Flores – the island of flowers

Well I am going to try to sum up just how beautiful it is here in Flores, but feel I won’t manage…
We arrived on Friday the 13th with a wet and windy arrival.image

We stumbled ashore in our full oilskins. Soon we found a bar; busy and steamy with young sailors drinking and celebrating Atlantic passages from various ports on the other side ( all drinks: wine or beer are 1 Euro here! ) : local men mutely watching the ‘world cup’ sitting on hard backed chairs, tiled yellow and green floor, white washed walls. The barman/ DJ was sellotaping blue cellophane to the strip light as the evening progressed. We played snooker with our fellow sailors (mostly french).
The following day the the rain clouds peeled back by late morning to reveal our new landfall. We moved into the tiny “marina” harbour where we can tie up for 12.50 Euro a day, inclusive of fresh lovely water on tap and electricity. ( first time we have been in a marina since November ) It is a gem of a place. There are lots of interesting boats, we have made friends with loads of folk here, and met old friends again, very social being on the pontoons! We had a lovely bonfire on the beach one night with folks from the boats.
The harbour is busy: with little motor boats, fishing boats and elegant traditional narrow -sailing-whaling- boats coming and going and ducks and cats padding about the pier. They have a static crane which locals use to launch their little boats daily instead of using the slipway, pick up trucks lap the pier, people paint their boat paintings on the wall- lots to watch. The village of Lajes sweeps up the hill from the harbour. The big church and gardens sit on one terrace and little streets twist up to, and past it , fields and houses sit between the ridges of hills. The buildings are white with tiled orange roofs, all extremely pretty. The grass is SO green, or is that just ‘cos we haven’t seen fields in such a long time?
There are several shops and cafes, one superb cafe for lunch, it seems to be a hub of the place, and a restaurant we went to the second night with a gaggle of folk from the boats. Its run by a German couple, they make every thing with local or home grown products, super good. There are absolutely delicious local cheeses , bread and wine, and – happily- its cool enough for us to buy butter again ( its been too hot for the past 9 months since we don’t have a fridge onboard ) so thats a delight.
The place feels old fashioned, and unspoilt. The buildings are traditional and farming seems to still be the main occupation. It is quiet and slow. The people are very friendly and welcoming. There are however some very new aspects like the modern mirrored-glass zig zag museum building, nestled amongst the village on the hill. It is a very attractive and satisfying building, with gallery space ( current exhibition : exhibition of religious art) , a theatre, little library, computers to use for internet and temporary cafe space.
We came across a party one evening in the street. Stings of lights and delicate pale bunting hung down either side of the little road. On one side was a decorated church hall and on the other a bar and a canopy over a square. A band was playing, a bar serving beer and the church hall selling white papers rolled tightly as raffle tickets. The little curled square tickets, blank without the winning numbers, lay like confetti on the church hall floor and street. Our friends Renzo and Edith won 3 prizes, even though the odds were low: a clock, a tea towel AND an oven glove! We danced barefoot in the street with the friends we met. Children ran in and out through the tent and the dancers with the blue flashing lights on the heels of their shoes beating at full pelt. A group of little girls set about demolishing a white flowering hydrangea with relish and carrying the flowers off. It was a great scene of life and goings-on after time at sea for so long.
We have explored on foot quite a lot, it’s so nice to get walking again after the passage. The hills are steep though so the thigh and calf muscles have been working! We walked up a hill (680 m) in the south one day. We found a brand new road which wasn’t on any map we had seen, steeply clawing its way up to the sky line crags. It was a double track tarmac road which we struggled to think of a reason to have been built, certainly no traffic on it. We heard later that it was the previous government who spent a huge of mount of money on pointless road building which no one seems to have relished. Anyway, great walk and superb view! We walked steeply back down a boggy, cow- hoof- pockmarked hillside on other side off the track and hitched back to the village.
The landscape is sectioned up into a patchwork of little fields in various shades of green. The patchwork is darned together with hedges of hydrangea which are just about in full flower, in a week or two the land will have rivers of blue and white frothy bloom. Dark green cedar trees form little forests. Bracken grows here and other familiar plants, palm trees are not uncommon however sometimes in a garden. The sound of bird song is thick in the air. There is a fresh chill in the breeze but hot in the sun. Really feels like Atlantic Europe. Its a joy to sea the place in this weather, we have been told its a completely different place in the winter: the highest recorded winds this past Feb were 143mph!!! Wow.
We had another walk one day on the west coast. We took the bus up and over and down the twisty roads to Lajedo and from there took the ‘old ways’ to Faja Grande, 13 km. The little track we took skirted along the hill side between fields and up and down over the shoulders of hill between tiny villages. The track was roughly cobbled. Horses, cows and calfs and a few sheep with bells around their necks were in the little fields along the way. We had a swim/ bath in a fresh water pool en route. Stopped at a water mill from 1860s( ?) which was still turning and grinding corn, worked by a stream which lazily ran its course into the cogs after having plummeted hundreds of feet down a waterfall from the cliffs in the distance.
We took the bus back to ‘our’ village, very friendly bus driver, we were his only customers .

We will spend a few more days here before setting off for Horta 130 NM away.

p.s. a few new drawings on the sketchbook page …


4 thoughts on “Flores – the island of flowers

  1. Fabulous write up. Dad says it is like book of the week!
    Beautiful descriptions. And beautiful photographs. I had a strange preview of them yesterday by some electronic quirk, but one by one, so it’s lovely to see them as a group and Dad will see them too now.
    It must be like you are back in Europe really now, which technically I suppose you are.
    Good sailing to Horta, sounds like Iceland or St Kilda( I know it’s Hirta)
    All the best, love Mum BP x

  2. Thank you so much for such a wonderful description of Flores and your time there. The walking looks very interesting, you must feel good after getting some different strenuous exercise. Sending this from Bayeaux, where weather lovely and warm. Will email again when get home, have a great sail to Horta and I’m sure you will find a party awaiting you!!
    Beautiful drawings Charlotte and photos,
    Lots of love to you both,

  3. one of the most touching articles you wrote, Charlotte. We’re in Portugal, right now, guess we’ll spend some time in Algarve, winter in Canarias but I felt like taking a tour in the Azores. The way you tell the story says it’s a great place to be. Fair winds to the Hestur crew
    The Roz Avel ones

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