Friday morning we headed to the train to then head to the airport for a flight to Madeira. We went the long way around King’s Cross as we still haven’t figured out all the trains that leave from there, and we got on the wrong train. Luckily the train we actually wanted stopped at the same next stop, and we did a quick swap. At the airport we also went to the wrong terminal first, but then we made it to the correct terminal and waited in a lovely lounge area before the flight. Gatwick airport is our favorite airport so far, as we get direct trains and the waits there are decent. The flight was one hour delayed as well, but we made it just fine.
We got to Madeira, and were met at the airport with a ride into Funchal. The ride was gorgeous and the roads in Madeira are windy and have lots of bridges and tunnels due to the deep valleys all over the island. We got a great Airbnb in the middle of Funchal, and were able to walk all across the city. We had a great time of it. The first night we met Jeff, Patty, Elizabeth and Patty’s uncle Bobby and Aunt Katrina. Dinner was great, and it was great to talk with Jeff and Patty to hear their thoughts for the future and how it has been not working for a few months.
The next day Steph and I went to our dive excursion. The resort area was very pretty up on some cliffs overlooking the ocean. We went out on a small boat with one other buddy pair and did a quick dive along the marine preserve. Steph got to scratch the chin of a big grouper that was just chilling on the bottom. The guides know the two groupers in the area are very docile and they showed us what to do with them. I really enjoyed the large schools of tropical and subtropical fish. We were surprised that there were parrot fish on the island as it wasn’t a coral reef, but more of a rocky bottom.
We walked all along the ocean front of Funchal that day, as well. It was a great walk and a lovely town. Funchal is amazingly lush, and the streets are pretty. They have mixed cobblestones of white and black and make amazing designs in the streets. They also have footpaths made of oval pebbles that they lay in patters based on the longways of the pebbles. It shows an amazing attention to detail with something simple, and I really appreciated how lovely it made the island.
The island is a great mix of the things we like about Portugal, Vigo, and Hawaii. I’m not sure we could live on a small island, but Funchal has a lot of what we are looking for in a place to live.
Dinner was with Jeff, Patty, and Elizabeth in one of the random squares, and it was great food. The portions here are much larger than expected, and the food has been great.
We got through pretty much all of our food list:
- Pastel de nata, a staple of Portugues food.
- Honey cakes (we found tortoises but no honey cakes on their backs)
- Passion fruit pudding, a specialty of Madeira
- Scabardfish, a fish that is supposed to be the standard Madeira fare
- Tomato egg soup, a common food item
- Galic bread, a special Madeira bread specialty that is like a thick english muffin
The third day we headed up the gondolas to near the top of the mountain and got great views. We took a second cablecar to the botanical gardens, and spent most of the day walking around the expansive set of different styled gardens. I really liked the walls with flowering vines, and the ponds scattered around the gardens. The turtle pond was the most naturalistic, but I liked the frog pond the most, with its paths over the water. The more standard topiary and gridded European style gardens were also nice. They had a large arrangement of cacti as well, which was surprising. The gardens was halfway up the mountain, so it had some amazing viewpoints overlooking Funchal.
We took the gondolas back down and walked along the ocean some more before heading back to the Airbnb for some rest while it rained.
I had a great book club discussion of Man’s Search for Meaning. I really appreciate the people who are reading and discussing books with me. I appreciate the diverse opinions that each person brings and the thought they put behind their preparation for the discussions.
I was just in time to join Jeff, Patty, Elizabeth, and Steph for dinner. We had a great discussion and I hope to see them again soon.
The morning flight back was uneventful except for the most amazing rainbow over one of the deep valleys as we drove by on a high bridge. The rainbow persisted to the airport, but that view over the valley with the rainbow was phenomenal. I decided to get Steph’s attention to it instead of taking a picture, as she was looking out to sea at the time.
I would certainly go back to Madeira, although I’m not sure I would do that strictly for a dive trip. I would want to do some hiking around the mountains and coastlines, as well as spending more time in Funchal. Possibly go out on their old style galleon. It obviously has a propeller, but still looks cool.