Monday, June 24, 2013

vacation part 2: Madiera

The port of Funchal on the island of Madiera is 400 miles from anywhere, but beautiful. Not many tourist attractions were listed other than shopping. We decided to learn the process of making the famous Madiera wine (see Tony Randall's song for details and pronunciation guide) at a tour at the Madiera Wine Institute. Perhaps we could have a sample and send a thank-you bottle to our neighbors.

Several competing companies offered hop-on-hop-off tours of the island, but none of them stopped at the cruise terminal. Indeed, the first stop was over 20 minutes walk away. After that distance, who needed the bus. We got to experience the local flavor on the way, and I got to try out my new walking sandals. My only regret was the sewage smell from the water in the cruise ship area. Roads weren't labelled, so it's handy that we got a free map.

The pretty "caterpillar" flowers were imports from Australia. But at least the lizards were authentic. This is important to me because we chose our honeymoon destination of St. Kitts partly on the strength of the lizards...and the natives (of St. Kitts) had eaten them all, along with the pigeons, and most of the monkeys. In Madiera, they perform traditional peasant dances and flamenco.

When we arrived at the Institute, they were already closed till 3 for their afternoon siesta. OMG. So much for the only attraction. Let's stop at the shopping center that appears in bold letters on our free map.

I was worried that I couldn't speak Portuguese, but so many cruise ships stop here that all the retailers speak English. The malls have most of the same stores as the US, and we even found free WIFI at a coffee shop to read our mail. When you haven't done that for two weeks, its a big deal. The ship charges $45 an hour for internet and it's REALLY slow.

We bought the kids and the backpack a cheap watch at Claire's because our phones don't work here. At last, we found something interesting--St. Katherine's Park, with a grand view of the city. We were able to pose with the Christopher Columbus statue and talk to natives here amid the natural beauty.

Tammy talked at length to a transplanted British woman who was feeding the feral cats in the park. It seems that a lot of people get rid of kittens here by just dumping them in the "wilderness" by the soccer field. She even had the opportunity to talk about our pets with the woman.

At the port, they had a Madiera wine stand. They let us sample some, but only the ultra dry, not the sweet stuff we wanted to buy. They couldn't ship it to the states for us, and they ship wouldn't let us carry it to our rooms. Disney promised to return it in Barcelona along with the infamous confiscated iron that Tammy brought for terroristic quilting. Unfortunately, the 8 oz bottle was too big for the airport and would have to be chugged immediately after they gave it back to us. While not opposed to this in principle, Tammy winced at the sample and declined the opportunity. So much for culture.

The first thing most of us wanted to do after that walk was rest in the AC. Emily wanted to go to the pool before dinner ... and then watch Twilight again.

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