Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Islands of Plenty ; Sailing through the Canaries and Azores Is Simply Blissful for CHRIS HUTCHINSON

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Islands of Plenty ; Sailing through the Canaries and Azores Is Simply Blissful for CHRIS HUTCHINSON

Article excerpt

WE SPENT three days aboard the good ship Balmoral before our cruise reached its first destination. But when you're heading for the islands of the Azores, Cape Verde, Canaries and Madeira and sailing on calm waters under blue skies, that's nothing to complain about.

The time also gave us the opportunity to relax and familiarise ourselves with the ship, before we reached our first port in the Azores.

Our tour through the island of Terceira, took us through beautiful countryside reminiscent of our own - on a narrow road we stopped as a herd of cows refused to let us pass before the herdsman shouted one word which saw them form a straight line to allow us to to continue. If only our grandsons reacted like that!

The highlight was the small town of Angra, a World Heritage Site, with an array of colourful Portuguese architecture and cobbled streets.

It was a timeless place with a botanical garden in the centre adding to the charm.

Next came the island of Sao Miguel, on which we weaved our way through lush countryside, ablaze with hedges of hydrangeas and exotic shrubs, before arriving at the highest point called Sete Cidades, a former volcano which crumbled a quarter of a million years ago.

Natural development has provided forests, dales and pastures. In the centre are two adjoining lakes, unique in the fact that one is blue and the other green.

Legend has it a young princess and shepherd boy were in love but the king made them separate. Both shed tears as they parted, forming the lakes - the princess had blue eyes and the shepherd had green.

We left the Azores with fond memories of islands unspoilt and landscapes breathtakingly beautiful.

As Balmoral seemed to glide across the Atlantic to the Cape Verde islands off the coast of Africa, there was much excitement from fellow passengers when a pod of whales passed by at close range.

Arriving on the island of Sao Vincent our tour's first stop was the fish market, where ladies dressed in colours straight from the rainbow robustly bargained their exotic fish, creating an exciting atmosphere.

Then we moved to the African market where quality goods were sold at keen prices.

Arriving at Cat Fish Bay, nestling between the Green Mountain and turquoise sea, we were entertained by musicians and dancers while local wine, beer and tasty delights were served.

The next island was Santiago and journeying into the country brought us to Cidade Elvha. Once a slave colony, this small village lies between two rocky gorges surrounded by exotic plants.

Here a small church built in 1495 was visited by explorers Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus, and adjacent is Rue de Banana, a row of cottages with thatched roofs made from banana leaves. The church and the cottages are the oldest European buildings in Africa. At the village square we were greeted by locals in traditional dress singing and dancing. …

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