The Magic of the Atlantic Island of Sao Miguel

shutterstock_612417140Most people only recently began hearing about the Azores islands and that is because of the recent tourism boom that has hit the region. The Azores, which composes of 9 islands in the North-Atlantic off the coast of Portugal which was discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century. One of the privileges of growing up in such a pristine environment was the many benefits of the outdoor activities that seem to always draw people outside. The island of Sao Miguel which is the largest and most populated of the 9 islands is a gift to anyone looking to explore the beautiful flora and fauna that exists here. Caldeira Velha. Ribeira Grande. AçoresA photographers dream, the many unique settings, and backdrops of the Azorean landscape are only one of the reasons why the region is constantly being recognized for its natural environment. A favorite amongst travel writers from Conde Nest, Travel and Leisure, National Geographic and many more, the experience felt when visiting the Azores is one that you only feel when traveling in certain parts of the world and this island is one of those places.Family walk in Terra Nostra GardenThe countrysides are filled with green pastures and grazing cows and sheep while the farmers tend to their herds the coffee shops, bakeries and fruit markets are busy with the young ladies gathering the fresh made bread and cheeses for lunch. It is very common as a predominantly agriculture-based society, with many farmers and fisherman for the men to wake up early to go to work, to return home for lunch and then go back to work, which is common throughout Europe. It is here on the island of Sao Miguel that exists the Cha Gorreana tea plantation; the only of its kind it all of Europe. A 19th-century family owned and operated tea plantation, it is here you can come and enjoy the many flavors of natural, pesticides free grown teas that they grow and process right on site at the factory. The history with this plantation is pretty interesting as it has many unique sites and facts one being that it became the only plantation due to the rise in electricity prices throughout here in the early 20th century, however the owners of Cha Gorreana had years prior brought the finest engineers to the company to design through the waterfall and small ravine that passed through the estate to power the factory hydro-electrically which at the time was one of the first of its kind in the country. This is a must see when visiting the island of Sao Miguel and the teas are exceptionally tasty and very high quality. It is no wonder why their product which has been exported throughout Europe for decades has introduced so many people to a region they may never otherwise have.shutterstock_612796583There are countless restaurants and bed and breakfasts on the island and this is where you want to really get a taste of true Azorean cooking. The meat and seafood are always fresh since this is a region that has more cattle than people and produces a very high quality, organic and grass-fed product to the consumer. I would recommend the seafood, you can ask to see the locally caught fish of the day where it will be presented to you or you can ask your server for the daily specials. The chefs and cooks are very good and it is always a pleasure dining out in the Azores as the food is good and affordable, however, the service is not the best and you can tell many of the servers are not the fastest at their job but it is the island lifestyle after all.Portuguese Grilled SeafoodA fun thing to experience on the island is the food cooked in the geysers of the volcano, in Furnas. It is here that one of the many traditions associated with the Azores takes place. Here you fill your pot with the meats, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions and other vegetables and then cover it with a lid, wrap it in a bag that is provided and then buries it in the designated holes with a rope on the top, tied to the bag. This is usually done early in the mornings, as it takes a few hours to cook the food. There are many options when deciding how you want to eat this meal, whether it is at a restaurant which many will allow you to bring it to them and they will prepare it for you on a platter with bread and cheeses and you pay a nominal fee for the preparation. Another option is to have a picnic in one of the countless locations throughout the island that have outstanding ocean views, fire pit BBQs, and of course, stone made picnic tables and benches.shutterstock_690183316

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