Like nine precious gems scattered on the azure sheet of velvet, the paradisaical Azores adorn the Atlantic 930 miles from Lisbon. A two-hour flight takes you to the realm of flower-clad fields, verdant valleys, sleepy villages, dreamy lagoons and inspired folklore that never fails to grab the hearts of those who put culture over the cutting-edge gloss. St. Miguel's landscape falls somewhere between Switzerland and Hawaii, Santa Maria buzzes with the joy of traditional festivals. The highly pleasing blend of fabulous scenery and the natural human warmth coupled with the joy of traditional festivals makes you compelled to stop for a while and reappraise your attitude to life. Unless you wish to tuck yourself away at a luxury resort, which is, by the way, not a problem here either.