The weather is great on the channel. How it stands over the entire awkward triangle of the Atlantic that Faial makes the western vertex.
When we reached the top of Monte da Guia, we realized, in all its shapes and colors, that the young geology of the Azores had given Horta to double.
Spreading out in front of us, from a gradient of an almost dark navy blue, to the emerald green of the seashore, the water of the bay caressed the homes of Horta and refreshed the gray sand of Porto Pim beach.
Filipino Fascination and Faial's Whaling History
The fascination for the smooth chute and the desire to anchor in it comes from a long time ago. The settlement of Faial began in the XNUMXth century. Two centuries later, D. Filipe II, son of Empress Isabel, grandson of D. Manuel I, the Spanish Filipe who loved Portugal more than Spain, dictated that a port be built there, so that he could disembark there.
Later, fishermen seized on the royal initiative. So did whaling fishing, which, in the meantime, reached the archipelago and which justified the operation of a local Whale Factory, today occupied by the Azores Sea Observatory.
No matter how much conditions were given to Faial, fishing, whatever it might be, in the heart of the endless Atlantic, proved to be anything but a bed of roses. For some reason, the parish where this old whaling factory is located bears its name: Angústias.
As if the charm and tranquility of Porto Pim inlet were not enough, from the high isthmus that served as a screen, another gully bathed Horta. We saw it cut out as if claiming a connection to the west end of the neighbor Pico island, the tip of the Old Creation and the Magdalene.
We appreciate it, rounded and polished for millennia. Stretched out in the natural amphitheater where the city played a first row at the height of the mountain-volcano it projects from beyond the channel to the heavens.
The Atlantic Refuge of Horta (and its Marina)
Half an hour of contemplation later, we return to the alleys of Horta. To the seafront where the island celebrates Liberdade and to the open marina that it imposed on the canal.
Marina da Horta is the oldest recreational port in the Azores, the fourth busiest marina on the seven seas. There they anchor, every year, around twelve hundred vessels.
Because of this antiquity and the providential position in the wild ocean and in the archipelago – a position that protects boats from the winds, wherever they come from – the navigators see it almost as mythical.
What other explanation could there be for the gaudy profusion of mural paintings with which the helmsmen and crew of yachts and sailboats continue to humanize the walls and concrete corridors in which they find themselves in safety, in the arms of an already longing for well-being.
Only the navigators will know the fullness of this feeling, but, as a result of modernity and globalization that have long gone hand in hand, those, like us, are limited to landing in Faial, benefiting in a somewhat parasitic way from the nautical sensuality of these confines.
It dictated the history and sensitivity of the founding family that the magnetism of Faial and Horta revolve around a café-restaurant. A café-restaurant so famous that repeating its name sounds like a waste.
Satisfied with the long photographic study of the murals and with a sudden thirst affecting our judgment, we reversed the course of the journey.
We point to Praça Infante Dom Henrique where, as a rule, welcomes navigators.
A mere dozen steps later, we come across the simple but elegant entrance to the Café Sport, forced onto the façade of the houses like a small whaler on land.
Not just on land.
Peter Café Sport: a Monument to the Atlantic Meeting of Navigators
On a Portuguese, Azorean and sea sidewalk. There, a varnished wooden sign appears between two white whales that seemed to us to smile.
From the sun-dappled exterior, the core of Peter's was little more than an intriguing pitch. When we entered, we unveiled the playful-nautical, organic and harmonious world that confirmed the establishment's planetary reputation.
All around, the walls and ceiling were lined with flags, standards, historical photographs, letters, maps, stickers and many other international navigational paraphernalia.
Two wooden balconies, subsumed in this colorful paraphernalia and that confronted the auras of light molded by the doors and windows, served as a bridge of command for all the maneuvers.
In the background, to the left as you enter, a gentleman with white hair and mustache operated a small shop on the way to the Scrimshaw museum above, a museum filled with artwork carved from whale bone and tooth in such a way that it is considered the best equipped museum of this kind.
In the background, on the right, the bar and the exit of the restaurant, an inexhaustible source of pleasure in the form of cold and trendy beers Gin tonics from the house that the best customers of pioneer times, the British, have retained. Also source of a prodigious menu of Faial specialties.
Whale Soup, Boca Grande and Peter's Famous Gin
We sat at a wooden table in the corner that gave us a privileged view of the others. From there, we frolic in the young, almost adolescent and cosmopolitan atmosphere of the room.
We taste the gin as if we were born connoisseurs of the drink. Until we are served whale soup and we are forced to reorient our senses from the refreshing effervescence of the G&T to the gastronomic consistency that steamed up our noses.
It might not be the pure, righteous version, suffered in the aged skins of disembarked navigators. Even so, we were fulfilling the ritual and living the dream of Faial, Horta and Peter's.
In addition, Café Sport had recently celebrated a century and four generations of life in a party to which it invited the entire island of Faial.
The Already Secular History of Peter Café Sport
The story goes that Henrique Azevedo opened its doors to him on Christmas Day in 1918 and occupied a business space previously occupied by a craft shop and bar called Casa dos Açores.
Henrique Azevedo was an ardent supporter of the sport, practicing football, rowing and billiards, among others. Thus, it emerged as something logical to rename the establishment as Café Sport. Some time later, this still official name was supplanted by another, the popularized Peter's.
It happened that way because the chief officer of the ship's ammunition and maintenance service “Lusitania II” of the British Royal Navy found the young José Azevedo (son of Henrique Azevedo) similar to his own son, Peter.
As he continued to call José Azevedo Peter as a joke, he also consolidated the most popular name today for the bar in which we were re-establishing energy.
We finished the whale soups. Two grilled black-mouthed fish arrive, accompanied by a dish of the best Azorean sausages. After dessert and new gin, we were ready to roll.
In conversation with José Henrique Azevedo, the current owner, we realized how close we had come to what is now expected of any visitor to the city: “If you sail to Horta and don't visit Peter Café Sport, you won't see Horta in reality."
The Evening Discovery of the City of Horta
Satisfied by the near-fulfillment of the plan, we say goodbye and give ourselves, in a renewed spirit, to the sunny city around us.
We drive to Ponta da Espalamaca. We go up to the viewpoint of Nª Srª da Conceição. We found a three meter high Santa Conceição, at the foot of a cross with almost thirty.
From that blessed height, we have an earthly view of Portugal's supreme mountain with the villages of Pico Island at its base. But not only.
The atmosphere over the canal was so crystal clear that it gave us a diffused glimpse of the more distant neighbors of São Jorge and Graciosa.
Almoxarife Beach, Canal a Meias with Grande Pico
We descend to the seafront at Almoxarife beach, the sand that contains the kind of pie slice in which the parish of the same name extends, green land, inhabited from 1465 on by a group of fifteen Flemings.
As such, equipped with windmills inspired by the Países Baixos.
Today, the descendants of these remote settlers are fervent believers in the Divine Holy Spirit. This is the reason why, in addition to the red-stoned mill at Lomba da Conceição, we can also see the prolific buildings-empires in the area. Terceira island.
Black, covered with rounded basalt stones, submissive to the gigantic Pico, the sands of Almoxarife once again underline the volcanic essence of Faial that the urban facet of Horta sometimes made us forget.
We and the bathers who enjoyed themselves in the channel's merciful spaces had Pico ahead.
At the opposite end of Faial, reigned the Mystery volcano of Capelinhos. With a quarter the altitude of Pico and a somewhat endearing name, this volcano proved far more destructive to Faial than Pico ever dared to threaten.
Dive after dive, wave after wave, the sun quickly dropped to the west hidden there.
Disillusioned with the shadow in which it has abandoned us, we anticipate returning to Horta.
Genuíno Madruga and His Prodigious Circum-Navegações
We went through Angústias again. In Angústias, we find Genuíno Madruga, another of the unavoidable enterprising Azorean personalities, born in Lajes do Pico but living in Horta since childhood.
Genuine welcomes us in his restaurant, with kindness and inexhaustible patience for the more than counted time in which we walked.
On January 24, 2008, Genuíno Madruga became the first Portuguese – and the tenth sailor at international level who, alone, managed to cross the stormy Cape Horn from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific. In addition to the feat, he completed the crossing during the second of his round-the-world sailings.
Always humble, Genuine as only baptism does him justice, Genuine tells us how his experiences as a fisherman and, above all, his later interactions with Marcel Bardieux – the first navigator to make the crossing alone – inspired him to also pursue the triumph of the intrepid friend.
These experiences proved to be so rewarding that Genuíno barely disguised the pleasure of sharing them with us, in a convenient but abbreviated verbalization of the testimonies that he perpetuated in “The World that I Saw”, the book of his life.
A work for the history of Horta, Faial and the Azores.