I’ve just returned from a cruise to the Azores. I’ve been cruising for a number of years. It’s very accessible for a wheelchair user and I’ve had the best experiences on ships. A disabled state-room is large, twice the size of a normal cabin. We have a balcony large enough for a table and two sun loungers. It sounds perfect, doesn’t it? You would be right, it is, until I want to explore the ports we are visiting.
I’ve never visited the Azores before, in fact I had to look them up in an atlas and I was keen to experience them. Our first port of call was Ponta Delgarda. The view from the balcony initially was of the port itself, however, looking into the distance was incredibly scenic, the sea was shades of cobalt blue with the sun sparkling on the water. Rugged rocks hugging the shoreline. The houses further away whitewashed with red tiled roofs, dreaming up bucolic images of a previous time in history before modernisation.
Our tour took us deep into the island. I felt as if I was an interloper in the islanders’ most magical world. The land was covered in wild hygrangeas and the blues and greens gave off an almost alpine fragrance.
We came across a forbidding-looking edifice quite out of context to the surrounding beauty. On it’s perimeter wall was a warning sign advising us not to enter and when we asked our driver what it was and why it was there, he told us the story of it’s history. It was constructed as an hotel by a wealthy property developer who went bankrupt and it fell into disrepair. It’s almost a mausoleum and the fauna is reclaiming it’s hold. The greenery taking back possession as if stamping it’s authority against one man’s greed.
I was almost envious of the people who lived in such beauty. We visited Sete Cidades where we enjoyed the sight of the lake which carried a folklore legend of a princess who fell in love with a shepherd boy, against her father’s wishes. The waters within the lake have a distinct colour change, one side being sapphire blue and the other emerald green. It is easy to believe that the princess’ tears coloured the lake, however, the fact that the lake is a volcanic crater is more scientific but less romantic.
This tour was run by a local operator and cost us one third of the price through the Cruise Line. The hitch in my story is that I can take a tour with locals who can give me a more personalised feel of their home, the downside to travelling ‘off-piste’ is that the ship can leave port on time whether I have boarded or not. The insurance for me is that the ship won’t sale until i have checked in, if I use a cruise-organised tour.
But that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?