If you hang out at the local cafes on Sao Miguek island, especially in the smaller villages then you will see that domino is a popular past time there.
It's almost always men playing the game and you will mostly have quite a few spectators to the game so it's not just something they do cause they have nothing else to do, but because they take it quite serious.
The game is in particular popular with the older guys, but you also has plenty of younger guys playing the game so it's not about to die out on the island.
Even if most locals on the Azores drive cars these days then you still have some people who ride horse carts as a mean of transport.
You won´t see many of them, but there are quite a few if you drive around the smaller roads on the island and they sure add to the local street scene in a positive way.
Fishing for squid is both a trade and a local custom in Sao Miguel.
Even if there was no money to be made from it they would be doing it anyway.
They are fishing for squids with lines and you will see the boats out right off the coast as soon as the weather is suitable for it.
When the weather is not good for fishing you will often see the fishermen hanging out by the local cafes waiting impatiently for the weather to get better so they can go out and fish.
this is a trade, but certainly also a big part of the culture in *Sao Miguel.
The Capote was worn by aroran women back in the old days when the islands were highly religious and conservative.
It was kind of a dress where you had the whole body coverd by long robes and the head was coverd by clothes too that was suspended by jaw bones from the whales that they caufht on the island.
The dress was in many ways a bit of an "Azoran Burqua" and it was meant to shield the wealthy women of the island from the hungry eyes of the working class.
These days the capote is no longer worn and the girls are happily wearing tight jeans and walking topless on the beach, but the Capote is still a part of the Azoan identiry.
The Azores are renowned for their fresh fish and seafood which you'll find almost everywhere, prepared simply and delicious. If you want to indulge in gastronomic delicacies, you can taste a variety of succulent dishes prepared by the traditional old recipes which are still very much alive in the islands.
There is a large variety of local fish, from small to medium-sized and huge ones. They include abrotea, white hake and cherne (wreck fish), all considered the best of the white fish. Tuna and espadarte (swordfish) mostly appear filleted and are the absolute winners among dark-flash fish. Especially delicious are the stews, caldeiradas de peixe, though fish can be also fried or grilled. Try also fried chicharros (horse mackerel).
It is quite usual to prepare bacalhau (codfish). There are 365 different recipes, one for each day of the year: bacalhau á braz (fried potatoes, small pieces of boiled cod mixed with scrambled eggs), bacalhau de natas (fried potatoes, small pieces of cod, olive oil-based bechamel sauce and cream on top) or bacalhau na chapa (a thick piece of cod baked in the oven with olive oil, onion, garlic and red pepper).
As for seafood, polvo guisado em vinho de cheiro (octopus cooked in the regional wine) is very popular and it tastes heavenly, as are lulas grelhadas (grilled squid).
But really unusual are cracas (barnacles), a shellfish typical of the Azores, though not so easy to found in the restaurants. Eaten as an appetiser, the tiny morsels are removed with a special hooked utensil from the shell that clings to a piece of rock.
Lapas (limpets) are another shellfish eaten in various ways, most commonly baked with garlic and lemon juice. Arroz de lapas (rice with limpets) is also popular, or lapas de molho Afonso (limpets with a tasty spicy sauce).
There is also cavaco, an endemic kind of crab, lagosta (lobster), camarões (shrimp) and caracóis (snails).
Lapas (limpets) are very small (about the size of half a mussel shell) shellfish that grow in the waters around the islands and can be found in many restaurants. Usually they are served grilled in olive oil - lapas grelhadas. Squeeze some fresh lemon over it and you'll be in heaven :) Other recipes include arroz de lapas (rice with limpets), lapas de molho Afonso (limpets with a tasty spicy sauce) and empadas de lapas (buns with limpets).
Lapas are one of the things that you will only get here on the islands so well worth trying. The meat is chewy and has a real sea flavour if not over seasoned.
The popular festas populares (saint day festivals) - São António on 13th of June, São João on 24th of June and São Pedro on 29th of June - that take place throughout of the archipelago are a testament to the deep religious faith of the people. One of the most beloved is santos populares (popular saints) is São João.
Festa do São João da Vila is held in Vila Franca do Campo in honour of the town's patron São João. The festivity takes about a week though the highlight of the festival happens on the night of São João, the 23rd of June, when hundreds of dancing and singing couples parade through the town's main street, colourfully decorated with paper garlands and flowers, paying homage to the saint.
São João marches are organized through the year by people in every village of Vila Franca do Campo, from Água d'Alto to Ponta Garça, and are as much a tribute to the saint as the popular sardinhas - grilled sardines are offered as a symbol of welcome to visitors that are invited to freely taste corn bread, grilled sardines and wine. There are stands all around the town offering a great variety of traditional Azorean dishes and drinks.
The night of the 23rd of June is long and marry, with music and dancing lasting from dusk till dawn, while sardines are grilled and the wine flows on every street corner. The celebration closes with a fireworks launched from the south jetty of Porto de Pescas.
more pics in the Vila Franca do Campo travelogue
Make sure you try Cozido das Furnas, one of the most popular dishes of the Azores. This unique dish is cooked in the 'natural kitchen', in the heat of the volcanic soil by the Furnas Lake. Holes are made about 1m deep in the hot earth into which they place a pot filled with different meats (or cod fish) and vegetables (mostly cabbage, carrots, pepper, potatoes and yam). It is all left to slowly cook for around seven hours and thus all the flavours and delicious juices are preserved.
This is not only a tourist attraction but a popular Sunday lunch tradition to come here with the family, cook the cozido and enjoy this tasty dish in these magnificent surroundings. Feeling of excitement is present when the pot is removed from the ground. Various restaurants by the lake also serve this must have meal.
I've been told about one thing that I really must not miss in the Azores - cracas. To my surprise, most of the local restaurants did not serve them. But António found a nice place and brought me there on the day before my departure from the island. Thus the last wish about what to experience in the Azores was fulfilled.
Cracas (barnacles) are strange small shellfish that come from deep waters. They are hidden in tube-like holes they carve in the rocks. Small pieces of rock which have many little holes filled with cracas are cooked in salt water with a bit of hot pepper. The tiny morsels have a delicate white meat and are removed with a thin metal hooked utensil. The meat is tender and sweet and with some nice vinho verde... oh, you'll be in paradise :) It would be worth going back to the Azores just for cracas :)
The old conventual sweets of Azores are a temptation to people with a sweet tooth. São Miguel offers a considerable variety of regional sweets, such as
- queijadas da Vila
- concertos da Ribeira Grande
- bolo lêvedo das Furnas
- bichos de amêndoa
- fofas da Povoação and
- massa sovada.
Queijadas are a type of sweet cake dessert, popular in Portugal, and especially in the Azores. Most have similar ingredients. Queijadas de Vila Franca do Campo are famous, delicious small cakes made with cheese, originating in Vila Franca do Campo. Today they are made in the pastry shop in Arrifes. The recipe is kept secret.
What a lucky girl I was staying in that same village! So I could visit the pastry shop on the day before I left São Miguel and buy freshly made queijadas, almost directly from the owen. I bought three boxes of six to take with me. Oh, my friends just loved them! And so did I :)
The pottery originated in medieval times with the characteristics brought by the Arabs and the Moors during the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. At the end of the 15th century the Azoreans were using pottery made in the islands, which had Spanish-Moorish influence. Given the mix of cultures in the Iberian Peninsula, there came other influences, such as Greek and Roman.
Since the 19th century Lagoa has been the centre of the regional pottery industry. You can visit the factory, showrooms and museum Cerâmica Vieira which was founded in 1862. Pottery manufacturing has maintained through all these years, now already the 5th generation.
Touring the factory, you go through the whole process until the final product. Its production, pots, bowls, vases and other items, is still handmade with a traditional blue decoration, known as louça da Lagoa (Lagoa pottery). Their azulejos (glazed tiles) are made and hand-painted with typical patterns which give them the characteristics of the primitive tiles.
Cerâmica Vieira is located on Rua das Alminhas 12, Rosário, Lagoa (9 km east from Ponta Delgada).
These men are walking from village to village and praying for you. Anyone can leave them a prayer request and then they will stop at the first church that comes and pray for you as many times as there are men in the group. The pilgrimers get a paid week off from work to do this. The pilgrimage takes a week so there are new pilgrimers every week.
Festival of Senhor Santo Cristo is the biggest religious festivity of the archipelago, and mobilizes thousands of people from all the islands and from all over the world, primarily Portuguese immigrants living abroad (namely Canada and USA).
This festival takes place in the city of Ponta Delgada and it is commemorated annually on the fifth Sunday after Easter.
The statue of Senhor Santo Cristo goes through a procession in the streets of Ponta Delgada, being then taken to the Esperança convent.
This festival has, besides the religious component, a profane one, with fairs, exhibitions, and the traditional “tasquinhas” where one can get something to eat and drink.
Holy Spirit Festivities are celebrated in all islands, commencing with Pentecostal Sunday and many Sundays following it, differ in characteristics from island to island and town to town. The similarities are, the “Grande Coroação”, (Great Crowning) and the distribution of food especially the “Sopas do Império”, (Imperial Soup), as tradition dictates.
At the past there were many tobacco factories. Nowadays we have only two factories.
In Maia village, you can find Museu do Tabaco - Tobacco Museum.