazing as it seems.  When checking the flight loads, I saw that all flights leaving back to Canada on our anticipated departure date were full. In fact, all flights to North America were full. In fact, all flights from Lisbon to North America were full.  We had to resort to a new back up plan.  Flying out a couple days early, to Porto, to Amsterdam, home.  Long journey and overnights in each spot.  Fortunate for us, we actually had some friends vacationing in Porto that were able to let us stay with them!

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Unexpected day in Porto

Amsterdam, again thank you SPG points program for allowing us to stay in Schiphol for FREE!

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Hanoi!

We both have gotten quite lazy with posts which is unfortunate. I have been spending more time writing in a personal journal to keep track of things. We are in the final week before heading back to Canada. I can not believe it.

Vietnam was added to our destination list for obvious reasons…the food! Of all the things I was missing from home it was Vietnamese food (now after three weeks of indulgence, I am missing hamburgers)

Our first stop was Hanoi. The city has an amazing hustle and bustle and people really perform all activities on the street. The sidewalk is a parking lot for motorbikes, a restaurant, a grocery store, a garbage collection site, a sewing room, a laundromat. Everything but a sidewalk.

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While in Hanoi, we visited some museums, had a street food tour and wandered around the lake every morning.

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I was also introduced to cà phê trứng – egg coffee which is basically a dessert in coffee form.

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All in all – we loved our time in Hanoi and could have easily spent some more time there.

Siquijor: Isla del Fuego – no seriously.

Siquijor – home of witchcraft in the Philippines. Because of this we obviously had to visit. We arrived at our resort and started looking for tours that would take us to a faith healer. The hotel’s tour was very rigid (as things tend to be here) and included a bunch of things that we weren’t interested in. I took to the internet and found our very own tour guide. He used to do his tours in a tricycle for a much better price but now he does them in a jeepney – a vehicle that is used for public transport and can fit as many as 20 people sitting, but when used in transit can fit easily 40. So we had plently of room in the back of the jeepney as there was just two of us.

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Continue reading Siquijor: Isla del Fuego – no seriously.

Welcome to the Philippines (or Asia Lite)

After 4 days on beach paradise on Boracay we had to make the easy trip to Cebu. This was a multi stage process involving a tricycle (a Philippine tricycle – not North American, in case you were picturing that), a boat, then another trike and a plane. When we booked our ticket I was able to purchase 10 (ONLY 10) kilos of luggage for each of us. Everything on the website says that you are allowed 10 only, and you can’t even buy more. So I carefully packed the packs. I packed, I weighed and I shuffled until everything was perfect.

We arrived at the airport and I was seeing some pretty big bags, which was distressing to me. In case you aren’t aware I’m obsessed with fairness. When we were able to check in, our bags were perfectly under 10 kg each. I was so proud. The CSA told us, “You know you can have 15 kg right?” Um no – obviously not. All the info on the website says 10. Our itinerary and receipt say 10. For more than a year you have been able to take 15 kg – no one thought to update anything.  Then – because this is an airline obviously obsessed with weight – we were weighed before we could check in. Like we both had to physically stand on the luggage scale. It was odd.

Continue reading Welcome to the Philippines (or Asia Lite)