Madeira

Madeira is characterised by the typical Portuguese atmosphere. The amiable people, the town where the streets are cobbled with black and white mosaiques PHOTO 1, the "azulejo's" on the houses, and trees, plants and flowers everywhere. You see oleanders and bougainvilleas, “flame trees” with enormous orange flowers and jacaranda’s with their typical mauve-blue blossoms. PHOTO 2+3
On the Canaries the ramblas are more spacious than in Portugal, where attention is focused on details. But climatologically (and you can also "feel" it) the Atlantic islands belong to the same family.

Like the Canaries, Madeira is of vulcanic origin, some 30 to 35 million years ago produced by underwater eruptions. But more intriguing is the speculation that, together with the Canary islands, the Azores, the Cape Verde islands, the Caribbean islands and Iceland, Madeira could be a remnant of the mysterious Lemurian mainland, thought to have been located 80,000 years ago between America, Africa and Europe. Unlikely though it may sound, this theory is not without some foundation, most notably finds of fossile plants which have been extinct since time immemorial. And Einstein himself once pondered on this possibility.
The city of Funchal is attractive and old; preparations are underway for the 500th anniversary in 2008. Funchal is the capital of Madeira, the main island of the archipelago. For sailors coming from the north, it is a logic stop-over between Portugal and the Canaries. They all arrive in September, so chances are almost zilch that you get one of the 10 spots available for visitors. Second option is dropping your anchor in the outer port (lots of swell) and if there is no room either, you can drop your anchor at sea and pay the rate for commercial craft. So most yachties end up in Porto Santo, about 40 miles northeast of Funchal, and visit Madeira by ferry.
But we were in the right place on the right time and had a berth alongside the quay in the heart of the old city, surrounded by architectural beauty. This is completely incorporated in ordinary life in Funchal, and good example is the
Toyota showroom in the old town... PHOTO 4+5
The Madeiran people seem to crave nasty fish. We don't mean the bacalhau which is an excellent dish, but the espada. This is a big black seasnake that looks mean, even at the fish monger's. PHOTO 6
Funchal is crowded with tourists. They arrive with thousands at the same time on enormous cruise ships and the average age is not under 50. The majority remains in Funchal, so one can have a quiet walk over the levada's. These are some kind of gutters used for irrigation; they transport rainwater from the wetter north side to the whole island. That is why Madeira is so green with on average little precipitation. The total length is almost 1000 km.
We hired a car for a day and explored the whole island. Many steep cliffs, narrow and deep valleys and a lush vegetation. Green, green and green all around you.
PHOTO
7-12 To be honest, we found it a bit dull in comparision with some Canary islands where you also find vulcano landscapes and beaches. But the flowers are overwhelming. 
Madeira is not as lively as the Canaries. The Madeiran people work on their land, there are less cafés and bars and they don't hang around like the Spanish.

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