Sunday 30 December 2007
I made a brief foray to Brent Cross shopping centre, which was like a descent into hell ( I hate shopping at the best of times), and finished my Christmas shopping, as usual resolving to do next year's Christmas shopping in February. By this time Mas had lost his voice (unbelievable!), and one of our neighbours visited, and left shocked when he tried to talk to her.
Pete came to stay with us on Christmas Eve, and ominously he was feeling very tired too. In short order he came down with the same kind of illness as Mas. Despite all this illness, we had a cosy time, eating by candlelight and watching TV around the fire. I did get the feeling sometimes that I was running a kind of gourmet hospital, and from time to time, if I thought my throat seemed sore I would sip some neat, strong, rum to sterilise my throat (if it had not been medicinal I would have had a G & T), and it seemed to work. We cheered ourselves up listening to some of the jazz compilations Toby had put together a year or so ago, and the one we kept repeating was the Hi de Hi song by Cab Calloway.
Things continued in this way until Mas began to feel a bit better, and Pete returned home despite still feeling ill, on my birthday, December the 30th. Maheena called in with a present and card,(her son has his birthday on the same day), and later Diane and then Toby phoned telling me of his recent trip to Belize.
Tuesday 18 December 2007
Robert and Tania drove us to the airport. On the way we saw a double rainbow, that dipped down into the sea, and when I tried to get a photo of this from the airport the battery in my camera failed. We sadly said goodbye to our friends as they were staying in Madeira for Christmas. Madeira is mentioned in the Guinness book of Records for the New Year firework display, but none of us stay long enough to see it.
Madeira is a beautiful and interesting place, although we only saw a small part of it. Funchal is said to be named after the Fennel plant (Funcho) which covered the area, and while we were in Madeira we saw lots of Poinsettia, Camellia, Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Hydrangea and Agapanthus flowers. The air where we were staying was filled with the scent of Pine and Eucalyptus, and for the first time I saw banana trees bearing fruit.
Madeira is famous for embroidery, cane work and for wine; there are at least six varieties that are drunk world wide. Shakespeare's plays mention the wine of Madeira; it was also drunk at the inauguration of George Washington and to toast the American Declaration of Independence.
Christoper Columbus is said to have come to Madeira as a sugar trader, then returned a few years later and married the Governor of Porto Santo's daughter by whom he had a son. This was all before he set off for the New World.
The flight home went as planned, except for a period of turbulence when the air filled with unspoken prayers, and I could mentally hear Robert saying "Richard Dawkins wouldn't like it! "
(Robert had been reading his book while we were on holiday.)
Our plane arrived at Stanstead 40 minutes early, but our Minni cab driver was already waiting for us and we were gratefully home in short order, around midnight. It seemed terribly cold, and the house was like an ice box, and took 24 hours to get back to the right temperature. Madeira already seemed like a dream.
Monday 17 December 2007
Robert had recently sent me a picture of a beautiful fractal vegetable called a Romanche, and we found one in the market.
Here is a stray dog in the market, looking very healthy.
After lunch Mas went off as arranged, and then we went along the harbour for a walk as far as Saõ Tiago Fort which has now become a restaurant and a modern art gallery, and then we walked through the old part of town which seemed very atmospheric. We also looked at the Town Hall which used to be a palace in earlier times, and has a statue of Leda and the Swan in
the courtyard, and that formerly was in the fish market.
Sunday 16 December 2007
Saturday 15 December 2007
Next we went into Monte Palace Tropical Garden and walked down and up the huge garden which used Japanese and Chinese artifacts in its construction, as well as tropical plants. Once we
Friday 14 December 2007
Some of the Christmas lights.
Thursday 13 December 2007
After dark we could hear crickets all the time.
One of the usual stray, friendly, dogs.
At lunchtime we went to the Miradouro Cruz da Caldeira restaurant and had a light lunch. Miradouro means a beautiful view, and it certainly had one. The parking area is beside the road, actually on the roof, and the restaurant is on a lower floor, built out on the side of the mountain.
Tania and Robert walked back along a levada. The levadas are an irrigation system that carry water from the north of the island, through woods, forests and beside the terraced market gardens. They are rather like small canals with narrow footpaths beside them, for maintainance purposes, and were constructed 500 years ago. They also provide wonderful walks away from traffic.
Later we had dinner at the clubhouse restaurant where live music was provided, and we had fun chatting to some of the other guests during the evening.
Wednesday 12 December 2007
On the way we stopped at a restaurant on the side of the mountain and had coffee. We got talking to the owner who was Brazilian and spoke Spanish. He has recently written an amusing book about the psychology of male and female relationships, and he also showed us the plans for his property which he is intending to turn into a small hotel. There were two stray and friendly dogs lurking around his courtyard, one had such thick fur around his neck that he looked like a lion. We left intending to return for an evening meal.
We drove through the valley of Curral das Freiras, and then up hill where we stopped for a while and had a small picnic. We noticed small lizards sunning themselves on the rocks, but they moved so fast it was difficult to see them properly.
If you click on this to enlarge the picture it is possible to see the houses and terraced garden farms on the mountain side.
This is the roof terrace on someone's house.
We then went up to Sierra do Serrado which is 3,300 feet above the valley. The vermilion flowers are aloes.
We then walked down to where we had left the car, and drove through impressive scenery back to the apartment.
We had dinner at the restaurant as it was a folklore evening. After we had eaten lots of young people entered in traditional costume, and began playing folk music and dancing, which was very colourful. Before we understood what was happening we found ourselves propelled to the dance floor, and we joined in (except for Mas who was quick witted enough to avoid dancing).
Tuesday 11 December 2007
Monday 10 December 2007
Robert drove us from Funchal across the town and up winding mountain roads to our apartment at Cabo Girão where we were all staying. The place was lovely, and there was a club house close at hand where we were greeted with a glass of Madeira wine. There were all kinds of amenities provided, including a restaurant where we had dinner later.
View from the restaurant.