Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Destination: Switzerland August 31st to September 6th

A Country of Many Trains and Four Languages                   
It was a long and tiring trip from Toronto and I was somewhat apprehensive upon arriving in Geneva. However Swiss host Alicia Mettler showed her lovely face at the gates to welcome me to Switzerland. Soon the rest of the Circle of Wine Writers from parts around the Globe appeared and off it was on the first of a number of train rides. So many trains!
The train took us through some magnificent scenery of Canton, Vaud and Lavaux which was a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Names that I had known only through geography classes such as the Jura Mountains, Alps were there before my eyes. The Rhone River which we so associate with the South of France showed its beginnings here as did the Rhine. Everything was so surreal. Then of course were the villages and the vineyards. Could anything get any better than this! It did!
Welcome To Chateau Mercier
Our final destination was to be the grand Chateau Mercier! Situated atop of Pradegg Hill, high above the town of Sierre in the Valais region of Switzerland, the turreted Chateau Mercier was an imposing building which seemed more like a castle which easily could have come from an Alexander Dumas tale of the Three Musketeers in the Loire Valley.   
It was over one hundred and fifteen years of age----being built sometime between 1906 and 1908 by the Mercier de Molin family. The family donated the Chateau to the Canton of Valais in 1991 and the in turn the management of the Chateau was entrusted to the Mercier Foundation in 1992.  The mission of this foundation was to make the Chateau Mercier a cultural centre and meeting place. To that end part of the estate called Villa Ruffieux established an interdisciplinary residency for professional artists of all types as well as scientists and researchers working in the fields of conservation, natural heritage and wine!
Apparently Lausanne architect Francois Isoz was employed by Jean Jacques Mercier to design his Chateau D’Ouchy. I wonder if Isoz also designed Chateau Mercier.
The Chateau scale was grandiose in style that combined the finest of intricate architecture inside with superb English style outdoor flower and water gardens outside.
Two large statues of what seemed to be Great Dane canines guarded the massive pond in front of the arched Chateau entrance.
Our hosts guided us through the main entrance into a ultra spacious foyer which focused on a massive fireplace and a “Tara” southern plantation style staircase that climbed up four levels each housing guest rooms and suites.
My spacious lodging (one of 22 rooms) featured a magnificent panoramic window view of the village below. A distant mountain provided the perfect backdrop.
Next to the foyer were two dining areas separated by French style doors. These, in turn, led back to main entrance which was large enough to easily encompass chateau guests wishing to sit and enjoy the evenings while having a drink or coffee.
Just off the main dining room was an impeccably kept kitchen used for special occasions which included cultural, political and religious events and special presenters.
Chateau Mercier lent itself to many special events and seminars---two of which were attended by the Circle of Wine Writers. The first was with 2013 World’s Best Sommelier Paolo Basso and his introduction of fifteen iconic wines from Switzerland. The other was a dinner held at the Chateau itself which included the writers plus several other traveling guests.
In addition to the English style gardens the chateau grounds featured a miniature aviary complete with pheasants and peacocks. Song birds fluttered through many of the four hectare estate’s trees. Next to the aviary was another large room (one of four conference rooms) complete with technical equipment and used for group meetings.
My brisk early morning walks never failed to find something new to see whether it was a terraced vineyard, a stone bridge, magnificent flowers or interesting song birds. It was such a pleasure to be alive!
The Chateau Mercier definitely was one of my travel highlights but there was so much more to come!
The VINEA Foundation
VINEA was founded some 20 years ago with the intent of raising awareness of Swiss wines both nationally and internationally. It does so by organizing events such as the Swiss Wine Fair which was held recently, staging national and international competitions and disseminating information that raises awareness of Swiss wines everywhere.
Its Mondial series of events which features a specific wine variety such as Merlot and/or Pinot Noir competition from as many as 24 countries is held in Sierre. This year they were held in April and August respectively.
The leading international wine competition in Switzerland is the six day Grand Prix Du Vine Suisse with some 3,000 wines by 550 producers.
The Circle of Wine Writers attended the Swiss Wine Fair which featured over 80 exhibitors from Swiss wine regions in a two day tasting affair.
The one thing that amazed me in the Swiss Fair event and in all the tastings such as the one in Ticino was that the wines tasted were in the great to superb range. The Merlot, Syrah, Chasselas, Petite Arvine, Chardonnay, Savagnin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cornalin to name a few were utterly amazing!
Discovery was also there since my knowledge of “new” grape varieties and wines was greatly widened. Species such as Garanoir, Humagne/Cornalin and Diolinoir were unknown to me and that, plus the fact that the styles of “traditional” varieties can be so unique, reinforced the reason why wine keeps me involved. It is a continuous learning process that does not stop. There is always something new around the corner. Thank you VINEA for that opportunity.
Of course a by product of VINEA’s Swiss Wine Fair was the opportunity to see the Swiss Town of Sierre. Apart from the grandiose scenery and a powerful mountain backdrop, it has many attributes.
Sierre is the capital of the district of Sierre within the canton of Valais. The quaint buildings lining impeccabley kept floral draped streets certainly made sure that one knew he was not in “Kansas” any more.
The town had other things to offer such as a wine museum and a museum dedicated to the memory of poet, novelist and philosopher, Rainer Maria Rilke! My thanks Brigitte Duvillard, curator of the Rilke Foundation for the superb tour of the museum and-----for saving my pictorial life by giving me her camera memory card when mine refused to work!
Sierre definitely left me with an impression and desire to return for more! 
VINEA of course has to be given kudos for organizing so many events and workshops that publicized and promoted their product-----Swiss Wine! From the initial welcoming experience to the wine fair to the special presentations and VINEA “after party” at the Hotel de Ville garden the main focus was on the exhibition of Switzerland’s Wine.
VINEA Association
A meeting was held at Chateau Mercier between VINEA Director Elizabeth Pasquier and the Circle of Wine Writers’ Group. At this meeting was discussed the main philosophy and mission of the association which also houses the secretariat of VINOFED (World Federation of Major International Wine and Spirits Competitions).  
As described previously and generally speaking VINEA is a multidisciplinary association specialised in the organisation of wine competitions and organises events to promote Swiss wines.
It obviously will be successful when one takes into account the quality of wine that is available and also the huge amount of energy and funds that are being accounted to this venture.
I did have one question that still “dogs” me! It is well known that Switzerland consumes almost all of its wine production. This is quite evident when one takes into account the amount of Swiss wine available to the Canadian public which is not much. The only province that has anything more than a meagre supply is Quebec.
My question is if the World suddenly discovers the quality of Swiss wine will that not create a demand which will invariably result in higher prices? Will this not rebound onto the Swiss consumer? The answer was that the whole idea was to increase the level of reputation of Swiss wine but it should not affect prices. Somehow I am not certain though I hope it is true!
VINEA’s new President David Genolet who has much experience in the event’s sector will undoubtedly have that issue in mind when he deals with enhancing the reputation of Swiss Wine even more so!
Success of Swiss Fair
A media report mentions that the 24th VINEA Swiss Fair was a major success with over 6,350 persons attending with a larger group of younger tasters and a very successful work shop attendance. At other VINEA sponsored tastings Switzerland walked away with two thirds of the Pinot Noir Gold Medals.
A Train Ride Through The Alps  
The Hogwarts Express had nothing on the Steam Locomotive that we were introduced to on our final venture through Switzerland’s Alps on our way to Lugano in the Ticino Canton. The weather and sunshine seemed to cooperate making the trip doubly enjoyable.
On our way to the Steam Train I noticed the village of Munster-Geschinen. I immediately thought of Munster Cheese.
The trip started in Oberwald where we boarded a restored 100 year old a steam locomotive and train. There were no modern conveniences and the vintage cars were as they were at the turn of the century. Seats were wood hard and windows could be opened. This meant that we could take some phenomenal pictures. 
Throughout the trip through the Central Alps the names of unique towns and villages----some named for their products came into view; Gletsch, Neiderwald, Muttbach-Belvedere and Tiefenbach. At Furka which name the Steam Train adopts, we stopped for a brief lunch and drink. There I tasted a very refreshing white Chasselas wine from the Vaud Canton. The Fleshy village wine commemorated the Furka-Bergstrecke. Being a light bodied wine it went well with the cheese, sausage and bread we enjoyed prior to our continuing the trip.
The train passed through some unbelievable scenery: snow covered mountains, deep green cow filled valleys and hiker usable meadows.
We did come across some areas where glaciers were supposed to be but global warming has also affected their appearance or should I say their disappearance.
Some bridges that we went over were so high that rivers looked like little streams of water upon a glass. The whole scene was majestic and breathtaking.
I can honestly say that I experienced different types of climate during the full day on the trip. The climb proceeded to a maximum of over 2100 metres and while we started out with mild temps, they slowly became cool and then turned frosty as we approached the summit.
My excitement grew when I actually saw the beginnings of the Rhone and Rhine rivers here in the Alps. So many times had I heard the names of these iconic rivers and never really thought about the fact that they originated in the high mountain Alps.
Through this whole experience my mind played and replayed the haunting music from the film “Harry Potter” as one fabulous scene replaced another. It was a very apropos thing to imagine as the views unfolded.    
The trip ended at Realp and soon we were off to the almost tropical area of Lugano in the Ticino Canton.  However the memories of this trip will keep it alive for many years to come. It was not just about wine or scenery but it was about the people that were with me and those friends that I had already made and was about to make! Most of all it was the time I had to share with a wonderful group of wine colleagues who were proved to me that wine was more than just a beverage. It was a total style of life! A good life at that!
Post Script! My daughter recently signed up as a working student at a world known horse stable. In a discussion with the stable manager the word “travel” and “Switzerland” came out.
“Have you heard of Sierre,” he mentioned, “That’s where I’m from!”   

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wines Tasted In The Azores

The Big Three
The Azores do make their own wine and frankly they do a pretty good job of it. Most sources indicate that the three main islands responsible for wine production are: Pico, Graciosa, Terceira and Sao Miguel also producing some first class wines.
Pico is a World Heritage Site and is known for the unique way vines are grown due to the wind and salt from the ocean.
Out of a point of interest the volcanic soils are very shallow consisting of basalt and forms of volcanic rock (trachyites, andesites) and clay. One look at the dark rock formations and it is easy to guess the origins since the whole group of islands are on three tectonic plates (African, American and European Plates) so you can imagine that there is constant volcanic activity occurring below and sometimes above ground.
There is continuing seismic activity as is evident with the multitude of hot springs, bubbling mud, flowing hot water and clouds of hot air in various areas of the islands. The soils produced are very fertile and enable many types of plants to grow.
Here are a few wines tasted and indulged during my 2017 stay in Sao Miguel. Not all of these wines originated here and I will group the Azores wines together under their own heading.
Vinho de Cheiro  "Il Has De Bruma" from Vila Franco do Campo, Sao Miguel Azores
Grape Type: Isabella
The Isabella is a North American "Labrusca" grape that is native to the United States. Sources say that it is suspected to be a cross between vitis vinifera and vitis labrusca since it is mildly susceptible to diseases such as mildew which plague the vinifera vines. It is resistant to "phylloxera" however and gained prominence and favour to many countries outside of the North American continent. It has recently lost much of its renown since the wines it makes do not compare with the "noble" varieties.
The wine is light red in colour with a fragrant raspberry/floral bouquet. Soft and light on the palate with a pleasant refreshing acidity. The wine is low in alcohol (9.5%)  and made to drink young.
It is used by chefs to cook with ---especially octopus!  Price in the Azores Euro 1.95  
Quinta Da Jardinete "Chardonnay"  from Fenais da Luz, Sao Miguel, Azores

Chardonnay is one of the most popular if not the most popular grapes in the World. It can be vinified into many styles and goes through various popularity styles. Fore example in the early 1990's and for a decade thereafter it was the oak chard made popular by California and Australia that was the rage. The oak was evident and the success or failure was based on the taste of vanilla oak in the wine. However things change and now it is the "natural" or unoaked style that is winning applause.
Quinta Da Jardinete exhibits the oak less style with no oak and just the pure varietal taste of citrus, pear, apple, floral and even a bit of peach that is the wine.
The wine is crisp and fresh and matches a wide assortment of dishes and is what I call "intermediary" meaning that it can be used with a salad and yet still be good with a fish or fowl dish right after.
Jardinete has all these qualities which makes it a wine that holds it own and even surpasses many other better known wines from around the globe!

Quinta Da Jardinete Fernão Pires/Sauvignon Blanc (above producer) Also known as “Maria Gomez” Fernao Pires adds fragrance to a wine. Pale yellow with a slight green hue, this brilliantly clear, crisp Sauvignon Blanc - Fernão Pires white blend displays delicate aromas of passion fruit and fresh citrus.

Quinta Da Jardinete Merlot/Aragones (Above producer)

A 60% Merlot/40% Aragones (Tempranillo) blend has ripe fruit and fine tannins balanced with subtle oak finish.

Adega Grande Reserva “CastelãoTejo, Portugal

This is a 100% Castelão also known as Periquita. It is a clear red wine with aromas of ripe fruit. In the mouth it is very soft and persistent with a long finish. Euro 1.99

Adega Grande Branco Reserva: Adega De Murca “Fernao Pires”   Tejo, Portugal

White, medium body, soft and flavourful on the palate with a fragrant with floral rose notes along with citrus lime! Euro 1.50
Coracao do Minho, "Frutado" Rosado Caves Campelo Euro .83 
A very inexpensive yet drinkable wine with red fruit flavours of strawberry and cherry. Excellent for a warm evening on a balcony or patio!
 Ontario Canada Wines
Owing to baggage restrictions I brought only two wines to share. 
Sandbanks Cabernet Franc Prince Edward County 
Red Wine.  Nose: Plum, Cherry, Cedar and earth notes. Medium to Full in body with cherry and vanilla oak notes. Spice on the finish. (Similar bottle given to winemaker Mario of Quinta da Jardinete).
Inniskillin Pinot Gris/Riesling Niagara on the lake
White Wine Nose: citrus, peach, pear notes  with a light body citrus, passion fruit on mouth and crisp finish.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Discovering The Azores: Day 13: Last Day In Azores, Visit To The Garden, Lunch Good-Bye and THANKS!

Last Morning!
I awoke early that morning and organized my final packing. I knew that if I waited my final few hours would be filled with anxiety. I have a great need to be in control and to achieve it I need extra time to prepare. Thus it was five AM when I got up and by six am I was pretty much ready.
Breakfast was at 7:30 and it was the same excellent menu, I relaxed and let the food digest for about an hour and then took the packed bags downstairs to the front desk and asked for storage space. A room was provided and the rest of the morning was free until three o'clock when the vehicle came to pick us up.
Back to Jardim Antonio Borges
Needing a few more photos of the garden that was visited yesterday meant a return to the Jardim Antonio Borges. This time a closer look at the garden was in order and that is exactly what we did, I can't believe that so many huge trees could grow in one place the plane touched down in . I swear that some of the Eucalyptus trees were at least 100 feet high and they were made small by some of the other representatives.
Bella Italia Once Again 
 Pizza was the most likely candidate for convenience though I did try some of the Minestrone along with it.
Our tummies full and not wanting to do anymore walking we decided to go and wait for the pickup.
Good-Bye Azores!  
The time between our arrival at Joao Paulo 2 Airport was a blur and soon the Airbus 330 Flight 321 to Pearson was on its way! During the flight I watched a couple of movies before touchdown in Toronto.
We arrived at approximately eight o'clock.that evening and were home by ten PM.
Unpacked and went to bed!
End of Day 13! Trip End! 

Discovering The Azores Day 12: New Day at Talisman, Feeling Good!, Walk with Minuvida, Dinner at Talisman and Final Night In Azores!

New Day Dawns!
I awoke to sunshine ---well at least the Sun was shedding its first rays upon the Talisman room! i awoke feeling so very refreshed and full of energy. Remember! I had just gone through several days in pain from a toothache and had the energy of a crushed dew worm all dried up in the  middle of the road. Today was different. I could hardly wait to get going. I felt so great! I figured that the heavy medication I was taking had "kicked in" and the infection was on its way out.
Breakfast was amazing since I had a great appetite and the food was so varied and so great. A number of eyes looked in surprised when they saw my plate full of bacon, eggs, scrambled eggs, cold cuts, grilled vegetables, cheese, sausages, buns and juice. I ate every single morsel!
Rimi and Joao were supposed to join us later on in the morning as they had some business to do Ponta Delgada. They showed up around ten thirty and we went for a walk to a quiet park.
Jardim Antonio Borges
Rimi and Joao  led us to a moderately large garden about a mile northwest of the Talisman. We entered into a veritable paradise and were greeted by a bust of the creator named Antonio Borges-----a pineapple grower who fancied himself a botanist.of sorts. The garden started out as a private one around the 1860's  and quickly grew to what is now a very complete and romantic public garden,
Borges imported plants from all over the world including a huge Indian Rubber Tree (Ficus Elastica)  that dwarfed the other plants and made me look microscopic when I stood beside it. Its large curving root structure was visible above ground giving it the architectural appearance of a Gothic buttress.
The park also included several good sized ponds complete with ducks and fish. Within the garden one can also refresh via a nice cafe where we had a nice coffee and drinks..
Walk About and Forte de Sao Bras de Ponta Delgada  
 All good things must come to an end and Rimi and Joao had to bid us their "adieu" as they had other business.  It was almost lunch time so we walked  around the centre of the city not far from the waterfront. We visited the 16th Century Forte de sao Bras de Ponta Delgada which was erected as a defense against pirate raids. It is now a naval base.
We spent a few minutes visiting some shops and purchasing some presents. Then it was back to the Italiano Restaurant for ----you guessed it! More pizza!
Baixa de Ponta Delgada (City Centre) and Portas da Cidade (City Gates)
The centre esplanade is full of activity. Situated across from the wharf it has an attraction all its own with a patterned brick esplanade and walkways designed both for relaxation, beauty and convenience. The superb Arches focusing on the very active business community that is next to the wharf and the main street.
The Archs were the old 18th Century gates and adjoining Town Hall.  They stand impressively on intricately patterned brick and cobble stone and look upon the business area of the city.
 Where Has The Time Gone?  
 Time goes by fast when one is having fun and we must have been having way too much fun since before we knew it it was dinner time. After much conjecture it was decided to have dinner at the hotel. We went to the room and prepared.
Swordfish steak and Chicken Parmigiana were our choices plus some very fine beer (what no wine?!) Especial. The fish was done to perfection and the chicken was well enjoyed. We then retired to our room in preparation for a long day home.ward bound!
End of Day Twelve


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Discovering The Azores Day 11: Last Morning at Terra Nostra, Driving To Livramento,,Whoa! Hold That Horse! Arrival At Talisman Hotel and Pizza On Display!

Final Morning At Terra Costa
I awoke early and finished my random packing for Ponta Delgada. We went for a final walk around the garden and of course a final dip in the sulfur pool then breakfast.  As usual breakfast was quite satisfying. Our bags were already to go so right after we were done breakfast we checked out and soon we were on our way to Livramento!
Located in the southwestern part of Sao Miguel, Livramento is known for its historical tradition. Apparently a family of English people were seeking refuge from the British government and set up house in Livramento. The area prospered during the 19th Century due to a mandatory stoppage by vessels going on long distance voyages in order to collect oranges!  Why? Think of Scurvy and vitamin c!  Many manor Houses were built around this time.
Quinta da Terca 
One of these manor houses that goes back to the 17th Century is Quinta da Terca. The estate was once one of these orange suppliers but as the years passed, the orange trade diminished in direct relation to the higher quality oranges being brought from other areas. Soon the orchards were gone.
The estate now serves as a hospitality depot for recreation and lodging. There are guest rooms with all the amenities for stays on the property as well as dinner facilities, golf courses, recreational diving and snorkeling and various tours. of course then there was Horseback Riding..
For God's Sake Whoa! .
Bruno was our guide and he selected the horses. Now I did tell him that I was not an expert. I also told him that I was uncomfortable in my last horse venture. He picked a clam horse for this two hour tour.
Here's how the tour went.
"The voyage started getting rough. The mighty hips were hurt. With a horse so wide and hips so old the venture would be lost! Now the guide was a mighty horseman and those around me were brave and true but I feared that in the two hour tour my body would be lost----body would be lost!"  
After an hour and a saddle that got loose on me ---causing me to hit the ground running! I was asked if I wanted to cut the time down to one hour. I was dying here but I would be damned to give them the pleasure of seeing me quit.
"Of course not!"I remarked---hating myself for not throwing in the towel.
We went on through lovely orchards,beautiful meadows and superb hills. We also went on paved roads whereby cars would go by us. One jerk passed us on a motorcycle and purposely revved his cycle as he passed. My horse jumped and my hips hurt even more. By the time we got to the barn, my body was praying---pleading for relief. On stopping I fell off my horse and tried to walk. It took at least twenty minutes to do so. "You did well," Bruno said! I smiled the smile of "Never More!". 
Ponta Delgada
Directions are a great thing but only if you are aware of the names you are being directed to and only if the street names are clear to be read from the roadway! I managed to get from Livramento to Ponta Delgada but once in Ponta Delgada everything became obscure. Road signs did not seem very helpful and I was more concerned not to become entangled in a car accident due to my concentration in looking at signs.
I eventually stopped and asked a man to direct me to the Talisman Hotel. He pondered a bit and then to my surprise he gave me a sign to follow him in his car. Within ten minutes through winding streets we came to the Talisman.
 His name was Edwardo and i am eternally grateful! We parked and made our way to the hotel and registered.
Returning the Car
Ironically, the vehicle was parked not far from the car rental property and we then made our way to the place. The patron was alone and busy so I brought the car in and advised him of some minor problems with the vehicles operation. He checked the car and thanked us.
Dinner---Guess What? It's Pizza!!.
I was hungry so looking for an obvious restaurant  would have to be quick. we went up and down several streets after asking the hotel day manager about nice places to eat. My patience was quite low however and when I came up to a restaurant called Italiano. The owner told us that he had emigrated from Pakistan and set up a business in  the city.
We ordered a superb beer and followed that up with a nice pizza. Now full, we payed our bill of only 10 Euros and off we went to the hotel.
Talisman Hotel 
The hotel is located in the older corridor of the Ponta Delgada area not far from the wharf and main business street. The location made it ideal to visit a number of stores and parks in the area. The hotel itself was a reconditioned 17th Century home that was expanded to include a very modern property. The main foyer and staircase were original but there was much in the form of additions.
Our  room was excellent. Spacious and had a balcony. The balcony oversaw a lovely small garden and park..
The whole scene was lovely and enchanting.
After our walk and dinner we decided it was time to end our day and get some rest. It was a very long day!
End of Day Eleven.

Discovering The Azores: Day 10 April 2nd Rain Day and visit to Terra Nostra Garden, Vocano Lake!

 Breakfast Time!
It's not fun getting up to rain but if it must rain then Furnas and the Terra Nostra Hotel is the place to be.
Furnas because of its volcanic activity is warmer though seemingly wetter than other parts of this rather wet island.  From the room terrace I could see part of the pool and an outline of the Terra Nostra Garden. People were still walking around and also dipping into the sulfur pool.
It was suggested that we go into the pool first before breakfast but time was not with us and since the stomach needed more nourishment than the muscles needed exercise----we went down to the restaurant. There was the usual buffet of breakfast items as well as house fruit specialties and all tasted magnificent.
After breakfast it was to the Garden.
This was the first time that I felt confident that my tooth was not going to act up. It did not!
Terra Nostra Garden
 Even in the rain, the expansive Terra Nostra Garden is impressive. Giant trees seemingly touch the sky --stretching their branches upward and outward as if to impress upon us humans of our frailness.
While this garden was man made the inhabitants have now asserted themselves.
The large looming trees sheltered us humans as we walked underneath---dry enough with the occasional dribble (usually catching me in the base of the back of my neck) that came from a wayward leaf or branch.
The birds did not seem to mind it as ducks and geese and rare black swans swam up and down the many little water ways and streams. Where the birds did not swim were dozens of huge Koi and goldfish patterning their water location with their tails and fins.
The paths were endless and in all directions. However the place was immaculate in its tidiness. Here there was respect for a job well done by past human intervention and the natural state of well cared for plants.
Finally, we decided to return to the room and wait for a clearing in the weather.
Lagoa das Furnas 
   The Sun finally thrust its rays later on in the afternoon and I suggested heading to Lagoa das Furnas just several kilometres away. The lake is a volcanic crater lake surrounded by tree vegetation. It has many of what are called fumaroles which are openings in the earth's crust from which steam and gasses escape. These are located ,along with various mudhloes, in the north part of the lake. 
The lake itself is very scenic with attractive man made trails and decorations including some amazing wooden sculptures. Along the lake path one can find attractive gardens, horse back riding facilities and picnic grounds. Not far from the lake are a series of health inducing sulfur baths.
Chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitórias
Or "Our Lady of the  Victories"  was erected in the mid 19th Century in the southwestern corner of the lake. it was built following the terminal illness of the wife of  a well to do farmer Jose do Canto. The chapel which contains the bodies of both Canto and his wife, is looked upon as an amazing piece of architecture and is easily seen by those who walk the path of the lake!
The lake area is host to many types of animals, birds and fish as well as the large varieties of plants.
It started to drip a bit again and we realized it was time to leave. We made our way back to the care and then were off to the hotel.
Dinner at Tony's Snack Bar!
 Anyone who stays in Furnas must try the pizza at Tony's Snack Bar. The ingredients used are excellent and the cheese amazing. We drove to the place and had one more time, a marvelous pizza. The beer called "Especiale" as a great accompaniment.
W then retired to our home in the hotel and prepared for our eventual departure the next day.
That night i sat out on the balcony of the room and looked at the tree shapes silhouetted against the dark sky. The sounds from dozens of birds and frogs etc. reminded me of the 1930's movie called Dracula.
As the Vampire spoke to his "guest", he noticed the sounds of the wild animals around his castle. He said "Listen to my children! Listen to the creatures of the night!"
I bid the sounds goodnight goodnight and retired !
End of Day Ten. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Discovering Azores Day 9: Trip to Povoacao, Dinner at Tony;s, Another Swim in the pool!

Trip To Povoacao
It was a back and froth type of thing! Do I go visit a doctor and get antibiotics or no? Is my tooth that bad and actually the aspirin are working-----most of the time but when it hurt it did come in waves and suppose there is something serious happening. I called my dentist in Canada and he gave me three questions and if I answered yes to just one of them then it was suggested to get to a doctor for antibiotics at once. I answered yes to all three.
We were off to the City of Povoacao not as tourists but as patients in need of a doctor. The trip was actually quite nice since there were some nice sites.
The directions we were given were quite accurate and soon we were in the heart of the city.
This city is located in the southeastern corner of the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. Located some 22 kilometres from where we were staying in Furnas the drive would have been more enjoyable had I not had a painful tooth.  The winding road ascended up the volcanic hill until we reached the peak  and then started a sharp decline into the city.
Like Furnas, Povoacao is located within semi active volcano craters whose width stretches for kilometres. It was the first area to be colonized in 1427 and expanded in 1432. It became a Naval Shipyard in the 1700's and was made a municipality circa 1840!
The city was devastated in an earthquake in 1935.  .  
Centro de Saude de Povoacao 
What amazed me in seeking the urgent care facility was that while we were but a few metres from the medical centre many of those that we asked did not know anything about it or where it was. "Maybe", I said to myself, "they do not use the medical health care system as much as we do. Or maybe we use ours way too much!"
Regardless, I knew that I needed something and this was the place. We parked and went in. A lovely young lady greeted us and spoke excellent English as did many of the populous. I explained my situation and paid 55 Euros (about $75 CAD) and were told that the doctor would see us shortly.
Dr. Antonio was as I imagined he would be. Seemingly in his late 50's, sporting short thinning hair and a small mustache, he sat behind a desk looking authoritative. He had a kind face that exuded the patience of one who had seen it all. I explained my predicament.
He gently examined my teeth and was quick to react as soon as he saw the infected area. He prescribed an antibiotic Amoxicillin at a high dosage of 1000 mg three times a day plus game me Ibuprofen at a 600 mg/capsule at the same rate for pain. The pain I could handle but as soon as I knew that the infection was about to be checked I was already feeling better.
The drive back to Furnas was far more pleasant though we did encounter fog patches at the highest points of land.
The nickname of Sao Miguel is "The Green Island" because anywhere one goes is covered with greenery. When one looks at the copious amounts of rain and mist that abound during many months of the year this name is understandable. The average monthly rainfall is lowest in July at roughly 33 mm and highest in January at roughly 135 mm.
Temps fluctuate from a daytime high of 16 degrees Centigrade in February to a daytime high of 25 degrees Centigrade in August. Low temperatures at night range from 10 degrees Centigrade in February to 18 degrees Centigrade in August. Temperature patterns can vary in various districts ranging from various highs and lows but usually above freezing.
We got to Furnas just in time to head to a well known Furnas restaurant called Tony's. The fish (Abrotea) and vegetables I had was good and filled the hunger gap while the chicken and veggies pleased my partner. With our stomachs full it was back to the hotel Terra Nostra and another swim in the huge sulphur pool. It was a relaxing ending to an eventful and very busy day!
End of Day Nine