My first question is how the Dickens did the Portuguese discover this volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic when all they had were sails and those three masted vessels? The second question is how did the first pigeons arrive on Madeira and why is it that every city in the world boasts a large community of these arrogant birds who act as if they own the place? Funchal, Madeira’s capital is no exception.
This quiet, peaceful island has a gentle ambiance about it. The first thing that strikes is the hilly nature of this volcanic plug and the fact that one is never far from the ocean with all the sounds that accompany the surf’s perpetual motion up and down the beach. Glam & glitzy hotels and apartment blocks line the coast line and permeate the gullies and hillsides. It is all whitewashed and feels very new and modern. The old town takes a bit of finding but it is worth it with the cobbled streets, ancient houses & painted doors which surround the old fort. It is small but it really does feel old and I can imagine Vasco da Garma coming out of a sailor’s hovel to join his ship to call around the Cape to India.
The cable car makes the hard climb easy and is worth the effort as the views from Funchal’s peak are quite magnificent. The traditional way of descent is also worth the effort and gives the strapping young men a job throughout the year which builds on the traditions on the island and provides the tourists with photo opportunities. I am going to call it Madeira Baskets.