Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Spot the Difference!

Compare with the image below.

OK - I'll put you out your misery to tell you that the lady pushing the shopping trolley has changed!


New delivery of new plastic pags for Jose Antonio and Linda. We had a laugh tonight (anyone with weak sides better go and get their corset on now) that the lady depicted is Linda and that she'd been dragged from the 60's (when she was about 6) to the 70's (when she was - whatever!).

The long winter evenings here just FLY by!

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Weather (last time)

I believe this is how it works that here in Faja it can be chucking it down, yet over in Santa Cruz on the other side of the island (only 12 kilometres away) it's bright and sunny. It also explains how it can be chucking it down here in Faja, yet it appears bright and clear out to sea. And how, if you drive over to S Cruz, you have to put your fog lights on once you're up in the Zona Nevoeiro (I may have spelt that wrongly). Cloudy zone - to drive from Faja Grande to S Cruz, you have to ascend to 600m/2000ft.

It is actually quite something to drive over the top of the island - creeping along with your fog lights one minute and out into bright sunshine the next!

This is a west wind scenario. The moist Atlantic wind rises over the west (left) cliffs of Flores and dumps rain and cloud over the west coast but this "bad news" has fizzled away by the time you get over to the east (right) coast at S. Cruz. In an east wind, the position reverses and in changeable weather, you see how you can get four seasons in one day!

Plastic Bags (again)

Article in this week's "Economist" (sort of UK equivalent of "Time") suggesting they've been banned in San Francisco.

Next stop, Santa Cruz das Flores.

Please note, I am not - repeat NOT - some sort of hair shirted hippy-dippy tree-hugger. For Pete's sake we managed to resist all attempts to recycle our waste when we lived in Edinburgh. But the fact that you COULD recycle in Edinburgh got under my skin enough to notice that you can't do it here even if you wanted to - well, let us say the Camara Municipal of Lajes das Flores doesn't seem to be promoting it in any shape or form at all. Nor am I aware whether the Governo Regional of the Azores has any policy on recycling.

Is it because the environment (ambiente) of Flores is still just so pristine that nobody's woken up to the fact that there could possibly be a problem if we don't watch out? That's my theory.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Weather (again)

Sorry if I seem a bit obsessed with the weather on this blog but when you've got the Atlantic Ocean at the bottom of your garden, it becomes more of a preoccupation. Also, people tend to assume the Azores are "tropical islands" - i.e. "sun kissed palm trees, white beaches and blue seas". (Well certainly blue seas, one or two palm trees but black beaches - volcanic, you see).

I've digressed already (but isn't that the point of a blog?)

Anyway, I wanted to share this satellite image from earlier this week which encapsulates a "weather moment" very clearly:-

Flores is the little dot in the (small) red circle to the left of the pic. Note the line of cloud (white) over us. That was a cold front. It's moving south east. When the satellite snapped this pic at about noon, it was raining very hard. But a couple of hours later, in the afternoon, it cleared up and was bright and sunny as the front passed over south east: we emerged into the clear - but cold as it was coming from the north west - air behind the front as the satellite pic clearly shows.

Weather in action, as it were, brought to you by the Finnish Meteorological Institute's website available (free) at this link:

Friday, 6 April 2007

Plastic Bags - Part 3

Germano's, the biggest shop in Lajes (second biggest town on Flores - although it's not really a town, just a village) have a good map on their plastic bags:-

Sorry the image is a bit fuzzy but taking a picture of a plastic bag with a flash produces disappointing results.

However, my favourite Flores plastic bag - although it doesn't bear a map - is that of our local shop here in Faja - Jose Antonio Ramos Teodosio - "Big Joe" as we call him. Please note, it's not possible to wheel a trolley round Joe's shop as the bag implies. It's too small. But it has everything you would need on a day to day basis. And the kindness of Joe and Linda is something you don't find in many places.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Plastic Bags - Part 2

I have been unable to find an example of the old Boaventura Ramos bags I believe carried a much better map of Flores on the back. This is annoying me. Is it an old one that's now out of print? Will BR 2006 bags be auctioned on eBay as rare collectors' items?

Meantime, the best I can do is a rare example of a 2007 Lourenco & Lourenco Lda. (AKA Arlindo's) bag. Rare because it shows the shopping trolley motif - only 500 of them were printed and 499 of these are now blowing around the landfill on the road to Ponta Delgada chasing the sea gulls.

Plastic Bags

15th century explorers named this island "Flores" after the profusion of wild flowers they found. By the same principle, a 21st century explorer landing here would have to call this island "Plastic Bags".

I believe that in some countries (Switzerland?) plastic bags are being taxed out of existence due to their eco-unfriendliness. But not here on Flores - maybe it's because the environment is just so pristine, no-one has yet woken up to the threat of the plastic bag (if indeed there is one).

ANYWAY (as my late father used to say), the plastic bags given out by the island's oldest "General Merchant" (as we would say in UK English), Boaventura Ramos & Ca. Lda. (est. 1926) have a super map of Flores on them.

Here it is:-

Wait a minute! Now that I look at this, that's not nearly as good a map as BV's bags used to have on them!

Excuse me for a bit while I investigate ...

Malaquias Branco

When we first arrived on Flores (May 2006), we sort of tried to "test ourselves to destruction" on how cheap wine we could drink. Starting from the bottom up, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our second experiment - Malaquias Branco - was perfectly drinkable at 0.9EU a litre.

Yes, that's right - 0.9 Euros (approx £(GBP) 0.60) a LITRE!

Now, we've been told that the locals only use it to hose down the animal fodder: apparently we get smirked at in the shop as "the crazy English" for buying it to drink. But it's really perfectly OK.

But then one day, there was no more Malaquias Branco. It was like a scene out of Whisky Galore - " Maybe some will come with the next ship " said Linda at the shop (without conviction). "Jose Antonio is going over to the wholesaler in Santa Cruz, tomorrow - maybe they will have some left ..." (even less conviction).

A Malaquias Branco drought! This is a very serious matter because the next wine up the ladder in cheapness is 4EU a litre - a 450% increase and this could wreck our precarious finances!

But today the drought ended! - MB in abundance in the shops in Santa Cruz. HURRAH!!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007


While we're on the subject of the weather, here's the Balneiaro (I think that's right -the swimming area as there's no beach) at Faja in the summer:-

And this is the same view about three weeks ago (in February)

One Tourist Doesn't Make a Summer!

But three might make a spring!

I mentioned before 2007's first tourist in Faja - well another two were spotted today! And the cagarros (see below) are most definitely here in some force now so we can certainly declare that spring - if not necessarily summer - has arrived in Flores.

"What's the weather like in the Acores, just now?" I hear you all asking. This is the most frequently asked of all FAQ's. Well, we're British (Scottish to be precise), and what I say in response to this VFAQ is "The weather in the Acores is quite like the weather in Scotland but about 5-10 degrees warmer over the year." Thus, today is March 13th but we had our lunch outside. But that's because it wasn't raining - which it does here quite a lot. But rain is good for the waterfalls which is a good excuse for a photo.

This is the biggest of the many waterfalls around Faja after heavy rain:-

Sunday, 4 March 2007

The first Cagarro of spring

We call them Cory's Shearwaters but Azoreans call them Cagarros - handsome big chocolate brown seabirds of the albatross family, much bigger than the Manx Shearwater we are used to in British waters.

The Cagarro spends most of its life at sea but comes ashore to breed in summer. I believe about 60% of the world population of cagarros breed on the Azores. And when they are here breeding on the cliffs of Flores, they don't half make a distinctive noise. "Wack-wack-wack-wack-WAAAAAAAAAACK" at night, as they wheel in flight above the village at night. Summer holidaymakers in Faja Grande are warned "If you hear a funny noise, it's the cagarros."

All of which is a long winded introduction to say I heard my first cagarro of 2007 last night.

I found myself explaining this about the cagarros to the first tourist on Flores of 2007. Is it global warming bringing the first tourist and first cagarro in February?

Monday, 19 February 2007


People say to us "I don't suppose there's much difference between the weekend and a weekday, is there?" Err, WRONG! Our local shop cum bar - Sala de Convivio as it's rather nicely called - closes at 3pm on a Sunday (c.f. 8pm the rest of the week). Which means we can frequently be caught napping if we want to fit a couple of beers in between getting up and catching Eastenders on BBC Prime. Nobody said it was going to be easy out here!

Below is a gratuitously gratuitous picture of the sea breaking on the rocks at Faja Grande where we live.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Let's try again, shall we?

You would think that giving up high powered jobs in Edinburgh (UK) to retire at the financially unhealthy ages of 42 and 48 respectively to the island of Flores in the Azores would be a bloggable sort of subject, wouldn't you? Well I can't really understand why I've not really managed the blog thing to date. Anyway, this blog is under new management, all previous entries have been deleted (both of them) and the new management ethos is "Stream of Consciousness" - i.e. don't think about it too much, just blog it. So ... What grabbed me today was this advert for holidays in the Azores in Hello! magazine. Apart from the marina and the dolphin, all the pics are of our island of Flores - we live in the distance of the pic at top right.