Azores from A to Z: Corvo Island

“One street, one volcano, and one crappy restaurant. What else do you need?”. Jules first laughed, and then ignored me when she realised I wasn’t joking. I looked around for support but had lost the restaurant owner at “crappy”. Gabriel was busy looking at a cat and two dogs. The cat looked at both Gabriel and the dogs, unsure of who was the bigger threat. And the dogs – a Dalmatian and a German Shepherd – looked out of place.

This is the sixth and final instalment of our trip through Azores, a Portuguese archipelago that sits on the Atlantic Ocean, roughly a third of the way from Lisbon to New York. Read the first parts here, here, here, here and… here.

Could I live on tiny Corvo, population 400? The thought had creeped in a couple of hours ago, while boarding the dinghy that would take us from Flores to Corvo. The boat owner, a photographer that lived in Flores but travelled the world for shootings, seemed to have the best of both worlds. When at home, he took his young son to some of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. When travelling, he would hike through Patagonia and sail Zanzibar’s coast.

But Flores has 4,000 people, not 400. Would life at Corvo feel ten times more isolated? I don’t think it would. In fact, I don’t think I would feel more isolated than living pretty much anywhere else. Bear with me through some more dubious arithmetic.

Back in Lisbon I work from home, so my daily interactions are frugal. In the morning, on our walk to day-care, Gabriel and I first say hello to our front-door neighbour, a retired soap opera actress. We then wave at the driver of the big yellow bus which, like clockwork, goes by just as we cross the road. My ensuing morning run yields no further exchanges, apart from the occasional brush against somebody rushing to work.

In the afternoon, back at day-care, there’s usually a photo shoot with Gabriel’s best friend, which comes running whenever he sees me with a camera. At the park, there’s the obligatory compliment to the two-year old that rides his balance bike like a pro.

When travelling for work, my day is slightly more action-packed but hardly socialite-like. At the airport, there is a certain camaraderie with the security officer, flight attendant and fellow traveller forced to wake up at four in the morning. The rest of the day is spent inside a meeting room with four or five other people.

Total tally: thirteen daily interactions. With a population of 400, Corvo has 30 times more than I need.

Alas, unlike me, Jules and Gabriel much rather prefer this to this. Yet, when we travel together I enjoy the abundant daily interactions with strangers as much as they do. The many people we’ve met during our three weeks in Azores left long-lasting memories, despite not having learned the name of most of them.

During that time, we visited six of the archipelago’s nine islands but missed three – São Miguel, Santa Maria and Graciosa.

We plan to address that gap. The sailing vessels at the Horta marina – many of them in the middle of Atlantic crossings – left us dreaming of sailing to Azores. What better way to test my dubious arithmetic and even shakier life philosophy than to reduce daily interactions from thirteen to three: Jules, Gabriel and the occasional lonely bird resting on the boat?



18 thoughts on “Azores from A to Z: Corvo Island

      1. Thank you, Verne, I will definitely do that. Just the other day a Portuguese friend of us said “you must visit the islands”. I promptly told her about your beautiful series of posts, and that it is solidly on my bucket list.

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  1. Ooo really? You will sail there alone with your pack, no outside help? Or is there a skipper? Anyway, I approve of your precision, because really, three islands left unvisited? What were you thinking? 😉

    There are some marvellous vistas collected here, especially that green space on the first photo from Caldeirão do Corvo. Even though that German shepherd is pretty cool too.

    By the way, I’m much like you, except that my daily interactions are more like with one man and one dog in person and numerous online. No wonder that I’m starting to hear doors talk to me.

    This was a grand trip and grand series. To many more!

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    1. No skipper, so it’s a long-term plan. First step is to take our sailing licenses. We start with the local one, then move on the coastal one, then finally get the offshore license we need for blue water sailing to Azores!

      That German shepherd scared the life out of me the first time I saw him. I was pressed against that green door, taking a picture of the other side of the street. He popped his giant head outside the backyard, slowly moved it next to mine, and growled into my ear. I jumped away and took this picture. I think that his Dalmatian sidekick is saying “yeah, he could have eaten that tiny head of yours if he wanted to!”.

      Funny you mention the online interactions, as an earlier version of this text talked about those too. They are few and far between, but very meaningful. I could keep those at Corvo too, as the internet connection was oddly fast. Only the door situation was lacklustre: except perhaps for the doors on those windmills, there was hardly any material worthy of a weekly column.

      – Verne

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      1. Hehe, I think that there are places where doors don’t really matter and you discovered one such. I could just imagine the scare the dog gave you. 😀 Probably he was just as surprised as you were. And well done for planning the family sail! What an adventure! I wish your long-term plans take shape. Once you’ve got all the licences and become an old marine wolf, you can find your way to one of our marinas around here. Not so far… 🙂

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  2. I generally prefer observing how people interact with each other as opposed to actively taking part in the conversation. However, I can’t imagine myself living in a place where there are only hundreds of residents, although I would certainly enjoy a short visit. Probably it’s because of the fact that I’ve been living in a big city for more than 10 years now I’ve become accustomed to seeing many people on a daily basis.

    Thanks for this lovely travel series, Verne! I look forward to reading more stories in the future wherever the wind takes the three of you.

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