Tuesday, March 29, 2022
As I wrote, we missed our first time visiting the Azores. So now we are in the Madeira Islands. We were told to expect all kinds of weather – sun, clouds and rain and we had all three depending on what part of the island we were on. The rain was a slight sprinkle at the top of the island.
The island is only 300 miles west of Africa and has a fairly even temperature all year around and is close to a tropical zone. You see lots of types of vegetation, including palm trees. Here is where the island is located.
Our tour today was Monte Village and Botanical Gardens. Our guide was Isabel and she was very good. They provided the portable radio so we could hear her from everywhere.
Some facts about Funchal: The word comes from the Portuguese word for fennel (juncho) which was found in abundance when the founding father, Zarco, first came to the island. It is on the largest island in the Madeira archipelago and is the capital. 250,000 people live on the island and 110,000 live in Funchal itself. Many of the other islands are deserted or are conservation areas. The island is 53 x 17 miles long and wide.
Our bus took us first to the cable car station for a 15 minute ride to the top – Monte Village. The homes and view of the harbor were wonderful in spite of some clouds. The cable car takes you up to 1500 feet.
We visited the mountain village and the church – The Church of Our Lady of Monte. It is a beautiful church and there is a lot of wood in the construction. The island was known for its wood at the time the church was built. The word Madeira means wood in Portuguese.
Here are some photos with the view from the Monte village.
After this visit, we took one of the most unusual rides we have ever had – on wooden toboggans! The origin of the toboggan is from 1850 when the wife of Mr. Gordon, a wealthy resident who lived on top of the mountain, fell off her horse and broke her leg. He had the toboggan built to allow her to descend the mountain safely. After that, most people didn’t have the money to ride in one, so it didn’t become a popular ride until much later. These are hand built wooden toboggans and are operated by trained men who guide the toboggans down a street of about a mile long. It is quite a twisty ride and there are also cars on the street. A license to operate them costs about $25,000 so most of the licenses are handed down in families. Many years ago, these men had to carry the sleds back to the top of the hill after the ride down. Now they are loaded onto a van. For every ride, the men switch sides of the back of the toboggan so that their legs get an equal workout! And today was the first day they could work without masks!
Here is what they looked like in the old days!
They have specially made boots that last under a year.
And now. It was really fun!
We then went to the botanical gardens which is about 1000 feet above sea level. It was the garden of William Reed and was completed in 1960. We had a wonderful walk through a beautiful garden – we could have spent much longer than an hour here. In one area the founding year and this year are formed in plants and the founder’s name is there too.
After this visit we descended to the town which is right near the port. Some people visited the embroidery factory (they are known for this) but we chose a walk through the market (we always love them). It was a really nice one. They are also known for Madeira wine but we didn’t have any while we were here.
We then chose to walk back to the ship, it was about a mile.
A few things we saw along the way:
The statue is the famous Portuguese soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo. And the other guy is the one I love. Even when he fools around!
Tomorrow is a day at sea and then we arrive in Malaga, Spain. Our entertainer tonight is a singer, Chris Ritchie who is from the UK.