Pedreira, Nordeste, Azores
My husband's parents emigrated from the Azores to Canada in the 1950's. It must have been a terrifying, exhilarating adventure - a new country, a new language, new everything.
While his parents have returned for the occasional visit, my husband and his siblings had never been to the tiny Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic. But earlier this year it was decided to make a family pilgrimage back, to explore their heritage, meet scattered relatives, and relax together.
Well, two out of three ain't bad.
An extremely unfortunate accident at the very beginning of the holiday put my husband's mother in hospital for the entire two weeks we were on the island. While she is now on the mend, there were some very anxious days for all of us. And it certainly changed what was expected to be a family holiday into something much different.
In between hospital visits and doctor's meetings, we did still discover much of the island of San Miguel, the largest of the nine islands that make up the Azorean archipelago. Large, of course, is relative - the island is about 63 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide. It is volcanically active, with numerous vents and bubbling hot springs. Roads are narrow and winding, with the front doors of many homes opening directly onto the streets. But we definitely missed the personal touch - the family stories we had been hoping to hear as we strolled the streets of the tiny village at the far north-east of the island where my children's ancestors lived.
The two weeks were stressful and difficult, but we did our best to take away as many good memories as we could. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals were kind and caring, the travel insurance company was accommodating and active, and we did get a chance to see for ourselves many of the places we had heard so much about over the years.
'Holiday' doesn't accurately describe those two weeks in the Azores, so I've decided to call it a "life experience.' While our time there was often a seesaw of emotions, it was still very worthwhile in so many ways. One of those ways is I am much more confident with my third manuscript. I deliberately set it in the Azores, and now I can't wait to get back to work on it, adding all the little, authentic touches I have experienced for myself.
Just don't expect to read any hospital scenes. Been there, don't want to do it again.