Autonomia, cable car, Don Alfonso, espetada, Funchal, Madeira, Madeiran chaffinch, Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, poncha, Teleferico
Madeira 5. Having been dropped at the seafront, I made my way eastwards to the old town (Zona Velha), passing Autonomia on the way.
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.
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.
I really enjoyed my afternoon here, just regretting that I had no time to visit the museum.
At the furthest point of the ‘red line’ (on the plan) walk. I looked over the parapet and saw this:
This was near the physically lowest point of the tour and I slowly made my way up again.
Deferring 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,
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.
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.
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.
This had been a very full Thursday.