61 Unveiled Think of Swiss valleys, with abundant wild flowers and cattle-grazed pastures divided by stone walls. Despite their ‘in-the-middle-of-the-Atlantic’ reputation, the Azores lie between latitude 37°N and 39°N which gives a tepid subtropical climate with average annual temperatures between a low of 15° Centigrade and a high of 20° Centigrade. This is ideal to sustain not only indigenous flora, but also many non-native species. There are about sixty plants unique to the Azores, such as the Laurel Tree, Scotch Heather and Cedar. Then there are several hundred more introductions which thrive in the mild conditions. For Fred. Olsen’s cruises to the Azores, visit fredolsencruises.com, contact a travel agent or call 0800 0355 226 Imagine hydrangea hedges and wind breaks of azalea and camellia. Trees of juniper, Brazilian mahogany, dogwood and laurel are grown for ornament as well as for timber. White Arum Lilies line the banks and verges, whilst banana and pineapple trees shade humble homesteads, and the pink bell-like flowers of the native Vidalia dot the shoreline. Who’s for Tea? The island of São Miguel produces dairy products as well as coffee, pineapple, tobacco, bananas and pepper. Not surprisingly, the Camellia Sinensis (Tea Plant) thrives on the island and tea has been produced here since 1874. Pop into any of the shops near the port and you’ll find several blends of locally grown tea from which to choose – either loose or as tea bags. It’s a tasty souvenir, totally European and utterly delicious. Flora The main town on São Miguel is Ponta Delgada, full of handsome houses, colourful gardens, elegant municipal buildings and intricately paved streets. It is also home to the Antonio Borges Botanic Gardens. Borges was a local politician, pineapple grower and keen botanist. He created the gardens in 1858 and introduced rare and exotic plants such as Clivias, Indian Rubber Trees, tree ferns, bamboos and Azaleas. He also introduced the now prolific Hydrangeas which colonised the island and are fast becoming the national symbol of the Azores. Nearby are the gardens of José do Canto – a fine example of gardens in the English style laid out around an ancient chapel. Here a range of rare and colourful plants covers 15 acres, together with trees and shrubs. The gardens also have a Victorian style greenhouse, which is now converted into a pavilion for exhibitions. In Ponta Delgada you can find gardens both municipal and botanical. Across the island of São Miguel itself you’ll find an array of impressive landscapes, both natural and cultivated. Now I not only know where the Azores are, but also how astonishingly beautiful and verdant they are. No wonder São Miguel is called the Green Island; I can’t wait to visit again. Positive Vote Far from being an add-on to seemingly more attractive cruise destinations, the inclusion of the Azores as a port of call ought to be a prime reason for your choice of itinerary. You will not believe its beauty and variety until you visit, and you’ll never regret it once you have done so. P.S. Just in case you were wondering about those place names: Timbuktu is in Mali; Samarkand in Uzbekistan; Kalundborg in Denmark; and Hilversum in the Netherlands. German Bight is the area of the North Sea bounded by the Netherlands and Germany to the south, and Denmark to the east, also near Jutland and the Dogger Bank. A ‘bight’, by the way, is a coastal curve or bay. Happy gardening and cruising!
Closer Magazine Winter 2013-14
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