Travel days are typically pretty boring, and getting to the Azores wasn’t much of an exception. My dad flew in from Dallas a couple days earlier and we flew from Baltimore to Boston without much fuss. Time to put another father-daughter adventure on the books!
There was the part where we were looking for a place to grab a traditional pre-flight libation and my dad couldn’t hear me. I thought he was ignoring me and/or didn’t like my restaurant suggestion. So we walked all the way to one end of the terminal, only to turn around and schlep back to the other end. …To the place I’d originally suggested.
My dad also likes to wander casually and look around in his retirement days. He was sort of swaying around with his roller bag, which was either tripping me from behind (when he was pushing it in front of him) or running me into oncoming people and/or walls when rolling it beside him.
That was it, though. We had a long layover in Boston and found some comfy seats with chargers to hunker down in.
I was becoming a little “Poopy Pants-ish,” as the #AdventurePartnerForLife would call it. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s pretty ugly. Not my best side. I’d burned up my energy supply during the work week and “The Gremlin” (AKA a migraine) was slowly, but surely, creeping up my neck. I didn’t prepare very well for that possibility, pharmaceutically speaking. I’m usually migraine-free during vacations. So, it could be a rough time getting to the Azores and a rough few days. We’ll see.
I think the universe sensed Poopy Pants making her grand appearance and decided to mess with me because Azores Airlines’ onboarding process can only be described as complete and utter chaos: “Calling all first class passengers for boarding… Calling everyone else for boarding. All at once.” There are no lines. Just hoards of people. There is no order, or personal space.
Apparently, there isn’t much of a limit to how many personal items you can take when getting to the Azores. So, waiting for the people in front of you to put down their 29 things while they search through four bags for passports and boarding passes they should’ve had in hand twenty minutes ago was my favorite. And then waiting for them to pick all their shit back up while they apologize repeatedly to you. I just stare back with my best resting bitch face thinking: You. Are. Not. Forgiven. Also, though, just stop apologizing and get out of my way, thanks.
Until I’d boarded the plane and heard the stewards and stewardesses speaking, I’d always assumed the Portuguese language sounded similar to Spanish, but I was super, super wrong. The language is definitely a derivative of Spanish, and it is indeed a Romance language, but it’s almost pronounced with a Slavic or Russian tongue. It was surprising and really interesting. I was a big fan. While Americans will pronounce the word Azores “ay-zores,” the Portuguese will pronounce it “uh-sorsh.”
The Portuguese in Boston
My dad mentioned that, in his time living in Boston as a kid, there was a heavy Portuguese population. Which seemed to make sense to me since it was so difficult to find direct flights to the Azores from any US city but Boston.
I also connected the dots on this a bit in my head because I’d been watching the movie “Spotlight” on repeat recently for some reason. Stanley Tucci, playing a Jewish lawyer fighting against the almighty Catholic institution in Boston, asks Mark Ruffalo, a passionate and persistent reporter for The Boston Globe, what his background is. He replies that he’s Portuguese from East Boston.
I did some quick Wiki research on this and, while there wasn’t really a particular rationale for why a lot of Portuguese immigrated to Boston specifically, it did confirm that Massachusetts and Rhode Island had particularly heavy populations. I think I read that a whopping 9% of Rhode Islanders were Portuguese. Not a lot in the big picture since it’s… Rhode Island, but it’s a lot for them. Anyhow…
Landing in Ponta Delgada
Sad to say the second leg of getting to the Azores—the flight from Boston to Ponta Delgado—awarded me none of my usual planecolepsy. Which sucked because it was a four hour overnight flight that landed us in San Miguel at six in the morning their time. Or two in the morning our time. This would literally be two or three hours before my normal rising time during the work week, so I was pretty beat.
For some reason, everyone clapped upon landing. There are times when this seems warranted, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why this would be one of them. The weather wasn’t bad, there was no turbulence, it wasn’t a particularly long flight. Maybe I was just with a bunch of rookie passengers. Reflecting on the 29 carry-ons, I figured this was a definite possibility and tried to refrain from my prior harsh judgment.
Customs was amazingly easy and quick. I know the US is super paranoid and thorough for obvious reasons, but customs in other countries is almost a special treat sometimes. I was also relieved to see that our car rental agent was waiting for us when we exited the airport. …Why was I “relieved” you ask? Oh, of course there’s a story behind this.
Car Rental Confusion
When I booked our car rental, I realized they never asked for my flight number or landing time. The rental agency I picked was off-site and, because it was off-site, was literally half the price of the on-site rentals for the week. So, we had to take a free shuttle from the airport to their office at six in the morning after landing. Plus, the booking site listed their office hours as 9–9, and their actual site listed their office hours as 24 hours.
My work week had been super insane and my evenings at home that week were chock full with laundry, packing, etc., so I asked my dad (who was reading all day at my house for two days) to call the car rental office to confirm our shuttle. Needless to say, I wasn’t convinced we ever actually got the answer we needed. But I did get two additional confirmations in my inbox the day before we left. So, I was left thinking that we still didn’t have a shuttle confirmation. Which is all I was looking for in the first place. And instead now had three cars rented.
I had no time left to clear these details up before we departed and just crossed my fingers, hoping for the best upon getting to the Azores. Fortunately, for my dad, it worked out. Lest Poopy Pants make her return.
A Park In The Dark & Check-In
The car itself was actually at the airport, but we burned up any available free time in the parking lot since our flight was a little late. Marisa, our agent, actually had to drive us to a park just outside the airport… in the pitch black… to sign the rental agreement. A little weird, but there were two of us and one of her. Unless she had a gang of heathens waiting for us in the park. Nothing that exciting ended up happening and we happily drove away in the tiniest, stick shift Volkswagen you could ever imagine.
After getting to the Azores themselves, we sort of just winged it to the hotel from the park. I was having a hard time figuring out how to access data on my phone and had saved screenshots of directions from the airport, but… we weren’t anywhere they said we should be. It actually wasn’t that hard to get to the hotel, though, because Ponta Delgado is not all that big and our hotel is right on the water.
The hotel was kind enough to let us check in early (at six in the morning!) and offered free valet. When my dad accepted, the concierge replied, “Thank you for trusting us,” which made me want to snatch the keys right back since the insurance hold of $800 is on my credit card. No ma’am! I resisted the urge, however. Got to our sea-view room, watched the sun rise, and took a “nap,” which actually lasted until 1:30.
Decided to have an easy, casual day around the city and drove the car around. Went to park it downtown for a walk and some food and had some difficulties paying for parking. (a.) The directions are all in Portuguese; (b.) We hadn’t yet broken any larger bills. Went to several shops to break bills and proceeded to smash buttons on the parking machine. Just something to look forward to when getting to the Azores.
When all was said and done, I somehow convinced my dad to pay four euro for parking. Almost four dollars. Lol. Which lasted us until 10 a.m. the next day. In my defense, I had no idea what was going on and I had no idea how much change he was dropping into the machine.
I also asked how the machine knew which car had paid and he stared at me blankly and replied, “You put the ticket in the window.” Duh. But oh, how quickly we forget—we don’t do that in DC anymore. We use apps on our phone and pay for a particular spot; you can even re-up without returning to your car.
Wandering Ponta Delgada
Walked around downtown for a bit. Took some photos. The colors and architecture are pretty cool. Very colonial. The buildings are old, painted whites and blacks and yellows and greens. And there are Birds of Paradise everywhere, my favorite flower. One of my wedding flowers, actually. My dad was not at all impressed because there are Birds of Paradise everywhere, all over the place in Belize, where he just spent several months of his retirement. Excuse me.
Got some lunch and tried a local specialty—bread with goat cheese and a pepper sauce. The goat cheese was pretty flavorless, but the pepper sauce that went with it had a nice kick to it and was really good. My dad ordered the grilled shark, so I tried some of that.
After lunch, we saw a town hall bell tower you could climb for free, so we took advantage of that. Got a panoramic view of the city. Had coffee in a little plaza with a lovely church, Sao Sebastiao. Realized that two coffees cost us something like $2.50, which is nothing short of amazing. Truly.
Grabbed some postcards for my nephew and niece and stopped off at a market for some drinks and munchies. Get this: four sodas, three big waters, two big packs of cookies… $7.50. Dead. (Our hotel and car rental were cheap too.)
Got back to the car and decided to drive around the city some more. I guess we can always go back to our parking spot and park again any time through tomorrow morning. Overall, getting to the Azores and getting around has been pretty easy despite my anxiety.
Tonight will be a desperately needed early night. I’m thankful today was an easy day, despite the fact that this is such a beautiful island with so much to see. I’ve actually yet to craft an exact itinerary of what we’re even doing, but I have a general sense. Don’t fret, my friends. Tomorrow, we’ll be going all around Sao Miguel! I’ll keep you posted.