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I came back from Azores a couple of days ago full of positive energy and amazing new memories. It's funny how nature, surroundings, culture and people can make such an impact in only 14 days. I realized once again, how important it is to travel around, meet new people, challange yourself, get in different situations and enjoy in the moment as much as possible. Because you never know which moment will leave a mark forever.
Azores or portugese Açores are located in the middle of the Atlanic Ocean, about 1400 km west of Portugal and about 1900 km southeast of Canada, so I really didn’t know what to expect in the middle of the ocean. There are actually 9 Azorean islands, all volcanic origin. We were heading to the largest one called São Miguel.
You never know which moment will leave a mark forever.
So why exactly did I decide to visit Azores? It was culinary work in paradise. I was invited to be a part of the 10 Fest Azores festival, which is basically a festival that lasts 10 days and every day there is a different chef in the kitchen, presenting his way of using local Azorean ingredients in complex, fine dining dishes. 10 days, 10 chefs. It was definitely a challenge cooking everyday with someone else. Every individual brings his own energy, mindset and ideas to the table. Even though we were cooking in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, it felt like every day we are cooking in a different part of the world. Each chef brought a part of his country, heritage and culture to the kitchen, conversations and dishes. The dishes from Danish chef were completely different from the ones from the Canadian or Spanish chef, even though we were using the same ingredients and we were all in the same environment, in the same kitchen. It is interesting how our culture actually defines us every step of the way, even 1000 km away from our home.
What was the most amazing to me in this whole experience was the fact that I got to cook with new, local, delicious ingredients, such as pimenta de terra – thick chilli sauce, that is used a lot. Other amazing ingredients to work with were local bananas and banana leaves, Azorean pineapple, passion fruit and last but not least the mind blowing variety of fishes and plants (algaes) from the Atlantic ocean.
Places to visit
The nature leaves you speechless, so it doesn't really matter where you go, every piece of the island has its own beautiful perks. When we had some time off to enjoy and explore the island, we rented a car. The rental was 60€ for 24 hours, for five people, which was a pretty good deal in my opinion. That way we were able to see a lot in a small amount of time.
A must visit, fish market in Ponta Delgada. There are so many varieties, the prices are great and most importantly quality is excellent. I had the luck to see and eat yellowfin tuna, fresh from the sea. So delicious guys, truly mouthwatering.
Usually the pineapples we buy over here in Slovenia are quite big, but those in the Azores are a lot smaller and a lot more sweet + they smell amazing. There are many pineapple greenhouses on the island. We visited Ponta Delgada Pineapple greenhouse, there is no entrance fee. It takes about 2 years for the pineapple fruit to grow and mature from flower to fruit. Azores are famous for its pineapples and they are seen in many dishes, liquers but at the end of the day, fresh slices are the perfect treat. Another fruit growing in greenhouses is passionfruit.
Europe's oldest tea plantation, all pesticide free. Here we can find plantations of green and black teas, that are harvested from April - September each year. The tea plantations are wonderful and pretty large. The family offers visits of plantations, tea drying and museum that is actually an active factory + you can try and buy all kids of different teas. There is no entrance fee.
Other places to visit
Lagoa das Sete cidades, two lakes in the middle of a massive vulcano crater, surrounded with gorgeous hydrangeas, that grow wild there. Absolutely stunning and a good place to chill, relax and recharge the batteries. There is also a camp nearby.
Vila Franca do Campo, a small city, near Ponta Delgada, known for its dessert. Queijadas de Vila Franca, small, tender, sweet tarts. The original recipe is unknown, some say it contains beans, others a sure it is corn flour. Whatever it is, it is worth having a bite. Another interesting thing to see in Vila Franca are their ceramics artisans.
Furnas, a village interesting because of its hot springs and geysers. The locals use the geysers to cook corn dishes in them, try their geyser cooked corn it is delicious.
The nature is completely mind blowing, so it doesn't really matter where you go
How to get to the Azores?
Whether you live in Europe, United States, Asia or any other place on planet Earth, it is relatively easy to get to Azores. There are many airlines that can get you to the islands, I was traveling with TAP Portugal from Venice – Lisbon and then from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel island. But you can also switch for a cheaper Ryanair and get a ticket as cheap as 80€ round trip Lisbon – Ponta Delgada, or even less if you book before hand or last minute.
Where to stay?
Being a part of the 10 fest Azores festival, we were able to stay in their University residence. But there are many great options to choose from. The people are very kind and ready to help you in anyway you need, so a good option would be to book a place on AirBnb.
I would definitely love to visit Azores again. The people are great, the locals are always ready to help you with anything you need, most of them speak English. They speak proudly of their local cuisine, which is absolutely worth trying. Greet them with "Bon Dia" in the morning or "Boa Tarde" in the afternoon. The one thing I sadly didn't manage to see are the whales and dolphins that are pretty common in the area, otherwise the nature is beautiful, heaven on Earth.
Thanks for having me, it was a pleasure and thanks to everyone, who gave me the opportunity to be a part of the 10 Fest Azores, I am beyond grateful.
I would definitely love to visit Azores again.