Funchal, Madeira

April 19, 2017 Paul Groves

Day 104 of 111. Funchal, Madeira

Our final foreign port on this Grand World Voyage is the city of Funchal on the island of Madeira. Our excursion first took us to the highest cliff in Europe (and the second highest in the world), Cabo Girao. Of course, they have built a glass-bottom vista point at the top of the cliff which gave a beautiful view of the city of Funchal 560 meters below and allowed us to see some of the terraces that have been built all over the island to allow farming of bananas, sugar cane, and wine grapes. (Madeira wine is famous and was what Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson toasted with after the signing of the Declaration of Independence). We also saw a beautiful lavender-blue flower called the “Pride of Madeira”.

On the trip back to town, we saw more of the terraced hillsides (all terraced and worked by hand) and stopped at a spot where Winston Churchill painted a picture of the boats, water, and cliffs of the Camara fishing village. You can tell from my photo that the town has not changed too much since 1950.

The end of the tour included tea at the famous Reid’s Palace Hotel. This hotel is owned and run by the people who run The Orient Express. The hotel was elegant and we would not have been too surprised to find Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot wandering around the grounds. If you look in the upper right corner of the four of us at the tea table, you can just see our ship, ms Amsterdam, in the harbor.
The tour was great, but we had to wear nice clothes, slacks and dress shoes to visit the hotel. We were dropped off at the ship, we changed clothes and went back out to the town to explore. This is the last land we will see for seven days.

We went to a little park in the city next to the water. It is spring and many different types of flowers are blooming. Funchal has been voted one of the best tourist destinations and they pride themselves on their flowers, native and imported. We saw some beautiful examples in the hotel gardens, but more in the park with a pond inhabited by swans, ducks, and fish. The streets had mosaic pictures embedded along the avenues. We really liked this one of a ship. We worked our way through the town to the open market, but my eye was caught by a bakery with homemade chicken and mushroom pie (only seven euros). At the market, we found several fruit sellers, some souvenir shops and a huge fish market that was just finishing business for the day. We stopped at a cafe for some snacks, some drinks, and some good internet. It was a restful break and then we started back for the ship.

The local cathedral, designed in the late Gothic style and dating back to 1500 A.D. was our last stop. The gold and detail inside was very impressive. I said a little prayer asking for safe travels and we returned to the ship.