I didn’t research Madeira before flying out, although I didn’t go out not knowing what to expect. Being a Mediterranean island, I had various assumptions built into me. As the holiday progressed and I realised that Mediterranean islands are beautiful but all so very unique because of their isolation from the mainland both culturally and their natural history. Near Morocco, part of Portugal and an island and culture in its own right.
Made up of four volcanoes the soil is heaven for the flowers and plant-life which grow to such an extent, the lily of the valley which in England is a small house plant, grows as a large tree. Bulbs, seeds and the flowers themselves are available from the market where the ladies selling flowers are required by local law to wear traditional costume. There was a flower which was beautiful but threatening as we were told was poisonous and nicknamed the ‘mother-in-law’.
The cathedral is beautiful with the stained glass positioned so the colours light the already colourful paintings around the alter. The locals seemed friendly when we approached them for help with directions, but each person would offer a different route. A driver we had at the beginning did mention there are many ways to the same place but it often seemed like they thought the place of interest was in a completely different location depending who we spoke to and I did feel they were making things up a little.
My hot chocolates were always twice the price of my mothers coffee and more expensive than a glass of wine. Chocolate seemed generally expensive but i survived! And I have got to say when I did have chocolate it tasted of, well, chocolate! This made me reconsider my chocolate eating habits and checking the coco content more regularly because when the majority of your chocolate bar is actually chocolate it is quite awesome.
The tropical palace garden was definitely worth a visit.
The gardens were many trees and plants with ceramics describing the history of those who have reigned. The museum consisted of a precious stone collection with hundreds of specimens of very large stones, including my favourite, amethyst. They were imbedded in the walls to give an impression of their natural growth. There was also an exhibition of sculpture from Zimbabwe.
We went on a walking tour, viewing beautiful flowers and greenery and walking along very narrow paths with the drop of the valley next to us and trees bent over us forming an arch. We reached the 25 waterfalls and then walked through a tunnel with a torch light to an upsetting scene of burnt landscape due to an arsen attack on the island which spread at a colossal rate due to the heat and the wind.
The jeep ride was fantastic, gong up narrow and very steep roads, doing what cars wouldn’t manage and was far too far on foot. There were parts we could stand up while the jeep was moving providing we held on with one hand which proved difficult for my mothers photography aspirations and she fell sidewards into my lap followed by laughter form both of us and the driver, who commented if she wanted a kiss from me she should have asked rather than falling on me.
We went in the cable car but decided not to go it the baskets which they rolled down the hill with the men on the back pushing it with their feet in the way they would gain momentum on a skateboard.
As is with many european cities, simply walking around the old town gives views and atmosphere worth capturing with photos.
One thing I did know before arriving was that Madeira was famous for its cakes. I had a chocolate pastel de nata (custard tart), a sort of blackberry swiss roll and a chocolate pudding, and at what became our favourite restaurant a type of creme-brulei.
Squid, octopus, beef on a stick, duck pie were some of the meals sampled. In my own words, ‘and we better try an ice-cream’ which we demolished sitting in ice-cream cone-shaped chairs.
As for shopping, I may have come back with a few pieces of jewellery, very unique and beautiful. They were selling many products made from cork and some made from olive tree wood. When seeing the vineyards, the grapes we heard were sold by weight and by percentage of alcohol. The fruits in the market were fruits which when you cut them open you ate the inside with a spoon. Each tasted like another well known fruit which we agreed was strange that one fruit should have such a matching taste to another.
I was quick to notice a banner for a contemporary art exhibition in the town centre. The pieces were incredible unique and captivating. Marcos Milewski painted on mesh adding a translucent third dimension to the paintings. Definitely inspiring to experiment with mediums.