On Tuesday 24th April, our next port of call in the Azores was Praia da Vitoria. This was our first ever visit to this port. We had landed at the nearby NATO airbase in the middle of the night for a medical emergency but we never left our plane.
Our cruise to the Azores, Madeira and the Iberian Peninsular would take us to Ponta Delgada, Praia da Vitoria, Funchal, Cadiz, Malaga and finally to Gibraltar
Arriving at Praia da Vitoria
The island of Terceira is only a relatively short sail from Ponta Delgado on Sao Miguel island and the calm waters helped our sleep. The call at Praia da Vitoria was a maiden call for Arcadia. The day already had lots of promise with a sunrise like this.
Arcadia was docked in the busy commercial part of the port and from our balcony we could see lines of containers laid out in neat rows, each of them in their own numbered spaces.
After breakfast in the Meridian we went off the ship and caught the shuttle bus to the town itself. We picked up a map from the tourist office just by where we were dropped off. The P&O port guide was missing a map so we hoped this help with our explorations. From the P&O guide we did know that the majority of the shops were along the Rua de Jesus.
This street was just past where we were and we set off walking down it. The street was free of traffic when compared to Ponta Delgado and it was great to be able to just amble along in the middle of the road.
We passed a small market with stalls selling meat, vegetables and best of all a local farmer selling his cheeses. This was the first port that we felt the impact of P&O’s new policies about bringing alcohol on board. The local wines on sale in the market looked excellent and previously we would have picked up a couple of bottles for our cabin.
We stopped and went into shops along the street but we were really just browsing. Up a side street was a small church. This street was decorated with patterns of cobblestones just like the Rua de Jesus.
At the end of Rua de Jesus we came to a square with a large cafe. This did look out of place as it was more like a McDonalds than the local restaurants that we had passed. But already the tables outside were filling up with passengers off the ship having coffees and beers. The square had some interesting buildings.
A plane passed overhead on its way to the NATO airfield on the island. Not quite the US Navy planes I had hoped to see.
We left the square and headed straight down towards the sea.
We turned left and walked along the promenade that had a steep wall to our right. On the wall were plaques celebrating famous local residents.
The promenade opened up into another square and our left was one of the roads leading down from the square that we had passed. To our left was a row of shops and cafes and to our right the beach and further away there was the marina.
The Miradouro de Serra do Facho
Ahead of us we could see a hill with a large monument – this was the Miradouro de Serra do Facho. The path to the top zig-zagged up the steep side.
We decided that we needed the exercise and walked to the bottom of the hill and began to climb.
The path was a series of uneven flights of steps linked by grassy paths along each of the tiered levels.
The next to the last flight of steps was particularly steep and skipped some of the tiers. The walls alongside the steps were full of flowers and once at the top there were large beds of even more flowers.
The view over Priai da Vitoria was well worth all the effort and we sat on the wall and enjoyed the view.
Behind us we heard an ambulance arrive and the fireman were helping a gentleman who appeared to be suffering after climbing up.
Another plane flew over us as we started to descend. There was a road up to the top that circled the hill but we decided to brave the steeps again. We took the descent even more carefully than the climb up as there were no handrails. We had to occasionally grab the walls for balance as we walked down the flights of steps.
At the bottom of the hill I spotted what I thought was a credit card and picked it up. It was the identity card of one of Arcadia’s engineering officers. We looked around but no-one was about.
Time for a beer
We did meet our friends and sat outside one of the bars in the nearby square for a rest and a refreshing beer. We were joined by another couple from our table. The bill was a pleasant surprise as the small beers were only one Euro.
After all our exertions we made our way slowly to the Rua de Jesus up the street to the square and did more window shopping.