Canaries Cruise 4: Madeira

The sailing to Madeira was much smoother than expected – rumour had it that the weather had been so bad recently that the ship hadn’t been able to dock at this little island for the past fortnight! We were in the berth by 7.30 am, next to and dwarfed by the German vessel Aida.   I wore black crops, black sandals, and a multi  beaded top.  And my striped scarf. We ventured ashore straight after breakfast, and were immediately confronted with a booth manned by 2 rival hop-on-hop-off buses – they were both the same price so I went for the red one as it seemed to run more frequently. However, the walk to the pick up point was quite a distance, and we were accosted (though not too aggressively) by taxi drivers all the way there, who would have negotiated a price for an individual tour. The HOHO bus was 12 euro each.

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The scenery was quite beautiful – steep hillsides with vegetation of all sorts growing in abundance. There are three zones where different kinds of produce is grown – bananas at the lowest level, then grapes for wine and the eponymous Madeira drink, and finally cherries. We got off at a viewing point, Pico dos Barcelos, where the customary pan-pipers were serenading us and flogging their CDs.  We manage to resist those, but instead, the cool weather and stiff breeze drew us to the knitwear stall.  I bought a lovely blue poncho with white detailing for 25 euro, and Rog got a very nice warm jacket, with a free tea towel thrown in.

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The bus continued to the little village of Camera de Lobos (which means sea lions), a place frequented by Churchill.  We weren’t quick enough to get off the bus (there were no bells to press)  but it looked like a lovely spot for lunch.

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Back into town – I’d hoped we could have afternoon tea at Reids, but you needed to reserve, and there was a dress code, so we skipped that.  We found a little cafe at the foot of the cable car, where I had a plate of ham and cheese 9 euro, and a glass of Madeira 2 euro.

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Wandering around the corner we found the old market, a lovely building with tiled walls, cobbled floors, and selling a vast array of fish, fruit and flowers.  Back to the cable car – I couldn’t work out where the famous toboggans went from, or if they returned you to town, so we opted for a return ticket on the cable car at 15 euro each.  Once on board, Rog revealed that he really didn’t like cable cars, so I suspect any future trips in this mode of transport will be taken by me alone.  And we should have pursued the toboggan idea, or just asked someone.  The views from the outdoor terrace at the top were fantastic, and the prices very reasonable – an espresso, glass of wine, and a bottle of water came to 5 euro.  Back down in Funchal, I bought a bottle of Madeira (it seems only right), and we took a taxi back to the boat.  I tried a quick dip in the pool – which was freezing!  And then the ship hooted its horn, and we realised that Aida was leaving, to the strains of Enya’s Sail Away, so we crowded onto the sun deck and waved furiously.

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We ate in the Four Seasons for a change, to see if the tables were any different, and ended up sharing with 2 other couples form Norn Irn!  Either the waiter recognised our accents and put us together, or more likely it was because we were eating a NI dining times.  I wore my red and blue dress with a salsa flounce, and a red mesh shrug, and called into the Jubilee lounge before retiring to watch a bit of the Tutti Voce show.

Cruise tip of the day:  Make sure you have enough clothes with you to pass muster for a famous afternoon tea at a hotel with a dress code!

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