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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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Bangkok – Purr Cat Cafe (AKA Heaven)

*We’ve missed an entire country. Cambodia deserves several posts of it’s own – and it will definitely get them.*

Because of our Air Asia Asean Pass we had to stop in Bangkok to get to Hanoi from Siem Reap. In case you aren’t aware, it’s actually in the wrong direction and since we had to overnight anyway we decided to make it 3 nights. Why not.

We did one temple – which was great (Wat Pho). And then we had some time on our hands. Jen’s friend made us aware that there was a cat cafe not too far from us, and I didn’t need much convincing!

Continue reading Bangkok – Purr Cat Cafe (AKA Heaven)

Welcome to Bohol! (Also a day in the life)

We dropped our laundry off in Cebu yesterday, and because the sign said same day service we assumed we would be on our way bright and early in the morning. We were told – NOON. It would be done NOON tomorrow. Finally they conceded at 11 am. And then our doorman intervened on our behalf and 8 am for the win!

Bright and early this morning we set out on our 30 minute walk (part of Jen’s plan to exercise me regularly). We had coffee at Bo’s coffee which is a local coffee shop where apparently a lot of tourists eat because it cost the same as Starbucks at home – which is outrageous considering I had my eyebrows shaped with a razor for $1 yesterday. I saw a stray dog across the street and decided to save part of my egg mcmuffin for him. He had a hurt foot.

Off we went to collect our laundry and hit the road. I carried the egg mcmuffin for 20 minutes before giving up and leaving it on the side of the road. I have no idea where that dog got to! As we walked by the hotel that was doing our laundry the laundry man shouted out – “Friend! Your laundry!” And literally within 15 minutes we were in a taxi on our way to the pier for our boat. It was like magic.

We arrived to the pier at 8:40. The next ferry was at 8:45 and of course we didn’t have tickets or anything. No problem, we were assured that we could make the boat! And yes – it was really no problem because the boat was 30 minutes late. But it wasn’t even the boat we were planning on taking so in the end it was all randomness that worked out perfectly. Like it always does.

The ferry had assigned seats. Even though the ferry had plenty of empty seats the staff assigned us these ones:

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Because we are in the Philippines, where the Pope is the most trusted man in the country, the boat trip started with a lengthy prayer for a safe journey. Because of this I didn’t hold out too much hope for the onboard movie thinking it would likely be Disney or something, which would make sense because half the boat was kids. Nope. American Sniper. Obviously. And just like the South American bus movie, it was a ripped copy of a dvd.

Part 2: Arrival to Bohol

Bohol is a pretty small island that most people do on a day trip. So of course we have 3 days here. We arrived at our accommodation in a tricycle (photo to come). Our hotel is staffed by what appears to be 12 year olds who watch youtube videos and nap on the couch. I’m not really sure what’s going on here. I asked for them to arrange a driver for tomorrow and they said it’s taken care of – so all I can do is trust. We’re near the beach, and not much else! And since we aren’t near restaurants I’ve now had to ask the youth in charge to make me dinner. Update on the meal to come.

Correo Argentino

There are a few things that make travel challenging but there are two in particular that really stretch me. The first is being dumped off a bus in the middle of a new town and trying to find the hostel. All hostels are advertised as being within 200 metres of the “bus station.” Even if a town has multiple bus stations.

The second is trying to use any country’s mailing system. Morocco’s system really pushed me to the limit, but Argentina really gave them a run for their money when we tried to mail a package home.

The first day, in 38 degree heat we walked to the post office for the sole purpose of obtaining a box to mail some things that we’ve been carting around back to Canada. We waited in the line, even though we weren’t sure it was the right line, and when our turn came we met the nicest Argentine lady. I tried to ask for a box in Spanish, but she replied in English. She set me up with an awesome box, and said, “when you come back tomorrow don’t wait in the line, just come see me and I will help you.” People like this are like little angels placed in South America to help me when things seem difficult.

Continue reading Correo Argentino