*Update: Since publishing this Q&A, Rodrigo has successfully guided our first tour of the Azores. He was so beloved by our guests he’ll now also be hosting our Portugal: Lisbon & Porto Gourmet Foray*
Rodrigo Viveiros is the local Azorian charged with guiding us hearty homos around the stunning Atlantic archipelago. While he is gay himself, he’s never actually lead a gay tour before. Naturally, our Marketing Manager Carl – who will personally be hosting our 2019 gay Azores expedition – felt it necessary to hop on the phone with Rodrigo and gauge how ready he is for our motley crew.
Carl – Bom dia! I’m really excited to finally chat as I’ll actually be hosting this tour.
Rodrigo – I’m excited to meet you as well! I’m getting excited for September.
So are you from the Azores?
Yes. Born and raised on the north coast of São Miguel, one of the areas Out Adventures will be visiting. Outside of Portugal, I’ve only ever been to London.
If you’ve barely left Portugal, how did you obtain such a flawless accent?
I suppose it’s because I watched a lot of English cartoons growing up. Bugs Bunny, Looney Toons, Scooby Doo… all of that was in American english.
It must’ve been such a privilege growing up in essentially the Garden of Eden.
Well, you have to be able to see what’s out there to appreciate what you’ve got at home. I grew up in nature and I wasn’t able to appreciate it because I didn’t know it was special. Since becoming a guide, I’ve become more and more appreciative of my home. There are days when the sun is out, no clouds in the sky and I just lose my breath.
What drew you to guiding?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in high school. I considered economics. But eventually I realized I should actually do something I’m good at. I’m okay with languages, I enjoy being with people and getting into nature. So I just thought, “Why not tourism?”
You’ve been guiding for three years. Any memorable anecdotes?
Well on a hike along Fire Lake, a German woman was standing near a bird. Another woman in my group wanted to take a picture of it so she asked, “Could you please step back?” Without looking behind her, the German woman took a step back… right off the cliff! Luckily the cliff wasn’t deeper or the stumble wasn’t worse. After brushing herself off all she could say was ‘Shit Bird!’
Do you have a favourite group of people you enjoy guiding?
Canadians are nice. They also tend to be quite curious and ask a lot of questions. I think it’s adorable how they finish their sentences with, “Eh?!”.
Aw. You’re just buttering me up, eh! ?
Ha! Exactly. I’d also say Americans. I think because of television and pop culture I feel in touch with the two countries. I understand the humour.
But on the flip side of the coin, I have a hard time with mainland Portuguese people. They take the Azores for granted and they act entitled to it.
This is the perfect segue into my next question: What is the relationship like between the Azores and Portugal?
The Azores is definitely part of Portugal. But something I always notice is mainlanders phrase sentences like, “Oh well back in Portugal…” or “In Portugal we do this…”.
We’re autonomous but not independent. This is still Portugal.
What is it about Azorian customs or culture you enjoy showing off the most?
The varied landscapes. In September you’ll get to see some islands have had more recent volcanic eruptions. Those areas have completely different topography than islands that haven’t had an eruption in millions of years.
What makes the Azores different from other island destinations like, say, Hawaii?
Well that’s difficult because we tend to brand ourselves as ‘Europe’s Hawaii’. But the truth is we actually don’t consider ourselves a beach destination. Rather, we value the nature here. We try to attract people interested in hiking.
But are there beaches?
Yes. We have black sand beaches. But we’re not a beach destination.
What’s a stereotypical Azorian like?
Well the people are pretty friendly. And I’d say they try to be helpful. There’s a joke that Azorians are bad with directions.
Give us a little taste of what’s in store on Out Adventures’ Portugal: Azores Islands Adventure.
It’s going to be awesome. Lush countrysides, beautiful flowers, amazing food and some truly unique experiences like whale watching and simmering in a thermal pool. We’ll be exploring four different islands and enjoying some pretty epic hikes. I love the hike we’re doing on São Jorge.
What souvenirs do visitors tend to pick up?
São Jorge is the only place in Europe where coffee beans are grown. Our liqueurs, tomato jam, tuna and honey make great gifts. And of course the wines from Pico Island’s UNESCO World Heritage vineyards.
What’s the gay scene like on the islands? I can only assume small.
Mhmm. Very, very small. We had our first Pride Festival in 2011. There have only been three more since. There was a gay bar in Ponta Delgada… but it closed.
But Portugal is a pretty famously gay-welcoming destination.
Exactly. We were the sixth European country to approve same-sex marriage. And that acceptance is reflected in the Azores.
What was it like growing up gay in the Azores?
Well I grew up as a shut-in. I have a very protective father and I wasn’t exposed to homosexuality. I didn’t know anyone who was LGBT for a long time. When I was a bit older and started to get out more I connected the dots and realized, okay, this is who I am.
Have you ever lead a gay tour before?
No. This is my first time!
Well I’m happy we’re popping that cherry for you. How excited are you?
Very! I want to do something for the gay community. It’s not like I’m doing anything humanitarian but it’s my community and I love the representation.
So listen, I know CANADIAN icon, Nelly Furtado, is of Azorian descent. Are there any other celebrities with similar roots?
As far as I know, no. Or at least none as popular as her. There are some ongoing, um, “investigations” to find out if a few celebrities are from here. Shawn Mendes’ grandparents are from Portugal… but unfortunately not the Azores.
I did not know that! But I think it’s important to note he is also a CANADIAN icon.
Ha! Yes, true.
Speaking of Shawn, what other delicious treats are available in the Azores? What makes your food unique?
It has more spice. We grow a huge variety of herbs as well as our own pepper which isn’t too spicy. Pimenta da terra. Or in English, “Land Pepper”. And way more seafood obviously. Even mainland Portugal’s seafood isn’t nearly as good as ours: fish, octopus, squid…
But one dish you’re going to enjoy on tour that actually has nothing to do with fish is cozido das furnas. It’s a stew cooked underground from the heat of the volcanoes.
I’ve heard of cozido de furnas! I wrote about it for our blog post ‘Top 10 Foods To Try In Portugal‘. I’m wondering if this is something Azorians eat regularly or if it’s more of a tourist thing.
We definitely eat it at celebrations. Basically what happens is a family will make their own pot of stew, bury it and then come back six or seven hours later with the whole family to dig it up. It’s eaten outside in a park or picnic area.
Amazing! So what’s in it?
Cabbage, kale and carrots are the vegetables. Three types of potato: regular potato, sweet potato and taro root. Then you have a layer of pork, beef and chicken.
Yes, the holy trinity of meat.
Ha! Yes. Finally you add chorizo and black or blood sausage on top allowing the grease to drip down, marinating the other ingredients.
Anything else you wanted to add before we say tchau?
If it helps in any way, I’d like to personally invite everyone to visit. I can guarantee everyone a good time. Especially anyone who loves hiking and being in nature.
I know it’s your first time hosting a gay Azores tour so let me give you a quick tip: guaranteeing a ‘good time’ is a loaded statement.
Ha! I’ll keep that in mind.
All photos courtesy of Rodrigo Viveiros (except the picture of Shawn Mendes. That’s definitely just from a Google Search.).
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