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Story and photos by
Barb & Ron Kroll
When most people think of Portugal, they visualize the country on the west coast of Europe, not an archipelago in the mid-
Atlantic. We didn’t know what to expect before we visited four of the nine Azores islands – Faial, Pico, Terceira and São Miguel.
All we knew was that it took only five hours to fly fromToronto to this autonomous region of Portugal, rather than seven
hours to fly to Lisbon.
As our plane descended, we noted that the archipelago looked like the Hawaiian Islands with their black lava fields, flowers
and verdant mountains. And, like Hawaii, we discovered that each of the Azores islands had a unique personality.
The island of Faial is known as The Blue
Island because it is spider-webbed with
hedges created from blue hydrangea
bushes. Since 1817, yachters have
stopped in the safe harbour at Horta,
the capital, on journeys between
Europe and North America. Among
them was Joshua Slocum, who made
the first solo voyage around the world,
Sir Francis Chichester and a host of
yachters from places as diverse as
Sweden, Samoa, Bulgaria and Toronto.
How did we know this? Hundreds of
colourful paintings and inscriptions
line the concrete sea wall and sidewalk,
displaying the names and dates. The
works of art depict puffins, whales,
mermaids, logos, multilingual captions
and yacht names such as
Ocean Lady
Paddle Duck
. Some are faded with
age. Others are newly painted. All,
according to a Horta resident, were
painted because of a superstitious
legend. No one knows how or when
the superstition began, but all sailors
leave works of art to prevent accidents
at sea.
Competing for our attention, 10 kilo-
metres across the water on the island of
Pico was a cone-shaped dormant vol-
cano, also named Pico. At 2,351 metres,
it is the highest mountain in Portugal.
It was only when we drove around
Faial that we realized how volcanoes
Postcard-Pretty Faial
Photo: iStockphoto
Blue hydrangea on a hedge.