Posted by: Gary Guertin | December 4, 2011

23. Atlantic/N. Africa/W. Med. Cruise – Port #20 Funchal, Madeira Islands (Portugal)

Hi All,

Well we thought we had seen it all, and then we arrived at Funchal on Madeira, the largest of the Madeira Islands archipelago.  If the Hawaiian Islands, Florida, or the Canary Islands are paradise, this must be heaven.  For once I’m going to quote verbatim the words of one of our Funchal guides which best describes what we saw: “It is eternally spring on this small, peaceful volcanic island of Madeira set in the Atlantic Ocean.  Soaring cliffs, clear blue water, stunning mountains and deep canyons, beautiful flowers and vast vineyards beckon.”  Funchal has been awarded the cleanest city in Portugal and a major award (sought by cities, towns, and villages worldwide) for Greening and Flowerings of towns and villages .  It  is known for its beautiful rolling green mountains, and the most breath taking display of flowers.  Madeira is an island, 35 miles long by 13 miles wide.  Funchal has about 100,000 inhabitants, and is the capital of the Madeira Islands.  History wise it was discovered by Prince Henry the Navigator and Joao Goncalves Zarco in the 1400’s.  It was under Spanish rule from 1580 to 1640, and the British occupied it in 1801 and 1807, but today is an autonomous region of Portugal.

Again, because I took over 300 photos during this stop, I’ll have to show you on Picasa what this island is really about when I return.  In the mean time with only 30, I’ll try to reflect what we encountered.  Look at the harbor view:

IMG_5122 Stitch

Looking to the far left out the front of our ship:

IMG_5125 Stitch

Our port sign:


Before we take a look at this beautiful island I have to show you this picture of Susy in front of an old anchor:


and just to prove that I was along on this cruise:


We walked from the ship to the center of Funchal, which is behind me in the picture above.  Along the way I took a picture of this old home, probably something else years ago:


We settled down in the main plaza, at a sidewalk café (it was a little after noon) and enjoyed lunch out in the open:


Finished with lunch, we decided to see this lovely area by hopping on a double-decker bus tour.  Susy sat up front on the upper level (that’s her on the right up front) and I sat back in the open to take pictures.  Get ready to see a lot of these kind of photos:


We first drove thru the central part of Funchal.  The main streets were wide with canals down the center which brings water from the mountains:


Old and important buildings:


Statues in every round-a bout:


A mosque and flowers (flowers were everywhere):


Notice above how they are covering the water canal with a bed of flowers/greens.  Plaza’s everywhere:




Parks and fountains:


But “you haven’t seen anything yet”, as we headed out of town, up into the mountains.  Looking back down the bay:


Above you look out over the Atlantic, to the other side of the bus you look down into a deep canyon which sweeps down to the ocean:


By now you can see that if you live on Madeira you can paint your house any color you want as long as it’s white and the roof is red tile.  Next a beautiful church on a hill:


Everywhere you looked in this area you saw the vineyards and banana farms which are all terraced on the side of the mountains:


As we went further down the coast we came upon one of the most beautiful sites I have seen.  This is a cliff over the ocean (world’s second highest  cliff) called “Cabo Girao” located in an area called “Camara de Lobos” which was Sir Winston Churchill’s favorite 1930’s and 40’s holiday destination.  Here’s our first siting:


This is a fishing village near where Churchill stayed and did a lot of painting:


Looking away from the ocean you only saw an area with hillsides full of banana trees, cherry orchards and vineyards:


As we neared the end of our tour, with the sun setting, some magnificent views appeared:


We hopped off the tour bus at a place Susy felt she had to see (you guessed it, one of the local shopping centers all decked out for Christmas):


Since we were overnighting (leaving at 2 PM the next day), Susy and I decided to go back to the center of town, go down by the harbor at an outdoor café and try out the famous Madeira wine, which originates on these islands.  Here’s our “dinner” photos from the harbor side café:



After trying several of the wines, we decided the “dulce” (sweet) madeira was better than the “saco” (dry) and proceeded to buy a bottle to bring home.  We had dinner in another outdoor café near the central plaza, and I want to close the day with a photo of some swans in an artificial lake on the side of the plaza, which I missed during the day:


I have taken you on a “10,000 ft.” fly over-view of this paradise.  Susy said if we were 20 or 30 years younger and knew this island existed, she would have spent many vacations here.  The life on this island not only goes on by day, but many of our fellow passengers and crew stayed out dancing until 4:30 AM at the local discos.

That’s it for now.  We now have our seven day crossing of the Atlantic, which you know we love for the rest and relaxation.  Our next stop is a private island owned by Holland American called Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.  We stop there Sunday, Dec. 11th, and disembark the next day, Monday, Dec. 12th in Fort Lauderdale.  Because of this schedule, I’ll do one more post to close this cruise sometime after we are home (after Dec. 12th).  Until then:

Love You All,

Gary (Gagu)

P.S.  Thanks for the comments and emails I have gotten direct or thru Susy on how you enjoyed these posts.  Sorry, if I’ve made mistakes or not clarified things, but please just let me know if you want to see anything or have questions.  It’s been my pleasure re-living our adventures for you.


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