Thursday August 7, 2014
We could live here, we honestly could. Horta is so much better than we ever could have expected, and our expectations were already pretty high. It doesn’t matter that we’ve been here all of 24 hours or that we’ve only seen within a few blocks of the city center….we’re sold.
A little history on Faial is that it’s called Blue Island, for the masses of blue hydrangeas that cover the island. Introduced from China in the 18th century, these flowers have become a symbol for the Azores as a whole. Originally settled in 1468, this island has gone back and forth between Spanish and Portuguese rule with many bloody battles fought here, and the town of Horta had to be built back up after being burned to the ground twice. City status was given to Horta in 1833, and in 1877 the building of the harbor’s breakwater began.
Horta itself has three very big draws to the traveling sailor. The first is viewing the insignias of transient yachts that line the breakwater. Once this tradition started it only took two seasons for the walls to be completely covered. Bright images contain boat names, crew members, burgees, and designs of the yachtsman that have passed through. The tradition has now built up to ghe point that it’s considered unlucky to leave Horta without making your mark.
A second draw to the visiting sailor is a stop at The Cafe Sport, a meeting place for yachtsman that overlooks the harbor. Opened by Peter Azevodo in 1953, this cafe has stayed in the family for three generations and has been catering especially to the cruising crowd. The rooms above the cafe hold a museum of Azorean scrimshaw, and the walls of the cafe itself are hung two to three deep with burgees bearing the names of some of the best known yachts of ocean cruising.
The last, and biggest draw, I think, is the Semana do Mar, or Sea Week, and something we were lucky enough to make landfall during. It begins during the first week of August and is a week and a half of festivals with music, dancing, craft displays, and of course, yacht races. There’s a fully crewed opening race, a single-handed race, ladies race, and the all-comers Canal Race. From what we’ve experienced last night, it looks like a pretty big deal with plenty to do. More than I can give a quick synopsis on, and something I’ll have to dedicate a full post towards.
Of the 9 islans of the Azores, Faial is one of the smaller ones with a size of 22km by 15km. The highest point of the island is the rim of Cabeco Gordo, part of its volcanic crater. Farming and fishing are the biggest trades on the island, but as they’re becoming more of a tourist destination, restaurants, shops, ansd whale watching tour offices line the waterfront.
As we’ve spent the past day wandering around we’ve fallen in love with its small town European charm. The sidewalks are paved with black and white stones that form cute little designs, and the buildings give off an old world appeal. The many churches that sit atop the hillsides have an interesting and beautiful style of architecture. We found an abandoned one at the top of a hill that we think would be a perfect place for us to renovate and move in to. I think I can definitely live the rest of my life staring across the water to the volcanic crown of Pico.
*Information on Horta taken from Imray’s guide to the Atlantic Islands.