Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

                                                                      Harbor View

April 20, 2012

This is our third visit to Funchal and the beautiful island of Madeira, and this time they surprised us with  a brand new cruise terminal.  Previously we disembarked directly onto the dock; now we had a long hike through the terminal, but it is much nicer than before.  And much safer for pedestrians.  Our tour this time was the last of the tours from American Express.

Our first stop was Camacha, a village where they have a wicker factory and make all sorts of wonderful things from wicker - furniture, animals of various kinds, and even a large boat.  Camacha is also where soccer was first played in Portugal, in 1875.

From Camacha we headed up to Pico Arieiro , the third highest peak on the island.

Usually one has great views up there, but today the mountain was completely blanketed in clouds.  Since there would be no views we voted to just turn around and head to our next destination.  The trip down the mountain was interesting from a traffic standpoint: the narrow, curvy two lane road has one side with a sharp drop off, and there were tour buses going both directions on it.  Fortunately we had a very skilled driver, so the experience was interesting rather than scary.    

Our next destination was Ribeiro Frio.  Here we had the opportunity to explore a trout hatchery and try a local drink called ‘poncho’, which is made with strong rum, lemon and honey.  It tasted pretty good. 

We explored the hatchery on our own.  They had fish all the way from fingerling size up to a couple of pounds, in separate tanks, according to size.  There were a lot of wildflowers blooming there also.

We had a photo stop at an overlook where we could see Porto Santo, the island in the archipelago where the Portuguese first settled.  Porto Santo got lost in the fog in our photos, but we were able to see the easternmost point of the island - a series of rocks jutting into the ocean.

From there we continued our drive through the beautiful countryside.  Because the island is of volcanic origin, it is very mountainous.  Therefore, in order to accomplish agriculture the hillsides are terraced.  That adds another element of beauty to the countryside.

Our next stop was the village of Santana, where they still have some of the original style of native homes.  To us they look like A-frames with thatched roofs.  The Madeirans describe them as triangular houses.  Those houses are very picturesque, and are traditional specifically in this area of the island.  They always have thatched roofs and a separate kitchen, so as to reduce the fire hazard.  There are still a few that serve as people’s homes, but most of the ones you see are built and used for tourist purposes.  Examples of the tourist version and home version are shown here.

Lunch today was at the restaurant Quinta do Furão, which is situated atop a cliff in Santana, on the northeast coast of Madeira.  The restaurant is part of a beautiful hotel that sits on 5 hectares (12 + acres) of land, of which 3 hectares are planted in grape vines.  They also have beautiful gardens.

Lunch was delicious.  It started with home baked bread and a bowl of traditional Madeiran vegetable soup.  For the main course we had a choice of beef, or the Madeiran specialty,  black scabbard fish.  When you see the fish at the market, they are ugly:  very long straight bodies, and mouths with lots of sharp teeth.  But they are delicious when eaten, and our experience today was no exception.  After we ate we had a few minutes to wander around the gardens and enjoy whatever we found there.

The photo at right shows the hotel in the center back.

We drove through more beautiful countryside on our way south toward Funchal.  

Our final stop of the day was in the fishing village of Machico.  Here we were left to wander on our own, after our guide told us what there is to see and where those places were.  We walked around and found the church which is in the gothic style and dates from the 15th century.  The church is very beautiful inside.  We also saw a beach built from Moroccan sand, and a fort that dates from the 17th century.

From Machico we drove back to Funchal.  Apparently there was a flower festival scheduled for the weekend in Funchal.  Friends who stayed in town for the day said the displays were very beautiful.  Apparently the streets are carpeted in flowers which are laid out to make designs, for the festival.  That would be worth seeing if you are in town at that time of year.

Our visit to Madeira was wonderful, as it has been every time (you can read about our last visit in our 2009 Mediterranean Cruise blog).  So far we have seen the east and north parts of the island.  We hope to be able to see the west side one day.  Our sail-away was picturesque, as expected.

The photo below shows the new cruise terminal.  All the rest of the photos are in the album.

© Susan L. Stone 2015