and Madeira Portugal
(5.0) (5 Votes)
May 16th, 2005
Pros: Bird-of-paradise blooming
We decided to rent a car with another couple, Paul and Christa.
We were first off the boat and walked 1 km into town. The rental
office was closed and we asked a cabbie when it would open. The
cabbie claimed it would be closed for the whole day because it was
a national holiday but he offered to drive us around for EU50 each
(EU200 total). No way! Kim asked a local merchant and he said the
office would be open. Sure enough, it opened a few minutes later.
Our rental + petrol came to EU66, much cheaper than the cab driver.
We started with the overly-ambitious goal of seeing all three caldera
lakes. We started off heading to Blue Lake and Green Lake (Lagua
Azul and Lagua Verde I believe). We kept getting distracted by the
stunning scenery. The mountains, lakes, and ocean were amazing.
The entire island seemed to have been landscaped with perfect flowers
growing in just the right places.
We know we found a good lookout point for the lakes when we saw
the parked tour buses. It was amazing! Two adjacent pristine lakes
with deep colors sustaining the reflection of the mountains. I wondered
why there was no marina – in Texas such a beautiful lake would
have been crowded with boats. Then I realized that the inhabitants
had the entire Atlantic Ocean to play in and so they left the lake
alone to be beautiful.
We drove through a few towns and were stopped by a small parade.
It turned out that it actually was a holiday and there was a procession
with banners, solemn music, and little girls wearing their best
white clothes. The men wore a red vestment over suits. The boys
wore the same vestment over T-shirts. We were reluctant to take
picture because the mood was very somber but some of the young girls
posed and the somber men would briefly crack a smile. The procession
was followed by a couple of teenage boys happily shooting skyrockets.
That ate up most of the day and we spent the rest looking for the
second caldera lake. After driving on narrow twisty mountain roads
we found a hiking stop and learned that you had to hike to really
see the lake well so we drove back to port. Paul and Christa were
kind to drop us off at a mall while they returned the car. I asked
someone for an internet café. He pointed down the road but
informed me that they didn’t serve “café”.
It was a great day. I think I enjoyed the parade the best but the
scenery was fabulous as well and everyone was friendly. We asked
one teenage girl for directions. Her English wasn’t very good
and she was very giggly.
-05-18 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
We had arranged to meet Jim and Peter outside the boat and rent
a car at 9:00 am but Kim and I left earlier to scope out the town
on bike. The town (and the whole island) was extremely hilly and
we had to walk the bikes much of the time. We found a car rental
place that was closed so had a hotel arrange a rental. They were
asking EU48 but Kim bargained them down to EU40. I signed for the
car while Kim returned to meet Jim and Peter.
Once I picked everyone up we set out to find some waterfalls but
were distracted by the botanical gardens. It was wonderful but I
won’t bore anyone with descriptions of flowers except to say
that the gardens as well as the entire city had bird-of-paradise
blooming everywhere. That’s my favorite flower (I even tried
to wear one at my wedding) and I had never seen it grow wild before.
When we had our fill of flowers we set off in search of lunch. We
found a nice little place and ordered the “scabbard fish with
banana”. Scabbard fish is a white fish local to Madeira. It
wasn’t very exciting but I’ll probably never have another
chance to try it. The banana was served on top of the fillet and
it’s juices had caramelized which made the dish exotic and
tasty. I tried the local beer (Coral) which was a bit too hopsy
for me until I mixed some carbonated lemonade into it, a trick I
had learned in Germany (they call it Ein Rattler).
At lunch we learned that seeing the waterfalls would require a lot
of hiking so we opted to drive around for a bit and then park in
Madeira and sample some wine. The Bandy winery had excellent wine
tasting. We tried four 5-year-old wines and decided we liked the
medium-dry the best though I found it to be very sweet. We also
tried a 10-year-old medium-dry wine that we liked even better. I
believe the grape was called Bual or Buol. In addition to the free
tasting you could buy samples of their vintage wines. We later learned
that our maitre d’ (who is married to a sommelier) had tried
many of the vintages including a 1860 wine that he loved.
And speaking of Madeiran wine, on the lunch menu we saw a vino verde.
Green wine?! One cruise companion later told us that Portugal is
the only country to make green wine. She had bought some and I hope
to try it at some point.
After the wine tasting we bought and mailed some post cards and
searched for an Internet Café. We found that the island had
free internet in all cafes and public gardens! It’s funny.
I had always thought of Portugal as small and not exactly backward
but not progressive. Now I find that a tiny island in the middle
of the Atlantic has free wireless internet access while in the hi-tech
town of Austin, TX, USA I generally have to pay for it.
The internet is still important for Kim and I because we are still
resolving some things back home. It’s unfortunate that we
have to spend time in these beautiful exotic locations on the computer
but for now it is necessary.
While I was taking care of business Kim, Peter, and Jim found a
flower shop and bought a dozen birds-of-paradise and carnations.
Our stateroom is now very lovely. Oh, and the shop owner was named
P.S. I think I contracted a cold and I spent a lot of time the next
day (today) napping. I’m feeling better now and am writing
this on the laptop from a deck on the back of the ship with a beautiful
ocean view and perfect temperature under a nice sun.