Monday, 21 December 2015

The Lilac Island of Terciera

I understand that Terciera, the third largest of the islands of the Azores acquired its nickname due to the pastel coloured sunsets. Unfortunately we weren't there long enough to find out.

Although the capital is Angra do Heroismo as it wasn't possible to enlarge the harbour, the east coast town of Praia da Vitoria is the major port. Here you can have a lazy few hours on the beach, head for the shopping centre or go sightseeing.

The first stop on the tour of the island was up a mountain from where we saw the most spectacular views. Looking down at the farms I was reminded of English farms of long ago. Small fertile fields and meadows but divided by stone walls rather than hedgerows. As dairy produce is a big earner there are herds and herds of cattle, mostly Holsteins with some Jerseys which provide a richer cream.

The drive took us along virtually deserted roads, across a bumpy cobbled road (a nod to historic preservation) and across to the capital Agra do Heroismo. So named by King Pedro IV in 1834 in recognition of its patriotism against various threats (from pirates?) and resistance to the Portuguese King Miguel during the Civil War (1820 to 1831).

This was the only place where we saw a lot of traffic. There was a walking tour available but as it is a hilly town, much as I would have liked to join it, common sense prevailed. Instead I sauntered on my own - to the port, back to the town square (for a sit down) then to amble around some very pretty gardens. Of course, if you cannot walk far or just feel lazy you can always sit in the square to watch the world go by and maybe have an ice cream.

In the centre of the island we also drove to the top of another mountain via San Sebastian Fort. A word of warning to the nervous - the entrance/exit to the fort is about 6 inches wider than the coach. Definitely a time to shut one's eyes then cheer the driver once he has successfully negotiated his vehicle through that aperture. As well as fantastic views, there is also a tall Memorial to walk around.

Although Portugal was neutral during World War II, due to the important strategic location of the Azores, the United States was allowed to construct a small airfield on this island. This is now the airport of Lajes.

Visiting the island of Terceira was a last minute decision due to some unfortunately rough seas. The designated island had been Horta but as landing there is by liberty boats, it was deemed too dangerous so P&O did a quick bit of re-organisation, along with the island's tourist board and we had an excellent half day out. Those of us who went ashore weren't disappointed and I think congratulations are in order to the people of Terceira for organising the last minute tour of their homeland.


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