Scenic viewpoints and sunshine

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March 20th 2018
Published: March 20th 2018
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Today was the warmest and sunniest day yet! It was also our last day with the rental car.

The day started with breakfast as always. I think I have tried all the local items on the buffet. My favorites are the slices of oranges (I know those aren't local but they are so juicy and delicious) and the various cheeses. Yesterday and today I took a chunk of the fresh cheese and spread it on some local bread. The cheese has a ricotta like texture and is very mild. We have found the fruit juice in the machine is very watered down. It says they have orange and pineapple, but both taste more like water. No fresh squeezed juice at our breakfast.

Our plan for the day was to start out heading east. We wanted to check out the scenic viewpoint, Serra do Cume, that we heard about on our initial drive in from the airport. None of the reviews I read prepared me for the road to get up there. Once off the main highway, the road became cobblestones and very steep in spots. As we jostled our way down the road, we had to move over for cows ambling along as well as a brush clearing crew out for spring clean-up. We've been on lots of gravel roads in our travels, but this is probably the bumpiest ride I can recall! We reached the turnoff for the viewpoint itself and the road became paved once again. I kept my eyes straight ahead as the views out my window were a bit scary for me. Finally we reached the top, where there was an observation deck as well as an informational sign about all the points of interest that could be visible. Some of the island was covered in clouds, but we were able to see lots of green pastures shining in the sunlight as well as some of the small towns dotting the landscape. I could see why this spot is part of a guided photography tour. It's just beautiful! And of course, if you go up, you must come down. Luckily, we were the only car so I was able to go at my own pace and not have to worry about having to get over for cars going up.

Back to the cobblestone road and a bumpy ride to the main route once again. We headed into Praia da Vitoria to explore the second largest city on the island. Praia has a large sandy beach with a walkway all along the sea front. It was sunny and 68, perfect for strolling along the water. There is also a square, which is larger than the one in Angra and feels a bit more like some of the larger squares I have enjoyed in Europe. We walked past the Subway (yes, they have those here and I also saw a Burger King) and stopped in the souvenir shop to browse. Then it was time to head out again.

Our next stop was back to Biscoitos for lunch. The place we wanted to try was not serving until noon so we had time to visit the coastal pools again. Today the walkways were open and we were able to get a closer view. Here, there are natural depressions in the lava rocks that collect ocean water and are perfect for swimming. They aren't large but I could see how they would be a great place to visit in the summer. I enjoyed watching the waves crashing into the rocks and listening to the ocean. Finally it was lunch time. We ate at Casa De Pasto "O Pedro" which my mom had read about in her guide book. You know this is a local place as soon as you enter. Groups of men were sitting at the tables enjoying their meals. We found a seat on the back where I could see piglets and chickens running around in the yard next door. My mom got a fish plate that had some kind of lightly fried fish, potatoes and salad. I ordered the bifana, which is pork and I thought would be a sandwich. I was surprised when my plate arrived and it had the piece of pork as well as some rice, a fried egg and french fries! Way more food than I was expecting but it was really good. All that for 5€ .

I tried to get gas in town, but it was a 24 hour place, the machine was only in Portuguese and I couldn't figure it out even with my trusty Google translate. So we headed back towards our hotel as we knew there was a larger gas station nearby. Here, the nice attendant pumped the gas for me and I was able to pay inside with my credit card. We still had some time left before turning in the car so we headed west along the coast to a lookout point, Miradouro da Ponta do Queimado, we had driven by several times, but never turned into. That was mostly because the road looked really steep and narrow and I didn't want to do it. Today I decided I better just go for it. It was pretty narrow and steep in spots, but it ended down at the coast and had the most beautiful views so I was glad I sucked it up and did it. Here the landscape was again filled with jagged black lava rocks and tall cliffs to the north. I have looked and looked but have not spotted any whales. I guess that will be for another trip. We soaked up our fill of the craggy coast and headed back to the hotel to return the car.

In three days, we drove 284 kilometers or 176 miles, and have seen a lot of varied landscapes on this small island. There are tall "mountains" that usually have their peaks covered in clouds, green pastures lined with black rock fences and dotted with cows, steaming vents in the middle of green ferns and black craggy coastline. The roads are narrow when going through the towns and you have to watch for cars parked in the road, dogs crossing the street, cows walking on the street and other cars zooming around corners.

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20th March 2018

The views from the top look a little like Ireland. If the weather was better today maybe tomorrow it will be nice enough to go whale watching.

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