Madeira 8

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Madeira 8. Plans were for culture in the morning and a boat trip in the afternoon. Slightly thwarted before lunch, and a huge (literally!) bonus in the afternoon. I was intending to go to the Museum of Sacred Art in the morning.  A short walk took me to the Plaça do Municipio.

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(The city hall is the lower building on the right).

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And I arrived a few minutes before 10.00 when, according to my guide book, the museum was due to open.

It didn’t.  I was astonished at this fundamental error in the book, and sat on a bench nearby to study what I could do instead.  After a few minutes, a couple arrived, looked at the opening times, studied their guide book, and looked puzzled.  I saw them later – they had decided the same as I had for an alternative, the Quinta das Cruzes museum, which was originally the home of Joâo Gonçalves Zarco, the Portuguese captain who ‘discovered’ Madeira.  It promised to be filled with priceless antiques from all over the globe.

madeira-8-35This had involved a steep climb.  If you go south to north in Funchal that is inevitable, and there are limits on what you can do by just strolling east-west.  When I got there, the receptionist told me that the sacred art museum used to open on Sunday mornings until recently, (so you are forgiven Lonely Planet).  She also told me that today this museum was free.  What she didn’t tell was was that only the ground floor was open.  But I did see some priceless antiques.

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And then wandered around the garden, not taking many photos.

madeira-8-31madeira-8-30madeira-8-29After much needed refreshment at a nearby café, I wandered back down north to south, aiming for the municipal gardens where I had had my first meal six days previously. But first I went to right to the seafront to book my passage for the afternoon.  Again I took not many pictures in the garden.

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I’d seen a kapok tree in flower earlier in the week This is one in fruit.

I took time over my lunch, and rejoiced in seeing at a great distance a gorgeous butterfly I didn’t recognise, on the extreme leaf of this tree.

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madeira-8-26It was only on arriving home that I was able to identify it.  A Monarch!  That’s the butterfly that in its thousands flies all those thousands of miles between, say, Canada and Mexico each year.  I didn’t know that it was found outside North America!  Wow!

In due course, it was time to join my fellow passengers for the boat trip.madeira-8-24But no, I didn’t go on this ship in the event.  A little bird in the group had alleged to me (I’d better be careful) that it had not passed all of its latest safety tests.  I was already tempted to go on the whale- and dolphin-watching catamaran trip, (run by VMT Catamaran) and that decided me.  How glad I am that I did, for reasons that will becomes apparent!

There were only about 15 passengers, and a crew of four, which made moving around very easy.  Very good commentary in (always first and quite right too!) Portuguese, and then English.

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It was this sort of boat, looked identical to me.

We set off eastwards, on water that was very blue because very deep. The island of Madeira being only the protruding top of a volcanic complex that is six kilometres high, the land falls off immediately to the depths at the water’s edge.

After a short while the sails went up. First the mainsail,

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madeira-8-17We were into the serious business of watching whales and needed the manoeuvrability that the engine would give. No dolphins, but Sperm whales!  A first for me.  Some were fairly close. I took literally hundreds of photos, and many would say that these selected results are not that wonderful if so.  But the fact is that whales stay largely below the water surface, and are not easy to capture on ‘film’!

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First sighting

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and the obligatory…

 

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… disappearing tail flukes

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The head is one-third of the length of the sperm whale, and contains, in a space the size of a small car, the very valuable spermaceti, oil so sought after by the whalers.  Sperm whales are now of course protected.

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Not a small fin but a very large vertebra

 

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Blowing

I reckon we must have seen and sailed alongside about five different whales before I thought I saw at a great distance, on the other side of the boat, the characteristic splash of a whale that had just breached – that is, completely jumped out of the water.  I just couldn’t be sure of my identification, so I kept my mouth shut and my eyes peeled, and did indeed see the whole action, once or twice, by which time the crew had seen it too. (I hadn’t liked to draw attention to the initial splash for fear of being proved a fool, though I am quite used to trying to spot distant cetaceans.)

And – poor things, but mine own – I managed to get these photos!

madeira-8-10madeira-8-09madeira-8-07Once we had sailed on – the time you can stay by a group of whales is limited, in function of the number of boats there are around, and there were two today of course – I had to share my excitement at my pictures.  The main commentator insisted I show them to firstly the captain, and then to the professional photographer on board.  Then a young German couple asked me to email them to them in due course.  And bought me a drink.

We sailed on further eastwards and I got this very zoomed shot of the airport runway extension. Tomorrow!madeira-8-06On the way back westwards, this half volcano tip was pointed out to us, the rest eroded by the sea.

madeira-8-05Setting off for her next destination.

madeira-8-04Late afternoon views of the coast, around Funchal,

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To the west

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To the east

 

And we arrived back just a smidgeon too early to get the perfect sunset shot.

madeira-8-01What a fantastic end to a most enjoyable week.  Madeira may be a little too built up for my liking, but I think I have been spoilt previously by some far-off wildlife holidays where there are no buildings or any signs of humans for tens of miles at a time.  I see that one of my favourite holiday companies does three consecutive and different trips here in June each year.  It is certainly my hope to return to Madeira in the fairly near future, and may well do one of even two of those trips. I’d really love to go back.

Madeira 7

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Madeira 7. Saturday 19th November.  A grand tour of the East of the island, certainly my favourite organised day.

We set off along the new roads towards and past the airport, which has recently had it runway extended – by building over the sea.  I managed to get a shot of how it works as we whizzed past.

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We were soon passing Machico, said by Lina to be the second largest town on the island, Wikipedia says third.  Whatever – at some 22,000 its population is only about 8% of that of Funchal.  It does boast one of only two yellow sandy beaches in Madeira – sand imported  since the island only produces black volcanic stuff.

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On to the easternmost accessible part of the island, the Ponta de Sâo Laurenço and the Baia d’Abra.

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Looking back westwards

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Looking eastwards. I love the way the spray frames the cliff.

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For the second time in the week we observed a photoshoot going on. Madeira’s a good wheeze!madeira-7-33The tour continued.

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Porta da Cruz

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Faial

 

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Hibiscus, Santana

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There used to be many houses like this all over the island. These at Santana are kept for tourism purposes

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Cats just love drinking anywhere but their bowls.  Is this a mini levada I wonder?

madeira-7-22After lunch in a very nice restaurant back near Faial, I had a little wander,

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Faial village

before we moved on to Ribeiro Frio, where the main point of interest is a trout farm – though it looked as if there was some great walking to be had from there as well.

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It was grey and overcast at this last stop, so as we then climbed and climbed to the Pico D’Arieiro we feared that there would be no views because of the cloud cover.  No need to have worried.

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Supermoon?

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No, a military radar station

Remember I said something previously about no elephants on Madeira?

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It was fabulous, above the clouds

madeira-7-09madeira-7-11But this was the best of all.  A ‘glory’! A phenomenon that can occur when you have the sun behind you and cloud below you. Amazing and wonderful, (and much clearer than it seems in this photo, as I think the camera probably had problems focussing on the cloud).  There was in fact a very clear second rainbow around the first.  The whole thing was just spectacular. (It may or may not have been a Brocken’s Spectre, when you see your own silhouette against the rainbow, but I think that in that case your silhouette is dead centre.  I think this was the shadow of a radio mast which was behind me and slightly to my right.)

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(Here I am looking at it – photo again by Charlie.)

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Yes, it was near a precipitous edge, but not as close as it appears.

On the way back, this time we stopped near Machico, and got a better view of the town, and of the extreme tip of the island where we had been in the morning.  And of the artificial sandy beach.

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These are the Islas Desertas, an uninhabited nature reserve, but full of lots of wildlife, particularly birds and monk seals, and you can go there on a trip.  I might, next time.

Finally, back past that airport, where I snatched these two photos through the windows of the coach.

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We were to take off over that runway two days later!

 

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Nothing was laid on for the last day. But I had plans…

Madeira 6.

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Madeira 6.  Friday.  Not a very photogenic day, so quite a short post.

Two opt-in outings today, and I opted in to both.  In the morning there was to be a very gentle 6 kilometre walk  along a levadaLevadas are water channels , 2500 km of them, irrigating people, crops and power sources, and they make for walks of various lengths and difficulties – and beauty.  This one had little to commend it, in my view.  It was crowded with three sizeable groups – ours was made up of people from British and French holiday groups – jostling to get away from one another.  The two levadas concerned had little or no water in them – it was not the season for irrigating crops (we were told by the excellent young specialist guide, Maria, coping very well in two languages), so the water was being kept up high to feed (water?) hydroelectricity. The countryside was really nothing more than agreeable to look at, and at times the view was of the backs of houses lining the path along which we walked. That said, I believe there are some absolutely fantastic hikes to be had for real walkers.

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Called a banana passion flower, because its yellow fruit is like a squat, straight, banana with rounded ends. Not very like a banana at all in fact.

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Dry levada, and walkers

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I fell to talking with a Belgian couple from Brittany.  Among other things Micheline said that she and the rest of her party had been a little disappointed at how built up Madeira was.  I responded that I felt exactly the same but I hadn’t dared say so to others in my group.

In the afternoon just five of us went on what was rather pretentiously called a jeep safari tour.  We were joined by a woman from Germany who was good and smiley company.  Jokes over about there being no elephants (but see my next post) or tigers around, one of our number was disappointed that we were in built up areas for so long and that we did not spend more time out in the countryside.  But, outside the new main roads, tunnels and viaducts, moving around the island is extremely slow, for topographical reasons! Personally I found it quite interesting to spend some time being driven through little back streets that no coach could get to, and well, we did go off road for a couple of short periods.  Moreover, we saw the Nuns’ Valley from a different angle, and in very different weather conditions. And one of my companions, Charlie, an engineer, got very, very excited about the workings of another cable car.  And I had another pastel de nata when we stopped for refreshments – a much bigger one than I had seen before.

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The grape harvest is over and the leaves are turning this gorgeous burnished colour

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Sometimes it’s bananas, sometimes it’s grape vines

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Optical illusion – that is not MY lower leg!  The fellow in the green tee-shirt is Joâo, our jeep driver and guide. Photo by Charlie.

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The mountains round the Nuns’ Valley, heads in cloud.

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Near Cabo Girâo

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Cost, if I remember correctly, some 2 million euros, or was it much more? Anyway, it paid for itself in two years in tourist trips at 10 euros a time

 

Back at the hotel, I had worked out several evenings previously that it was possible to hear live, but not download, The Archers on Radio 4, using the wifi area in the lobby, so by now I had got into the habit of making sure I was there by 7 pm, listening, then looking at emails and – sorry – Facebook afterwards, before going up to the dining room on the sixth floor for my meal. I know, it’s pathetic.

Madeira 5

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Madeira 5. Having been dropped at the seafront, I made my way eastwards to the old town (Zona Velha), passing Autonomia on the way.

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This 2014 sculpture (on the top of a pillar, but I found the lower background unattractive) commemorates the granting by Portugal of regional autonomy to Madeira in 1974.

The Rua de Santa Maria seemed to consist only of small cafes and restaurants, and I succumbed to the blandishments of the almost the first.  I had a black scabbard fish sandwich and salad, with passion fruit  juice, and very much enjoyed them.  Having wandered on through the old town, I made my way back almost to the Praça Autonomia  (Autonomy Square) to the terminal of the cable car back up to Monte. (The cable car to the much nearer Botanic Gardens has been out of action since the fire.)

And what a fabulous ride it was!  You step into the very slow moving cabin, which has just disgorged any previous passengers, try not to panic because it looks as if the doors are never going to shut, but they do, and then sit back and admire the view.

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What surprised me most was how almost silent and almost vibrationless the ride was.  And it’s a good long one.  I was really looking back to the ride back down.

But first I had a visit to make, to the Monte Palace Tropical  Gardens. The Palace started life in the 18th century as a private residence belonging to the British Consul.  It later became a hotel, and then in the 1980s it was bought by a local businessman who added all sorts of wacky and not-so-wacky items.

It was a hot day, but almost all the time, I was in shade on the two hours + suggested route. I was greeted with a series of ceramic panels giving a history of Portugal. Not of Madeira – the subject of this panel, Don Alfonso, dated 1185-1283, would not even have known about the island, which was not ‘discovered’ until 1419.

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I really enjoyed my afternoon here, just regretting that I had no time to visit the museum.

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Red admiral, I think. [Later: Bernard , below, says it’s the Indian Red Admiral – and he knows!]

madeira-5-17madeira-5-16madeira-5-15madeira-5-14At the furthest point of the ‘red line’ (on the plan) walk. I looked over the parapet and saw this:

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I’m not sure the woman was enjoying herself!

This was near the physically lowest point of the tour and I slowly made my way up again.

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This life-sized figure, outside the palace, is one I’d love to have taken home for my garden.

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Madeira has its own native chaffinch.  Is this one?  I have no idea. [Later: Bernard confirms that it is, a female, the one we know not being present on the island.]

madeira-5-08Deferring the pleasure of the ride down for as long as possible – and because I was in need of refreshment – I stopped at the café by the side of the Teleferico,

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and bought a poncha, a mixture of cane sugar alcohol, fruit juice and sugar.  I had mine with orange juice, though I believe more authentic would have been lemon.  I loved it, and it went very well with my third custard tart of the week.

For my ride back down, I held back from joining a family in their cabin, and had one all to myself. My pleasure was only slightly diminished by the very clear evidence of the fire.

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Though it’s good to see the green returning.

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But my main souvenir is wonderful. So quiet, so smooth.

A Madeiran evening was laid on for us at a restaurant back near the Pico dos Bartelos.  The centrepiece (literally) was the famed local dish, espetada, sort of vertical kebabs. I usually try to avoid eating red meat, but I didn’t want to make a fuss, and I have to say, the meat was incredibly tender.

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So on the one day, and not by design, I had had the two main traditional Madeiran dishes, espada (black scabbard fish) and espetada (beef kebabs).

Entertainment followed, and it was good to see people of all ages joining in, whether as dancer or musician, and sometimes both.

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This had been a very full Thursday.

Madeira 4

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Madeira 4. This morning’s excursion was an optional one, and about half of us had chosen to do it. We were driven to the Pico dos Bartelos for a view over Funchal.

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Now, a word about Portuguese pronunciation, especially of the Madeiran variety.  Our guide, Lina, was painstaking in her efforts to help us to understand where we were, especially for those of us, like me, who were trying to follow on a map, by saying the names very slowly and very carefully and very often.  Unfortunately she never thought to spell them.  Anyone, like my singing friends, used to Italian, or even Spanish, may be saying ‘Pico dos Bartelos’ in a certain fashion in their heads.  I thought I knew, from the itinerary for the week,  where we were headed for on the map, but when I heard – or rather couldn’t even make out – the words (this is the nearest transliteration that I can do, with hindsight) ‘PicoodoshVartewoosh’.  I thought I must be mistaken.  But I wasn’t.  Even the Portuguese pronunciation guide I had brought with me hadn’t prepared me for that!

Anyway, I was not over impressed, call me a Grumpy Old Woman, with the ‘beautiful’ view – too built up for me – so I concentrated on taking pictures of the lovely plants in the pretty little park at the top of this Pico.

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including more of those pretty cobbles

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We went on to the Eira do Serrado (Eira = barn-floor, threshing floor – but to me this was another Pico!).  From this very high viewpoint in the interior, we could look down the Curral das Freiras, translated as the Nuns’ Valley.  (There are various explanations for this name, so I’ll not bother with any of them here.) From the point where the coach left us, I walked up to the miradouro (viewpoint), 1097 metres (3435 feet) above sea level.

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(Actually , I think I got this picture through the coach window, on the way up.)

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Those are indeed villages halfway, and more, up the mountains.

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Panoramic view.  This was in fact sort-of wrapped round me, which explains why the left is in the shade and the right in the sun.  We heard that the day before nothing of this could be seen because of the cloud/mist.

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These were taken on the way down again to the coach, via a stop for coffee on the very sunny terrace.

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Cool and mist-loving plants

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From here we were taken down to Monte, which has a lovely church, visible from Funchal, especially when lit up at night, but I didn’t get a picture of it.

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Though I did get this picture from in front of the church. In theory my hotel can be seen down below, straight ahead.

The touristy thing to do from Monte is to take a toboggan ride.  To quote from my Lonely Planet guide, ‘Toboggans were once the only way goods could be carried down Madeira’s steep and roadless landscapes, and the Monte carros de cesto are a relic of those days.’

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No seat belts, no brakes, other than the drivers’ rubber shoes. The unfocussed lady on the left is our Madeiran guide, Lina

For safety reasons, the old cobbled roads have been tarmacked over.  We were told that this had taken some of the excitement out of the rides.  Ten minutes of the following was  excitement enough for me.

 

Imagine doing that for 45 minutes, all the way down to Funchal.

The toboggans and driver/brakemen are taken up to the start again, by lorry.

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The coach took us back to our hotels, but I asked to be dropped at the seafront. Nothing was laid on for the afternoon, which I used for very different experiences, back up – and down – in Monte, but in a calm and contrasted way…

Madeira 3

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Madeira 3. Wednesday 16th November. Today we had a great tour of the west of the island, starting at what we were promised would be the beautiful fishing village of Câmara de Lobos, a few kilometres to the west of Funchal.

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I have to say, I was a little disappointed.  For me, pretty fishing villages nestle, huddled at the bottom of their cliff, estuary, or whatever. This didn’t.  It spread way up the mountain, most of it with modern houses, with their obligatory red roofs.  (An obligation placed, all over the island,  by the government.  But, as I learned later, planning restrictions on where to build were only brought in in 2000.)  Where there weren’t houses, there were banana plantations.

madeira-3-25I wandered around a little,

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and then moved away from the harbour, to find I was being spied upon.

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Further along the coast to the west was Ribeira Brava.

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Madeira has little wildlife, so I was pleased to see this, and several other ducks

Then there was a long drive to the northernmost tip of the island, via Santa, to Porto Moniz,

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known for its natural lava rock pools.

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though it appears that Elfin Safety have had a go at them.

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Lumps of lava were everywhere

On via Seixal to Sâo Vicente for lunch – in a circular restaurant which we discovered was rotating very slowly. I learnt this through my bag twice disappearing from the low window ledge by my side where I had put it, to be found beside another customer. No-one had noticed that the view outside had changed!

A little wander around the village afterwards.

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The bird of paradise is everywhere

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Pavements were mostly of the volcanic material around, older ones like this one being of basalt pebbles long ago taken from the beach. Very attractive they were too.

There followed  a drive right over the top of the island, via the Encumeada Pass.

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From here we were driven nearly back to Câmara de Lobos, to the highest cliff in Europe*, the second highest in the world, Cabo Girâo.  Where a surprise awaited some.  You could look down the 580 metres through your feet!

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Or, over the balcony, standing on the glass.

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Eastwards to Funchal

 

I was interested to see this (using my zoom!), a replica of  Columbus’s Santa Maria, especially as I was thinking of going on it on the final day.

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Back to the capital, which contains more than a third of the island’s population. I had to call in on the pharmacy near my hotel at the end of the day, and was delighted to see this:

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*Though Madeira is on a latitude with and rather nearer to Africa than to mainland Europe.

Madeira 2

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Madeira 2. From the market, we moved on to a hand embroidery manufactory, where we saw the detailed processes behind the production of the beautiful goods, and many of the goods themselves.

There are many stages.  Firstly the pieces are designed.

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Then each design is pricked through. and on to two more copies of the tracing paper, so that three copies of each design are made. One of these is then inked, the ink being transferred on to the cloth.

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After it has been embroidered the piece is beautifully ironed.

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Sadly the days of the factory are surely numbered. Not only are the prices of the goods prohibitively expensive, given the work that has gone into them, but the workers are ageing and not being replaced.  I saw only one sale from our party – I do hope that the factory was given a decent fee for the visit it had just allowed us.  Just looking at the finished pieces in the shop was a real treat.

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En route to our next stop, a church typically built in basalt

 

The morning ended with a trip to D’Oliveiras, Wine Growers and Exporters, where we each could  – and most did – partake of a small glass of each of three types of Madeira wine, and yes, I bought a bottle (medium dry, 5 year). And to go with it a small bolo de mel de cana da Madeira, a traditional sugar cane syrup cake, sweet, rich and spicy, which they have traditionally at Christmas.  It is as different as you can imagine from what we call madeira cake.  And it must be broken, not cut.  (No worries here about the enterprise breaking even from our visit!)

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The lady in blue is not the elegant Madeiran tour guide Lina, but our English tour manager, Sue.

 

After lunch we were taken to the Funchal botanical gardens.  I’m not sure why, but we were obliged to stay together as a group, and I am fairly sure that we did not see all of the gardens.  Our local guide, Lina, was very learned on her plants, especially trees, and there were not many labels, but it was a shame that we were not ‘allowed’ to explore on our own.

Throughout the week,  it was fascinating, and enjoyable, to see plants in the open air that we think of as house plants. Few are truly native to Madeira. (Indeed, what can be considered native, given that the island  is only 7 million years old, a babe in geological terms?!)  In no order, other than that in which I took them, are my photos of the afternoon.

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Dragon tree

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This viaduct is just one example of the huge amount of infrastructure that the Madeiran government has commissioned in the last 30 years – leaving it now 6 billion euros in debt.

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Evidence of the horrendous fires that raged in August, killing four people and destroying 37 houses and a boutique hotel.  A young man is currently on remand to be tried for arson.

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This flower is indeed native to Madeira, but I can’t remember its name.

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The words are a tribute to the engineer of the gardens, who died earlier this year.

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A native of South Africa, the paradise bird flower is Madeira’s ‘national’ flower.

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A cycad, not a tree fern.

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Kapok tree in flower

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Umbrella tree

 

The night before had been that of the best ‘supermoon’, and I had been hoping to get a photo of it with a Madeiran flavour.  Unfortunately the sky was covered with thick cloud on Monday night.  So I went up to the hotel’s roof terrace after dinner on this day, Tuesday 15th, and managed to get these pictures, for what they are worth.

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Madeira 1

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Madeira 1.  Many months ago, I believed, rightly,  I would be in need of a shortish break in the gloomy month of November, involving not too much travel, and not too much organisation. I  couldn’t find a wildlife holiday to suit, but when I saw advertised a week’s ‘package’ in Madeira, flying from  Bristol, I decided to go for it.

An early start on Monday, 14th November, meant I was on the island by 10.30 a.m. and at my hotel shortly afterwards. A galao (milky coffee) and a pastel de nata (a delicious custard tart – I had four more during the week) later, and time spent in the hotel’s lounge with my guidebooks, filled the time in nicely before my room was ready by 1.00 p.m., and I soon set off with the rest of the day to myself. The BBC weather forecast had said that the Monday and Tuesday would be showery, and the rest of the week fine.  It was wrong only about the Tuesday – that turned out to be fine too.

Monday, yes, I was dodging showers, but it was warm, and I enjoyed exploring downtown Funchal, the capital of the island, which is an autonomous region of Portugal. I  started with lunch, a sardine salad, taken in the café of the small municipal gardens. With my umbrella up in my left hand.  I then made my way, recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook, to the Madeira Experience, a showing in English of a 30-minute film about the history of the island, and an excellent start it made to my week.

Funchal is on the south coast of this volcanic island, 57 kilometres (35 miles) long and 22 (14) wide, and from the Experience is was only a few metres to the sea front. My first picture was taken (between the showers) looking to the east.

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Looking sea-wards, I was reminded that it is an incredibly popular cruise destination.  While the population of the island is some 280,000, we were informed that over a million visitors come to stay on the island each year, and a further half million visit it from the cruise liners.  It has to be said that given the sort of holiday I was on, it was impossible to escape the fact that for 200 years, tourism has been the island’s main industry.

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These were gone the following evening

 

I walked on westwards, past a statue of someone called Christian Rinaldo – some sporting character who is apparently Madeira’s main claim to fame – and I’m sorry but my photo of the statue came out blurred.  No, I’m not sorry.  Moreover it was next to a museum dedicated to his story, run by his sister. Oh, and they’re about to rename the airport after him…

Anyway, I turned inland, which inevitably meant climbing – the island of Madeira is just the top of the 6 km high volcanic complex – and I made my way past the governor’s residence into the Parque de Santa Catalina.

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Sissi, the Empress of Austria, who loved to visit Madeira

madeira-1-07madeira-1-06madeira-1-05madeira-1-04Back along a shopping street, and a very welcome sit-down for a coffee, before going into the modest 16th-century Cathedral, called just Sé,

 

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the principal interests of which are its carved cedar ceiling, inlaid with shell, rope and  white clay, and the main altar.

madeira-1-02madeira-1-01That was enough exploring for one day, which had started at 3.30 a.m. (no time change, indeed Madeira is well to the west of the UK, due south of Iceland in fact).

The following day, Tuesday, I met up with the other members of the group, a coachload of some 24, picked up from our four various hotels, the others all being well away from the old centre. The morning was to be spent exploring Funchal itself, with an emphasis on traditional Madeiran trade activities.  We started at the Mercado dos Lavradores, and very colourful this market was.

This was at the entrance, and indeed all over  Madeira was to be found lovely ceramic tiling.

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I bought just the bag I needed for the week here. It proved ideal and cost only €15.

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Black scabbard fish. Looks revolting and tastes delicious.

 

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As we were to see, hand embroidery is an old tradition in Madeira, but this merchandise will have been machine made and imported.

madeira-1-market04madeira-1-market03Upstairs, the traders pestered in a way that those downstairs hadn’t.  Perhaps it was because they were selling  items that tourists could more easily transport – dried fruits and herbs, beautifully presented, just as the fresh food was.  Indeed, but for the pestering I might have bought some of the former, but I was only to pleased to scuttle downstairs again.

 

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The thought of all those chillies…

madeira-1-market01(To be continued…)

 

Stourhead, both colourful and grey

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Someone – I don’t know who – has described Stourhead as ‘the most bewitching and beautiful of this country’s landscaped gardens’.   I met Mary off the train at Castle Cary Station on Wednesday in lovely autumn sunshine. By the time we had driven to the National Trust property, had our obligatory coffee and lengthy natter, the sun had disappeared.  But it remained very mild, and dry,  and grey – sometimes very grey – for the rest of the day.

We walked to the Palladian house, built by the son of the founder of Hoare’s bank, and passed this gate and lodge on the way.

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We spent an hour or so looking round the house, full of treasures, and still inhabited by the members of the Hoare family, though gifted by them, along with the garden and half the estate, to the National Trust in 1947.  I have to commend the help of the room guides – two of them especially since by total coincidence I had made their acquaintance in an entirely different context just two days previously!

But it is the landscaped garden for which Stourhead is famed. And the best time to visit is the autumn as the leaves are turning. Or the spring when the flowers are in bloom.  Here are the best of the photos I took, in poor light conditions sadly.  There in person, we scarcely noticed the light, since the views and the colours were so wonderful.

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The Pantheon. Many times seen on chocolate boxes.

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Not a washed out photo, but truly pastel shaded

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Cormorants

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Giant knees

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The Temple of Apollo

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The Pantheon

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The Temple of Apollo

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Looking back to the Pantheon

It was the grandson of the bank founder who oversaw the creation of the garden and the building of its classical  follies which we so enjoy today.

We drove back to the station as it was getting dark, and as we emerged from a road which went across the remains of the Hoare estate, still in private hands, we caught a glimpse of the sun again.

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Brighton’s i360

Up, up, up, but not away.  I was at a conference in Brighton last weekend, and couldn’t have borne not to have tried out the seaside town’s latest attraction, the i360. So I skived one session to do so.

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From the short queue outside

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Waiting, having bought my ticket

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The pod starts to descend from its previous ‘flight’.

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Coming down …

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… down …

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… and sinks to the lower floor where passengers disembark.

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Comes up to the ground floor to take on the next ones,

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and I become extraordinarily fat, due to the curvature of the pod,

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which inside is very spacious indeed.

 

We start to climb, very, very  slowly.

 

Indeed at no time was my body, other than my eyes, conscious of movement.  We continue to climb…

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… and climb.

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Over to the east.  It’s not only Dover that has chalk cliffs.

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A scan along the beach towards the East.

 

Inwards and upwards

 

Taking this flight (as BA who run this attraction call it, like the London Eye) gave me no worries whatsoever.  But I would never, ever, ever, go on this:

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Why pay all that money for the flight if you just want to prop up a bar?

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To the west

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Shoreham power station, I believe, in the distance

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Coming down again

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Big zoom, to see a mile over to the east the end of the road in which my hotel was situated

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The red building is the Hilton Metropole in which most of the fringe sessions of the conference were held, and the concrete monstrosity two blocks on is the Brighton Centre, where the conference itself was held. (Inside it’s pretty good.)

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The big red church just above the centre of the picture is St Bartholomew’s, where I sang in a couple of concerts some 40 years ago. (Sorry, I think this picture is out of order.)

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And we gently return to the bottom, and alight at the lower floor

Back on land.  That was enormous fun.

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(PS I’m glad I didn’t, but had I known what had gone on the previous day, I might have hesitated before going on this 20-minute trip.)