Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Dispatch From Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean!

There’s hardly a spot in my passport in which the immigration goons in the countries Dame Zelda and I visit so plentifully can do their stamping. Aren’t Americans supposed to be defiantly ignorant of the world outside America’s borders? their scowls seem to demand. Noting how widely travelled we are, many of our acquaintances assume we must be rolling in clover. We are not. Indeed, thanks to my appalling employment history, I receive a small Social Security cheque each month, and otherwise have no income, unless the latest fleet that’s come in includes a seaman or two who like ‘em old and saggy and wrinkled, as so few do. We are able to travel as much as we do because we travel almost entirely at times when our destinations are desperate for tourism. 

A case in point is our visit — ongoing at the time of this writing — to the Azores, in the Atlantic ocean approximately a quarter of the way between the north-central coast of Morocco and Nova Scotia. We have it on good authority that in peak season, these islands are no less breathtaking than Hawaii. Heaven knows that there’s  a great deal of vivid green grass on offer, and gorgeous mountains, but all of the stunning vistas, depicted on fridge magnet and postcard, we had most hoped to see have been obscured by thick grey mist of a sort we’re assured dissipates at the time of year the high rollers visit.
Dame Zelda prepares to board a Ryanair jet.

Whenever possible, we fly one of the budget carriers, in this case Ryanair, whose CEO is famous for believing Ryanair passengers to be irredeemable cheapskates and imbeciles, poking them with sharp sticks as they queue up to board, trying to charge for use of Ryanair’s lavatories, and reportedly intending to sell standing-room-only tickets at the backs of his planes. 

We will endure any humiliation to save a few quid! 

Our favourite restaurant (of the three we’ve patronised) seems to be the only one on Sao Miguel (The Green Island) that doesn’t the national music of Portugal — fado — as you dine. One can get tired of fado very quickly, as it is very mournful. Here are some lyrics we heard the other night at O Roberto, as translated by one of Dame Zelda’s apps:

I am irredeemably inconsolable. 
My life is one of excruciating anguish, 
from which there is no relief

There seems to be a law requiring the local poor to mount a religious plaque above the front doors of their converted fishermen's cottages. Jesus in his crown of thorns seems to be the most popular, with Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of F├ítima a close second. In Nordeste, on the island’s northeast coast, one doesn’t display a ticket on his or her windshield to demonstrate that he or she has paid for the privilege of parking in a particular car park, but a likeness of Jesus, suffering horribly.

If your preference is for streets with names like Oak, Maple, or even Martin Luther King Jr., you won’t like it here. The streets have such grandiose names — Avenida Joao Bosco Motal Amaral is an unusualy succinct one — that the nice lady on Dame Zelda’s GPS app is commonly unable to intone them fully before we’ve passed where we’re meant to turn.

In May, just before The Season officially begins, we will be visiting Turkey.