Terceira (11.17 – 11.25)

Thursday the 17th was a long day.  I started the day organizing paperwork, phone calls and other misc stuff before leaving the hotel.  After leaving, I headed towards the Tesla Service Center in Dedham, MA.  On the way, I stopped to pick up some travel supplies from CVS.  Once at the Service Center, I searched to find the nearest Extra Space Storage.  Thankfully, it’s just down the street from the Service Center.

At Extra Space Storage, Paul worked with me to rent one of their smallest units for the time I will be gone to Terceira.  Technically, I rented it for a month.  Paul gave me a new customer special.  I also bought a good lock.  Paul was extremely helpful through the entire process and showed me how I could access the unit on the evening of Thanksgiving. The unit was on top of other units and required a moving ladder to access. I’m not a fan of heights and the top few steps were a bit distracting for me.

After getting my stuff stored, I grabbed lunch and then went to the Tesla Service Center.  We discussed my requests for the car and one of the staff went for a test ride with me.  I had an Uber driver pick me up and take me to Boston’s Logan Airport.  That ride took about 75 minutes.  Thankfully, my driver and I had a great conversation for the entire trip.

At the airport, I discovered the counter for SATA airlines would not open for another hour.  Good time for a drink.  At the bar, I discovered that everyone sitting on the same side of the bar was going on the same flight to Terceira.  🙂  We chatted while at the bar and then in line for the check-in.  Everyone I spoke to at that point were couples.

The flight was uncomfortable.  Plenty of turbulence and regular disturbances that kept me from sleeping.  We arrived on Terceira just after 6am local time after a 4h15m flight and a 4 hour timezone change.  At this airport, you disembark the plane on the runway and board a bus that takes you to the terminal.  We then went through customs and started looking around for clues as to where to go next.  Portuguese is the primary language in the Azores islands, but many people speak some English.  While standing in the terminal, I noticed a group of women and thought, “that’s going to be the fun group this week”.

We found our program director, received a folder with some information for the week, and went out to the buses.  After waiting on the bus to ensure we had everyone, we left for the hotels.  This is when I started to take pictures of the beautiful landscape and buildings.

20161118_09144520161118_09241220161118_09243420161118_092631

We arrived at our hotel, Terceira Mar Hotel, about 8:30am.  I learned my room wouldn’t be ready for about another hour.  I found a couch near a pool table in the game room, set my alarm, and took a nap. 🙂  At 10am, I checked in and received my room keys to 220.  All rooms have balconies that look out over the pool, lawn area and Atlantic Ocean.  Some pictures

20161118_10454920161118_104557

Exhausted, I set my alarm and went to sleep in my room.  I had scheduled three events for the trip when I booked: two fancy dinners with tastes of Terceira, and a half-day walking tour of the town.  My first dinner was Friday night.  I woke up a few hours before dinner and realized I needed to figure out a way to charge my phone, which was down to 5% battery charge.

I had brought an outlet converter with me and, reluctantly, bought a phone charger at the airport ($35, robbery) because I had left the wall connector at home and had been charging my phone only in the car and when connected to my laptop.  I did not bring the laptop to Terceira.  Before sleeping, I had tried to connect the outlet converter and phone charger with no success.  Now that I was awake again, I spent some time looking around the room and finally thought to check the TV for a USB port.  It had one and that worked.  So, for the entire week, I charged my cell phone, Kindle, and Nintendo DS via the USB port on the TV.  That required the TV to be on while charging and it was a slow charge.

Before leaving for dinner, I took some evening pictures from my balcony

20161118_18490020161118_184910

I spoke to the front desk regarding how to get to the Q.B. food court.  The hotel staff member said it was too far to comfortably walk and offered to call a taxi.  I agreed.  While waiting, he informed me of some places I could see around town since I was traveling alone.

The taxi driver spoke some English and was very friendly.  He was surprised that I called a taxi, saying it wasn’t too far to walk.  After the drive, I agreed and decided to walk home.  Dinner was excellent!  This was my first meal and ended up being the best meal I had all week.  I took a picture of the menu.

20161118_200116

I had left early since I didn’t know how long it would take to get to Q.B.  As such, I arrived an hour early for dinner.  I planned to walk around but the waiter offered me a table.  Since I hadn’t eaten all day, I accepted and ended up being the only person eating through my dinner.  As I was leaving, I encountered the group of women I had seen in the airport.  They greeted me and we spoke briefly, then I left to walk back to the hotel.  I learned later that, as I walked away, they had invited me to join them for a drink.  I didn’t hear it.

The walk back took about 15 minutes and was mostly downhill.  The Azores, like Hawaii, are islands formed from volcanoes.  They are hilly and have evidence of past lava flows.  I enjoyed seeing the buildings, the narrow streets, and the evening air as I walked back. I returned to Q.B. for the second fancy dinner on Saturday night, and then tried the bottom ‘snack bar’ area on Monday night.  All meals were good and I enjoyed the walk each time.  I noticed several dogs looking over the high walls to the street.  One night there was a dog on top of the wall. Many of the streets and sidewalks are made of cobblestone of various sizes.

For the first few days, I spent much of my time catching up on sleep, reading books, and playing Fire Emblem on the DS.  I had my balcony door open almost all of the time that I was in the room.  The TV was usually on, but muted, since I was almost always charging some device.  Saturday I walked into town, Angra do Heroismo, to explore and get some light exercise.  The terrain is such that my calves were burning before I returned to the hotel.  Pictures from that walk

20161119_14550320161119_14550820161119_14591520161119_15104920161119_15182020161119_15564020161119_155823

20161119_160518

Also on Saturday, I had a curious friend join me in my room for a while.

20161119_180209

Sunday I walked around the hotel grounds.  There is a nice path that winds along the cliff, around the pool, and leads to steps down to a gate that opens onto the rocks at the shoreline.  The gate was locked, unfortunately.  I found the emergency contact on the pool rules list to be awesome.

20161120_16350020161120_16351820161120_16362520161120_16370220161120_16410020161120_164133

20161120_16414520161120_164403

The hotel consists of four levels, with the lobby and street entrance being at the top and the rooms being on the lower floors.  The staircase was quite beautiful, made of marble and enclosed on one side in glass looking out behind the hotel.  One day, I saw a rainbow just after lunch in the hotel.

20161121_154006

Angra do Heroismo started putting up Christmas decorations during the week.  I walked to dinner in the town one evening and captured some of the lights on display.

20161122_19095620161122_19104420161122_191552

A surprise for me was to discover that the prices of goods and services on Terceira are lower than in the USA.  Being out in the Atlantic and needing to import most goods, I anticipated the opposite.  The hotel was the most expensive place.  For instance, a four course dinner at the hotel was 18.50 (Euros).  I bought some snacks at a local store one day: a 5L container of water, two apples, a box of cookies, and three cans of Coke for less than 6 Euros.  The tax structure is setup to heavily tax unhealthy items, such as Coke.  The Cokes were taxed at 18%.

During my resting time, I read four books and made it about a third through my game.  By Tuesday, I was starting to feel restless and wanting some interaction with other people.  As I was walking into town, I ran into a couple I had spoken with in the airport.  They mentioned some of the events they had been doing around the island.  One that caught my attention was a tour of the island on ATVs.  I had not seen that on the list of activities and they confirmed it wasn’t offered as part of the trip but could be setup from the local travel / activity building near the hotel.

Wednesday morning, I walked over to the building and inquired about an ATV tour. They didn’t have one setup, but the staff called the tour guide and asked him if he would be interested in doing one that afternoon.  Carlos (Aguiatur) agreed and we set up to meet at 2:15pm.  I returned to discover I was the only person going.  Pretty awesome being the only tourist with the guide on the tour.  We spent about three hours on the tour and went all over the island.  I think we traveled over 40 miles on the ATVs.  I had only my leather jacket (without lining) to wear.  The zipper is broken so I could only button it shut but not fully block the wind.  I also did not have gloves.  It was about 55F outside and we sometimes reached speeds of 40mph.  My hands were nearly frozen by the end.

20161123_16092920161123_160947

We stopped midway near the center of Terceira at Algar do Carvao.  This is a volcanic vent that can be entered to see the inside of the dormant volcano.  One of the other tourists claimed it is the only volcano that can be walked into in Europe.  Our stop was intended just to use the restrooms and take a small break.  However, two of the other tourists there recognized me and insisted to Carlos that I take the time to enter the volcano.  Carlos was a bit nervous about losing too much time, but said it would be fine if I hurried.  I bought the pass and rushed in.  I went as far as I was willing to go before the wet stone steps became more vertical over a large drop than I was comfortable with.  I think there may be over 100 steps going down into the volcano.  You can also look up to see the sky through the volcano top exit.

20161123_17031220161123_17041220161123_17050020161123_17060620161123_170826

Once down as far as I wanted to go, I turned to rush back up.  After climbing the steps in a hurry, I had to stop a bit in the tunnel to catch my breath before rejoining Carlos for the second half of the ATV tour.  We passed cows walking down the road with and without farmers on three occasions.  I had a dog rush up to me once.  I had one close call with the side of the road but was otherwise fine.  We covered terrain from the central highway to small dirt paths climbing up the mountain side.  I saw farms, cliffs, pine trees, an area that almost, but not quite, looked a bit like the edge of a jungle, and volcanic rock.  We only stopped three times so I was not able to get pictures of most of what was seen.  Carlos produced a box of cookies and shared them with me during the final stop.  Yes, I know I’m not smiling in the below picture. I was having a very good time. 🙂

20161123_18282320161123_182857

After returning the ATVs, Carlos drove me over to the hotel in his car.  On the way to get the ATVs, he had proudly shown me pictures on his phone from when he recently met President Obama.  He’s a native to Terceira and that meeting was one of his happiest memories.  He also very much likes California. 🙂

As I was walking into the hotel, I ran into Pamela.  Pamela was one of the women in the ‘fun group’.  She immediately approached me and said that the group had been on the lookout for me all week.  She then invited me to join them out for happy hour.  I agreed and asked for a few minutes to stop by my room.  My hands were burning from the cold exposure to the wind.

We met up in the lobby and walked into town to meet up with the rest of the group at the bar in another hotel.  The group consisted of Pamela, Catherine, Mary, Loretta, Kelli and Jenna.  Happy hour at this hotel included 1 Euro glasses of Super Bock, the local beer.  The glasses were 30 ml, about 11 ounces.  I quickly learned that this group includes regular travelers that meet up with other singles to form groups on their travels.  We all hit it off quickly and had a great time.  We drank to the end of happy hour then went walking in search of a place to eat dinner.  On the way, we grabbed some pictures among the lights. My favorite picture from the entire week is below.

20161123_205850_003

We encountered a street vendor selling shots of cherry flavored liquor poured into edible chocolate cups (like small Reeses type cups).  They were delicious.  Dinner was found at O Pirata  I wasn’t a big fan of the food, but the port wine was pretty good.  From there we wandered back to the hotel, arriving in time to get last call at the hotel bar.  We grabbed a round of Super Bock and went to play pool.  Mary brought up some local cheese from her room and someone else brought cookies.  Of course, the staff had to talk to us about the noise before we ended the night. 🙂

We met up for breakfast and then again for the bus to the airport at noon.  We went as a group through all of the lines during the trip home (of which there were many).  We weren’t all sitting together on the flight, but we walked a bit and made the flight more interesting.  Loretta and I were chosen for extra screening in customs upon arriving in Boston before being formally permitted back into the USA.  We caught back up with the rest of the group near the baggage claim.  Catherine said her goodbyes at this point as she was catching another flight that night.  I asked the rest if they had dinner plans.  This was Thanksgiving night.  They had booked rooms at a nearby hotel and were planning to find something to eat around there.  All of their flights were going out Friday morning.  They invited me to join them and I did.

We walked across from the hotel to a bowling alley.  I was surprised to see this bowling alley included a brewery inside!  The food was quite good.  Being Thanksgiving, I ordered the Turkey Avocado Panini.  We drank our wine and beer and talked about travels.  Pamela was already looking for her next trip.  They’ve all been to far more places than I have, and I learned quite a bit listening to their experiences.  We exchanged contact information and I was told how to find the travel group online to join up with others on future trips. 🙂  I decided to book a room at the hotel for the night.   I said goodbye to Kelli and Mary Thursday night as they were leaving before I would be up Friday morning.

I met Loretta and Pamela for breakfast Friday morning and then said my goodbyes.  The hotel had been about halfway between the airport and the Tesla Service Center so my Uber ride was shorter and cheaper this time.   I arrived to find a very clean Model S.  Tesla not only addressed all of my questions, but they also found some items of their own to address and fully cleaned the exterior and interior of the car.  It looked like new again! 🙂

The car had been set to 21″ wheels from when I bought it and not internally set to 19″ when I changed the wheels.  Long story short, my mileage is off by about 1,000 because of the difference.  It’s set correctly now but I can’t alter the mileage.  The speedometer is also more accurate now.

I unloaded the storage unit back into the car (and noticed that climbing the ladder to the top did not bother me) and set a route from the edge of Boston to the Northern part of Delaware.  I was on the road around 10:30am.  340 miles later, I’m in Delaware tonight and planning to start my explorations again tomorrow.  I have six states remaining until I’ve visited all of the continental USA and Hawaii.  Perhaps someday I’ll make it to Alaska.

I also now have some travel friends for international trips. 🙂

Miles: (after correction) ~9300 (9770 prior to correction)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s