Sunday, January 26, 2014

Donuts, pizza, burgers, travel planning… and beautiful scenery

Military lodging is cheap and convenient.  Our room at Lajes Field was only $55 a night and had a lot of conveniences that you wouldn't find in most quaint hotels.  Not too many regular hotels have laundry facilities that aren't coin operated, free internet, microwaves, and fridges.  The drawback to staying in military quarters is that you're behind a gate and that makes getting around for local food somewhat of a challenge, especially if you don't have a car.  The first thing I ate on Lajes Field was a cheeseburger and fries.  It tasted okay going down, but my stomach was really queasy from the flight and probably from being so tired.  My body rejected the fast food about an hour later.

After sleeping for five hours on our first day, we were in no mood to go looking for food.  So we ordered pizza from the Oceanview Grill, which is a place on Lajes Field run by Portuguese.  They stay open 24/7, which seems crazy to me, since I can't imagine they have the business to sustain that.  On the other hand, there are also Portuguese forces at Lajes Field, so maybe they come in during the wee hours of the morning for food.  Anyway, Bill got us a pizza from there that was surprisingly good.  I mean, it was probably the best pizza I'd had in months.  And this time, it stayed with me.


One of two pizzas we enjoyed in Lajes...

I turned on the TV because I felt like watching the Armed Forces Network, which is famous for its cheesy PSAs.  They were running a video that was obviously done during the Christmas holidays.  I recognized a couple of people from our flight on the video.

In the mornings after the three nights we stayed at Lajes, Bill would visit a little coffee shop run by a local.  He picked up coffee drinks and pastries.  One thing I learned on this trip that Portuguese people love their donuts and pastries.  They were offered everywhere!  

I would have liked to have stayed on Lajes a little longer, but Sunday and Monday were kind of wasted by our need for rest and not having access to a rental car.  So Bill and I started making plans.  He was told we should visit the travel agent on base, who had "deals" to get to Lisbon.  Bill and I had never been to any part of Portugal before and I was curious about Portugal's capital.  So on Tuesday, we went to the travel agent's office to see what we could do with the rest of our time.

I don't usually use travel agents when I go places.  I like to keep my options open and I enjoy finding things on my own.  I also have certain things I look for when I book hotels.  But the lure of a "deal" got me in the travel agent's office.  A young Portuguese lady tried to help us, but it was pretty plain that she was used to dealing with Americans who just want to take a bunch of guided tours and stay in business class hotels.  Her colleague was an American expat who has lived in Portugal for a couple of decades.  The American lady had a somewhat better sense of what we wanted and gave us some good advice.  We still ended up booking a boring business class hotel, though.

Round trip tickets to Lisbon weren't that much more expensive than one way tickets were.  We paid a little more to get the round trip ticket, just in case we needed to get back to Lajes to catch the Saturday flight home.  I strongly doubted we would need to do that, but it made Bill feel better to have the option.  The Lisbon hotel for two nights and the tickets cost about $850.

Once we were finished with our travel planning, we went to the base exchange to rent a car.  We ran into the Air Force captain who was on our flight with her kids.  She was friendly and seemed happy to see us enjoying her home base.  I'm sure if we'd stayed longer, we would have run into a lot of other folks from the plane, too.

A joyride around the island…    



Our first taste of Portuguese food 

We rented a small car with standard transmission so we could get a better look at the dramatic scenery on Terceira and maybe find some authentic Portuguese food.  We did manage to find a little cafe in Praia Victoria, but they mostly offered sandwiches and soup.  I will admit the soup and sandwich I had there was satisfying, but it still bordered slightly on junk food.  My body was craving vegetables, especially if they didn't come in a box.

As it turned out, we never did find a restaurant.  We probably could have, but we were overcome by laziness and not wanting to deal with the time constraints one often finds at restaurants in European countries.  Meals are served at certain times and they don't tend to cater to patrons who aren't quite ready when they are.  Also, parking was kind of a pain at some places.

Anyway, we had a very enjoyable time driving around the island.  Here are some very dramatic photos from our driving tour…


The island has a lot of amazing, dramatic coastline...


Most of the land is parceled out and surrounded by stone fences.



We stopped to check out this overlook over Raminho.


Apparently, the Portuguese want to free Tibet, too.

The roads are narrow and sometimes covered by trees.



I could look at these views all day!






These are just a few of the dramatic photos I got on our trip around the island.  I would have loved to have visited other islands in the Azores.  Hopefully, someday we can go back and I can see more of this extraordinarily beautiful place.  I'm sure when it's not winter, it's even prettier!



  

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