July 5, 2014

Day 4: São Miguel Road Trip, West & Northwest

I’m not keen on guided tours, but decided it would be silly to only stay in town and not see the rest of the island. And I want to be able to stop and record at any place that seems promising, and stay as long as I need to. So today, after some initial trepidation and procrastinating, I rented a car. Not sure why I feel intimidated about driving here, it’s really no different. And it’s an island, so getting lost is not an issue. But I bought the full insurance, just in case. Once I got out on the road the driving was fine and I had a great day. Went up a winding mountain road to Lagoa do Canário (Canary Lake) where I recorded birds in the pine/fern forest, and young campers singing songs as they marched on a hike to somewhere.

Then to Sete Cidades (Seven Cities), where there are two lakes next to each other in a volcanic crater — one green, one blue. Very famous place, lots of tourists at the scenic overlooks, and lots of hikers on the surrounding trails. Drove down into the caldera, through the town by the lakes, and up the other side then back down to the coast.

The coastline is really rugged and beautiful, reminds me a bit of Northern California except all the rocks are lava and the beaches are black sand.

I stopped in Mosteiros and made some good recordings of pounding surf, and drove all the way to Capelas on the north coast and then back to town, basically a loop of the whole west/northwest part of the island. A lot of the little coastal towns have natural swimming pools, which are like large tide pools where the ocean comes in, but protected from the waves by large rocks that form a kind of lagoon. Some are definitely man-made, some seem to be more natural, but they are really great and quite popular with local people. Haven’t swum in one yet, but hope to soon.

I should also mention that I seem to have arrived during the peak bloom time for the hydrangeas, which are literally everywhere you look and line all of the roads.

In the evening I was invited to a party at the modern beach house of João and Diana, out on the north coast near Capelas, where I had been on my drive earlier in the day. Lots of interesting folks of many nationalities there — German, Swede, Brit, American, but mostly Portuguese. Everyone brought good food and wine and there was interesting bilingual conversation. I met some other musicians and artists and had a great time, and our gracious hosts made me feel welcome. Everyone knew everyone, and I got a sense of what a small, tight community this is. Emanuel’s oldest daughter was there with her guy and their cute little girl, Violeta. João was talking to this woman from England in a perfect Scottish accent; turns out he grew up in Edinburgh, and can whip out the accent whenever he talks to someone from Britain. Talking to me, he speaks English with a much more "Portuguese" accent. Really funny. At one point João and Diana’s daughter Emma (maybe 12?) started playing her beginner’s cello exercises. One of the male guests started singing with her, improvising on what she was playing, very witty and fun. Emma really got into it, and the weirder his improvisations got, she was right there with him, playing skronky sound effects on the cello. I was so impressed by her adventurous playing. Then the rest of the adults joined in on kitchen percussion and dancing, and it was quite amusing. One of the other guests was the American jazz drummer Michael Wimberly, who is here from NY to do some workshops with kids — very nice guy, I didn't know him before but we know some people in common. He had a gig later that night and I wanted to go, but I was too tired so got dropped at the hotel instead.