30 Apr – Funchal, Madeira

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April 30th 2016
Published: April 30th 2016
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Royal Princess in Bay of Funchal
LAND HO! After a week at sea, we have come to the island of Madeira. This is the largest of an archipelago of islands, which are owned by Portugal and Funchal is the capitol. Just as was the case when we spent a day in the Azores in 2011, we again are technically visiting Portugal without actually landing on the European continent. Madeira is roughly 540 miles southwest of Lisbon, and is about 360 miles directly west of Morocco (get your globe and look for us). So it is still a ways to go before we actually get to Europe.

We got up and were getting ready for breakfast when the Captain came on the speaker. There is bad weather coming our way so they are changing our itinerary. We were supposed to go to Cadiz and Seville on Monday but they fear we will not be able to safely get into that port, so we will be going to Lisbon Portugal instead. So we had some bad news and some good news.

We went to breakfast in the Horizon Court (we haven’t eaten our breakfast there before on this cruise). Then we headed off

Some of the Wicker Creations
to our excursion here in Funchal. There was a delay getting off the ship because of some kind of problem with the gangway to shore. Eventually we left the ship about 10:30 (about an hour late) and got on our bus.

After a lengthy walk from the ship to the bus, our tour headed out through town. This island is very rocky and has steep hills once we are away from the coast. So they have narrow and steep roads along the hillsides, as well as quite a few tunnels through some of the hills. We made a first photo-stop at Pináculo for a great view overlooking the town and the bay of Funchal with our cruise ship.

Then we were off to Camacha, which is one of the largest villages not on the coast. It also happens to be the center of the wicker industry for Madeira. We went to a store where we could have bought almost any kind of wicker product (that would have been a challenge to bring back in a suitcase). They had baskets and trays, tables and chairs, a variety of animals like elephants, giraffes, deer, and

Some more Wicker Creations
frogs. They also had a scale model of a sailing ship which had first encountered the islands many centuries ago. There was a lady demonstrating how to make a basket. And our guide (Christina) explained the process of how willow branches are harvested, boiled for 4 hours, peeled of the bark and left to dry. It is then soaked in cool water from a full week. Eventually it becomes flexible and strong enough to weave into some creation, and when it dries again it also has the nice golden color of the wicker. It was really interesting.

From Camacha, our bus headed up further into the hills to Pico de Arieiro. On a clear day there are magnificent views over the north, south and center of the island from this 3rd highest peak on the island. Unfortunately we were completely covered by a heavy blanket of clouds and could not see anything – we didn’t even get off the bus, but just turned around and headed back down. The higher up we were the cooler it got. In Funchal it was pretty nice and warm by the ship, with bright sun down there all day. Too bad

Entertainment during Lunch
about missing the scenic mountain view but there’s nothing we could do about it.

The next stop was at a restaurant in the town of Poiso, where we had an excellent lunch. We were greeted at the door by someone passing out small glasses of Madeira wine as an aperitif. Then we sat in a moderate sized room with table in a large “U” formation. They had bottles of red and white wine on the table for us to help ourselves – and a bottle of water. The first course was some pita bread and bowls of cabbage soup. The soup actually tasted a lot like potato soup with small pieces of sausage. After the soup course a group of singers, dancers, and musician came and entertained us with local Portuguese songs in the middle area of the “U”.

While on the bus we had ordered either fish or beef for our meal, so we each ordered one. They brought David’s Scabbard Fish and Janet an empty plate. Then they brought plates of sliced fresh vegetable, bowls of French fries, more bowls of boiled potatoes, and finally some kind of cooked bread cubes –

Someone else in a Wicker Toboggan
all served family style. At last they brought out long rotisserie skewers with cubed of marinated meat and slid several chucks of meat onto each empty plate. It had been cooked deliciously, so Janet got her lunch too. We had plenty to eat and it was very good.

After we ate the entertainers returned for another show, but this time they drafted some of the audience to try to dance along with them. Surprisingly David was one of the people chosen to get up and dance with the locals. It was a funny with none of us knowing how the dance worked (nor the message that was being conveyed). Good news is that Janet did not try to take any pictures with David’s camera – no record of his foolishness.

After this second set of singing and dancing, they served a passion-fruit pudding for dessert, followed by demitasse cups of strong coffee and then glasses of Portuguese brandy. So after our 2-hour lunch we left the restaurant with everyone feeling full and happy.

After lunch we went back down the mountain to the village of Monte above Funchal. Here we got

Royal Princess - from back in town
into 2-person wicker toboggans for a 2 kilometer ride down the hill. There were 2 local guys on the back acting to steer the big basket down the town streets and we swerved around corners, avoided parked and on-coming cars, zipped past a policeman directing traffic in an intersection, and basically did something that we would have never thought would ever happen in our lives. David took a couple of videos from inside the toboggan but they are too large to be loaded to the BLOG.

After that we got back on the bus, we went the rest of the way down to Funchal and went to a “wine lodge”. This is the front-end store of a large Madeira wine distiller. Christina explained the process and gave us a short tour around some of the area - including some 20,000 liter barrels which are now aging some of the wine. We were invited to taste a couple of the Madeira wines, (she said they have been world famous for over 400 years). And it was very good. In fact, apparently the Declaration of Independence was toasted with Madeira wine after the signing ceremony in 1776. Then it

Janet with our Guide at the Wine Lodge
was back to the ship for us.

A couple of the excursions which we declined included an opportunity to tour inside an embroidery factory where we would have seen hand-stitched embroidery that is an acclaimed export of the island – we did buy a set of tea-towels during our wicker stop. However we are here on a day that the factory is closed so we would have only seen the showroom and we decided to pass on that tour. Still another excursion included a trip to the cliff top of Cabo Girao. This is the second-highest sea cliff in the world, with views of a sheer drop of over 1,500 feet from the top to the waves below. There were Easier excursions, such as simply a Madeira Cooking Lesson and Wine Tasting, or an Extreme one that was a 4x4 off-road excursion available to the interior of the island but which is marked as so strenuous as to be “Not recommended for pregnant ladies or guests suffering from back or neck conditions”. We mention these “paths not taken” simply to point out the variety of choices available in each port and how there would be other things to do if/when we returned here.

Back at the ship, Janet went straight to the dining room and David dropped our backpack in the room before coming down. Tonight there were only 4 of us at the table - just us, Jerry and Joyce. Janet and David each had a Caesar Salad and David also had a glass of chilled coconut soup. For her entrée Janet had Fettucine Alfredo and David had Pork Tenderloin. For dessert we had a chocolate praline mousse. With after dinner drinks, we have had about enough alcohol for today.

In reference to our typo error of a couple of days ago – we are not having anything resembling a child serving of any of the foods.

We went to the Vista Lounge and watched an impressionist. He impersonated a lot of different well-known voices and told some jokes. Actually the jokes weren’t too great but the impressions were “spot on”. We also found a list of the impromptu tours which are being arranged for Lisbon, so we filled out the form and turned it in at the Excursion Desk. We will probably find out tomorrow if we get tickets for the tour or not. Anyway, it’s been a tiring but very interesting day. The sea is supposed to be kind of rough tonight, so we will stop here and try to get the BLOG posted. Good night.


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