Lajes, Portugal

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Sondra Striker says:
September 10, 2010 at 7:23 am

After 26 months on the Rock, i can truly say this is one of our best assignments. After stepping off the plane on a warm Tuesday evening, our main focus was getting our dogs to the kennel and checking in to billeting. We saw a glimpse of the ocean, but were too tired to really appreciate our proximity. The next morning we woke to beautiful blue skies, and the most stunning view of the ocean. We looked at each and our first words to each other were, ?「どィ?How the heck did we get so lucky to be here?

Lajes Field, on Terciera Island is part of a chain of 9 islands that make up the Archipelago called The Azores, it is the 3d largest island in the chain. Set just about smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, it is quite remote, but is truly the hidden gem of the Air Force. The base is owned by the Portuguese Air Force, we are their guests, so we follow a lot of rules that are quite different than what you may be used to at a CONUS location. Some things I won?「どィび「t share for OPSEC reasons, but suffice to say these are minor irritations,and easily dealt with.

So how fabulous is life at Lajes? Imagine waking up in your house on base and having an amazing view of the ocean, every single day, even when it?「どィび「s cloudy & rainy in the winter, it?「どィび「s impressive. Life here moves at a pretty slow pace; taking into account that there are only about 50,000 people on the island, and a lot of cows, it?「どィび「s a welcome change from the hustle & bustle of large bases, I think we have a total of 6 stop lights on the whole island. What we don?「どィび「t have on the island are malls, fast food, unless you count the local tascas, drive through coffee houses etc. But try the local coffe, a meia da leite or galoa beats a starbucks for me any day:)

As for the quaility of life here, we have most of the things other bases have, club, bowling alley, movie theater, BX, commissary. They are just on a much smaller scale. For instance our BX & Commisary are closed on Sunday & Monday, for some people I guess this is a problem, but we do have local grocery stores and the shoppette is open 7 days a week. Finding your favortie things or specialty items may be a challenge, but I assure you we have plenty of food, it?「どィび「s just a little more basic. We also rely heavily on deliveries from Germany, and if a plane/boat doesn?「どィび「t come in it affects the stock at the commisary. Same with the BX-not a huge selection, but from what I?「どィび「ve heard it?「どィび「s a lot better than it was in years past. So you get really good at shopping online and ordering things like birthday & Christmas gift a little earlier than you would at home.

We get our main shipment of mail on the rotator that comes in on Saturday nght, so our PO is open on Sundays, closed on Fridays. It?「どィび「s great to walk in and see all those package slips in your box!!

As for what to do on Terciera, some people will tell you there?「どィび「s nothing to do here; personally I think they?「どィび「re wrong. There are festivals in the smaller villages from June through October, complete with street bullfights, lots of food and the locals are very welcoming. In June there is AngraFest, or the Festival of San Joaninas, most of the festivals are based around food, parades, dancing and local folklore. Most started many years ago as religious celebrations and have grown from there. The other major festival take place in Praia Da Vittoria, second largest city on the island and the closest to the AFB. it runs for 8 days at the beinning of August, and includes parades every night, outdoor concerts, beach and street bullfights, a large food tent with food from Spain and mainland Portugal. People come from all over the world to attend the festival. We have a dormant volcano on the island, sulphur pits, mountains, and lovely villages. There are lots of tours you can book through outdoor rec, boat trips, hiking, visits to local craftsmen, and the local winery in Biscoitos. There is a sand beach in Praia, which is very nice and lots of swimming at different places along the coast.

We are a small base, but we are a family here at Lajes, your kids are more than safe running around the playgrounds, the schools are small, but i haven?「どィび「t heard big complaints about that from my friends who have kids. I guess some of the older kids miss out on things like football, but all in all I think most parents are happy with the schools here.

The housing is just like most miltary housing, some of it is older, but under renovation in stages, some units are brand new. Probably a little smaller, but still pretty nice. Again the majority of base houses have a pretty spectacular view of the ocean, so who can really complain about that. they also recently changed the rule about how much you can bring to Terciera, you are now allowed to bring you full weight allowance. Did I mention that I live off base? We do, in a lovely 4 bedroom typical Azorean home, in Lajes village, about 10 minutes from base.

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