“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?