Porto & Azores

Hello everyone! This time a short trip to Porto and Azores, the Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, at 1400 km from the coast. So, we left with islands in the ocean (the Little Antilles) and we meet again with islands in the ocean. Since in the meanwhile I lived in another island, Malta, it is obvious that by now I need a blue sea barrier around, to protect me from a world that doesn’t love me anymore.

Mhmm, this is a little bullshit. But I don’t understand why when these bullshits are told by idiotic singers, scribes and similar, it means they have a poetic soul and sensitivity. When the same things are told by me, they are immediately recognized as bullshits. I can’t see the logic behind. Anyway yes, I agree it’s a bullshit.

But let’s go back to the trip. I visited Porto with an Abruzzese friend living in Malta, Giammangiato, to meet another friend who moved there from Malta few months ago, Riccardo. After, Giammangiato returned to Malta and I went with Riccardo to the islands of Sao Miguel and Terceira in the Azores.

I had already been in Portugal about fifteen years ago, but that time I had visited the south and Lisbon.

Let’s see the photos…

-”Dekaro, this is not Porto! It’s Valencia!”

Well done! And that is why I’m so proud of having you as my blog readers, cultured and attentive. It is in fact the Opera in the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia, where, on the way, I stopped for one day and a half.

 

Another glimpse of the scenic City of Arts and Sciences.

 

Valencia, Spain’s third city after Madrid and Barcelona, was founded by the Romans in 138 BC. as a colony for war veterans. Between the 6th and 11th centuries it grew under Muslims until it reached its maximum splendor in the 15th century as the financial and economic capital of the Kingdom of Aragon. His decline started with the expulsion of the Moors in the seventeenth century. In the Civil War, as capital of the Republican, it was among the last to fall. In recent years, there is strong growth and economic recovery.

 

A round square, Plaza Redonda.

 

And here we are in Porto! To be precise, Port is the one on the right of the river. To the left is Vila Nova de Gaia, where most of the wine cellars that produce Port wine are located.

 

My Abruzzese friend, but now as me Maltese, Giammangiato, that in Italian means something like “Already eaten”.

 

Boats with wine barrels. In the background, Porto.

 

Inside a wine Port cellar.

For a series of climatic, environmental and geographical occurrences, the Douro region’s grapes are particularly sweet. To stop its fermentation is added aguardiente. So, it comes out a fortified wine particularly sweet and strong.
It is particularly loved by the British who have long been the main producers and importers.

 

Port barrels.

 

Port and Vila Nova de Gaia are connected by 6 bridges. This bridge, Dom Luis I, was designed by a student and colleague of Eiffel, Seyrig. The project for the bridge won against a project by Eiffel, but the influence of his master is evident.

 

Guys dive from Dom Luis Bridge.

 

The old Lello Bookstore, considered one of the most beautiful bookstore in the world.

 

Sao Bento railway station, covered with Azulejo, the painted ceramic tiles, typical of Portuguese and Spanish architecture.

 

And finally in the Azores. On the island of Sao Miguel, the largest. It is about 63 km long and 15 km wide.

The Azores are an archipelago of 9 islands of volcanic origin. We do not know exactly when they were first reached by Europeans. The islands are visible in some maps of the middle of the fourteenth century, although aligned in an almost horizontal position.

In 1432 Portugal claimed possession of the islands and began a faint colonization. There were no indigenous peoples.

The lonely islands in the middle of the Atlantic ocean have always been an useful stop-over for the intercontinental navigators (already Christopher Columbus stopped there returning from its first voyage from America). They have also an important strategic position and in the Second World War the US gained permission from Portugal to set up their own military base on Terceira Island. Needless to say, it is still there.

Statistical Pill: The United States has 800 military bases outside its own territories. But of course this is not because it’s the most monstrous imperialist machine of history, let’s not follow these old communist conspiracy theories. Those bases are there for us. To protect us. Protect us from whom? it is natural to wonder. But it’s obvious: by ourselves!

But let’s not wander off now. Let’s go back to the photos.

 

Riccardo, in the car, asks information in a Sao Miguel street.

 

In the interior of Sao Miguel there are many beautiful lakes.

 

The lakes shine in the colors of the rich vegetation around.

 

A typical Azores church. Azores people are very religious.

 

Cat resting.

 

Cliff of black Volcanic rocks by the sea. Some people use a natural swimming pool to take a bath.

 

Geyser.

 

Ducks on a lake.

 

A lonely duck.

 

Another duck. Yes, I’m specializing in photos of ducks. It’s time also for me to find a specialization.

 

Another amazing cliff.

 

Here we are in the other visited island, Terceira. Less spectacular than Sao Miguel but with a very beautiful town, Angra do Heroísmo, the historical capital of the Azores and the first to be founded in 1534.

 

Donkey.

-”Dekà, but put some photos of exotic animals. We can see cats ducks and donkeys also here!”

No, don’t start now with your usual boring criticisms. There are not exotic animals, there are those brought by colonists and are the same we have.

 

Finally, I visited another town north of Portugal, but I don’t tell you the name, you have to find out by yourself. As Valencia, it was founded by the Romans, went under Islamic domination and reached its maximum splendor in the centuries following the “reconquista”, becoming an important religious center.

Yes, that is! Good.

 

In the meantime, I have reached the age of forty-six! Ehhhh. 46 years and 96 nations visited. Not bad. So if I continue like that at 100 years I will have visited all the nations of the world! Actually no, I will do this: I will reach the 99th and I stop. Because at the end it was too much easy for me to reach one hundred. Yes, I know, I’m a little snob.

Lesser Antilles – Part 2: Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica

Hello everyone! Second part of the small trip to the “Southern Windward Islands” of the Lesser Antilles. This time I will tell of Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica.

Map of the Caribbean Sea (from www.arcgis.com)

The transfers between the islands were often uncomfortable. When there were no ferries, the airline LIAT managed each time to accumulate hours and hours of late for stretches where they had essentially just to take off and land.
Even worse, however, were the transfers by sea, with the catastrophic “Express Des Iles” which stole also 69 euro from my account with a fictitious transaction! When I made them notice it, they said that it is evident that there was a mistake but unfortunately they can not refund me because the purchased ticket is not refundable. Right, they made an unauthorized transaction for a non-refundable ticket, so following the strict logic, they can not refund it. Since now I’m too far for proceeding with simple and resolving acts of vandalism, in the next days I will sue them, as a good civil citizen.

 


In Saint Lucia or “Hewanorra” in the language of the Kalinago, “The land where iguana is found”. It is the place where I felt more the “Caribbean spirit”, among loud music of small bars with people getting drunk drinking rum.

In the ’500 and’ 600 it was primarily a refuge for pirates and smugglers. The first attempts at occupation by Europeans were rejected by the stubborn resistance of the Carib Indians.
In 1746 the French succeeded to settle down, after signing a peaceful agreement with the local population. Of course, here as elsewhere, the natives were punished for their naivety about the perfidy of European settlers and already few decades later were almost completely wiped out.
In the meanwhile the island bounced 14 times between France and Britain, until 1814 when it passed into the hands of the latter till the independence in 1979.
Nevertheless, French influence remained deeply felt and also the language is a kind of French dialect. Even more obvious is the African influence. It has about 180,000 inhabitants.

 

Bar in Castries, the capital of St.Lucia.

 

Guy.

 

People.

 

Street in Castries.

 

Among the typical wooden houses in Soufriere, who was the first French settlement.

 

Girls and colors.

 

Women.

 

Women in a bar.

 

And here we are in Martinique, called by the Kalinago “Madinina”, “Land of flowers”, which actually is not a nation in itself but still part of France, as “overseas department” . So in a way it’s like being in Europe, and in fact the currency is Euro.
Also this island was disputed between France and Great Britain (and may God curse the both! – well, this one is not much an impartial historian sentence) and also here the local population was wiped out or enslaved, before other slaves were brought from Africa.

In all the islands I met great hospitality but I have to give a place of honor to Martinique: when I arrived, wandering with the backpack under the sun in the forlorn search of my rented apartment, I asked a gentleman at the window if he knew the address. He left the house and took me in his car for searching the place. The next day a neighbor nice woman took me to the near village to look for a place to rent a car, and the last day her husband, former national football striker of Martinique, gave me a ride to the capital to take the ferry. Really very kind.

 

As I said, in Martinique I rented a car because it is too complicated to moving around using public transport. But apart from the need it is really worth for the pretty streets passing trough small villages, climbing the hills in the forest and running along the blue sea.

 

My apartment had a view on the spectacular “Diamant”, a rock-island 175 meters high. During my trip I used for the first time AirBnb, and it was always good.

 

St. Louis Cathedral, in the capital Fort-de-France.

 

In St.Pierre, first French settlement and former capital of Martinique. It was the most cosmopolitan city of the Caribbean in the nineteenth century, dubbed the “Paris of the Caribbean”. Everything disappeared in a few minutes on 8 March 1902, for the eruption of the volcano Mount Pelee, whose growing activities of the previous months had been considered not dangerous by the authorities.
On about 30,000 people only 3 survived. One of them, Cyparis, saved his life because was under arrest for drunkenness inside that solitary cell with thick walls and few ventilation.

 

A fishing village.

 

Sunset.

 

And finally, Dominica, the most wild and less touristy of the islands visited. The original name is “Waitukubuli”, which means “Tall is Her body”, and in fact is the one with the highest mountains. Unlike the other islands there are very few beaches, but is covered for more than three quarters of a wonderful dense forest, in which flow 365 rivers, one for every day of the year.

Again, France and Britain fought over the possession with battles, wars and treaties. At the end prevailed the United Kingdom, till the independence in 1978.
For its dense forest was one of the favorite places of runaway slaves, known as “Maroons”, who formed inland communities and fought often with guerrilla actions the British who were trying to recapture them. But at the end, in 1814, the British managed to prevail and all the Maroon leaders were executed.
As for the local population, also here fought a fierce resistance, but at least, unlike the rest of the Caribbean, they survived to this day. About 3000 direct descendants of Caribs, or Kalinago in their language, live in a territory of the northeast. It is the only existing community of Caribs.

 

In Dominica I was a little unlucky. In the last two days I could not walk for an inflamed foot, so I was not able to visit some places. But at least the place where I stayed was amazing: an hut in the middle of the forest! In the night I was surrounded by a concert of mysterious animal calls.

 

There are many species of birds, especially small, such as Hummingbird.

 

In the Kalinago territory, home to the last direct descendants of the natives of the Antilles.

 

A bar in the Kalinago reserve. The territory is about 15 square kilometers and, as I said, there live about 3000 people.

 

Kalinago guy.

 

Woman.

 

A wooden sculpture. It represents one of the former chief of the Kalinago community.

 

Lizard.

 

Well, end of the second part. Thanks to me now you are a bit more cultured and aesthetically satisfied. Ah, if you see on the right, there is an option for offering me a beer ;-) Don’t be shy! Don’t be.