Review: Green Island Trail
Specialist Holiday - Horse riding
Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal
Green Island Trail
110 people found this review helpful
There was 7" of snow in my garden and freezing temperatures when I left for Gatwick on December 19th. It took two hours from arriving at the airport to get through security into departures. I’ll never travel again just before Christmas………. But of course I probably will; short memory. We had to fly via Lisbon as there are no direct flights to the Azores in the winter.
Stayed the night in Lisbon in a very nice boutique hotel, the Hotel Britania (with one t) Next morning a bumpy flight to Ponta Delgado on Sao Miguel island. Cabin staff wouldn’t serve anything on account of the turbulence. We were met by Christina, the Swedish owner, together with her husband Claude, of the Quinta da Terca where we were to stay.
We walked 15 minutes down to a restaurant by the beach and sat outside (in December) and watched some people swimming – in the ocean!! Huge waves and it looked very cold. But the outside temperature was very mild and a pleasant change from Sussex.
Back to the Quinta for our first ride around the indoor arena to see what our standard of riding was. Nelson, a snake-hipped young man who looked 16 but was apparently 28, tried to reassure my friend who was rather nervous.
A gale blew all night and this, together with rain, was to be the weather for the week. For our first ride out we were joined by a Dutch couple (actually he was Dutch, she was Thai) and our guide for the week, Lise a stocky Swedish girl who NEVER stopped talking. Our pleasant ride took us through villages, up tracks between stone walls built around small fields with cattle (a LOT of cows on this island) and up to a view point where we could see both the north and south coasts of the island. Quite impressive. Then down and through a thick overgrown forest. At the end of the ride we had an enjoyable fast gallop. Great fun.
This was to be the riding pattern for the week. The scenery was lovely and sometimes we rode along overlooking the sea, sometimes up through the fields to the hill tops. Many flowers were in bloom: bourganvillea and hydrangea. Apparently the island is a real picture in the spring when the hedgerows and fields are covered in flowers. But this was December and it was windy and rainy. On a couple of occasions we and the horses went by transport to further areas of the island and enjoyed some lovely rides.
On one morning we were taken by a local taxi/guide for a sightseeing excursion. We visited a ceramics factory (a local industry), a hot spring, a waterfall and pool (which must be lovely for a dip in the summer) and then to a liquor factory and a tea plantation. Yes, honestly! A tea plantation. The tea was drinkable, but only just.
On Christmas Eve afternoon we all went down to the indoor arena where the staff were to put on an equestrian show. It was really good and they had put a lot of effort into it. The horses’ manes were plaited with ribbons and the riders were really smart. Nelson did some acrobatic stuff and then some high school dressage. We had mulled wine and biscuits. It lasted an hour and was very entertaining and they worked very hard and co-ordinated it all to music.
Christmas Eve dinner was very enjoyable. The staff and guests all sat together – 11 of us in total. Very nice food including some Swedish dishes. Snake Hips disappeared at the end of the meal and re-appeared as Father Christmas and handed out presents for everyone. Luckily we had previously got wind of this and had paid a visit to Ponta Delgado town centre to buy things for everyone.
Our ride on Christmas Day took us to the east of the island. Different scenery which in places reminded me of the Austrian Tirol. We took a circuitous route then climbed up very steep paths and through fields. Lise had to keep getting off to untie electric fencing. She is terrified of cows and she was wading through mud so it was not a happy day for her. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a view point. The driver had come and set up tables and chairs and spread out pasta, bread, cheese, beer and wine. A delicious meal.
Our last day was supposed to be the best ride of the week. We drove a long way to the west of the island to the Sete Cidades, an extinct volcanic crater with two lakes, one with blue water and one with green. Legend has it that two young people, one with blue eyes and one with green, were forbiddn to marry. As they cried their tears formed the two lakes. We rode up to the rim of the crater, mainly walking but with a couple of canters. Then it started to rain. Sideways. And the wind blew. We got soaked in no time at all and the horses didn’t enjoy it either. Downhill to a village where the driver appeared with our picnic lunch which he very sensibly arranged for us to eat in a local restaurant. We abandoned the rest of the ride.
I rode five different horses during the week. All Lusitanos, well schooled and fun to ride. There were plenty of opportunities for cantering and at the end of each ride we had a fun gallop. The scenery was beautiful and I would happily return at a time with better weather. But it wasn’t all wind and rain: there were times with pleasant warm sunshine.
Our hostess Christina worked very hard; she did all the cooking and the food was very good. Lise talked non-stop but was entertaining and another young Swedish girl, Karin, also guided us on a couple of occasions. The accommodation at Quinta a Terca was comfortable and there was a pleasant sitting area. Non riders would find enough to see and do though a hire car would be an asset.
I would love to visit some of the other eight islands of the Azores. Noble-Caledonia (A Silver Travel recommended partner) do an interesting cruise on a small ship visiting several islands. On these cruises there is also an opportunity to see dolphins and whales.
110 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.