The day was gray when the ship pulled in to Ponta Delgada in the Portuguese Azores, but the day was warming and the sun was peeking through before the cabin steward found our bikes and we made it onto the pier. This was a beautiful place. The port facilities were clean and modern and efficient and the buildings beyond were modern and attractive. Gentle hills rose behind several 3-6 story buildings surrounding the port area. The greater part of the new city lay to the west, but we took off to the east searching for a road along the coast.
We had had to ride up a fifty foot rising driveway from the pier but we then coasted down the sidewalk along a new highway and then back up a small hill past the Naval Atlantic Club. Then began a very nice ride along the coast on a waterside bike/walking trail. The homes on the left were small, but very attractive in their carefully manicured fronts painted in a variety of pastels—pink and yellow and blue and green. Child tot lots were spaced about a half mile apart. We rode uphill toward a church on the hill before the bike path ended and we had to ride on the street for about a mile. The town around us was like a European postcard with houses built right up to the street—no sidewalks.A few cars passed, but the ride seemed safe because most of them were passing at less than 30 mph and they gave us plenty of room. We rode/walked uphill through a very narrow street and then came again to the bike path. This pattern repeated for the next hour.
We rode the bike path on the coast past the rocky coast for a while and then struggled along narrow city streets through beautifully painted, neat worker’s homes. Clothes hung to dry on second story balconies. Bundled citizens waited occasionally at bus stops and responded in a friendly way to my calls of “Ola”, which is the Portuguese version of hello.
At one point we descended down a street in the city part, passed a small strip mall-like area with a restaurant and two story hotel, and spotted a long beach being manicured for the coming summer season. Beyond, lay a large rocky point with the image of a man looking seaward shaped in the rocks. The road split as we approached the point and we crossed a wooden bridge to a lookout showing the back side of the rocky point. We talked with the workers about places to eat and found even they were comfortable with s little bit of English. From this lookout, we could see miles down the coast in either direction.
The city of Ponta Delgada lay to the west and several coastal villages could be seen to the east with several sandy beaches on the way. We rode on for another few miles before coming to a hill near the town of Lagoa and decided to turn back because this was an early day for the ship to leave and we thought about seeking some Portuguese Bean Soup and a wifi site.
We stopped several times on the way back for pictures, to use the “Banos”, and to try places for lunch. We learned this was too early in the day for lunch (before 1230pm) and too early in the season for many of the seasonal tourist places, both hotels and restaurants. We ended up riding all of the way back to the ship and stopped at a large four story hotel for our internet tasks. This worked fine but we decided to forego the soup until we got back to the ship.
As we approached the ship, we decided to detour past the ship to the west to check out the sites on that side. The bike path continued here inside the port past a modern portside shopping area. The path rose to the street level near the center of the city. Here, we spotted more of the carefully painted fence-roofed buildings which made up the non-residential part of the city. Traffic here was heavier, but we were off the road on the bike path. At one point, workers were either building or demolishing a series of brown wooden stands on the bike path and Marilyn was completely stymied at one point. One of the workers jumped out of the crowd to help her off her bike and across an area where they had blocked the path. On the way back later, this same gentleman accomplished the feat once more. At the end of the path we came to the military museum with a uniformed guard with sword out front. In the garden here and on the park across the street were bunches of strange trees which had been recently pruned of all leaves and hung with lights. The effect was appealing. One of the older churches on the island lay to one side of the square and some other small government buildings lay opposite. We turned around here and headed back to the ship. Overall, I found this island so appealing that I think I would be willing to try living here for one or two months. I think the weather will be good and I bet the food will be great.