Christmas in Europe just as we like them ...
The Azores: a country that is as mythical as Atlantis in the mind of the mainland European! This archipelago, lost in the middle of the Atlantic, reminds us in almost every weather forecast that the Azores are responsible for fine - and bad - weather! And yet …
Christmas in Europe really had to set off to conquer the West one of these days, and the Azores is really the West of the West of Europe! Thanks to Filipe Rocha’s school in Ponta Delgada, capital of São Miguel, the archipelago's main island, the West has been conquered. The 19th Christmas in Europe took place there from December 2nd to December 8th 2010.
This is where dolphins and whales swim together, this is where the famous ‘area of high pressure’ of the Azores originates, this is where rainbows join, this is where you experience all four seasons in the course of a day; and this is where Christmas took place, a bit earlier than on the calendar, and in Santa's sack was the AEHT and its delegations who had travelled from afar.
But it is winter. A bus carrying advertisements drives up and down the town, playing Christmas carols. All the streets are carefully and tastefully decorated – much better than the Christmas decorations which you see on the European mainland.
The hotel and tourism school on this magnificent island has just organised a meeting under the Christmas banner – Christmas just as we like it – simply beautiful.
The organisation was concentrated into an area the size of a postage stamp, between the Amphitheatro, the Pavilhao do Mar, the hotel, São Pedro church and the old town – so that everyone very quickly felt at home.
Our welcome was just like that of São Miguel’s geothermal energy: the people of the Azores took their inner warmth and transferred it to the outside, to the delegations who had come here from eleven countries to take part as best they could in this 19th Christmas in Europe. Everything is bathed in an almost constant fine drizzle, but thanks to the constantly mild climate you quickly forget the rain.
What can we say of São Miguel? It is a well-kept secret. Part of it is a garden of hydrangeas, part of it is covered with almost primeval forests with tree-ferns. And then there are its tea plantations, its green meadows where herds of cows graze peacefully, and its beaches of black sand where the ocean waves break gently or crash against the rocks.
In these circumstances, little wonder that many of the participants should have become Azores addicts after such a journey of initiation!
Many thanks to all the team from the Ponta Delgada school. Taking part in this Christmas in Europe was a real Christmas present. Obrigada from the bottom of my heart.