We arrive in Funchal, Madeira this morning. Some fun photos of the island lights as we come in to dock in the dark. Breakfast and it’s time to get off the boat. Excitement levels build as we prepare to visit another place in the world we’ve never seen. There are 2 other ships in port but nothing as big as ours. Even though our ship isn’t big as cruise ships go.
Down the gangplank and I’m the first passenger off the boat. Not in much of a hurry, am I? Which way do we go? There’s no one in front of me! Okay, we’ll call it the blind leading the blind. Into the terminal and out the door. Buses are lined up and a quick question tells us they are free shuttles for our ship! The bus takes us into town and we walk through a charming and quaint town. Streets and sidewalks are commonly paved with stones and it is very picturesque.
Well, now all we have to do is find the Cable Car, known locally as the Teleferico. We ask a couple locals but they don’t speak English and they don’t understand our question. We meet one local who recognizes the word Teleferico, and he is happy to chatter on in Portuguese and we get his hand gestures and a few words like Mercado (market) and we head in the direction he indicates. Then we see the Teleferico and find the ticket booth. Another couple from our ship has found it before us and we get in the queue behind them. We have to wait 15 more minutes until they open. 22 Euros and we have tickets. Soon we are in the cable car and heading up the mountain, camera lenses happily clicking away.
At the top, we get out and look around us. There is the advertised Botanical Gardens at the Palace and we go over and pay 25 Euros to enter. A pleasant downhill walk on different kinds of paving stones winds through the gardens and brings us to the Madeira Wine Tasting Room. So we taste two Madeira wines, one sweet and one dry. Both are quite pleasant on the palate and we leave the Tasting Veranda satisfied. The tasting room happens to be at the bottom of the hill in the gardens and now we find a different path to ascend back up to the top and the exit to the gardens.
The map we were given in the Botanical Gardens does us one more favor. It shows us the location of the other attraction we found and are most attracted to participating in. It is the Wicker Basket Toboggan Ride. We once saw this on Andrew Zimmern’s food show network’s opening scene and I told myself if I ever came across this in real life, I’d ride it! The ride consists of a wicker basket type of chair with runners on the bottom. Two local men push you and guide you, staying with the sled and you slide down the roads for 2 kilometers (approximately 1.25 miles).
So we walk in the direction of the Wicker ride and we soon see it. Our excitement level rises and I can almost feel the adrenaline kick in as we anticipate the ride. This is going to be so cool! We walk up and see it costs 30 Euros for both of us and I reach for my wallet. But wait, why don’t we see anyone to take our money and why don’t we see any riders getting set up to slide down the hill? And all the wicker sleds are strapped against the walls. What’s up with that? What? The ride is open from Monday through Saturday? Whoa, this is Sunday! Aww, come on now! It can’t be closed! But it IS closed. Oh man, please don’t be closed!
So, more than a bit disappointed, we find the cable car and have to pay another full one way fare to go down the hill. Had we known the ride was closed we would have bought a round trip fare to start with! So a few more photos of the ever changing light on the town and we arrive at the bottom. We spot a museum where we pay another 10 Euros and get to know some of the history of the island. Christopher Columbus had a child here, it seems. Rudolpho Christiano, the soccer star, also came from here. Stories of pirates and slaves abound as do many old historic places.
We go up to the third floor of the museum where they have a restaurant and we chat with our waiter and ask him what they have for local fare. He suggests Limpits, here they spell it “Lampas”. They are single shell mollusks (think Abalone, only the size of Mussels) that they cook in garlic and butter. We already understand that garlic and butter makes everything delicious! And we weren’t disappointed! Lampas were delicious! Walking about town, we browse the shops, most of which are closed because it’s Sunday. Streets, for the most part, are paved with colorful designs and are a pleasant backdrop for our photos. The name, “Funchal”, translates to Fennel. So we ask restaurant after restaurant for a dish using Fennel. Interesting that we couldn’t find any.
One of the other things we have noticed around town is that their Christmas decorations seem to still be up. Streets are adorned with angels and lights of all kinds. Stars and ornament balls abound in the décor we see. We decide to hire a taxi for 8 Euros back to the ship only to find that the free shuttle is still running. Oh well, live and learn. After getting back on board, we grab our laptops and dash back to the terminal because it has free WiFi and we do some internet business without having to pay for the ships bandwidth. Our time up, we board the ship again. We also discover that had we gone straight to the Wicker Baskets like another passenger did, there was someone there to give us a ride! Who knew? What a bummer!
So, anyway, the ship leaves the dock and my camera’s shutter clicks happily away at the changing light coming through the clouds as it illuminates the shore and buildings as we sail away. Back in our stateroom, we sit and write the days thoughts, the ships engines thrumming smoothly, almost hypnotically, as we head into the next 7 days at sea as we cross the Atlantic Ocean. 8 days from now, we are scheduled to arrive in Willemstad, Curacao, in the British West Indies.
So, now to edit my photos to go with this story. Goodnight, Ciao, Buenos Noches, Sionara, See you later!