I have been contemplating a post on our day in Funchal for quite some time. There has been a lot of stuff going on that has interfered with the actual production of the promised batch of photos.
Of course, there was a full week of massage to do, which entailed the requisite pile of laundry. The weather has been spectacular all week, so we have been able to hang a lot of it out on the line. However, there have been a sufficient number of thunderstorms that there was a lot of cooperation required in order to get the dry laundry down before it got wet again. There were a couple of sunny, breezy mornings that were perfect drying days that deteriorated into rain storms in the afternoon.
Yesterday we went to a fish fry held by one of our good friends. It was a perfect afternoon to sit around eating and drinking. All of our friends came to the potluck with the idea “It is a fish fry. There will be vats of hot oil,” and brought every conceivable thing that you could think of to fry, from fresh morels and frog legs to fritters and french-fry cut zuchini. It was like being in the middle of a huge tapas bar with no waiter to slow you down. Our friend also has a sauna, which he had fired up. It wasn’t really hot enough, it just teased us.
So Jim lit the stove in our sauna this afternoon and we had a nice relaxing sweat after I was done working in the garden. Then we came in and spent some quality time together (wink wink nudge nudge). Then I had a nice nap.
I needed a rest. It has been sort of drizzling very lightly pretty much all day. Since that made it splendid weather for transplanting, I did a certain amount of that. I had a varied bunch of volunteer lettuces coming up in garden beds where I am going to be planting beans, squash, corn, tomatoes and peppers in the very near future. Since all the little babies were the perfect age for being moved, I moved them over into the area of the garden where I have planned my salad patch. Then I planted a couple of rows of mesclun seeds next to them.
In addition to transplanting the lettuce, I also moved some more Creeping Jenny from the front garden bed into the cracks between the rock path in the stroll garden. This is the second time I have done this, and after I have repeated the exercise about three more times that walk way will be properly supplied with plants. Nice that the front yard is providing all the plants I need for this project — I won’t have to buy much for that section.
I also paid attention to the onion bed. Earlier this week, Jim brought some sand for me to work into the soil to lighten the clay in that bed. I also had three bags of half composted leaves from last fall to work in at the same time. I have wanted to get to this all week, but it has been raining so steadily that the ground has been too saturated to work. This morning it was finally dry enough to turn shovelfuls over without creating mud balls. But it was still pretty wet, so I got a good upper body workout as I picked up the heavy dirt. I suppose I could have taken smaller bites with my shovel, but then the job would have taken too long. Now it is a luscious mix of dirt, old compost, green leaves trimmed from the chicory, sand, and half composted leaves. I had enough leaves left over from the bags that I could use them as a partial mulch over the freshly turned soil. The robins and wrens are out there having a feast of worms and bugs from the mulch.
I have also spent quite a while trying to identify a bird that is singing out in the yard. I have yet to see it. It has a call that descends plaintively, from D to C to A. The rhythm says “Oh, look, there’s a girl there’s a pretty girl.” Jim found an educational web site that had over 500 different bird songs recorded, and I spent about 45 minutes there this morning and never heard another call remotely like it. However, while I was trying to spot the mystery bird I discovered we have a rufous sided towhee scratching around the yard. Cool.
Oh yeah. Funchal.
After we had been at sea for about 10 days, we finally made landfall in Funchal. Funchal is the main city on the island of Madeira, which belongs to Portugal. Madeira was discovered in 1419 by the Portuguese, and Funchal was establised a couple of years later. I don’t believe they have changed the roads since it first started growing up the mountain that it occupies the feet of.
Madeira’s highest point is about 6000 feet above sea level. The whole island is a pile of volcanic output, basalt columns forming steep cliffs and sundry lava flows. It sits about the same latitude as San Diego, California, and the climate has a lot in common with that location.
We arrived from the sea as the sun was coming up. We got a great view of Funchal climbing the flanks of the island, all outlined in lights. While magical, that view did not translate to a good photograph. This is what it looked like in the afternoon sun as we were leaving:
Jim looked at Madeira as we made landfall, and said he thought that there was probably no flat place on the whole island that was large enough for the International Airport, and they probably had to construct it on fill. It was even worse than that. Take a look at this picture and notice that all the arches and pillars off on the right side are supports for the runways, which extend quite a ways out over the bay.
We enjoyed watching the ship come into the pier. The Staff Captain, Sigurd, was getting trained in how to bring the “Pride” into dock. We were watching the process from the deck above the bridge wing. The guy with the radio and the spiky hair is Sigurd, the older gentleman is Captain Anderson, who was watching and listening to every order his trainee made. A couple of times I saw him lift his walky talky and give an order before Sigurd got to it, but mostly Sigurd did it on his own.
We signed up for a morning tour of the city of Funchal, including a visit to the Botanical gardens, a ride on the cable cars up to Monte, followed by a trip back down the mountain on the traditional wood and lattice toboggans that used to be used to bring produce down the mountain. Now they carry tourists.
Anyway, we had paid for this event and then found out that there was an opportunity to go to the market and go shopping with Chef Markus. We were too cheap to abandon our already paid for tour, so we missed out on that. This is Chef Markus, marshalling his charges. I took it from our bus as we moved out on our own experience.
Off we went, and it was absolutely amazing to see our tour bus negotiate the twisting and winding streets of Funchal as we climbed up the mountainside to the Botanical garden. Much of the wonderful stuff we saw there has already appeared in the post I made about Mediterranean flowers.
All over Funchal there were cobbled pathways made out of little shreds of basalt columns. They were all over the Garden, and these steps made out of those cobbles really beguiled me.
We were allowed about 45 minutes to walk through the gardens. This was frustrating, because these extensive gardens would easily require a whole day to see adequately. But we were on a tour, and being hustled by our stressed-out tour guide back onto the bus. We rode the cable cars up to Monte:
We went across a deep wooded canyon that had a stream running along the bottom of it. This is part of Madeira’s World Heritage forest, and has hiking trails through it. Across the canyon above the tunnel that served the freeway that runs out to the airport, there was a garden carved out of the cliff face.
At the top of the cable cars, there was another garden carved out of the cliff face. This person was growing a bunch of vegetables in terraces that gave me concerns. You wouldn’t want to lose your balance pulling a stubborn weed in these beds:
As we walked away from that area towards the little community of Monte, we walked past the garden that had the 2000 year old olives transplanted to it. Right across the street from that was a wonderful fuchsia bush, “Princess’s Earrings” was the variety.
Just around the corner from that was where we found the top of the toboggan slide.
We loaded up, and started sliding down the hill. Of course, the first thing that happened was my hat blew off and our sled managers had to bring our toboggans to a screeching halt and run up the hill to fetch it. They often jumped on the back runners and rode along with us. They’d lean to twist the sled around and give us a thrilling ride. When we came around a corner and saw a car coming up the street towards us, they hopped off and used their bodies as brakes and steering.
Yup, we met that car coming up as we went down. About a quarter of the way into the slide, a guy stepped out from an intersection as we went by and snapped our picture. By the time we got to the bottom of the slide, these photos were printed and stuck into a folder so you could buy them for 10 Euros. We bit — I thought they captured the experience very nicely.
While we were waiting for the bus to take us back to the ship, the reproduction of Vasco Da Gama’s exploration ship set sail from her pier. Every day she takes a gaggle of tourists out beyond the breakwater for a whale watching expedition. I loved the juxtaposition of old and new as she sailed by the Seabourn “Pride” wehre she waited for us.
It made me really stop and think about the kind of courage it took to take a ship that size out into the open ocean to explore the world and look for a new way to get to India.
We got back to the ship in plenty of time to walk into town and visit the rocky beach by the marina where the Beatle’s yacht (now a restaurant) was moored and pick up some rocks as souvenirs. Then we trotted back to the ship and got dressed for our next “Experience”, high tea at Reid’s Hotel. This involved another bus tour through Funchal, up to a high point where there was a view over the whole city.
This was the vantage point that really brought home the unique city that Funchal is. Mixed in amidst the apartments and hotels and office buildings, was old Funchal. It has not changed substnatially, in a few hundred years. They still grow bananas, grapes, produce, and cut flowers for the European trade. Because of the terraces, they do not use equipment for their farming. From up on this hill, you could see the way all of this activity was woven together in a beautiful tapestry.
I zoomed in to get some detail on this neighborhood. On the right side is a family compound where they are growing produce, flowers, and banansa. You can see that there are several small buildings where different members of the family have quarters with their families.
To the left of this was a group of houses that had gardens and banana orchards in addition to trellised grapes. What was notable to me was the lack of a street. These people bring their groceries home up the stairs from the bus stop. I can’t imagine what it must be like to move. I’d hate to be the furniture or appliace delivery person.
Looking off somewhat to the east of the city, you get a great view of the mountain side with the terraces that the original settlers built for their grapes and orchards and gardens.
On the way down from that view point to the hotel, we drove by some of the terrace work and got a good close up view of the amazing dry stacked rock work.
We also drove past one of the numerous front yard vineyards:
Down at Reid’s Hotel, a very swanky establishment indeed, we were regaled with a buffet high tea. While we enjoyed the scones and cakes and tea, we did not get the “real” tea experience, which was out on an elegant balcony with a view. For this, you need reservations. You had better be dressed correctly too, or they won’t let you in to be seated even if you do have reservations and the 27 Euros per person they charge. I did get a quick shot of the “real” high tea service.
I will leave you with one of my favorite images from our day in Funchal. This was a group of flowers that had draped themselves artistically over a wall we happened to be strolling by.
Next stop, Seville!
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