Friday, 1 July 2011

Madeira!

Off to the beach Madeiran style!
I’m just back from a week on the beautiful island of Madeira.  As we waited for our flight we played the game of “summing up the holiday in ten words”.  So here goes with my ten:
1.   Sunshine: Madeira has a mild climate pretty much all year.  It was sunny everyday but didn’t get over 30 degrees which suited us just fine.  I wore my big Aussie sunhat, sunglasses and lots of sun cream the whole time to avoid coming back looking like a peeling beetroot. We swam in the hotel pool each day and I attempted to swim in the sea but found the undertow far too strong.

2.   Hills and more hills!  Madeira is a volcanic island and rises up steeply from the coasts to central peaks and plateaux.  We have leg muscles like mountain goats after walking up and down millions of steps and hills.  One of the ways people would get quickly down to the centre of Funchal (the capital) from the hills above was by basket sled on wooden runners sliding down the centre of the road with two men guiding it. Now it is a tourist attraction - completely mad but such fun. We also took cable cars down to the local beach and up to the tropical gardens.  We had fantastic vies of the island set like a jewel in the sparkling blue ocean.
3.   Scary bus rides:  Getting to Funchal entailed a 20 -30 minute bus journey along roads that wrapped around the coast line with hairpin bends, sheer drops to the ocean and spectacular views.  On arrival our knuckles were white from gripping so hard and we felt nothing like the James bond martini  - we were thoroughly shaken!
Scabbard fish - something out of your
worst nightmare but they taste divine!
4.   Great food and wine:  Madeira is not the ideal eating place for vegetarians, and any vegans visiting would probably starve!  Luckily we love fish and the local speciality is a particularly ugly long black fish with bulgy eyes and wickedly sharp teeth.  If you can get past the looks of it, it tastes completely delicious – a lovely soft white flesh! Wine is excellent and very cheap so each evening meal was accompanied by wonderful Portugese red wine. We came back with a bottle of 10 year old Madeiran wine which has to be treated with caution as it is 19% proof!
5.   Fabulous coffee.  I am a complete coffee snob.  I grew up in Melbourne where the Italian and Greek immigrant introduced wonderful coffee and I find it really hard to get consistently good coffee in England.  Madeira has excellent coffee- small cups, good and strong - so we’d start every morning sitting in a café with the locals getting our caffeine fix. The local people are so friendly and helpful and we always felt really safe wherever we went
.
6.   Black soil:  Being volcanic, the sand and rocks are black the result of ancient lava flows.  I couldn’t resist bringing two rocks back for the garden.  They look like very big extra hard pumice stones.
7.   Exotic  flora:  All those amazing luxurious flowers you spend a fortune on here grow rampantly in Madeira.  Bird of Paradise and agapanthus flowers line the roadsides and the colours were so bright and cheerful. Palm trees were everywhere and up in the hills were gorgeous tree ferns – so familiar to me as they are Aussie natives.
8.   Lizards:  Little lizards scurry around everywhere, basking on the hot stone walls and darting away as you approach
9.   Dogs:  where we stayed there were yapping dogs everywhere and once one started it set all the others off.  We rarely saw anyone walking dogs but early each morning any grassy verge was liberally sprinkled with their excrement as though they were only taken out to clear their bowels then locked back in their yards again.
10. Sudoku:  I finally learnt how to play Sudoku and ended up quite addicted.  I can only do the easy ones though.  I have always liked doing things with words and letters but shied away from things with numbers because they remind me of maths.  That is so silly because Sudoku is not about maths it is about patterns.  I was delighted to conquer another prejudice of mine and it went very well with the coffee!

So Those are my ten words for our holiday.  We came back thoroughly relaxed but not for long!  Monday was so hot and Chloe and I spent all day finishing off our banners really for installation on Wednesday.   More next blog!

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