National Geographic Explorer
This morning, after breakfast, we headed towards the Furnas Valley, a site of bubbling hot springs and fumaroles, a reminder of the legacy of these volcanic islands. It is a lovely drive, like traveling through an extensive garden. Virtually none of the plants are native, but even this time of year there are plenty of flowers to lend an almost dream-like quality to the landscape. High in the hills we stop at the Gorrean tea plantation, the only tea plantation in Europe. There is a tour and for the more wide-ranging wanderers there is a chance to observe how the tea is harvested with a hand-held machine similar to a hedge-cutter… not nearly as “romantic” as women hand-picking the leaves. We make several more stops at overlooks and small towns, strolling about and sampling mineral water before arriving at a lake, Laroa das Furnas, where people cook food in pits in a field of fumaroles. The meal of slow-cooked meat and vegetables is called cozido . We have cozido for lunch at the nearby Terra Nostra Hotel, served with delicious Portuguese wines. To help our digestion there is walking through an extensive garden and for those who wish, a dip in an invigorating pool of yellow mineral water. Okay, I did not go swimming, but from the sounds of splashing and laughing, it appears to be a very enjoyable experience. We return to the ship in the late afternoon for a “Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party” hosted by Captain Oliver Kreuss. Following dinner we have a special live performance in our lounge from the very popular young fado singer, Cuca Roseta. A very full day indeed!