is characterised by the
typical Portuguese atmosphere. The amiable people, the town where the streets are cobbled with black and white
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.
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
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...
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
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
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