Early in 2007 we were looking for somewhere to go on holiday, where we would be able to combine the possibility of exciting daytrips with the ability to relax. At the same time, the destination should also be suited for our two children, who, at the time, were 4 and 6 years old, and also deliver a certain level of security. Some personal advice convinced us to take a closer look at Portugal. We were never considering classic hotels or holiday resorts, since those simply don’t enable you to discover anything real about the place and the culture you are visiting. Years before we had started to spend our time on holiday solely outside of the hotels and resorts, so we were looking for a proper holiday home. We quickly managed to rent a car and book flights, and only a couple months later we landed in Porto for the very first time.
A first contact
On our first day, we immediately ventured into the mountains towards the centre of the country. Obviously we didn’t speak any proper Portuguese. Quickly, we had to learn that English would not be of help at all here (however, we do always try to learn some basic phrases like “Please”, “Thank You”, and “once coffee, please” in the language of every country we visit, because although this does not tend to get you very far, it shows some basic respect). On the other hand we had our first experience of the incredible hospitality and openness of the people in Portuguese. We got a little stuck in small restaurant in one of the remote villages, but we were quickly picked up by an ever growing group of people who would not rest until they found someone in the village who spoke a little English and was able to help us with our situation.
We have repeatedly felt welcome in situations like these, and there were many of them. Never did we feel like we were only seen as tourists who are on the island to spend their money.
The appeal of Portugal and the Azores
In addition to the human contact there are obviously many other reasons to visit Portugal, and especially the Azores. For one, there is the incredible interplay of mountains, the hinterlands, and the coast which does, in some places, descend steeply into the sea, which offers new breathtaking views and memories day after day.
The highest Portuguese mountains, for example, measure over 2000m in height and can be found on the Azores. The 2351m high peak of the Pico is situated a mere 10km linear distance from the coast. I’m sure you can imagine what a breathtaking view that is.
Additionally, nature here is so varied and diverse it basically begs to be explored and discovered. Due to the high mountains and the subtropical climate, there is enough water for the Azores to be green all year round. The black sandy lava beaches are ideal for relaxing after your trips, for watching sunsets and for just looking forward to the next day.
Our journey to the Azores
Over the following years, we explored several Portuguese regions, and while looking for places we hadn’t seen yet, we noticed the Azores. They were quite a way away from the mainland, which immediately sparked our curiosity. By then, there was five of us in the family, so in 2011 we made our way to São Miguel for the very first time. Some impressions from this first visit are described in the article “The 10th Island”. Here especially, and later on on Flores we found exactly the kind of Portugal we came across during our first visit.
The Azores today
Now, we have visited almost all the islands on the Azores, and after a while we began to feel the urge to spend more time here than just on holiday. We learned some more Portuguese and had to realise that the specific accent used on the islands posed yet another challenge. Still, we were committed to wanting to learn the language, even if most people speak good English all over the Azores now.
All this is why, in summer 2017, we decided to keep an eye out for a holiday home on São Miguel. Everything worked out really quickly, and by October we were sat in the notary’s office and felt even more “Azorian” than ever before.
Maybe you can tell that we don’t just want to advertise our holiday home, although we are obviously grateful for each and every one of our visitors. We want to share our love for Portugal, the Azores and their people with you. The Azores are still a place that is chosen mainly by explorers and adventurers for holidays, and fortunately, you will not find any holiday resorts. Those aren’t helpful, neither for the locals nor for you if you really want to get to know the country and the culture.
This is why we want to try and support you with our posts as much as possible, and to share our experiences and recommend places suited to the region that will make your holiday unforgettable.