Ponta Delgada

I’m not a city person, but one city stays in my mind. Ponta Delgada, capital of Saõ Ponta Delgada city centreMiguel in the Azores: a tiny perfect city.

Having flown in to another island, I didn’t see Ponta Delgada until it was time for my flight home. I fell in love with a beautiful old southern European city – in miniature. It was April, the weather was perfect. I had been doing research and thought I might find some “talking heads” to give analytic background. So I asked around. Yes, there was a university in the city and a Portuguese national radio studio. Yes, there were people on staff of both who knew about my subject, the Portuguese cod fishery, and would be happy to meet with me.

I was staying in the city centre. A nice and inexpensive hotel, just what I’d asked my University of the Azores Ponta Delgadaairport taxi driver to take me to. The university was on the outskirts of town, but it didn’t look that far on my map. I walked out of the downtown and through residential areas to a beautifully laid out campus. A very pleasant walk of less than an hour. There, and later at the radio studio downtown, I met with two informed and informative men who told me about Portugal and the Azores vis a vis the EU, Canada and Newfoundland.

Between working forays, I explored the city and nearby countryside. Having realized it Public beach near Ponta Delgada wikicommonswas possible to walk to the university in interview dress, I put on running shoes and roamed further afield. One spectacular day was spent at the beach near the city. I was the only person swimming, still too cold for Azoreans, but to me magnificent.

Cantino dos Anjos on the harbour

glass from Cantinho dos Anjos, Ponta DelgadaThat evening I walked the short distance from my hotel to the harbourfront. Near the yacht marina I went in the Cantino dos Anjos, a bar flying signal flags outside and in. Busy and comfortable, with several languages discernible in the overheard chatter. The bartender came over and asked my name and where I was from. I handed him a business card. Shortly after, he returned with a glass in his hand. We make these for new visitors, he said handing me a tumbler with the bar’s name and mine etched on it. Yes, that’s it in the photo. I’ve taken good care of it all these years.

Four young French sailors, one of whom spoke some Sailboats at Ponta Delgada marinaEnglish, began talking to me. Nice guys. They invited me to their sailboat the next day. We sailed just outside the harbour at sunset, then docked and the cook whipped up a fabulous seafood meal. They were leaving the next day, as was I, so they walked me back to my hotel. In smatterings of English, French and Portuguese we said what a lovely time we’d had. No, I don’t recommend girls or women going off alone with unknown sailors. But this time it worked out safely and just fine. And it gave me a memory of ocean water on a warm Atlantic evening and lights twinkling on the silhouette of an ideal Lilliputian skyline.

City Hall at night, Ponta DelgadaSophisticated clothing and design shops, well-stocked bookstores, good discount stores selling everything. Museums and galleries, lovely cafés and restaurants with outdoor patios. Very few vacant storefronts. A bustling downtown with beautiful old architecture well maintained, no skyscrapers, easy to navigate, Ponta Delgada is welcoming to tourists but not slathering for their custom. I hope it hasn’t changed, it felt like an easy place to call home.

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3 thoughts on “Ponta Delgada”

  1. Hi Dorothy, I will travel to Ponta Delgada at the end of April 2013. I see you’ve been there already and I understand you were able to swim in the ocean. I am a bit concerned regarding the weather and the water temperature, I would really like to swim and do some diving too, was it too cold and you were super brave, or it’s bearable? 🙂 Anyway I think I’ll go into the water even if it’s only 10 Clelsius 😀

    Thanks for your post, all the best! D.

    1. Hi Did, I hope you have a wonderful time in Ponta Delgada. I’m not particularly brave about cold water and I found it just fine. I only went out far enough to be able to swim but didn’t find it cold at all. And it was lovely and warm on the beach too. There were no “locals” in the water, but plenty of people were on the beach. I thought it was perfect. Enjoy your trip!

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