Sunday, August 6, 2017

Day 20: Arrival in the Azores!

Day 20
This morning was a rough one. There's just no good way to wake up at 3:30am to catch a flight. Sarah and I actually did a great job of pre-packing, getting the kids and ourselves to bed at a reasonable time and being generally prepared... but you are still getting up at 3:30am.

With kids.

So, we got up, got ready, got the kids ready, said a tired goodbye to our apartment, and all blearily stumbled down the stairs and out onto the street to catch our ride to the airport. Fortunately, the car service we'd arranged was timely and the roads (being that it was 4:30am now) were pretty much completely empty.

Totally awake on the streets of Lisbon, at 4:30am.

The driver dropped us off at the terminal for Easy Jet, which basically looked more like an IKEA warehouse with no furniture than an airport terminal, and after making it through security and a short wait, we boarded our flight and away we went to the Azores.

The flight itself seemed to go really quick. Partially because we were nodding off the whole time, and partially because Sarah and I had thought the flight was supposed to be 3 and a half hours and it turned out to be 2 and a half. Score.

Landing on Sao Miguel was one of those experiences where you look out your window and think: "Oh, we are just landing in the ocean" only to have land show up at the last minute. Our plane then taxied up to the terminal, next to, like four other planes, which seemed to be maximum capacity for the airport. Then we unloaded directly onto the tarmac and walked into the terminal... something that, no matter how many times I've done it, always feels cool and novel. Sort of how you'd expect vintage James Bond to disembark from a plane.

Old-school disembarking from our plane. Just strutting across the tarmac.

In the terminal we were met by a representative from the car rental company Sarah had arranged. And, as we filled out our paperwork, I began to get the sensation that we were renting one of only a few cars they had to rent. As though crashing the car might kill 33.3% of their business.

Hooked up with our Fiat, we loaded the kids and hit the road. First up was a grocery store in Porto Delgada, to get some supplies. Or, rather, first up was getting quasi-lost in Porto Delgada. Either way, it allowed us a quick view at Sao Miguel's largest "city." With less than 70,000 inhabitants, and it's narrow streets and low lying buildings it barely felt like a village in comparison to the hustle and bustle of New York and Lisbon.

Eventually, we found a grocery store that was pen, despite the fact that the owners didn't seem to be bothered with turning the lights on, and with groceries in hand, it was back in the car and on the road to Mosterios, on the islands Westernmost coast.

Making our way down the windy roads, we were in awe of how green everything was in comparison to Lisbon (well, Sarah, Stella and I were, Otto was asleep). The green landscape punctuated by what we would learn are omnipresent hydrangea bushes, with their bright blue flowers. Hydrangeas everywhere. It was still early morning, and instead of being sunny, it was actually a little overcast and blustery, with a misty rain blurring our windshield from time to time.

About 45 minutes later, we peeled off the main road, and dove down a steep zigzag of asphalt to Mosterios. The directions Sarah was following led us straight to the house, a funky, old yellow building perched directly above Mosterios' black-sanded public beach. Waiting for the homeowner to arrive, we realized that we'd messed up telling her our arrival time, because of our time change; so we decided to take the kids down to look at the beach while we waited.

A view of our rental. It's the small yellow house on the left. Pretty crappy location.

The view from our rental. Equally crappy.

Still windy and grey, the surf at the beach was intimidating, with huge waves crashing violently on its sandy shores. We were only made slightly safer feeling by the pair of lifeguards who sat smoking, huddled on some umbrellas. Still, the kids were thrilled. And, despite our attempts to discourage them they were both soon frolicking in the surf. Otto, still in his pajamas, had soon taken his shirt off, and rolled up his now-soggy pajama pants and was facing the coming waves like a Viking warrior, despite still having no idea how to swim.

Man versus nature. In this case, "man" is 6, and doesn't know how to swim, but still.

Eventually, the person showed up with the key, and we were let inside and made ourselves at home. That basically involved dumping our stuff in the entry, firing up a show on the iPad for the kids, Sarah promptly crashing on the bed, and me wandering around in a daze, half unpacking groceries.

A little while later, it was time for some lunch, so we wandered into town, looking for a restaurant, only to discover that Mosterios is so small it only has, maybe, five restaurants in the whole town. And that, aside from one "reservations only" Italian place that is open from 8pm to 11pm daily, they all pretty much have identical menus. So, after a death march looking for additional, non-existent food options, we made our way back to one of the two places we'd spotted.

The wait to get a seat proved surprisingly long, but the people running the simple restaurant were accommodating and nice, and Sarah and I both enjoyed our first bifana, which is a pork sandwich we seems to be sold pretty much everywhere.

After lunch, it was back to the house and then down to the beach for another round of watching the kids attempt to drown themselves in the still-enormous waves. Sarah and I were both amazed at how much energy they both seemed to have after such a long day already. But, eventually the tuckered out, and we headed back to base camp.

Black sand beach!

Heading out for another meal for dinner seemed daunting, so instead I walked over to a small market we'd noticed earlier and got some additional groceries, which Sarah then used to whip up a dinner of pasta and salad at our new place.

Sarah and her helper make dinner. Photo taken through a small peephole into our funky little kitchen space.

Exhausted, but excited about our new location and the coming days of exploration, we all crashed.

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