How to Visit Sete Cidades in the Azores!!

Dan and I spent the week after our wedding (which took place outside of Lisbon, Portugal in August!) on São Miguel Island in the Azores!  One of the main sites in the Azores, if not the main site in all of the Azores, is an area called Sete Cidades, and it is even more gorgeous in person than the photographs portray! 

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The stunning Sete Cidades!!

So, obviously everyone visiting São Miguel needs to visit Sete Cidades! However, despite being so popular and so beautiful, there is not a lot of information online to assist in planning a trip to Sete Cidades (or the Azores in general), so here are my tips from our two trips to Sete Cidades.  Yes, we went twice; once with a tour group (it rained!) and once on our own in our tiny rental car when it was sunny!

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Dramatic landscape en route to Sete Cidades – could have easily been Ireland!

To give you some background, “Sete Cidades” means Seven Cities in Portuguese and the name can refer to a number of things, including the huge (dormant) volcano that covers the western part of São Miguel Island, the green and blue lakes that are in the volcano’s crater, or the tiny town just next to the lakes.  You will want to see both the town and the lakes, also referred to as Lagoa das Sete Cidades, and the fantastic panoramic view of it all from the Kings View viewpoint!  

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The Kings View.

ITINERARY

Assuming you are not on a tour, start any trip to Sete Cidades with checking the SpotAzores free phone application. The Azores have a crazy climate and, at least on São Miguel Island, the weather can change very quickly. SpotAzores has cameras at tourist hotspots throughout the islands and lets visitors see the weather and level of cloudiness at each site. I recommend having a loose itinerary when visiting the Azores and finalizing it depending on the weather.  On our second trip to Sete Cidades, we left Ponta Delgada around 9:45 a.m. after breakfast.  Sete Cidades was looking great on the SpotAzores application, and we got some great pictures. However, on our first visit with the tour group, it was super cloudy at Sete Cidades.  After waiting for about 20 minutes, the clouds lifted for a few minutes and then came back. Thank goodness we had a second trip!

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Driving to Sete Cidades.

It took us about 45 minutes to reach Sete Cidades from Ponta Delgada (where we stayed). We had GPS in our rental car, but we ended up using Google Maps (yay T Mobile!) because we did not have a specific address for the GPS. Google Maps ended up taking us directly to the Kings View. You’ll definitely know when you get there because there will be so many other cars crammed in one little area, and you will probably see a bit of a traffic jam. There is also an abandoned hotel just next to the Kings View. If you happed to arrive in the town of Sete Cidades first, you can just do this itinerary in reverse (that is what we did on our tour).

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The great parking debacle.

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The abandoned hotel at the Kings View.

Given the number of cars, finding a parking spot can be tricky. We basically stopped wherever there was room; there are really no parking rules, nor anyone enforcing them. The Kings View is completely free and in good weather, food and souvenir vendors set up at the Kings View. There are also very basic restrooms at the Kings View.

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Made it!

Once you manage to find a parking spot, get your gorgeous pictures!! I recommend bringing a selfie stick!! You really cannot get enough pictures!! Pro tip – if its cloudy when you arrive, wait about 20 minutes; the weather changes REALLY fast at the Kings View! For example, 

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This was the view when we arrived.

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This was the view 15 minutes later.

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This was the view the following day.  Crazy difference!

After getting pictures from the Kings View, a lot of people, myself included, enter the abandoned (and allegedly haunted) hotel to get pictures from the rooftop. This is also free, but also probably illegal. To climb to the roof of the hotel, walk in the main entrance to the hotel (on the same side as the Kings View) and follow other tourists to the top. If you are planning to do this, wear tennis shoes. The hotel is in ruins and there is a lot of junk and water on the floor. I wore Jack Rodgers – big mistake.

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Dan entering the abandoned hotel.

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The interior.

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More of the abandoned hotel.

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View from the top: totally worth it!

After taking all the pictures, drive down to the small town of Sete Cidades, which will take you past a few other view points (worth the stop if you have time) and across the bridge linking the green and blue lakes of Lagoa das Sete Cidades. Its pretty popular to stop on the bridge and take photographs! And, the lakes reminded me SO MUCH of Irealnd…where I just happen to be going for Thanksgiving!

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The bridge – could have been Ireland.

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Looking at the Green Lake.

Just a bit past the bridge separating the Green and Blue Lakes is the tiny town of Sete Cidades. The town is really no more than an intersection with a  pretty church, the Church of Saint Nicholas, and some snack shops. Definitely take a walk around the church! Entrance is free.

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Church of Saint Nicholas.

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The interior.

OTHER DESTINATIONS NEAR SETE CIDADES

After visiting Sete Cidades, you have pretty much hit the highlights of Sete Cidades. But, if you have extra time, there are two other interesting places nearish to Sete Cidades that I recommend to round out your afternoon. The first is the natural thermal springs of Ferraria.  The natural thermal spring of Ferraria is a natural spring right on the Atlantic Ocean that is warm enough for swimming during certain hours of the day. There is also a proper spa – Termas da Ferraria, which has indoor and outdoor thermal pools, as well as a sauna, steam room, and hot and cold pools.  I am going to write a whole post on this experience, but it was a nice little add-on to your trip to Sete Cidades, and the scenery is pretty stunning!

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Termas da Ferraria

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Oceanic thermal springs!

The second place that I can recommend is the Arruda Pineapple Plantation! As you may know, the short, stocky pineapples are grown in the Azores and quite the fruit! They are sweeter and much more expensive than their North American counterparts. While somewhat disorganized, the Arruda Pineapple Plantation allows visitors to walk around their facilities and peek into the greenhouses growing the little pineapples! Arruda also give away free (small) pineapple liquor samples and has a cool gift shop and a snack bar. Arruda is quite close to Ponta Delgada, so you could definitely stop in on your way back to town!

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Arruda – Pineapple from the Azores.

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Pineapples in the greenhouse.

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The beautiful Arruda Pineapple Plantation!

STEAL OUR TRIP

Azores Tours: The tour company I used. Azores Tours was quick to respond to my emails and the tour was great! The cost was €60/person for a full day tour of Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo, including lunch. This is a good option if you have limited time and want to see a lot (as they go all over the island), are not renting a car, or want to learn a lot about the history of the island. I really enjoyed the tour and would definitely do it again!

Sete Cidades: Visit Azores information on Sete Cidades.

Arruda Pineapple Plantation: Rua Doutor Augusto Arruda, Fajã de Baixo, 9500-454 Ponta Delgada, Portugal. Open daily 9h – 20h, closes at 18h October – March. You can easily visit the Arruda Pineapple Plantation from Ponta Delgada.

Termas da Ferraria: Rua Ilha Sabrina, Edifício Termas da Ferraria, 9555-102 Ginetes, Ponda Delgada, Açores. E:termasdaferraria@gmail.com. Generally open Tuesday – Sunday, 11h – 19h. Call or email to confirm (they are responsive to email). Termas da Ferraria also has a restaurant that is essentially free if you buy entrace to the paying spa. The oceanic springs are free and packed with locals.

SpotAzores: The greatest app for the Azores.

ON A BUDGET

São Miguel is generally quite inexpensive and the further you get out of Ponta Delgada, the cheaper things get. For example, here is a picture of the menu at a restaurant in Sete Cidades:

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Your largest expense will probably be renting a car, as visiting Sete Cidades is free, as is  a basic visit to the Ferraria thermal springs and the Arruda Pineapple Plantation.

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Damas: My New Favorite Restaurant In Montreal

Obviously trolling restaurant websites before my recent trip to Montreal, I continuously came upon a Syrian restaurant called Damas in Montreal’s Ourtremont neighborhood.  The menu looked delicious and I was really intrigued by a Syrian restaurant, so I called and barely got a reservation about two weeks before my trip! Great success.

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Montreal.

I will start this review by stating – Damas may be my favorite restaurant in Montreal. And if you know me (or have read this blog), you know I love food in Montreal!! Everything about Damas was awesome, from the service, to the decor, to the food. All top notch and I will definitely return to Damas next time I am in Montreal!

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The interior of Damas.

Getting to the food, Damas has two menus – a la carte and a four course prix fixe (with a few extra treats thrown in by the chef!). Never having been to a Syrian restaurant before, we were not entirely sure what to expect and opted for the prix fixe at a cost of $75CAN/person. Our first course was a delightfully colorful salad made up of greens, some crunch, strong mint, fresh tomatoes, and a bit of pepper and balsamic. Absolutely delicious.

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fresh salad.

The second course consisted of more cold appetizers – steak tartare. I love steak tartare and this dish was excellent. The tartare was made with a lot of spices and served with olive oil, nuts and a tiny bit of pepperoncini. 

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Steak tartare.

Our third course featured two types of hot seafood. The first was the MOST delicious octopus cooked in olive oil and served with onions, tomatoes, and a variety of spices.  Definitely one of my favorite dishes of the evening! 

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The second seafood dish was sea bass served with tomato and caper salsa! In my opinion the sea bass was great but it was not quite as tasty as the octopus! That being said, I would absolutely order the sea bass again!

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Sea bass with tomato and caper salsa.

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Both of the seafood dishes together!

Our fourth course was a lamb course. Lamb is probably my favorite meat and this lamb was no different! The lamb was served on the bone with the most delicious sauces! 

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The lamb was also served with a trio of hummuses, including an original and a beet hummus and the most amazing Syrian bread. The bread is the puffy round dish below, and it was super soft and filled with air. I had a couple pieces of this bread…

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The table, complete with the excellent bread and beetroot hummus!

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Hummus trio.

In addition to the lamb and hummus, we were also served a beef dish, which I honestly do not remember much about (the lamb really stole the show and I was pretty full at this point!).

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More food – beef!

After all of that food, our waiter brought out two desserts, which were seriously the cutest desserts that I have ever seen! So photogenic!! The first was a rose ice cream delicately placed into a phyllo “cone” drizzled with honey and dusted with rose petals.

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Rose ice cream cone.

Our second dessert was some sort of roll topped with honey and pistachio. Although I cannot remember what exactly this was, it tasted just as good as the rose ice cream and was almost as pretty!

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Dessert with honey & pistachios!

In conclusion, our dinner was awesome and I will absolutely eat here when I come back to Montreal! For those planning a trip, definitely make a reservation in advance. Damas place books up! Damas also has a bar and serves drinks by the glass and offers an extensive wine list! For dressing purposes, the restaurant is not super dressy but its also not casual. Happy dining!

STEAL OUR DINNER

Damas: 1201 Ave. Van Horne, Montreal, QC H2V 1K4. T: 514-439-5435. Make a reservation here.   

ON A BUDGET

Damas is a bit on the pricey side, but Montreal has restaurants for all budgets. For more budget friendly options, check out Juliette et Chocolat, Olive et Gourmando, and Marche de la Vilette!

Brewery Spotlight: Jester King Brewery, Austin, Texas

Happy October (and, even though its not in October, happy belated Oktoberfest)! Since a lot of Americas think Oktoberfest is in October and Oktoberfest just ended (sadddd but I am so looking forward to 2018!!) I decided to do a post on – what else – beer!!

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Oktoberfest 2014…not Jester King!

Honestly, before I planned my trip to Austin, I had never even heard of the Jester King Brewery (well, maybe once). Seriously. I love beer, but I really had not made it into the Texas breweries. However, Dan had, and he really wanted to try to visit Jester King when we were around Austin. So, I decided that we had to make it happen!

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All Of The Food In Austin, Texas!

Dan and I spent a long week in and around Austin, Texas earlier this year for Dan’s cousin Claire’s wedding! It was my first time in Austin, and Dan’s first time back in years. So of course, we had to hit all of the food spots on our one totally free day in Austin! Also, the wedding was super fun and totally worth the trip!! Congratulations, Claire and Talor!

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South Congress Street. Austin, TX.

To start, Austin was awesome! We walked all over town and I really loved the small town feel of the city! We strolled though the State Capital grounds and shopped on South Congress Street, but the highlight was obviously the food and drinks! I had done some research in advance, and we had quite the itinerary when we started out Friday morning.

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The beautiful Texas state capital

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A Post-Wedding Week In The Azores!

Dan & I traveled to the Azores – specifically São Miguel Island – after our wedding in Portugal (!!) for a weeklong mini-moon (our real honeymoon is early next year…you really have to stretch out the wedding vacations!).  When I told people that we would be going to the Azores, I received a lot of questions but my favorite, and the perfect response to sum up all of the responses, was “what is an Azore?” Well, this is an Azores!

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One of the many volcanic lakes on Sao Miguel Island!

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Eating Our Way Thorough East London!

Dan and I went to London over Memorial Day weekend this year. It was Dan’s first trip  to London and my first time in London in 13 years, so clearly we had to take a food tour! Of the many options available in London, we choose a food tour that went through East London, a somewhat sketchy part of town that I spent some time in those 13 years ago… The food tour ended up being awesome and East London has changed SO MUCH!

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East London.

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Wareontheglobe’s Guide To Visiting The Duomo Complex, Florence!

The Duomo Complex is home to one of Florence’s star attractions – its massive cathedral , the Duomo, and its surrounding buildings!  Also called the Duomo (duomo means cathedral in Italian), the Duomo Complex includes the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, the Baptistery, the Campanile, the Dome, a crypt, and a museum!  

Every visitor to Florence, whether religious or not, should spend some time at the Duomo. However, planning a trip to the Duomo Complex can be a bit daunting, especially on a first trip to Europe or when traveling with a large group! So, here’s my suggestions on visiting the Duomo!

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The Duomo Complex, in black and white.

LOGISTICS

The Duomo is located right in the heart of Florence and is home to six attractions – (1) The Duomo; (2) The Baptistery; (3) the Bell Tower; (4) the Museum; (5) the Dome; and (6) the Crypt.  I recommend seeing each attraction but if you are short on time, I would prioritize the Baptistery, the exterior of the complex, and the Bell Tower, in that order!

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Ceiling of the Baptistery

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Airport Lounge Review: Aspire Lounge, T5, London Heathrow

London’s Heathrow Airport was the first ever international airport that I flew into, and my main (and really only) memory of Heathrow Airport is that it was huge with so many shops and so many restaurants! Well, I’ve been back twice this year and my memory holds true! With five terminals, Heathrow is London’s largest airport and home to many flights between the US and London.  

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LDN!

A lot of travelers coming thorough Heathrow will have a long layover and want to venture into London, which is doable only if you have at least a six hour layover (read about it here!) If you cannot make the trip out of Heathrow, do not be concerned – Heathrow has a lot of shops, restaurants, and amenities to keep travelers busy,! Its also home to a number of lounges, many of which are accessible via Priority Pass! Terminal 5 is the most popular terminal for long-haul international flights, including those to and from the US, and its home to one lounge that is covered by Priority Pass – The Aspire Lounge and Spa (it used to have another Priority Pass Lounge, but that seems to have closed down).

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sketch: the prettiest tea in all of London.

High tea is on many traveler’s bucket list when visiting London!  However, the abundance of places offering “high tea” in London can be overwhelming. I mean everyone offers tea – from clothing stores (hello, Oasis), to every single fancy hotel in town. The choice can be daunting, especially for us Americans who are not even familiar with the concept of “high tea.”

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London!

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