Saturday, 15 April 2017

Hospital Tales And Watching Whales - Saturday In The Azores

My Saturday started really early with multiple trips to the toilet to pee. I recognised the symptoms of a bladder infection (UTI) right away. I decided to go to the hospital to get antibiotics, told Jason, left him in bed to sleep, and headed over the hills on the short 15 minute drive to the main city. This also gave me a chance to practise driving standard again during a time when there were no cars on the road (literally none, I saw a total of three the entire time, both there and back.) 

Since it was the middle of the night, the hospital was fairly quiet and they moved me through quite quickly. When I first got there they said that it would cost 170 Euros to see a doctor, more if there were tests. (They did end up doing blood work.) Jason called our travel insurance from the hotel and by the time I was leaving the hospital payment information had been faxed and it didn't cost me anything.

After a bit of sleep and breakfast we went back to Ponta Delgada for our Whale Watching trip, stopping first at a pharmacy to fill my three prescriptions. We did have to pay for the medication, but it wasn't a lot and I am pretty sure we can claim it when we get home. For someone who enjoys hospitals, this was not at all the issue it might have been for other travellers (though I did not enjoy the IV going in so they could take blood.) The only unfortunate thing was another night without enough sleep. 

The whale trip was rescheduled to start half an hour later because the boat hadn't returned from the morning trip. We were told that the captain had taken them far out to see blue whales and that we would likely get a sighting too. Jason was so excited, he was practically bouncing in his chair as we sat on the marina patio having ice cream and waiting for the boat to come in. 

We boarded quickly and were on our way to many hours at sea looking for whales. Jason did get a glimpse of a blue whale, as we saw one surface a few times. We also got great views of a sperm whale that hung out near the boat for a long time. We do have a great video of the friendly sperm whale, including a dive that involved a tail flip. However, I can't figure out how to load it up onto the blog so instead I am included a photo from Jason that is reminiscent of my mom's famous seal shots:

"Whales" by Jason 
Atlantic in April 2017 near The Azores 

The captain would have kept us out on the water longer but a couple on board had a flight to catch. We could see the 'blows' of other whales in the distance, as it was our four hour hour trip ended up being almost six and a half. Jason struggled a bit to not get seasick and stayed outside the whole time. For the last little while I headed into the enclosed area to have a nap. Sadly my sleeping made me miss seeing some dolphins that Jason said showed up off to the side of the boat at one point, but the nap was still nice. 

Ring Science

Jason looked up what happened to our rings yesterday and it is pretty interesting!

So, our rings are silver and the sulfur in the hot springs reacted with it, turning into 'silver sulfide,' if we had stayed in longer the colour would have moved past gold to brown to black. It is known as Black Sulphide.

To fix this, you can polish the rings, since it will normal silver below but that results in losing some of the material. Our plan is to reverse the reaction when we get home. If we put the rings with aluminium foil and baking soda than it will reduce the silver and silver Sulphide which will reform the silver metal.

There is not point doing anything about it now since we plan to visit more hot springs during the trip and exposing the rings to sulfur again. Even though Jason really doesn't like the bownish gold they are right now.

Part of the reason that gold is considered a more precious metal is that it is less reactive with other elements, so this wouldn't have happened if we hadn't gone with the cheapest material option like we did. But I love it, makes me like our silver rings even more!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Rings, Springs, And Organizing Things - Friday In The Azores

Breakfast is included in our hotel, so after a bit of a sleep in we went downstairs to see what the buffet would look like. I was very impressed, four rows of food including a full row of bread and pastries, lots of hot food, fruit, yogurt, even chia seeds!

We went into town (Ponta Delgada) to sort out whale watching and figuring out how to get to the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, since the ferries don't start running until May.

We booked our whale watching with Moby Dick, one of the main operators and top rated on Trip Advisor. We are going tomorrow.

While we were booking, I noticed a brochure for sailboat charters; this is one of the ways I had figured out we could get to the islet. Also, it seems like a fancy thing we normally wouldn't consider - perfect for a honeymoon treat. The lady at Moby Dick said that the brochure was for a friend and she would call him for us, a few minutes later he was leading us to the boat (that was finishing up a film shoot for a French travel show.) We booked a private full-day trip for Sunday, and have no idea what to expect!

After a quick stop back at the hotel we headed over to Caldeira Velha hot springs. It was only 2 Euros each to go in. The short walk through the forest was breathtaking, with a stream, palm trees, and ferns everywhere. We passed a small pool and patch of boiling mud (so cool!) The larger pool was a bit cold but had a natural warm water waterfall so if you stayed close to, or under, it you were fine. It was totally magical. We did spend some time in the smaller, warmer pool too. After we got out Jason noticed that our silver wedding rings had changed colour! 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Trails And Tea - Thursday In The Azores

Jason and I arrived this morning in The Azores, specifically Sao Miguel Island, after an overnight flight. After leaving our luggage at the hotel (it was too early to get our room) we went exploring the central area of the north coast. I got us lost a lot so we ended up driving up mountains at some points and then through towns on really narrow streets. Eventually we made it to the tea plantation, which was where we had chosen to spend a bit of time while we waited for our room to be ready. 

They have two major tea plantations on the island, we chose to visit the free one which is still an active factory (the other is more of a museum I think.) The one we saw, Gorreana, is only one of three places in Europe that grows and produces tea. Though they have only been doing it since the late 1800s.

Besides checking out the factory, we did a hike through the tea fields (elevation gain of over 200m in 30 minutes gave me some Inca flashbacks.) The trail system here is incredible! Great maps and trail markers:

Amazing Trail Map And Markers
Gorreana, Sao Miguel, Azores
Photos by Jason

The main tourism website actually lists all the hiking trails and lets you search by length, difficulty, and shape. Unfortunately this one through the tea fields is the only loop-style easy trail under 5km. Looks like our next few hikes will be harder, and I didn't find this one particularly easy! However, the lack of sleep may have played a part, luckily our room was ready in the early afternoon and I could nap to catch up on sleep. 

Six Hours In

I didn't get a chance to sleep on the plane, so arrived with Jason this morning in The Azores, for our honeymoon, pretty damn exhausted. After touring around a solid portion of Sao Miguel Island (it is quite small) while we waited to check into our hotel, I came up with the following delirious impression...

The Azores is like Spain and Hawaii had a secret love child 500 years ago and didn't tell anyone about it. They just put the kid the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and gave it to Portugal to look after. All lush landscapes with volcanic geology, green vegetation, and bright tropical flowers interspersed throughout by classic Latin/Mediterranean style architecture and European towns/culture. It is an amazing merger that to some degree feels very familiar but at the same time is like no where else.

Like you would expect from a hidden illegitimate child, The Azores, both the islands and their population, are quiet. Comfortable with their complicated and unique identity but also very reserved about it. Most people speak English and Spanish (and more) but they occasionally point out the difference in those languages as they connect to Portuguese, the main one spoken here.

The weather changes on a dime many times throughout the day, a bit moody I guess. Flipping from cloud covered mountains to rainy coasts to stretches of blue skies across patch work stone fenced fields. The weather doesn't stay the same very long but it also doesn't seem to be too extreme.

Lastly, they got pretty into cows. Bit of an obsession, cows are everywhere and wander all over the roads at times - even major highways.

Basically this place is strange and amazing but also absolutely STUNNING! I can't wait to explore everything from the waves crashing on the coastlines to the black lava rocks on the hill tops and everything in between. Stay turned for more updates.

Monday, 10 April 2017

National Siblings Day

According to my Facebook feed it is National Siblings Day. Though really it is only recognized in The States, everyone is posting photos of their brothers and sisters. I figured I would join the fun on Always Standing. Instead of posting a 'Throw Back' image, here is a recent one from September:

Mike and I at my wedding
September 23, 2016
Toronto City Hall, Ontario
Photo by Stephanie Beach Photography

He also was back in Ontario a couple of weeks ago. Instead of attending the funeral for Aunty Laura he chose to spend the money coming back to visit her before she died. He brought along Maya too since she is still young enough that you don't have to pay for an extra seat. Not only did they get to see our aunt but they spent a bit of time in Toronto with me too. I love hanging out with Mike, he is a great little brother!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

How To Make Money After Retirement

Sunday Mornin' Coming Down - A post about my Dad each Sunday, named after a song that he loved.

I don't know who's idea it was but my parents 'sell' parking space in their driveway at the cottage on busy weekends. People who are used to paying for parking are happy to hand over $10 for the chance to be close to the beach, even though there is usually free parking somewhere. My mom has continued to do this and once mentioned that she saved up the money to pay for Spanish lessons.

I found out last week that my Aunty Laura was saving up money to travel, which she did a lot of. The way she made the money to travel was about as high brow and low brow as it gets. She saved her Bridge winnings, and collected beer bottles to turn in. It took some time but she was a talented Bridge player and $5 each win starts to add up. Also, for as long as I can remember she was always collecting discarded bottles that could be returned, but at 10 cents a piece it doesn't seem like that would add up quickly.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Aunty Laura

I got notice this morning that my Aunty Laura had passed away over night. She has been sick for the last couple of months and had been put on palliative care a few weeks ago. Goodbye Aunty Laura, you will be missed.

Aunty Laura and I at my wedding
September 24, 2016
Toronto Island, Ontario

This is her official Obituary which will be published in the London Free Press on Friday:

Sweeton, Laura Delbridge 
April 5th, 2017 

Born March 13, 1943 and died at home on April 5, 2017. Predeceased by her father Alec, mother Berniece and brother George (Carol). Aunt to Christine (Jason) and Michael (Aimee), and Great-Aunt to Avery and Maya. Bridge player, collector, cat lover and traveler. The funeral service will be conducted at Westview Funeral Chapel, 709 Wonderland Road North, on Sunday, April 9th, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. with visitation one hour prior. Private interment, Exeter Cemetery. Those wishing to make a donation in memory of Laura are asked to consider the charity of your choice.