Hello again folks, welcome back to the third post in this small series which has frankly taken on a life of it’s own. Two blog posts in two days, this is unheard of productivity for me, utter madness compounded by the fact I am beginning a third entry in three days. Surely not. A hat-trick, three days in a row what is this madness? Actually it is not madness, well not quite but it is a combination of factors.
Once again my sleep pattern is all over the shop, I have been up all night and I have neither desire nor intention of sleeping for the foreseeable future. Secondly, this house arrest is now at the point where I am sure it is affecting me mentally as well as it is physically due to lack of exercise. I don’t even feel like leaving the house now even if I was allowed to and that doesn’t look like happening this side of the Summer Solstice when we have just left the Winter one behind.
As a minor factor in this whole unholy mix, I must confess to being a bit embarrassed. We have had three days of my trip to Madeira and so far I have done precisely nothing of note. If you want to see how I get on over the next few days, you know what to do by now.
Day 4 – 04/12/2015.
I woke up on my fourth morning in the apartment that I was getting very used to despite the slog up the stairs which was still being more than compensated for by the lovely street view. I would often make myself a coffee or sit with a glass of very palatable wine and just watch the world go by three floors below. Very enjoyable it was, too.
I did actually take myself out this day, to the area of Sé, near where I was staying, which is the historical centre of Funchal built up around the Cathedral of our Lady of the Assumption which I have already mentioned. Being a Friday one of the numerous pretty squares, which the city seems to have an abundance of, was tricked out as a flea market and there were certainly plenty of old pieces there although whether any of them were worth a couple of €€ is a moot point. It looked like a load of old rubbish to me but I am certainly no expert.
Moving on from there and heading like a moth to a flame towards my favoured Snack Bar Pão-de-Ló, I did stop to have a closer look at a structure I had walked past before and examine briefly although I had not taken any images of it as it always seemed to be in darkness when I went that way. This rather impressive gateway, now somewhat marooned on a traffic island and home to an al fresco café is called the Portão dos Varadouros or Varadouros Old Gate which I was a little diappointed to discover was not only a copy but not even in it’s original position.
Originally constructed in 1689 by Governor D. Lourenço de Almada when it was part of the defensive wall in the area of Largo dos Varadouros giving access to the jetties and much closer to the water where the present wide coast road is. Largo dos Varadouros means wide balconies if you are interested.
In 1911, the gate and much of the walls were demolished to accommodate vehicular traffic for the newly invented infernal combustion engine (this is not a typo!). It was only in 2004 on the quincentenary of the city’s founding that this replica was constructed. Although it looks the part, it is concrete faced with ashlar. I felt slightly cheated.
After that I took a walk down to the seafront to have a look at some of the numerous cruise ships which seem to be constantly in harbour. They must have a decent draught in there as some of the vessels look pretty hefty. Funchal is a very popular destination for these giants and you can often see fleets of tour buses lined up waiting to take the passengers on trips. Less frequently you see groups of them walking about Funchal. I have no idea how many people these giants hold but it must be a great boost for the important tourist industry here when you consider that up to 75 vessels a month berth here in normal times.
After taking my snap of the biggest of the ships I went for bit of a wander along the pleasant Praça do Povo. If the grass looks a bit sparse that is possibly understandable as the entire €300 million project was only opened the previous year. I expect it has matured a bit now.
I couldn’t put it off any longer and so I headed to the Snack Bar where I indulged in another seriously calorific but utterly gorgeous pastry with my coffee before settling down to the serious business of the evening. Yet another day of busy donig nothing so I shall pass straight on.
Day 5 – 05/12/2015.
This is another day which is going to be quickly dealt with, I really am getting embarrassed about either my idleness or my lack of taking images. I do remember walking about quite a lot but I just do not seem to have recorded it which is most unlike me.
The day seems to have begun with yet more of the wonderful Madeiran bread, they really do excel at it and I seem to have been on a mission to sample everything on offer from the bread oven or pão de forno if you like. Aren’t internet translation tools such a great thing? Honestly, a plate of Madeiran bread, a coffee, a beer and perhaps a glass of poncho (a ludicrously alcoholic concoction) is more than enough breakfast for any man.
After that it appears to have just been a wander about, but nothing of note to report except I went to the supermarket and got a few supplies. Excellent as the food in the Snack Bar was I thought that if I had a kitchen I should try to feed myself at least once or twice.
I went to a little supermarket I had seen before and despite it’s modest capacity about a quarter of its shelf space seemed to be given over solely to dried salt cod, they must love it there. I did not see any other fish and little in the way of meat, just tray after tray of this stuff on ice. It was most odd.
As I can find no photographic evidence of me slaving over a hot stove that evening I can only assume that I gave in to the temptations of one of the local hostelries again but my lack of images is most unusual. Perhaps the camera was playing up. Whatever the reason, we shall pass on.
Day 6 – 06/12/2015.
Oh dear, this is getting silly now. I went out on the Sunday morning just to take the air and who did I bump into but Santa’s little helpers who were happy to pose and were great fun. I believe they were there to promote some shop or another but nobody seemed to be paying them the slightest attention and I think they were glad of the company. Let’s be honest, I can think of no other reason why these stunningly attractive young ladies would want to hang out with an ugly old brute like me.
After that things got a little strange. I went into a sandwich bar for a beer and, although it was lunchtime at the weekend the place was very quiet, as was every other place I passed. I thought it would have been busy at this time but apparently not. I have no idea if it was some religious holiday or something of that nature but everywhere was very quiet.
After a few beers I went back to my apartment where I did manage to get my cooking head on and knock up a pasta dish which is never going to win any prizes for presentation but tasted OK as I recall. In the evening I went back out to have another look round and if anything it was even quieter as the images show. I really could not fathom it at all, perhaps Sunday is a day for “home with family” in these parts.
Day 7 – 07/12/2015.
At this point, I have to say that this series of entries has proved to be, shall we say, less than brilliant and not what I would have wanted for my dear readers, you deserve better from me.
I have fallen foul of not paying attention to one of those old somewhat silly and occasionally alliterative maxims that we used to bandy about when I was in the Forces. In this case it is, “prior preparation and planning prevents piss-ups and poor performances”. I thought I would do a two week jaunt to Madeira and knock up a few vaguely interesting blog entries along the way but I had not checked my images which invariably serve as an aide-memoire to a trip. I regrettably didn’t and this is what happens!
I have the fondest memories of my brief excursion to Madeira, it was great to hang out with Claus again, I got a bit of weather that was less than abysmal and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I honestly thought I had done more, I seem to remember walking about a lot but without images and five years later, I am damned if I can remember what I did or what I saw.
I do promise you I get to see a little bit in the latter part of my trip but my images today consist of another pasta dish I made for myself and which, frankly, I would not serve to a dog in that condition. 0 / 10 for presentation on that one. I am sure it tasted OK as I do not eat bad food but it looks like it was thrown at the plate by a hormonal teenager, it is a disgrace but I have always said I was going to report honestly here on my site so here is my mea culpa.
As an example of how disgraceful things really are (leaving the food aside for a moment which you would have been perfectly entitled to do) , I do not have a single image from the 8th of December. I know I must have done something, gone somewhere, I do not remember any illness that kept me bed-ridden for a day and yet, without my images I can remember nothing and isn’t that strange? 100 years ago photographs were a very precious, often posed and relatively expensive commodity. Now you can buy a camera for £40, an SD card for about £6 and take literally tens of thousands of images. Despite having the kit in my pocket (I never leave home without the camera) I singularly managed to avoid taking one image, I am disgusted at myself.
I suppose the digital camera / ‘phone is the 21st century equivalent of writing a travel journal, one of which I have just received as a gift (thanks again, Lynne), which form the basis of so much classic travel writing. I can think of no finer example than Eric Newby, look him up if you do not know of him. The late Mr. Newby would be appalled at my performance, or lack of it. If memory serves, he even managed a couple of old monochrome images when he was living, as he did, as an escaped POW from an Italian camp in the Appenine mountains for years during the Second World War. The book is called “Love and War in the Appenines” and I recommend it highly. I could not even manage one image wandering about Funchal in peacetime!
Consider this my penance for such appalling entries recently and, trust me, I do have some much more interesting trips in store when I get this nightmare sorted. Great trip, awful blog here with hopefully much better to come.
If you want to witness my hopeful redemption from this awful little escapade (in a literary sense, the trip was brilliant) then stay tuned and spread the word.