Sao Miguel in eight favourite directions
Casa Santa resembles a house from a fairytale. With its volcanic stone walls. With an image of the sun embedded in the bathroom floor. With blue wooden window shutters and a front door decorated with a colourful figure of a rooster. With a garden, where every plant is marked with a little notice of its name, as if it were in a botanical garden, with a table and benches in both corners of the yard and a fragrant arch of roses. With a fireplace inside, with a family history dating back to 1919 and a telephone exchange that is nearly as old. Upon entering the place, right opposite the front door we found 5 ceramic churches which were similarly painted in a black-and- white pattern but their entrances were definitely different. In four days we discovered all these four elements of Casa Santa decoration as real life churches …at the four ends of the island. And we felt even stronger how special Francisco and Tamara’s house is. It is not a mere unit of accommodation, but is in fact a little story of a large island, the largest of the Azores – Sao Miguel.
5 euro. That’s how much it costs to enter a history that started 114 years ago in the center of Ponta Delgada, the major city of Sao Miguel. 5 euro is the price of a large piece of chocolate cake and the cappuccino George and I share (we like to create our own little secrets, so a glass or a cup on the table is for both of us to drink from). We either don’t have secrets, or love to tell them to each other.
We arrive at Louvre Mihaelense, and at 9 o’clock in the morning the town is still sleepy. No one is in a hurry. Shop assistants arrange the shelves, the pyramids of pineapple in the market are growing, neighbours stand up at the bar drinking coffee from tiny coffee cups and talk in a language that sounds as warm as spring poetry. We order a pine apple and while the owner of the corner shop is peeling the fruit and cutting it into pieces, the other people in the shop are curious to find out who we are. They probably take us for newlyweds. Besides, the picture of a couple where the woman is diminutive and the man stands tall enough “to reach the sky”, must be curious for onlookers to observe. Anyway… We have grown used to that. Azore pineapple has a very interesting taste. It is somewhat more “rounded”, sharper and fresher.
The dress-making workshop pottered on for a few years and then the place went quiet again behind closed doors. History remained under the cobwebs and inside cupboard drawers. 5 years later an entrepreneur from continental Portugal arrived in Ponta Delgada and “adopted” the Karosos’ history with a great deal of respect. Today Louvre Mihaelense has a heart again, but this one beats for chocolate cake. It’s a sweet Louvre. Very delicious. With time passing in three dimensions –past, present and future.
Louvre Mihaelens is one of the seven places Francisco recommended, so that we could experience the Sao Miguel he loves.
§ The other six:
Relaxation in the Poca da Beija hot springs in Furnas. Entrance fee is 6 euro. For 2 euro extra we can have a towel, and a locker will be another 1 euro. We buy the ticket, get a stamp on our hands and we are allowed to walk in and out of the premises as often as we wish. We don’t take advantage of this opportunity. An hour spent in the hot water is more than enough for us. The temperature of the water is about 39 degrees C, changing rooms contain six lockers for men and six for women, there is also a shower. The scenery around the hot springs is very beautiful and even exotic. The “pools” have been carved in natural stone, the whole place looks bright green and wild. There are altogether 6 little springs with a holding capacity of about 10 people each. The particular zones are separated by little bridges and fountains. Don’t miss this attraction, on the contrary, repeat the experience! The advice the locals are always giving is “a hot spring – yes! But not with your stomach full”.
Right after the mineral water complex in Furnas, we sit at Tony’s. His restaurant is the local tourist attraction. Here and only here, and only after an advance reservation for 12:30 or 14:00 you can try the local island delicacy cozido. The dish is prepared in the ground of Tera Nosra Parc. The food is buried and stewed in the heat of the thermal springs. It’s a slow, nearly 9-hour- long underground cooking. Lunch may start around 12:00 – 12:30. We don’t feel that type of curiosity so we are quietly waiting at Tony’s. Cozido is slow-roasted meat with vegetables, covered with cabbage leaves. The meet can be pork, beef or chicken and among the vegetables yams is a must. Yams are a kind of sweet potato, and again a local attraction according to the story of the Azores. A portion is big enough for two and costs 14 euro. At Tony’s we also try morchela com ananas – another dish recommended for the gourmet experience of Sao Miguel. Now this is a specific grilled sausage. The filling is pork, boiled rice, onions and basil. It is served over grilled pine apple and costs 10 euro. We later prepared it ourselves in Francisco’s house.
A trip to Sete Cidades and the three views over the little town…We also use the time we spent in the region to have lunch, as we find an unassuming but pretty appetising little place called Lagoa Azul. The bistro offers a la carte menu including salads, fish, soups and main dishes for 9 euro altogether for adults and 4 for kids. You can also sample every dish in a special day menu and no one expects you to have the style and sophistication of a gourmet explorer. The plates there are exceptionally flat.
And if one day you set off for Sao Miguel, Fransisco and Tamara’s house is 15kilometers from the airport of Ponta Delgada and equally close to all things you’ll find worth seeing. Even if you choose to stay in (for a day or two), this will be the most beautiful and romantic settling into a house built from basalto (black volcanic stone). And remember to send us a card!