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AC 2023
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AC 2023
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Meeting of the AEHT Presidium July 5th - 8th 2007

at the Ponta Delgada Hotel School Escola de Formação e Turística e Hoteleira’,
Hotel São Pedro, São Miguel, Azores, Portugal

The purpose of the AEHT Presidium’s summer meeting is to review the events of the previous year, and above all to plan for the coming academic year. We receive invitations from various schools, and this year we were the guests of Filipe Rocha, director of the Ponta Delgada school on São Miguel island – the largest of the Azores archipelago, located 1300 kms west of Lisbon and around one-third the way across the Atlantic.


Hedges of Hydrangeas Lagoa do Fogo
  Hedges of Hydrangeas Lagoa do Fogo



The journey was not without it complications: there was a Portuguese air-traffic controllers’ strike on the day of our arrival, which meant that we arrived very late, and without our baggage.  We were very grateful to our Portuguese member, Ana Paula Pais, for negotiating with airline officials who seemed to be intent on making us miss our flight, and to Umberto, Filipe’s right hand man at the school, for tracing and retrieving our lost baggage. Umberto’s intelligence on flights and baggage movements was formidable: he was able to tell us that your correspondent’s suitcase was part of 40 tons of delayed baggage at London Heathrow, and that it was one of 32 identical lost pieces! Correspondent and suitcase were finally reunited the night before departure for the return journey! 


 Hotel São Pedro   Filipe Rocha 
 Hotel São Pedro
 Filipe Rocha
We stayed in the School’s training hotel, the Hotel São Pedro, built in the eighteenth century to house the first United States consulate in Europe. It is a beautiful building with wood-panelled rooms and exquisite furniture, and overlooking the sea; we held our business meetings in the former library where the elegant surroundings inspired our deliberations.


  AEHT Managing Committee meeting AEHT Managing Committee meeting 
 AEHT Managing Committee meeting


 After a long meeting at which the coming year’s activities were discussed exhaustively, in the early evening we set off for a whale-watching expedition generously offered to our party by the regional tourism council: first came the briefing session to inform us about what we were likely to see, and about the strict conservation measures put in place to protect the cetaceans; then on with the waterproofs and life jackets and into the Zodiac inflatable boat, with its special rows of seating arranged rather like two banana boats, and off to the open sea south of Lagoa and Vila Franca in search of whales and dolphins. We were in luck: we soon spotted several flying fish, and the dolphins quickly found us and jostled around the bow of our boat.


  AEHT-Team off for a nice whale-watching Dolphins
 AEHT-Team off for a nice whale-watching


 Not long after that the sperm whales began to appear – beautiful graceful creatures, sometimes leaping into the air, sometimes lazing along the surface blowing up spray from their blowholes, but, most spectacular of all, diving and thrusting their vast tails into the air. We saw a total of ten whales, among them several babies, and even the boat’s crew were amazed at the success of our mission – so much so that the skipper executed a lap of honour in the harbour before we climbed ashore.


 Sperm Whales   in their natural environment 
 Sperm Whales
 in their natural environment


 Monkfish on a bed of sauerkraut  Restaurant 'A Lota'
 Monkfish on a bed of sauerkraut
 Restaurant 'A Lota'


On Saturday we were treated by the regional tourism authority to an excursion in the eastern part of the island, rich in natural beauty and low-level volcanic activity. Much of the island is covered with rich green pasture where cows and goats graze between hedges made up of hydrangeas (which most of us had only ever seen as garden shrubs);


Lagoa do Fogo 
 Geothermal electricity generating station 
 Lagoa do Fogo
 Geothermal electricity generating station


Then came our final dinner, for which we were the guests of the Ponta Delgada hotel school in its magnificent wood-panelled dining room, together with members of the school’s board of governors led by its president Isabel Barata, as well as Marlene, Filipe’s charming academic director and Filipe de Jesus Oliveira Brum of the Department of Employment Programmes of the Regional Directorate of Labor and Vocational Training.


  Board of Directors of the hosting school  
 Board of Directors of the hosting school


The menu was of the high quality we had by now come to expect: Filipe had told us how his school experimented with innovative combinations of local ingredients, and this final  dinner contained such delights as squid mousse served with creamed bananas, and veal fillet served on a bed of cabbage cooked with tea. Quite delicious! The kitchen and restaurant brigades filed in to warm applause – these smiling and skilful young people had looked after us so well throughout our stay.


  Part of the kitchen brigades  Part of the service crew
 Part of the kitchen brigades
Part of the service crew

Your correspondent hears that some of the more adventurous members of our party went out to hit the night spots and returned just before dawn.

We left for the airport early on Sunday morning; all good things must come to an end, but in this case they came to an end rather later than expected because of what were now becoming routine flight departures. A four hour delay was announced, so Filipe, being the perfect host, drove us back to Ponta Delgada and took us on a guided tour of his native town. We witnessed the festival of the Holy Spirit – a procession from the cathedral to the town hall along a path of flower petals (well, coloured shredded tree-bark); and saw a remarkable tree with aerial roots – looking like beards!


  Town Hall Ponta Delgada  
 Aerial roots 
 Town Hall
Ponta Delgada   Aerial roots


The AEHT Presidium would like to thank the tourism authorities of the Azores for their generous hospitality; thanks also to Filipe Rocha, director of the Escola de Formacão Turística e Hoteleira in Ponta Delgada, for being such a perfect host; and to Ana Paula Pais, AEHT Vice president and Portuguese national representative, for helping with our travel arrangements and answering our questions about all things Portuguese and botanical.

 Text: John Rees Smith

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