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Posted on November 25, 2019
In The Saddle guest Janet tells us all about her ninth visit to the Azores and why she and her friends keep returning.
We always look forward to our visits to the Quinta. This was our ninth visit so you can tell how much we enjoy going there. We always receive such a warm welcome from Christina & Claude and their team. They look after us so well – nothing is too much trouble for them.
Visiting the Azores in October we had some mixed weather which was to be expected. There was only one day which really tested our waterproof leggings and anoraks. We still managed to have our picnic during a dry period though!
Since our first visit all those years ago, the island has been ‘found’ by the cruise ships and other tourists. Parts of the island have become very busy with walkers and vehicles, especially at the weekends so the full day rides are now arranged on weekdays and the half day rides at weekends. On the full day rides there is a picnic lunch which can include quiches or pasta dishes, salad, crisps, rolls, cheese & biscuits, cookies and fruit with a range of drinks – water, soft drinks, beer and wine. You have to remember that you do not want a heavy meal if you are going to ride for several hours afterwards so they are ideal!
You ride over a variety of terrain, tracks between stone walled fields, alongside lakes, along cliff tops, through woods and scrub overgrown with the famous ginger lilies. The flowers are amazing depending on what time of the year you visit. Many have been introduced and naturalised growing wild along the roads, tracks and in fields – agapanthus, belladonna Lilies, African Lily, azaleas, hedges of Camelia, Hibiscus and many others.
Our holiday started as normal with a lesson in the picadeiro so that Christina can make sure horse and rider are compatible. We rode several different horses during the week, some old friends and other new ones. We went on our first ride that afternoon which started from Remedios and we rode along the tracks and over the fields that undulate on the flanks of the Setes Cidades Massif below the Lagoa de Fogo.
The rides are all described on the In the Saddle website but may vary a little due to the weather etc. The highlight of the week for us was our ride at the famous Sete Cidades. The sun was out and the scenery was beautiful. As the track down from the crater rim has been ‘improved’ for the walkers it is now too smooth and slippery for the horses. We usually dismount and lead our horses down but this time the ride was reversed so we rode up it. In the morning we rode alongside the two lakes where there are opportunities for trotting and cantering. We stopped for our picnic by the lakeside. Later we rode up the very steep track to the crater rim and rode along the rim. It is a long time since we have seen the lakes in the sunshine; they were so beautiful.
The horses are mainly pure bred Lusitanos, Lusitano part breds or Cuzado Portugues. To improve the horses and ponies on the islands the Portuguese Government sent top class Lusitano stallions over for the island farmers to use on their animals. The result is that most of the horses and ponies at the Quinta have very well bred sires. There is a file in the chapel/lounge which has a photo and history of most of the horses. There is quite a range from those that have competed successfully in dressage competitions to family pets or farm horses. Quite a few have been rescued as the horses and ponies on the islands have become redundant due to the increase in the number of tractors and vehicle now used. In spite of the treatment and neglect they have previously received they all have wonderful temperaments. There are a range of horses & ponies to suit all riders.
The Quinta was converted from the buildings which adjoin the 17th century Manor House. The accommodation is comfortable, with en suite shower rooms and a lounge. There are facilities in the breakfast/dining room for you to make your own tea (from a very wide variety of teas) and coffee 24 hours a day. The food and wine are really delicious. There is a range of alcoholic drinks, various liqueurs etc with an honesty box if you feel like more after your meal.
There are plenty of places to visit when not riding. Tea factories and the famous Terra Nostra Botanical Gardens with its warm sulphur pool with bathing facilities. The town of Ponta Delgada, ceramic factories and more. Christina and Ruia always manage to find another interesting place for us to visit. This time we visited a small fishing village, Coloura and Agua de Pau which had a small chapel on top of the hill.
One day we walked the 15 minutes from the Quinta to the beach, which has a very good café. We dipped our toes in the water but it was cold. The waves were quite big and you soon get out of your depth but there were people in swimming!
Yet another memorable visit and yes, we have already booked again.