EXCURSIONS AND CULTURE
Two excursions were scheduled, the first of which took place on the morning of Sunday December 5th, replacing the whale watching expedition which had been cancelled because the sea was too rough.
This was just a ‘warm up’ before the island tour of Tuesday December 7th. Without going very far, the participants could get an idea of the magnificent and very varied landscapes they could enjoy towards Sete Cidades while driving along the road lined with hydrangeas as far as ‘Kingsview’ from where there is a breathtaking view. As far as the little town nestling at the bottom of the crater, Sete Cidades and the lakes named Lagoa Azul, Lagoa Verde and the Lagoa de Santiago. By the roadside were tree ferns worthy of Jurassic Park.
On Tuesday December 7th all the participants were treated to a much longer excursion, towards the east of the island, in the direction of the Lagoa do Fogo at an altitude of 950 m; it is from here that the island’s volcanic activity is measured; and here too the sulphurous emanations from the lake are not a legend but reality. The cold is no legend either – the temperature was around 0° centigrade, whereas when we returned to the coast it was noticeably warmer. A short halt in Lagoa, the former capital of the island, with time to drink a coffee or relax before going on to the Caldeiras de Furnas and the Lagoa das Furnas where the visitors were in for a surprise: in specially modified geysers cooks were keeping an eye on stewing pots in which lunch was slowly cooking (six hours!) - it would be served a little later at the Terra Nova hotel! The lunch guests really enjoyed this dish cooked in the heat of the volcano (cabbage, potatoes, sweet potatoes, three types of meat, chorizo and black pudding!). After this feast we needed a little digestive walk in the hotel garden with its century-old trees and its open-air swimming pool fed with hot water from the bowels of the earth!
On the return journey we stopped off again in a village where the Christmas crib with its life-size figures has been built right in among the fumaroles; then our last stop was an instructive visit of the Cha Goreana tea plantation, one of the few estates still operating in the Azores. All in all the two excursions enabled everyone to have a general view of the island which has undoubtedly many charms.
SKETCHES, SONGS AND LAUGHTER!The ‘culture’ pillar of the Christmas in Europe triptych was also up to scratch with an eclectic programme that was as varied as it was well-behaved. The ‘actors and actresses’ of the show offered to their ecstatic audience a glimpse of their multifarious talents. In order of appearance they were:
Austria – Semmering – song and guitar
Croatia – Zagreb – song and dances
Czech Republic – Znojmo – reading of the legend of St. Nicolas and hat dance
France - Bonneville – pedagogical film made by students
Sweden – Lund (with Orebro) – Sketch
Italy – Reggio Emilia – dance and Befana
Italy – Senigallia – classical dance
Latvia – Riga – dance and song
Luxembourg – Diekirch – sketch
Slovenia – Bled- song and sketch
Slovenia – Maribor – song and accordion
Greece – Rhodes – dance (sirtaki)
Sweden – Orebro (with Lund) – procession of Santa Lucia
Portugal- Ponta Delgada and Algarve-Lamego – sketch of the ‘kingdom’
In order of appearance, here are the actors and actresses in their productions