A tour to Madeira April 1998



Island of Flowers with high hills and deep valleys

Photo Pages

Monday April 20 Half past five in the morning we left for Arlanda Airport by Taxi. The airplane left at the set time and landed at 11.25 local time.
The bus tour to Funchal was a great experience going uphill and downhill. On the slopes I recognized wild nasturtium and other August flowers at the roadside, lots of different kind of trees, and flowers, flowers everywhere, both wild and in the gardens.
In the town Funchal Jacaranda trees were in full blossom - blue flowers on every tree along the main streets. Unbelievable!!
At half past one we arrived to our hotel, Lido Monumental. It is situated in the "tourist area" in the western part of Funchal. We had our room at the ninth floor at the back, but as the house is in a slope it was just five floors above the street at that side of the hotel. The view was over a very steep sloping with varied wild vegetation, and far away a television transmitter. To the right there was a garden and some houses. After some days we found out that it was a nunnery and a chapel. That chapel was at the same level as our room at the fifth floor - so you can understand how steep the hill is. We saw some other high hotels at the right, some under construction to the left.
We had a salad lunch and then went downhill to the sea and made ourselves acquainted with the neighbourhood. Very steep streets, so going back was difficult. Nice sunshine and 20o C temperature in the shadow. In the hedges were flowering bushes, e.g. hibiscus and camellia. Trees in blossom - jacarandas with blue flowers and pride of Bolivia with yellow. Blue and yellow are the colours of Madeira.
In the evening we had supper at one of the nice small restaurants along the street "Esplanade Monumental" running all along the seashore. We could have our meal outside - a sensational feeling after the bad April weather we had had in Sweden.
In our room we heard a thrush sing from the hill. Song from the birds is among the memories that are characterising for our stay in Madeira.

Tuesday April 21. A rich hotel breakfast and then an information meeting with the local guides. Guided tour around Funchal began at one of the wineries. We had an instruction how they make Madeira wine, and we could try differing vintage and quality (Sercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malmsey).
Next stop at the biggest embroidery factory and after that the market hall and at last the botanical garden at the top of the hill.
The market hall was really worth visiting! Flower, fruit, loads of fish, some meat, herbs and spices, and willow baskets. Embroidery is a great crafting industry in the island, and they reckon that occupies 10000 women.
In the botanical garden there is lots of flowers and trees. The view over Funchal is fantastic. The town is situated at the slope of the hill and the streets are steep and narrow. The traffic is a trouble. Nearly any parking places at all in town.

Wednesday April 22 The cock woke us up, then the thrushes began and all the other small birds. But soon the traffics overtook the sound picture. The balcony was a very nice place in the mornings. A group of singing schoolchildren passed at the street - they seemed to go to school at the nunnery. We saw them every morning in the weekdays.
We had a quiet day with rest at the pool and a tour by Taxi to the old town "Zona Velha"
In the evening we had supper in a small restaurant at the near by hillside. We sat at the terrace and watched the slope towards the sea. My husband saw a deer, but my view was just a building place. They are constructing new hotels all over the shore.

Thursday April 23 We joined a "Flower Tour" to "Blandys Garden" (Palheiro Ferreiro). That is a private garden of giant size where they have assembled plants from the whole world. There was a nice little chapel in the area where lizards were climbing the walls. The green finch was twittering, reminding me of home. The same kind of birds as we have there! Hundreds of metres of camellia hedges bordered the paths leading into the area. There were meadows with wild flowers among the cultivated ground. I recognized most of those wild flowers from our country.
After that we visited an orchid plantation, Quinta Boa Vista. They had innumerable kind of orchid in the greenhouses, even if the dominating kind was hundreds of different cypripediums. They were selling bulbs too. One of the selling girls was Swedish, but the owner of the garden was an old English lady who had devoted most of her life to the orchids.

Friday April 24 We joined the grand tour around the island. At first we followed the only motor way in Madeira, between Funchal and Ribeira Brava. There are a lot of tunnels along this road because of the hilly landscape. The construction of this road has been a very hard task. Along the road mostly banana plantations.
Ribeira Brava is a fisher's village at the bottom of one of the many ravines in the island. Ribeira Brava means The Wild River Ravine.
Then the bus went up the ravine. That was a climbing upwards and upwards. The hillsides were very steep. At first there were orange and walnut trees, but when we came higher up the nature was more mountainlike. Blueberry wire, Africa's Blue Lily and mimosa. The road went in serpentines up to View Point Encumenada, but then we were in the cloud and could see nothing. The wind was chilly. Then the road was following the top of the east-west range Paul da Serra and the plateau which is at a height 1400 metres above sea level. We were now above the clouds!. The view was enchanting between the clouds, down towards the sea and the villages along the seashore. The vegetation here on the plateau was mostly ulex, heather and lyng. They had some windpower stations up there too. Otherwise it is mostly waterpower in this island.
We came near the western coast and the road went in serpentines downhill. At 1000 meters we were in the clouds again. At last we stopped in Porto Muniz, the northwestern point of the island where we had lunch.
The road along the northern coast is called Donkeys trail. The hills were very steep hundreds of meters directly up from the sea. Where there was the least possibility to grow anything, there were wine terraces.
Photographer's stop at a waterfall streaming hundreds of meters vertical, called the brides veil. Not the only fall but the highest. In the cliffs you could se vegetation, e.g. marguerites and houseleek. The bus had a shower at several times. The road really is a narrow one, the tourist buses had to adjnst the driving to the meeting places.
In the village Sao Vicente there was an interesting wooden church with painted ceilings and walls. So we arrived to the scattered village Santana where there are many houses in a special style, triangular. There were lots of flowers at the roadsides, e.g. calendula.
And the bus rolled on, into ravines and out again, and new ravines. Nearly blasé of seeing these fantastic sights!
Teas stop in Faial where we had tea and Madeira cake, a kind of fruitcake. Some old women were selling cherimoya; otherwise we did not see much island fruit. Not the right season.
We saw people working at their lots. The farming must mostly be made by hand in this very hilly landscape. The acres are in terraces built uphill. Vegetable, potato, batates, melon, fruit, wine etc. In the northern district they were growing willow for making baskets, a great article of craft from this island. The women often have embroidery for an extra income.
Then the trip over the mountains and through the clouds again and downhill to Funchal through forests of fir trees. At the top of the range there was a chapel consecrated to Dom Henrique Navegador (Henry the Seafarer), the crusader who found the island in the 15th century and colonized it for the king of Portugal: The cross in the flag of Madeira is his sign.
At last downhill back to Funchal and the traffic chaos. The sea breeze is making the climate nice and not too hot. Temperature in town 23oC.

Saturday April 25. The parade of the children during the Flower Festival. We took a taxi downtown and looked at the merry dancing schoolchildren carrying flowers. The oldest girls and boys who came first had big baskets with flowers on their heads. De största flickorna och pojkarna som kom först dansade med stora blomsterkorgar på huvudet. Some of the groups wore natinal costumes.
We had some quiet minutes in the Cathedral and then had a walk down Avenida Arriaga to the Laurenco Estacion. We looked at the flower decorations in the street.
In the evening we visited Casa Madeirense, a nice restaurang with homely decorations, very good food and attentive service. Just the best at our anniversary - 44 years. This kind of place they come in and show the fish and the meat before they take the order.

Sunday April 26. A quiet day - we sat on the balcony in the morning. We heard the music from the chapel across the street.
A walk in the sunshine. Small lizards lay on the tiles on the road and ran fast away when I came near and hid the sun.
In the afternoon we observed the Great Flower Festival Parade at television! Our health was not good enough to go downtown and see it in reality. The parade was great - dancing children and girls and men in beautiful costumes. And flowers everywhere.

My impression about this week: The balcony was a very nice place. The traffic at the street down was a little disturbing but dust and such did not come up to us at the fifth floor. Good to sit out there in the warm evening and read. Dawn at seven in the morning and dusk at half past eight. The climate was wonderful. Not too warm. Not too chilly.
I could have a swimming tour each day in the pool at the hotel. And many small restaurants around with nice service.

Monday April 27 time to leave Madeira and go home again.

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