Walks and Wildlife

Wednesday 21st November was a sad day for us: Mr Romeo had to go back to Cat Depot.  We’d enjoyed his company in the three weeks he was with us, and we hope he finds his ‘furever’ home soon.

Social events

The next day was Thanksgiving Day.  In the morning we went for a walk along Siesta Beach, as did many other people, even though it was not as sunny as usual.

Later we walked to the home of Lynda and Kevin (Sandie’s friends from folk dancing, who now live quite near us).  They had invited us for Thanksgiving dinner, and we had a very pleasant time together.

This week we celebrated David’s birthday at the Mandeville Beer Garden downtown.  A crowd of us went last year, and sat outside.  Unfortunately this year the weather was not so good, so we were inside.  Not a problem, except that the table Donna had booked was not nearly big enough to accommodate all those who turned up.  What it is to be popular!

Also this week, there was a ‘meet your neighbor’ social at the CP2 clubhouse.  We enjoyed drinks, snacks and the opportunity to chat with people we already knew, and meet others for the first time.  We were given name badges, which was a good idea – though whether we will remember all the names is doubtful!

Walks and wildlife

We often go for walks, sometimes with an additional purpose.  One day we walked over the Ringling Bridge to the shops at St Armand’s Circle.

On our way to David’s party we detoured around Gillespie Park, and saw some spectacular sunset skies.

One evening we did a ‘pub crawl’ along the bayfront.  We started by watching the sunset at Bay Island Park, then had cocktails at Marina Jack’s terrace, and got another good view of the evening sky.  Next we had drinks at the top of the Westin (dark by then, so we could see all the Sarasota lights) before heading back to O’Leary’s tiki bar for dinner on the beach.

Our most recent beach walk was at Turtle Beach.  On arriving we were intrigued to see a sign pointing to a ‘beach baptism’.  We’d seen several beach weddings, but not a beach baptism! There was a sizeable crowd of people singing and playing guitars, though we did not see the actual immersion.  As we walked along, we saw surprisingly few people, and not as many birds as usual (possibly due to the recurrence of red tide).  The sand had shifted since our last visit.  We could not walk as far as we usually go, because the beach in front of one house had all but disappeared, and strong waves discouraged us from wading round.  In other places the sand had piled up high, just about covering some chairs on a deserted porch.

We did however see lots of crabs: several tiny ones which disappeared into their holes, and one large one that went half-way in and sat mocking us while we tried to take photos.  And we saw the sad remains of a few turtle nests which had been uncovered by the sand. Some of the eggs had hatched, but not all.

Among the local parks, Celery Fields has become a favourite.  There are some pleasant walks there (even a small hill, remarkable for Florida!) and you can often see lots of birds.  Ian has become an enthusiast, if not quite a twitcher!  Yesterday we saw parakeets (sitting on the telegraph wires), sandhill cranes, roseate spoonbills, grackles, limpkins and an American bittern, as well as the ibises, egrets and herons that you get everywhere.  We even saw an otter coming towards us, though it disappeared into the bushes before we could get our cameras ready.

But there are opportunities to see wildlife without venturing even that far.  We occasionally take evening drinks round to the bayou just behind CP2; sometimes we see a manatee there, as well as lots of jumping fish.  Our condo looks onto the lake/pond (call it what you will) where there are ducks and often visits from water birds (most recently, a Great Blue heron). When walking around the complex we have to be careful not to tread of one of the many small kamikaze lizards that rush across the path, and we sometimes see snakes (black racers, which are harmless).

Disasters

We are not doing too well at the moment. We had an engineer round to look at our oven and our dishwasher, both of which were causing problems.  He’s coming back to fix the oven when the spare part has arrived, but the dishwasher has to be replaced.  Sandie has a problem with her specs – one lens goes cloudy when in bright light. We just hope that nothing else goes wrong!

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Sand Sculptures and Skimmers

Since our last blog, we have kept ourselves busy – just for a change!

Work and other activities

Our usual activities continued. Ian went to meetings of his life drawing class, and the Sarasota Writers’ Group.  We both went to a meeting of the CP2 Reading Group, where we discussed Tears of Dark Water, by Corban Addison.  This was our choice, but the others agreed it is a brilliant book.

Following the midterm elections in the US, Sandie attended a protest which was speedily organised in response to concerns that the Mueller investigation might be halted.  We volunteered to act as observers for the recounts that were held in Florida, and did some training by webinar which was interesting, though in the event we were not needed.

But it was the High Wycombe Young Enterprise which took up the biggest chunk of our time.  Sandie spent three full days marking business plans, and Ian analysed the results.

Walks

Recent weekday morning walks have included Rothenbach Park (not much wildlife this time, but we love walking among the shady trees) and Nathan Benderson Park, where we walked around the lake and saw a travelling photographic exhibition.

Another day we walked from the condo to Hart’s Landing on the Bayfront.  There were not as many pelicans there as usual, but a woman gave Sandie pieces of fish to feed to an egret that was perched expectantly on the railing.

Sunday is our beach walk day, but on Nov 12 we were busy with Young Enterprise until after 5pm.  That was the weekend of the international sand sculpture competition, which is always worth seeing.  It runs Friday-Monday, and this year for the first time it was open on Saturday and Sunday evenings, with the sculptures floodlit in different colours. So when we’d finished work, it was off to Siesta. The beach car park was jam packed, but we managed to find a space in the village and walked back along the beach.

The brightly coloured sand sculptures were an impressive sight, but we wanted to see them in daylight as well.  So it was back to Siesta on Monday morning.  After taking our photos we went for a walk along the beach, before returning to see the sculptures under slightly different light.  We watched a gull playing with a fish it had caught, and a group of skimmers which looked remarkably like an Escher drawing!

Our favourite beach walk is on Anna Maria Island (AMI for short) and we did it last Sunday for the first time since April.  We followed what has become our standard practice.  We parked at Manatee Beach (halfway up AMI), and took the trolley up to the (now non-existent) City Pier.  After cappuccinos at the Two Scoops Café, we walked along the beach, west for a bit and then due south.  Although we’ve done this walk many times, we always enjoy it, and there are always things to see.  This time we saw some dolphins playing just offshore, though they are not easy to photograph.  We were amused by a heron challenging an egret for first rights to a fisherman’s catch.

Back at Manatee Beach, we retrieved our food from the car and had lunch at a picnic table.  Then we continued our walk to the southern tip of the island, detouring to visit the craft market at Coquina Beach.  We had drinks at the café before taking the trolley back to Manatee Beach.  The days are short now, of course, but there was time to take our chairs to the beach and read for an hour before watching another brilliant sunset.  We finished with dinner (and some dancing!) at the beach café.  A perfect day.

Evenings out

On November 6 we walked to the Opera House to see The Barber of Seville, a good production which we thoroughly enjoyed.   The following Saturday, we had dinner with Rich and Doloris at the Yummy House, a Chinese restaurant which has recently moved to a new location not far from our condo.

Last week, we went to the theatre twice.  On Thursday (the only night we could get seats) we saw A gentleman’s guide to love and murder at the Florida Studio Theatre.  The singing, acting and choreography were all first class, and it was very amusing and entertaining – we’re not surprised it’s sold out.  On Saturday (now for something completely different!) we saw Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at the Asolo – not the main auditorium, but the much smaller Cook Theatre.  It was performed by second-year students at the Conservatory and they did an impressive job.  There is always something to do in Sarasota!

 

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Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Claire and family left us on Saturday 27th October.  We took them to Tampa, detouring en route to visit Clearwater, where we had lunch by the marina.  Then it was across Tampa Bay to the airport, with a brief stop at an enormous Christmas shop, where we added to our collection of decorations.

Next day we handed our big rental car back at Sarasota airport, and we re-organised the furniture in the condo.  We were then back to normal – whatever that is!

What’s all this about alligators?

Back in the (Sarasota) routine

Apart from a heavy storm on Friday afternoon, the weather has been great – mostly sunny, and max temperature around 28-30C. Ideal for the pool, though we’ve only been once – too busy with other things!  We’ve taken up our usual Sarasota activities again, though some are on different days of the week.  Sandie worked at the library on Monday, and at Cat Depot (where she was trained to operate the front desk) on Tuesday. On Weds evening it’s her international folk dance group, and since it was on October 31st there was a Halloween party.

Her tap dance class has moved to Thursday afternoon, but the tango lessons (for both of us) are still on Friday evening.

As before, we spend Saturday mornings downtown (except when Ian opts to go to his life drawing class) and Sundays on one of the nearby beaches.

On Sunday 28th we went to Turtle Beach; there was not as much wildlife as usual – just a few pelicans, a group of vultures, and a host of sanderlings.

Last Sunday it was cloudy, and rain was forecast (though it never actually arrived) so we went to Lido Beach, which is the nearest although not our favourite.  As well as lots of birds, we saw several tiny crabs, and Ian found a cast-off shell from a (much bigger) horseshoe crab. We were fascinated to see a tiny sanderling starting to eat a dead fish that was about five times its size.

We aim to do some ‘country walking’ during the week, too.  Last week we walked through Paynes Park to some shops beyond.  On Thursday we went to Celery Fields, where we saw a snake as well as lots of birds.

But we don’t have to go far to see wildlife.  Twice last week we took early evening drinks round to the bayou to see the sunset and watch the jumping fish.  One night we saw a couple of manatees too.

Special events

Last Saturday we went to a surprise 75th birthday party for our neighbour Paul.  It was held at the Boatyard restaurant, with outdoor seating facing the Intracoastal Waterway.  A beautiful location – just a pity that the wind was quite strong that evening.  We took the ‘Happy birthday’ balloons we used for Oscar, but struggled to put them up, and they blew around so much they were difficult to read!  At least 20 people were there; Paul’s face was a picture when he arrived and saw us all.  We had a lovely dinner, followed of course by birthday cake.

This morning we went to the Botanical Gardens, courtesy of Rich who was doing his Tuesday morning volunteering stint there. We saw the current orchid exhibition, which was wonderful – the flowers are so beautiful, and so cleverly arranged.  We enjoyed our morning coffee sitting outside the café, in that picturesque setting.

Today is election day in the US, and we’ve been both fascinated and horrified by the never-ending ads on TV.  Unlike the UK, where each party is allowed one party political broadcast, and there are strict rules on what can be said, here it seems campaigners can run as many adverts as they can afford, and smear their opponents as much as they wish.   We await the results with interest, and some concern.

Mr Romeo

Opportunities to foster adult cats do not come very often, and are usually very short term.   Having Foxy and Batty for three months early this year was a rare exception.  So when we heard that a temporary home was needed for another cat, we got on the phone straightaway to the foster co-ordinator at Cat Depot.  And so Mr Romeo came to stay with us until Nov 27. He is a beautiful black and white cat who is recovering from an operation, and cannot go on the adoption floor until he has had more blood tests.  When we first brought him to the condo, he hid for over 24 hours (giving us the excuse to go round calling ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore…?’).  But since then he has been very friendly and affectionate, and follows us around everywhere.  We are glad that we shall have him for another three weeks!

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The Famous Five in Florida

On Tuesday, 16th October, we flew back to our winter home in Sarasota.  We landed in Tampa as usual, and picked up a 7-seater rental car which we’d booked.  We entered the condo to find a vase of flowers with a welcome home note, and some wine, cider and beer (the essentials of life) in the fridge.  Thanks, Rich!

We’d made the journey earlier than usual because Claire, Ant and the boys were coming to Florida for the half-term holiday.  They flew out on Thurs 18th, so we had a day and a half to get ready before returning to Tampa to meet them.  Our first job was to locate kitchen equipment and other items which had been left by our tenants (or the cleaners) in very strange places! Then we had to unpack, not just the things we’d brought from England, but all our possessions which had been packed away to keep the condo clear for the tenants.  There was of course masses of shopping to do, and we had to move furniture to make space for the fold-up bed and the airbed.  Not to mention doing final revisions to our Sutton Trust report!

In and around Sarasota

It was Ant’s and Logan’s first visit to Florida, so we wanted to show them the main places of interest in and around Sarasota. Claire, Charlie and Oscar have of course been a few times, so they have favourite places they wanted to revisit.  We spent a lot of time at the beaches: Siesta, Lido and Anna Maria Island.

The three boys are very keen on swimming and playing in the water, so we also spent a lot of time at the CP2 swimming pool.  It was hard sometimes to drag them out of the water!

Eating figured in the holiday, of course – perhaps too heavily, as we have both put on weight! Claire, Ant and the boys indulged in the ‘all you can eat’ pancakes at the Manatee Beach Café (Ant managed nine).  O’Leary’s on the Sarasota bayfront has become a favourite place for dinner, and of course Claire insisted that we did the round of Daiquiri Deck cafés for drinks.  On their last night here, Ant organised a poolside barbecue, which worked out really well; the boys were able to play in the pool while the adults (including Rich) sat and chatted.

We took the boys to the nearby circus-themed playground, and all seven of us spent a pleasant afternoon playing crazy golf.  Claire and Ant made a number of shopping expeditions, and late evenings were often spent (in traditional Schagen fashion) playing the Oh, hell! card game.

Change and decay?

All these places were familiar to Ian and Sandie, of course, but we noticed a lot of changes since we were last here six months ago. The Saturday morning market in Sarasota has been reorganised (due, we assume to building works) and the coffee bus is in a different position. The café and shop at Lido beach has closed.  The central part of Venice Avenue is being dug up and redeveloped.

Our biggest shock was on Anna Maria, when we took the trolley to City Pier, to see how they were progressing with the restoration.  But the pier was simply not there!  It has been torn down, prior to being rebuilt from scratch (soon, we hope).

And we were very disappointed at Myakka River State Park to discover that ‘the world’s slowest airboats’ were no longer there.  A different company has taken over the concession, and they are operating an ordinary boat, propelled by outboard motors.

Birthday boy

Tuesday 23rd October was Oscar’s 7th birthday.  We planned long ago to spend the day at Disneyworld, but discovered nearer the time that there was a special Halloween event that evening, which meant you had to leave the Magic Kingdom at 6pm, or pay almost double to stay.  A real rip-off, in our opinion!  Anyway, Oscar sensibly agreed to go on the day after his birthday, and chose to have his birthday dinner at Sharkey’s in Venice.

The night before his birthday, when the boys were in bed, we set about decorating the condo.  Claire had brought a set of balloons which spelt out ‘Happy birthday’.  She blew them all up, but we could not find string to thread them on, and it was too late to go to the shop or call on a neighbour.  We tried to put them up separately, but individual ones kept falling down, causing some hilarity with the resulting spellings.

Birthday morning began with a trip to the pool – and Ian managed to find the string.  Later we drove over to Venice.  We had lunch in the Upper Crust, a favourite place of ours due to their magnificent scones with pots of cream.  For Oscar they combined a choc chip scone with a strawberry shortcake, and the tower created was topped with a 7 candle which Claire provided. In the afternoon we had drinks at Daiquiri Deck (of course) and Oscar was given a free slice of key lime pie. Then we went to the beach. We were concerned to be told that there was a 90-minute wait for a table at Sharkey’s, but in the end it was less than 30 minutes, and we all enjoyed our dinner on the patio.

Next morning we were up early and off at 6am to Disney. Despite some heavy traffic, we were in the Magic Kingdom for the opening at 8.55. Although we’ve been there many times, it was our first autumn visit, and we liked the colours of the costumes, and the Halloween decorations.  During the day, we managed to fit in nearly all of our favourite attractions.  When we visited the Laugh Floor, the three boys appeared on the giant screen, though they were giggling too much to give their names clearly.  We arrived home at 1.45 am, tired but happy.  A great double birthday celebration!

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Crazy weather

The first half of October is officially autumn, but the weather has varied between summer and winter.  As usual, we have kept busy.  We’ve done more trip planning, and more evaluation work: we sent off a draft report on October 1st, and a revised version, incorporating further analysis requested, on the 14th.

Social events

It’s been a great time for seeing friends.  We’ve had several visitors here for coffee, lunch or dinner.  Sandie had lunch with Anne and Annette at the Shire Horse near Maidenhead, and we walked with Caroline to the Crown at Hazlemere for dinner.   We went to the LibDems’ ‘Curry Night’ at Chutney, and to the Soroptomists’ dinner at Beaconsfield Golf Club, invited by Anne who is a member.  She assured us it would be easy to get there, as the golf club is right by the Seer Green and Jordans railway station.  So it is – there is a gate leading directly from the platform.  Only problem is, you need a security code to go through, and we didn’t have the number!  We considered climbing over, but in our best clothes that didn’t seem a good idea. Fortunately a lady who was parking her car spotted us, and went to get the magic number.

On Friday we went to our folk dance club – our last opportunity for a while. Last Saturday we went to see the latest remake of the film A Star is Born. We were not impressed, but it got very good reviews, so maybe it was just us.    

Walks

We haven’t had time to do a lot of walking lately, but when Brenda and Phil came to lunch we took them for a stroll around the Rye.

Then on Tuesday the weather was so amazingly good we just had to go out, so we walked up to Hughenden Manor, and around the park. The autumn colours were beautiful, and on our way to the park we were fascinated by the stone carvings on some houses. It’s strange how you can notice new things even when you’ve walked along the road many times before.

We did do quite a lot of walking on Wednesday 10th October, when we had a day out in London to celebrate our wedding anniversary (no. 48 – two more years to the big one).  As usual, we started off in Leicester Square (for cheap theatre tickets and coffee) and then walked through to Stanfords (for travel guides).  From there we walked north, as we had an appointment with a solicitor in the King’s Cross area. We had lunch on the way, at the outdoor café in Russell Square.  We just couldn’t believe how good the weather was: bright sun and a cloudless blue sky.  The square – like others we passed through – was packed with people eating, reading, or just relaxing on the grass.

After our appointment we took the tube to Baker Street, and did a walk Ian had found on the Net.  It took us through Regent’s Park (where we stopped at another outdoor café for a prosecco), up Primrose Hill and along the canal.  Then it was tube down to Victoria, dinner at Brown’s and Wicked at the Apollo.  The costumes and settings were brilliant, though the plot was very thin and we sometimes struggled to make out the words being sung.

A People’s Vote?

On Saturday we went with some LibDem friends to deliver Hope not Hate / Best for Britain leaflets asking people to tell their MP that they want the final say on whatever deal (if any) is finally agreed for Brexit. We feel very strongly about this, as all the evidence shows it will have a huge (and probably disastrous) impact on our lives.

So we are sorry that we shall miss the big march next Saturday:

https://www.bestforbritain.org/peoples_vote_march_october

Thanks and good luck to all those taking part!

But now…

We woke on Sunday morning to heavy rain, which persisted while we were out doing some essential shopping.  It felt very cold too – a complete contrast to the glorious weather we’d enjoyed a few days earlier.  And the evenings are getting dark.  Time for snowbirds to fly south!!!

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Autumn in Wycombe

It’s two weeks since our last blog, so about time for another.  But we have less to say in this one, and certainly far fewer photos!  We’ve both suffered from bad colds, which didn’t help, but the main reason is that we’ve had lots to do indoors. The weather is definitely autumnal now; most days have been bright and sunny, although it gets cold in the evening.

Getting straight again

We arrived home from the Azores at 1am on Sunday 16th September, and found the flat in total darkness.  Luckily Ian had a torch in his rucksack, so we could get to the lamps, and then switch the lighting on, in every room except the lounge.  Ian had finished the decorating before we left, but was unable to fix the new light fittings. While we were away, Caroline came round with a friend who is a retired electrician – very kind of them, but he couldn’t do it either. We could not get an electrician to come on a Sunday, so we had a romantic (?) dinner by candlelight.

Next day we got busy.  We took loads of stuff to the Oxfam shop, loads more to the nearest recycling centre, and then shifted all the books, photo albums etc back into the lounge. The electrician arrived and fixed the lights in no time.  Only problem was, after about two minutes the lights suddenly dimmed.  We discovered that the bulbs were not compatible with our dimmer switch, so Ian had to rush out and buy different ones.  Finally, we were back to normal!!!

Working and planning

We needed to press on with our evaluation for the Sutton Trust, so we have spent a lot of time on the analysis (Ian) and report writing (Sandie).  We also had a meeting with our ERA partners.

While waiting for the Sutton Trust data to come through, we embarked on another major task (unpaid, but enjoyable): planning future travels.  We are planning a long trip to Australia (and other places) in early 2019.  As usual, we start with some ideas about where we want to go, work out an itinerary, do some research, refine our ideas and go round the loop again.  Great fun though.

Family and friends

Unbelievably, we saw all of our children and grandchildren within the space of a few days.  On Sunday 23rd Andrew and his family came from Kent, and Claire and her family came from Gloucestershire – High Wycombe is roughly in the middle!  It was great to see them all.  Unfortunately, Sandie was feeling rough that day, so was not able to join the expedition to a local pub for an early dinner.

Two days later, Paul arrived for an overnight visit.  We met him at the station, and went into town for drinks and dinner before returning home.  Next day he was on a training course in Berkhamsted, so he had to leave very early.

Our friends Ena and Bryan came for lunch. They were our next door neighbours back in the 1970s, when we lived in Addlestone, and we’ve kept in touch ever since, but hadn’t seen them for a couple of years. It’s difficult to get to Woking by public transport, and Bryan isn’t keen on motorway driving these days, so their daughter Jane kindly brought them over.

Outings

Despite being busy, we have managed to get out and about a few times! The day after we arrived home from the Azores, the weather was surprisingly good, so we walked with Caroline to a pub with a pleasant garden where we could enjoy the sun.

We’ve kept up our practice of going out on Friday and Saturday evenings.  On Friday 21st we walked to the Green Dragon in Flackwell Heath (with a stop at the Three Horseshoes on the way).

Next day we went to the cinema, to see the film BlackkKlansman: an amazing true story, and quite entertaining, though the news clips at the end provided a reminder that things have not changed since the 1970s as much as we might hope.

Last Friday we went to our folk dance club in Marlow, for the first time since May.  We had dinner first at Bill’s, a pub/restaurant we only discovered recently, but very much enjoyed.

Saturday was a bit more complicated. We decided to combine shopping (there are still a few things we want for the lounge) with a pub walk.  So we walked to Loudwater, spent some time at the retail park there, and then walked on to Wooburn Green. We’d planned to eat at the Red Lion, but after making our selection from the menu we were informed that the kitchen was closed, due to unforeseen circumstances.  There was an Italian restaurant nearby, so we went there, but they were full.  No other places around, so it was back to the Red Lion for another drink while waiting for the next bus back to Wycombe.

We got off the bus in the town centre, went to the Falcon, ordered food and settled down with a bottle of wine.  A few minus later, an apologetic manager (?) came and informed Sandie that the vegetarian fryer was out of action.  We began to think we were doomed to go hungry!!! But all was not lost – she just had to choose another meal that did not involve frying, and we had our dinner at last.

This week Sandie has been feeding Caroline’s cat Blue, who likes his water straight from the tap!

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Azores II: different islands

We’d decided to visit two of the Azores, to experience the individual characteristics that each island is said to have.  Sao Miguel was the obvious choice for one, as that is where the international flights land.  We chose Santa Maria for the second, as it is the closest to Sao Miguel, but much smaller, and reportedly very different.  A bonus reason was that Santa Maria is supposed to be the warmest and driest of the islands.  In fact, we’d been lucky on Sao Miguel, having spent two and a half days there with no rain at all.  But…

Tuesday 11th September

When we landed on Santa Maria, it was pouring with rain.  We took a taxi to our hotel, known as Charming Blue (although painted pink, for reasons we do not understand).  Later, the rain stopped and the sun came out, so we took a walk down to the harbour.  Looking back from the mole, we got good views of the boats and the fortress above. By then we had realised how small and quiet Vila do Porto (the main town on the island, known simply as Porto) was.  By comparison, Punta Delgada on Sao Miguel seemed a bustling, cosmopolitan city.

Wednesday

When we woke, the weather was cloudy but fine, so we had breakfast sitting outside by the hotel’s swimming pool.  But when we got organised and headed out to start our walk, we discovered that it was pouring with rain! Luckily it did not last long. There is a walk that follows the coast right round the island, and we did a chunk of it, starting from Porto and working our way along the south coast.  At first it was bleak and desolate, but later the sun came out and we got great views of the coastline.  The scenery was very different from Sao Miguel.  No hydrangeas and hardly any ginger lilies.  Instead, there were masses of prickly pears and aguave cacti.

A boardwalk took us round some interesting geological areas, and later we came to some artificial caves, where the locals used to dig out clay and limestone. Eventually we descended to the beach at Praia Formosa, where there was a café, and we had much-needed drinks.

From there the path went up again, and in one place we had to climb a particularly steep hill. It was a struggle, but we made it.

Going down the other side, we got great views of some basalt columns (like the Devil’s Postpile in California).  But the path was not easy, and getting up the other side was much worse!

When we reached the tiny village of Panasco, we decided we’d had enough.  We were just short of our target, but that was across a valley, and we did not want to do any more ascents and descents! So we called for a taxi, and sat on a wall in the village while waiting for it to come and take us back to Porto.

Thursday

We took a taxi to Santa Barbara (in the east of the island) and started on a circular walk from there. We had heavy rain showers twice, but they didn’t last too long.  We saw lots of the houses, with their red-tiled roofs, scattered among the hills, and noted particularly the quaint chimney pots – three different designs – which are characteristic of Santa Maria.

We took a detour to a viewpoint over Sao Lourenço Bay – the path was longer than we expected, and very difficult towards the end.  Later we spotted a picnic table just off the path, stopped there for a snack, and discovered the path down to the bay started nearby.  We’d previously decided not to attempt it because it was very steep, but we gave it a go.  It was OK in parts – there was even a handrail! – but some sections were difficult.  It took us 50 minutes to reach the bay.  We had drinks while waiting for a taxi to take us back to Porto.

Later the same driver took us to the airport.  We took off on time at 7.40, and landed back on Sao Miguel 8.05. But this time we were not staying in Punta Delgada.  We took a taxi to Furnas, in the east of the island, where we were to spend our final two nights in the Azores.

Friday

We had a relaxing day today – walked nearly 12 miles, but it was mainly on the flat, so not nearly as strenuous as our other hikes.  We walked up through the town to the Lagoa das Furnas, and followed the path round the lake.

In one place there were a few small fumaroles, as well as mounds where different restaurants cook food in the volcanic heat.

We also saw some chainsaw wooden sculptures dotted here and there.  There were a few showers during the day, and a few sunny patches, but most of the time it was just heavy clouds.

We stopped to visit the Jose do Canto Garden.  It was a 30-minute walk to the waterfall, and we were warned that there was not much water in it, but it was still picturesque.  En route we passed a chapel, but that was closed.   We visited the Fern Garden (and saw some enormous fungi) but it was not the season for camellias.

We continued round the lake till we reached a turn-off that took us up to a recommended viewpoint, the Lombo dos Milhos.  There were great views of the town, but none of the lake, which was disappointing.

Back in the town, we went to the Poco da Dona Beija thermal pools. There are five pools, four of them at 38° but varying depths.  We sampled them all, but unfortunately there was quite a lot of rain while we were there.

Saturday

There were dark heavy clouds when we got up this morning.  We went to see the fumaroles, only just up the road from our hotel.  They were impressive, though not on a par with Yellowstone or Rotorua.

It did not take long to look round, but while we were doing so the rain started pouring down.  We took shelter in our hotel, and then in a café.  There was one other place on our ‘must see in Furnas’ list: the renowned Terra Nostra Gardens, so after the rain stopped we headed there. The gardens are beautiful, and extensive; luckily we were able to do most of the ‘walking trail’ before the rain came down again, and we got soaked.

But by then it was time for some lunch, and a taxi to the airport for the flight home.

 

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