First off, the Azores are BEAUTIFUL. The islands are volcanic, which means lots of mountains, cliffs, and rich soil. Just about anything that grows in dirt will thrive here. If you stroll through any Wal-Mart in the house plant section you will see what we are seeing growing wild. Norfolk Island pines, those little christmas tree house plants, love it here. Trunks are up to 8 feet in diameter. Likewise sycamores. Lots of seeds have made it here from the US, Central, and South America so many of the plants are very familiar to us.
What we have not seen is even better – poison ivy and poison oak are nowhere to be found. And somehow, chiggers have not made it here, either. The only thing to look out for while hiking in the woods are blackberry thorns. They tell me there are no snakes, but I have not confirmed that.
The mountains and cliffs are stunning. There are gorgeous views everywhere you look, especially with the contrast of the sea. While the cliffs are stunning, there are not a lot of sandy beaches. Each island will have one or two, but most of the “beaches” are actually rock. It is prettier than it sounds.
The Azores are the only islands for a long ways in either direction. They were instrumental in the first transatlantic undersea cable linking Europe with the US, and also have the only airstrip for emergencies while crossing the Atlantic. This airstrip was an alternate landing spot for the space shuttle for this reason. The US maintains a small military base here on Terceria because of the importance of the island for air traffic, both military and commercial. A few dozen airline flights make emergency landings here each year from in-flight problems. I understand there are some in Congress who want to close the base for budgetary reasons. From what I can see, it looks to me like a real handy place to keep one since the Azores have such a strategic location.
If you have any relations joining the Air Force, tell them to put this as their number one choice for a posting. Between the scenery, the fact that most people speak at least some English, and the strong dollar to the euro, this is a great place to spend four years. Also, because of the air base, there is a very nice golf course on the island.