Would I ever have travelled to Faial if I had not had a relative living in (and raving about) the island? Possibly not. But had I not, I would have missed seeing one of the most stunning places I have ever been to.
Unfortunately, unless you are lucky enough to live in Lisbon, the journey there is both convoluted and prone to flight delays and cancellations. But, that is the only downside…I promise!
On my maiden voyage, I was awestruck by both the patchwork quilt of Faial’s countryside and the magnificence of Pico – the neighbouring island. It isn’t often you catch a glimpse of a mountain rising out of the sea: topped with a permafrost tablecloth. Neither did I expect to see fields and hills reminiscent of Devon and Cornwall.
From the moment I landed I began to feel the comforting notion that I had travelled back in time: that I had shrugged off the problems, materialism and political unrest in the world and left them on tarmac.
With my case loaded in my brother’s car, we followed the road to Horta town; which winds through the lush green fields I had marvelled at from the air. Modern houses of white and grey; ochre yellow or the occasional vibrant purple stand shoulder to shoulder with the remains of houses that were unable to withstand the might of the earthquake that devastated the island in July 1998.
I have to report that we didn’t get far! Our journey took us through the cobbled streets – and just happened to pass Café Porto Pim. It is an establishment like no other, and sits on the edge of a bay overlooking clear blue waters and the old Whaling Station. Everyone who is anyone meets there, and being definite “anyones” we stopped for a glass of chilled Rosé and a beer for the “chauffeur”.
Not two hundred yards away by road is the Harbour and Port that has made Faial a place known to most long haul sailors. It is the safe harbour on the way across the Atlantic and it has enticed many a seafarer to hang up his oilskins and settle in a little piece of heaven. It is the most amazing artistic marine diary. Every boat that drops anchor there is duty bound to paint a likeness of their boat’s name, the crew and the date. Most sailors wend their weary way to Peter’s Bar: famous, noisy, and an experience to tick off the “must-do” list.
There is so much to see and do on Faial: some of it obvious – much of it hidden. The flora and fauna pulls at your heart strings and the peace is something that draws you back time and time again.
So, I would say that my first impressions of Faial were positive. The weather surprised me, and the ferocity of the winds and rain scared me on my first visit. But within days of coming home, I am already planning my next visit.
At the beginning of this little synopsis I said that the unreliable plane service was a downside. But, now I come to think of it, it is a definite advantage. I moan like the next man if the plane is cancelled or delayed, but – selfishly – I hope that Tap and Sata’s inefficiency will curtail or prevent mass tourism infesting a little piece of paradise!