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 airport 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 was 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
That 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 English, 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.
Sophisticated 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.