That’s the holy water font in Our Lady of the Rosary parish church of Povoação, a coastal town on the Azorean island of São Miguel. I went there today. It was special to me, because my wife and I married in Our Lady of the Rosary parish in New Orleans back in 1997. The tiles on the wall are azulejos, and are common in Portugal. I found this lone elderly nun praying in the church when I entered:

She was lost in prayer, that dear old saint. There was a chapel to the left of the altar, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Catholicism brings the weird to Christianity — and sincerely, that is why I love Catholic culture! Here is a depiction, in azulejos, of the 17th century French saint Margaret Mary Alocoque receiving a vision of Christ, which became the foundation of the popular Sacred Heart devotion:

I prayed for a short time in this beautiful little seaside church, then walked around the town. I saw this majestic rooster on the street. Look how beautiful he is:

I continued my drive with my party around the eastern coast of São Miguel, the biggest island of the Azorean archipelago. My son Lucas is with me on this trip. Here’s a shot of him looking out over the Atlantic:

Hydrangeas grow wild in the Azores, and man, they are something to behold:

Earlier in the day, a bunch of us went for a walk around the lake in the town of Furnas. We started at the caldeiras, where the earth belches sulfurous steam:

But the trees — my God, they were so beautiful. Here’s me reverting to deep Crunchy Con mode with a Japanese cedar, my favorite kind of tree here:

Notice this on my path:

There was a chainsaw sculpture of the cousin of the Loch Ness monster, living in this lake:

This is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in this Edenic place so far: moss on a Japanese cedar. This photo has not been enhanced. It really looks just this vivid:

I was lost in a contemplative reverie for most of this walk. It was so unusual for me. I prayed my prayer rope for almost the entire walk, and felt weirdly connected to everything around me. Y’all know me well enough to know how alienated I feel towards nature. Not here. My reaction to this island is startling me, but also delighting me. If we didn’t have other places to go, I’d want to pitch a tent in these woods, and settle down reading The Lord of the Rings and the church fathers for a week.

We saw and did more today, but I’m too tired to write about it. I’ll end with the cocktail I had on the back terrace of our hotel, the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel. The drink is called a Pennyroyal. It’s made with gin, lemon juice, mint, simple syrup, and pennyroyal:

The hotel is the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel. It’s one of the nicest in Furnas, and it’s relatively inexpensive. A young couple from Texas I’d met earlier in the hotel lobby stopped by my table. We agreed that this island is one of the most beautiful places we’d ever been, and that it is shocking how affordable it is. When are Americans going to discover this place? Soon, probably. Readers, get here before it’s overrun.

Our friendly waiter was a young guy who grew up here. He said that things are improving rapidly in the town, and on the island. He said the Azorean government makes welfare recipients work for their dole check. That’s why you don’t see litter anywhere, he said, and why there are always crews out beautifying the landscape. I told him that as an American, I thought it was a real gift to be able to drive around the island and not see billboards and ads anywhere. These people aren’t rolling in money, but they have the kind of wealth that you can’t buy.

Tomorrow, we move on. I’ll report back in.