Saturday, July 21, 2007
Mad for Madeira
As luck wouldn’t have it, our favorite port was the one we were in for the shortest time.
With the rocky seas it took a bit longer to get to the island of Madeira. We arrived at 1:30 after a morning at the pool and a nice lunch on the terrace while watching the boat being pulled into port by lil tugs.
Madeira is the first place we visit that truly looks like a jet set summer destination. Don’t ask me why these terra cotta rooftops look different than the others but they were redder, the trees were greener and the sea was bluer. I have heard how historically the island has been thought of as a little tropical Eden because of its perfect climate and lush landscapes. I was instantly in love.
Short on time we quickly started our tour at the funicular near the port, which took us for a 20-minute ride above the homes, farms and gardens of this majestic island. As we rose higher we could see more and more of the shore, the lay of the land and the sparkling sea from afar. Once we reached the top our guide took us on a short tour of the gardens and wealthy neighborhood that was found at the top of the island. After about 10 minutes we came upon a massive pile up of Victorian wicker sleds and with the sounds of us approaching a bevy of men in all white with boaters in hand and on head flew out of a corner bar and headed to their respective sleds to take us down the steep hills of the island.
BACKGROUND: The wealthy of Madeira have always lived high above the city for the cooler climate and spectacular views. Originally the men would take a train or tam down to the city to work in the morning and return at night. The women however didn't have a way to get downtown during the day for shopping or socializing so a wicker sled was invented to be pushed by two servants to take these women to town. The men push, guide and brake for the sled down a dizzying and often speedy descent down one narrow street for Funchal.
Mom and I hoped in and off we flew. The views were amazing and the men were quite funny to listen to. It was our first day in a Portuguese territory so the language was an amusing change from Spanish. Once we arrived at the bottom the bus took us into town to try some Madeira wine. I already knew I liked it so bought some bottles to take back to friends. Then mother and I strolled around the city center checking out the cathedral, gardens and local shops. After only 45 minutes to ourselves it was time to head back to the ship and prepare to sail to Lisbon, our final destination...