It took us 45 days and 4 states but we finally managed to complete our mission which was to visit our family and friends on the mainland before departing on our 10 month long international adventure. As fun as it was (especially for our girls), it was definitely not a vacation. I worked a good deal of the time (as I expected) to keep up with my project work load. Fortunately, my ‘job’ allows me to work from practically anywhere in the world. As most of you know, I am a structural engineer and have had my own consulting engineering practice for over 30 years. Not many of my clients (some of which I have worked with for over 25 years) were very surprised that I would undertake an almost year long journey with my family especially after our move to Maui, almost 7 years ago!
I am happy to report that we have now arrived at our first international stop; Ponta Delgada which is in the Azores Islands archipelago (about 950 miles from mainland Portugal). A beautiful, friendly and very affordable island (for travelers anyway, especially those of us that are used to the cost of living on Maui!). There are many small restaurants and cafes in our vicinity. Although our apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, we have opted to eat most of our meals out to experience the local quisine. We have probably spent on average 30 euro ($35) for a meal for the five of us, including espressos and dessert (which is about half of what we normally spend on a comparable meal on Maui). We found ourselves ordering too much food usually thinking that the low prices equated to smaller portions, but this was definitely not the case.
The island is home to about 150,000 people and is approximately 1/2 the size of Maui. An interesting mix of old and very modern architecture (which I did not expect to find here). Most of the people that we have had interactions with speak a bit of English. With Tiffany’s fluency in Spanish (not exactly the same as Portuguese…but close) we have not had any communication problems at all.
There was a minor hiccup when we arrived at the Jet Blue counter in Boston to check in for our flight to Ponta Delgada. We had only booked a one-way ticket to Portugal to start our international travel but we were informed that we needed to have either a return ticket (back to the US) or a forward ticket out of Europe. I guess we forget to read the ‘fine print’ when we booked our first one-way ticket to Europe. We quickly made a decision to add Egypt to our itinerary (which we had tentatively planned to visit anyway, but had not picked a specific time to do so.) The ticket ‘out of Europe’ satisfied the agent and we were issued our boarding passes.
Our first Airbnb is a modest compact dwelling near the center of town about 2 blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. (The ‘other’ big ocean). As many of you know that have been to the older parts of Europe, the ‘houses’ are literally next to each other with shared walls and individual street entrances. Our ‘house’ opens directly to a very narrow one-way street (Rua do Poco). The street also has cars parked that are literally 2″ from the buildings. Parallel parking here is quite a feat.
The two level house is very comfortable with an eclectic mix of new and old furniture and decor. The rent here is $56 per night (including service fees). From this location, our mode of transportation by choice is our feet. It has worked out well so far (albeit with a bit of grumbling from some family members). We have probably walked about 3 miles per day on average so far!
Perhaps it was serendipitous, but the opening 5th grade story that we read to Scarlet is “Atlantis and Manu” which is a story about Atlantis sinking (disappearing) into the Atlantic Ocean (10,000 years ?) ago. And here we are literally 2 blocks away from the Atlantic Ocean. The 2nd grade opening story that we read to Eleanore is the story of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy. At this point in time, we are not yet sure of our itinerary in Italy.
Today is Monday, September 4, 2017 (8:00 am local time) as I complete this first post abroad. Tiffany will be adding the photos as she has volunteered to our photojournalist for this 10 month excursion.The next post will be shorter (maybe). Here are a some photos for your amusement (girls having fun, mostly).