Located on the southern shore of Madeira, Funchal is the capital of this autonomous region of Portugal. Madeira was uninhabited before Funchal was founded in 1421. The city lies in an amphitheater formed by the partial caldera of an old volcano. Starting at the harbor, it rises almost 1200 meters over gentle slopes.
The island is small and rugged but beautiful. About one hundred and thirteen thousand of its two hundred and fifty thousand people live near Funchal, but nearly two million visitors come each year by air and another half million come by sea.
Michelle took a morning tour and bought some Madeira wine while I just walked around the town to familiarize myself. After lunch, we both walked in from the ship. We visited a park and paused at the Ritz Bakery to listen to some musicians.
We then caught a bus to Cámara de Lobos, a fishing village near Cabo Girāo, the world’s second highest cliff. The lobos here are not wolves but rather sea lions. Sir Winston Churchill vacationed in the village many times during the 1930s and ‘40s and a plague reads “Winston Churchill painted here in 1950.”
A light rain began after we returned to town, so we took refuge under large umbrellas in front of the Ritz and enjoyed tea and pastry before returning to the ship for the evening.
The next day Alie joined us for a walk through town. As we passed the cathedral, school children of every age from kindergarten through high school were parading into it, obviously going to a special service. So we continued on down a broad tree-filled street to the Farmers’ Market.
While the variety of fruits and vegetables weren’t in a class with some other markets (Barcelona for example), there was a large area where local restaurant chefs as well as housewives were stocking up on fresh fish. The local people seem to eat a lot of moray eel. The green morays, out of the water, are dark and ugly. Brown and yellow morays were more attractive but still have vicious teeth-filled mouths. Before leaving the market, I did take a picture (not great) of fennel because in Portuguese it is called funcho, the source of the town’s name.
We wandered through the old streets looking at 16th and 17th century palaces. The cobblestones on the streets and sidewalks are smaller than those in many European towns and are laid out in interesting patterns.
We went back to the cathedral just as the last of the children were leaving. Some carried recorders and other musical instruments. It is a relatively plain cathedral completed in 1514. One feature that struck me was that on the right side where one would expect to find a chapel there was a stairway with a Madonna at the top, but under the stairway was an exit!
We stopped on a side street near the harbor for tea before heading back to the ship for a one thirty departure. The Maasdam leaves on time.
Funchal was our last European port before a seven day crossing. The overnight stays in Rome (three nights), Naples, Lisbon and Funchal permitted us to have a more leisurely visit.
Then I met Will from Seattle who rents apartments in many places he and his wife visit (they rented in Rome for a week). He says it is usually less than a hotel and often much nicer. Our grass is very green – but it sort of looks even greener in his pasture. Maybe we will check it out on another trip.