With just a twinge of queasiness (on my part) and another magical dolphin display during our 24-hour passage,
we arrived Sunday, July 20, at Porta Delgada, Sao Miguel’s largest port and city. After being directed straight to a berth at the new marina (as opposed to the old one where we were in 2002),
[FYI: we’re the furthest boat out on the left]
we went in search of food, laundry, and showers, almost in that order.
After the tranquility of the previous islands, I enjoy being amidst some hustle and bustle. Lots of people watching, lots of boats, lots of activity, and lots of places to poke around. There’s even a large mall where, blasphemy, we took in a matinee (all US movies are subtitled in Portuguese vs. dubbed AND they maintain the vocal track so you can hear the actors instead of mumbles under any sound effects/music). Even more surprisingly, we searched all of the clothing shops looking for shorts for MAX. No luck so far but not from a lack of trolling the stores.
Interestingly, neither of us remember too much of the city the last time we were here; however, we did know it was going to be quite different from our times in the previous six islands. Every now and then something would prod our memory, but the recalls were faint and fleeting.
After making arrangements for a car rental later in the week, we took off on foot exploring the older part of the city.
The city definitely has rural ambiance while incorporating the cosmopolitan energy of increased tourism and commerce. Down a block or so from our marina three arches face a lovely plaza. The arches date from 1783 when the plaza was part of the harbor and gateway into the city.
A fortress at one end reminds one of the times when pirates scoured these islands
and, throughout the city you’ll find architecture reminding you of Sao Miguel’s heritage and age
Porta Delgada has lovely parks, the largest we have yet to visit. However, one tree in a plaza looked like it had hairy tarps dangling over its large limbs
On closer inspection we discovered the tree was actually shedding bark, one of the strangest tree features I’ve seen.
Because the marina doesn’t offer wifi like Sao Jorge’s, we found the public library, which not only offers a quiet and cool place for Internet use
but also a lovely, inexpensive cafe
In addition to the reminders of the city’s earlier settlers, there’s plenty of evidence of the newer residents
All in all, Porta Delgada is an energetic blend of what once was with what is now.
Yesterday the captain of a newly arrived boat disappointedly stated he didn’t leave Antwerp to be greeted by such a modern city. Understanding he was looking for the peace and rustic charm advertised by other islands, Sao Miguel’s commercial and industrial appearance could be a bit off-putting. Yet, for me, my second impression has topped the first. And, even better, I know three times a charm.