Having covered much of mainland Portugal we decided to spend our last two weeks checking out island life. First stop:
Our first view of Madeira, an archipelago of four islands that is known for its namesake wine and warm, subtropical climate (think Caribbean).
The main island of Madeira is green and rugged. The island itself is actually atop a volcano. Note the deep gorges leading down to the ocean. This topography presents a challenge for road construction and thus for getting around to sightsee. (More on that coming up.)
We stayed in Funchal, the capital. This view, from our back patio, was a 15 minute walk downhill to the harbor and the city center. The walk back to the house took longer, truthfully, because there was not a level stretch along the entire route. We spent time on the patio each day and remarked on the constant presence of cruise ships. Some days only one but often as many as three.
A park near the harbor in Zona Velha, the old historic center. There were also lovely pocket parks sprinkled along my return route to the house. I made note of them as I was walking downhill just in case I felt the need for a rest stop on my way back up. Good news is that I made it all the way without taking a break.
This cleverly done mural shows women doing traditional Madeira hand embroidery. I loved the way they incorporated the building’s windows into the lanterns. When the lights were on indoors it made the lamp panes glow authentically.
Our rental unit was absolutely charming and well appointed, even down to the Portuguese fishermen water spouts. The only drawback was parking, which was on a deeply curved shoulder-less 2-lane street with 2-way traffic INCLUDING city buses. Lots of honking, yielding, and taking turns. Yikes!
Just a couple of blocks from our rental was a wonderful bakery where we came across two new (to us) delicious treats. In the foreground are rice muffins. Even Bob, who does not like rice claiming it has no taste, took a fancy to these. At the back are custard-filled phyllo pastries topped with a baked meringue. We quickly found out that you had to get to the bakery early if you wanted the phyllo pastries as they were often sold out by mid-morning.
Off on a day trip to the western-most point on the island. To get to the towns we wanted to see we had to drive at the top of the mountain ridges on gaspingly close-to-the edge, barrier-less roads. In spite of my discomfort with heights I did step one foot out of the car to take this photo. Bob, fortunately, is an incredibly terrific and unruffled driver.
The other challenge is that once you start down or up there was no turning back. (Remember those deep gorges shown in the top photo of this post?) This capture from our GPS gives an idea of the curves, switch backs and bridges (black/white section in middle of map) we navigated.
Looking back and down to see the route we had just traveled.
In many places the steep mountain sides were covered with staggered tiers planted with banana trees.
One of our destinations was outside of Camara de Lobos – the famous Cabo Girao. Take a moment to look at the drawing of the overlook…
…because, yes, you had to walk out onto the glass platform to get the full view.
Despite the overcast weather it was breathtaking.
As we got lower and closer to the water the weather changed in our favor. We stopped at a local fish restaurant in Calheta. It felt like we had the entire promenade to ourselves. As you can see, beaches in Madeira are rock/stone except for where they make an artificial one. They build an enclosure and fill it with sand brought in from the Sahara. You can just see a sand-filled area at the top right of the photo.
The view from our restaurant. A good day for waves.
Back in Funchal we parked the car near the harbor and walked the Rua de Santa Maria. This mural, at one of the entrances to the street, pretty much captured the highlights of our road trip.
This pedestrian-only street houses Projecto artE pORtas abErtas (the Art of Open Doors Project). This collaborative public art effort was undertaken to reclaim aging structures and enhance the cultural appeal of the old city.
This one caught our eye.
But this was definitely my favorite. The clever integration of the door hardware: the doorknob and lock in the bubbles, the mail slot in the seat of the swing, and especially the door knocker that forms the clasp in the mermaid’s hair.
On our final evening on the island we went to a restaurant at the top of the road behind our house. This establishment was recommended by our hosts because of the terrific view…
…as well as for the superb Espetada, a dish originating from the island of Madeira. It traditionally consists of large chunks of beef that are rubbed with garlic and salt and skewered before being grilled over hot coals. Can you tell that Bob loved it?
Coming out of the restaurant we admired the gorgeous colonial-style villa essentially hanging onto the side of the mountain.
And we are off to our next stop: The Azores!
This archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is comprised of nine islands. We stayed on São Miguel, nicknamed “The Green Island” (Ilha Verde). We flew into Ponta Delgada, the island’s largest city, and immediately jumped into our rental car and headed for the northwest corner of the island to Mosteiros, Portuguese for monasteries. This tiny town of just over 1000 inhabitants offered us a damp and windy week that also allowed us to get in some quiet time before we headed back to the states.
Our rental unit was unique in that it curved around to follow the street that lead to the beach. You can spy the retaining wall at the end of the street on the left of the photo.
Inside there were also some interesting areas to contend with. In this old house, the remodeled cooking area was formerly a wood-burning oven built into the back wall. Bob bumped his head more than once while trying to do some meal prep.
Aside from the quirks of our rental, our location was excellent for when we had sunny days and could walk down to the black sand beach. These outcroppings are graben, which indicate faults or rifts in the ocean floor. In fact, one of the other Azore Islands, São Jorge, was being evacuated while we are in the area because of extensive earthquake activity.
Regardless of the weather we enjoyed evening beverages purchased from our local food stand and on more than one occasion we are entertained by people attempting to surf.
One evening we were rewarded with this spectacular sunset. Photo courtesy of my Bob.
You can drive around the entire island of São Miguel in about 2.5 hours so of course a car outing was on our agenda. The roadsides are filled with flowers year-round, and they are particularly gorgeous when the hydrangea hedges are in bloom in late July and early August. In case you would like to see what we missed check out https://toursofazores.com/2019/04/23/the-jaw-dropping-hydrangea-islands-in-the-azores/ I was also fascinated by what looked like hedge rows in the fields. These are actually old rock walls covered with foliage.
We pulled off at a miradouro (viewpoint) to get a sense of the coastline. You can see more of the greenery-covered rock walls in the upper right.
Sunning themselves on the ledges of the overlook were lots – LOTS – of lizards. They would scatter if we came near but if we waited quietly they once again braved our presence and came our for more warm rays.
One of our focused stops was a tea factory.
Tea fields on the mountain side.
Tea fields leading down to the ocean.
While Bob went indoors to tour the manufacturing area and look at the old machinery I spent time looking at the out buildings on the property. Not being a fan of pigeons I almost didn’t take this photo…but that weathered structure was just too good to pass up.
The last stop on this outing was the parish of Furnas. It sits in the bowl of a volcano and has a large lake including fumaroles (openings in or near a volcano, through which hot sulfurous gases emerge) and mudpots. You can see the effect of the sulfurous gas in the green color of the water which gets brighter green near shore. There are public baths on that side of the lake but the odor was so strong I had to ask Bob to keep moving along.
Back to our rental and another evening walk about our quaint town. It takes us less than an hour to cover the entire community; west to east, north to south. This waterway runs along the street behind our house.
Walking uphill about four blocks we arrive at the town plaza with the town’s only church alongside. During our road trip we noticed that each town had its own Catholic church and remarked on how essentially identical all of the churches were. We found this quite unusual in that in our experience churches tend to have local distinctions. We speculated that the same footprint and materials may have been a cost effective way to get structures build throughout the island. Other suggestions welcome…
Hey Lake City, Minnesotans! It’s no Patton Park but it is a picturesque gazebo.
Stating the obvious, this town has a robust cat population. Every morning on our front patio there are eight butterscotch-colored and one black cat. We have to keep doors and windows closed so that they don’t try to come inside. The cats are fed by the woman who lives across the street from us. Feline dining at her abode, warm sunshine for naps at our place.
We observed the effect that an ocean climate has on structures, though this wall has a unique beauty to it. A downside corollary to the dampness was the challenge for drying a load of laundry (no electric dryer+rainy days+high humidity), the moisture that left sheets and rugs feeling a bit clammy, and the mold that grew on my suitcase that was near an outside wall. But, hey, we have been through worse. We slept in a gully-washing rainstorm in the Boundary Waters where my dear husband admonished me to “Just warm up a puddle and go back to sleep.”
And a final indulgence: our rental was on Rua de Cemitério (Cemetery Street) and this colorful memorial spot was next door to our building. It made me think of my father, Roy, and his dry sense of humor. When driving through the countryside on a Sunday “spin” he would spot a cemetery and ask: ” Why do cemeteries have fences around them?’ Though we had heard this query many times before we kiddos in the backseat would oblige him with a “Why, Dad?” To which he would chortle and answer joyfully, “Because people are dying to get in there.” Thanks for allowing me to share…
We are now back in our Reno nest, happy to sleep in our own bed. As after every trip we talk about what we missed and want to do now that we are home. My choices this go-round were to eat a big salad and drink a large-sized coffee with creamer. (In most of Europe coffee comes in a thimble and the whitening option is milk.) Bob’s choices were a shower with constant hot water pressure and a gas stove to cook on. We have both already had our longings come true. We are grateful.