Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Funchal Madeira

Funchal, Madeira April 18th

It's our last port on this pretty incredible world cruise. We sailed in early, just as the sun was waking up from a deep overnight slumber. 

I opened my eyes and looked out the glass doors, past my balcony, to see a tall wall of twinkling golden lights. Madeira is an island and a mountainous one. Volcanic. 

As the sun rose, we sailed in and docked at the pier and people were getting off by 7:00 AM. I was part of a small group of 7 for a 6 hour tour around the area of Funchal and some of the outskirts. 

Madeira is part of Portugal; an island located about 550 miles southwest of Lisbon. It's a beautiful place. 

We were met by our driver and guide at 8:30, and off we went. Our first stop was way up in the hills to the village of Monte, home to the famous snowless wood sleds, where you can take a wild 3 kilometer ride down the steep streets, pushed by two men wearing white uniforms and straw boaters. They've been doing this for over 100 years. It was so much fun!!!

After our wild ride, we drove to some other areas of Funchal to see beautiful vistas from high in the hills, including the smaller version of Christ the Redeemer (think of the one in Rio de Janiero), and then a twisty and incredibly steep mountain switchback road to Nun's Valley. The views are incredible!

Another stop found us in an out of the way village, where we had a delicious lunch of roasted (and newly fresh, if you get my drift) chicken, beef, ruby red tomatoes, potatoes and lots of local Madeira wine. Yummy!!! The proprietor also indulged us with generous samples of cherry brandy and a bay leaf Rum combination concoction that is said to kill any and all cancer cells in your body with one (or two) drinks. Well hell, why not? OMG!! It would put hair on your chest, holy cow!!! We all left very happy and supposedly very healthy!!

Another sweet spot we visited was a viewpoint with a glass floor about 1,600 feet high above the water. Made for great photos of the coastline of the island but freaky to stand on, especially if you're a little height-challenged like me. 

All in all, it was a really nice day and it was good to finish off our ports with a small group of familiar faces and new friends. One of the pictures I've included here is of Bernd and Mieke, from Holland, on the wooden sled. They said it was okay to use the photo we took of them. We've been on a bunch of private tours together and I'm happy to have become new friends with them. 

The last leg of the cruise is a 7 day jaunt across the Atlantic. See you on the other side!