I mentioned we bought a guidebook, and the author raved about Furnas, a popular tourist destination on the western third of the island. So, we dutifully set off to see the steam plumes and the Terra Nostra botanic garden; I also had hoped to see how they cook stew in the ground, in big pots heated by the volcanic forces bubbling down below.
Like everywhere else on the island, getting to Furnas wasn’t that hard (though yet again the thick fog plagued us all morning). Finding our way in Furnas was a whole other matter entirely, and we were supremely grumpy after about the fifth time we circled around town trying to find what we were looking for. It’s definitely possible our mood affected our visit, but this was our least favorite day.
First, we stopped off at the steam plumes, which are right smack dab in the center of town. Basically Furnas is a furnace. Or more specifically, it’s sitting on top of a geological furnace. It’s interesting and all, but I wish they’d left these in a more natural state. Instead, they’ve tourist-trapped these sites so where rather than marvel at the fact that you are standing on a volcano, you are reading hokey signs that seem completely out of place with their environment. I went out of my way to *not* take pictures of those signs, and now I regret it, but they were…strange. At any rate, here we go:
Somehow we missed the place where they cook the stew, so we moved on to the Terra Nostra botanical garden. Our guidebook raved about this place, but we just found it sort of sad and unkempt and not very interesting. Maybe we were just too early in the tourism season and they hadn’t done any work yet? Maybe our combined grumpiness and the cloudy weather were affecting how we saw the place?
The big thing to do here is swim in the big thermal pool, which is full of rust-colored mineral water. We had really looked forward to this, and in fact I’d even brought an old bathing suit because I had read that the water can stain fabric. But once we were there it was just…unappealing, I guess? And the water wasn’t as hot as we had expected, so we passed. After a spectacularly mediocre lunch we decided to head out to Nordeste to see a bird sanctuary. It was closed, and we spent another two hours lost out of our minds, but on the way home we found a waterfall; I’d tell you where it was if I could remember…
Happily, we saved the day by having a really nice dinner at a restaurant that, sort of oddly, is in the middle of what seemed to be an industrial park. Here I proceeded to eat both the best and largest steak I have ever eaten. There’s no factory farming here, just free range cows blissfully grass fed, and I’ll spare you my subsequent rant about the US industrial food complex and how it’s probably killing us. After dinner (and my rant), we went back to the hotel for a nice swim and sauna, two of the best antidotes to travel crankiness I’ve ever found.
A few other pictures from the trip:
A Few Details
Hotel: Pedras Do Mar Resort & Spa
Restaurants We’d Recommend: Alabote in Ribeira Grande; Cafe Canto do Cais in Capelas (no website – probably the best meal we had!); Solar do Conde (also a hotel) in Capelas; O Alambique in Lagoa; the aforementioned Restaurante Associacao Agricola in Rabe de Peixe. We also ate at the hotel one night, the food was good but the service was SO bad it was beyond reason. Two people can eat shockingly well for under 30 euro.
We found the nearest Sol Mar (grocery store) and stocked up on bottled water and snacks for the car and for our hikes. There aren’t a lot of convenience stores, and most of the gas stations we stopped at just sold gas. Also, buy gas well before you hit empty as the gas stations are spread out a bit.