Well, hello again and, if you have been mad enough to follow my lunatic ramblings (why do you think I called this blog Fergysrambles?) you will know that you are riding ever closer to the end where I get on my Norwegian Airways flight and get home to leave you alone until I decide what other trip I am going to bore you with.
We are up to Day 12 now and I have finally got round to dragging myself out of my favourite (snack )bar, and you won’t believe it, but we are going walking again today if you can stand this sudden burst of exertion. Usual drill, if you want to go for a walk with me just click on the “read more” button and we’ll get going.
Day 12 – 12th December, 2015.
Three days walking in a row, what is this madness? As always I had no idea where I was going to go or what I was going to discover so I decided I would take a wander along the seafront and see what transpired. There is no point in starting a walk on an empty stomach so I started off with a coffee and one of the toothsome cakes that the Portuguese in general and the Madeirans specifically seem to excel at.
When I got to the water I had a look to see what cruise ships were in and saw the behemoth you can see above. It was certainly one of the larger ones I saw berthed and not for the first time I wondered how anything so apparently “top-heavy” could be stable in a high sea, there must be a serious amount of metal below the waterline.
This is the MSC Fantasia and obviously I just had to look her up to discover that she is 330 metres long with a draught of over 28 feet and tonnage of a whopping 137,936 tonnes so it is a good thing that Funchal harbour is a decent depth. At a pinch the Fantasia can accommodate just shy of 4,000 passengers, it must get crowded!
Do you know where the word whopping derives from? I might tell you some day, go on look it up. I’ll give you a clue, it is to do with the East End of London where I live and not a mile from a place I lived for about ten years!.
What I did next I still cannot quite explain but it was not one of my brighter moves. Just opposite the harbour entrance I had previously noticed a road tunnel and, me being me, I just had to go and see where it led. The Tunel da Potinha is 661 metres long but before I tell you about walking in it I have to tell you about the name and a very strange story.
Pontinha translates as tip and is the name of the spur of land which forms the breakwater enclosing the harbour. The harbour is overlooked by an old fortress on a rock and it is a country. No I have not lost my mind, it really is what is called a “micro-nation”, one of many such odd places wordlwide. I have actually stayed in one such, the Reebublic of Uzupis which is an artist’s enclave in Vilnius, Lithuania and is a brilliant place.
Due to some hstorical legal document, the landowner here has “dominion” over the spit of land which has been taken to mean “sovereignty” and Pontinha has it’s own Prince, a guy called Renate II if you must know. When he is not overseeing his principality he is a teacher (hard times for royalty in a a dominion measuring a few square yards) but apparently when the fortress, which constitutes that principality, is open you can often find him pottering about there. I wonder if Claus knows him, he probably does as he knows just about everybody round Funchal.
Madeira, whilst part of Portugal, is actually an Autonomous Region, administered in a different fashion to the mainland and to have this odd little “state” in what is already a half-independent entity. ust another one of those little oddities that amuse me so much but back now to the tunnel.
It is quite permissable to walk through the tunnel and there is a footpath (sidewalk) provided for the purpose but I really would not recommend it. I did see evidence of a ventilation system but, even without too much traffic, it did not seem quite up to the task and I was half-choked with exhaust fumes by the time I got to the far end. Live and learn.
You actually ascend quite a bit in the tunnel, well you would if the sea is behind you but the climb is worth it as there are some pleasant views out to sea and over the harbour. It is strange that in the relatively short distance up through the tunnel you pass from the main tourist strip to a completely residential / commercial area with not a tripper in sight. I popped into a little local bar for a beer and it was obvious from the slightly quizzical but not unfriendly looks of the one or two denizens of the establishment that foreigners were something of a rarity. Suits me.
Keeping Funchal more or less to my back I took off for an explore. As always i was completely devoid of any navigational aids but that was no problem. I knew where the sea was and all I would have to do was keep going downhill, stop before I got wet and then follow the coast road back into town. Simple as that. Don’t get sacred about navigation unless you are in a rainforest without a guide and then be very scared unless you are an expert because you will die. No chance of that here.
I do rather like getting completely off the beaten path and have a bit of a habit of catching a local bus, train or tram to it’s terminus stop and then going for a wander on the principle that it is probably a truer representation of how local people live rather than a tourist-orientated version of local life. Such was the case here and I saw little that you would call interesting, I didn’t even find a church which is unusual but I had a thoroughly enjoyable amble just taking in the ambience of the place. It was a pleasant day for a walk so why not?
One thing of great interest I did see is the beauty you can see in the image above, an old VW T2 campervan / RV, just look at the immaculate condition of it. This is obviously a well-loved vehicle. As some of you know, my friend and I have a campervan in Canada which has provided us with a couple of brilliant holidays after it’s venerable predecessor finally died on a previous trip.
I love campervans and the T2 (Type 2) is the epitome of this type of vehicle for many enthusiasts. I cannot date this precisely but from the configuration (the split screen is a giveaway) it is certainly pre-1967 and yes I probably do have too much time on my hands if I know so much about Kombis, as they are called in Australia.
I am going to digress a little more here, as we have not had a good digression in this post yet and I would not like the reader to feel short-changed as I know you all expect at least one in every episode.
I feel like a complete idiot. No, I shall qualify that statement by saying that I feel more like an idiot than is my default position! When I was writing about the campervan above I had a distinct feeling of déjà vu (I’ve heard that before!) when writing about T2’s and split screens and so on and then it dawned on me, I knew all about it because I have written it before. Yes, it was all a duplication of effort and I hate doing that. A rummage through the warzone that constitutes my compuiter “filing system” turned it all up.
I had researched and written this up before as a series of travel tips on the now sadly destroyed Virtual Tourist website from which I had managed to save (no thanks to the criminal organisation who closed us down) everything so I have just spent the last couple of weeks doing work I had already done. It was all in a style and format that would have easily lent itself to a few tweaks, a quick C&P and saved me hours. Memo to self – SWITCH ON, FERGY. Memo to everyone else – there may be some additions to previous posts in this series as I add further details I had forgotten.
Now that I have finished beating myself up, and I swear I feel like slapping myself, let’s get back to Funchal and my wander along “roads less travelled”. I did just slap myself and feel marginally better!
Walking in residential areas is all well and good and can be very educational but I seemed to be walking through a part of town that was completely given over to housing and did not see much in the way of shops and even less in the way of somewhere for a beer so when I saw the pizzeria you see above, I was in like Flynn.
I didn’t have long to wait for service as I was the only person there which again surprised me. A very pleasant Saturday afternoon weatherwise in an area not exactly over-burdened with drinking establishments, I thought there would have been a few people there but it was dead. So be it.
Using my international mime routine I enquired if it was OK just to have a beer and was assured that would be fine which is a thing I love about “continental” Europe, just about everywhere sells beer. OK, this is more continental shelf than continental but you get the idea. I opted to sit outside and watch the world go by, a pursuit I am all in favour of. I did try to engage Santa in conversation but he was having none of it. Obviously he was picked for the purpose of holding this menu and I did wonder if the spent the rest of the year decked out in chef’s whites.
I did borrow Santa’s menu for a look even if I was not going to eat and it seemed to offer the usual suspects at reasonable prices so if you find yourself in that part of town and fancy an Italian special then Papa Manuel II might be the place for you. They must be doing something right as in 2015 they only appear to have had three outlets but a quick search now (early 2021) shows that they have opened a fourth down towards the sea in the more touristy part.
Dragging myself away from Santa, the pleasant barman and the empty pizzeria I decided to head on down towards the sea. Claus had told me that all the big tourist hotels were out this side of town, stretched along the coast road and I just randomly took an image of one to give you an impression of the type of place you see here all of which seem fairly upmarket. There does not seem to be much in the way of accommodation in the Old Town, there really isn’t room, and so I was even happier about my cheap and cosy apartment when I saw this strip of identikit chain hotels which are not really my idea of fun.
The other image above is another totally random one I took on this part of the walk, a public water tap which was apparently plumbed in by the Câmara Municipal do Funchal (City Council basically) in 1937. If you are interested, Funchal has been a city since 1508 which is slightly odd as the church which is now the cathedral was not elevated to that status until 1514 and it normally follows that city status is only granted when there is a cathedral present.
The next feature of not I found slightly disturbed me and I still don’t know why as I am not squeamish in the slightest. I have included two images here to show the sculpture in context on the middle of a busy roundabout and also a close-up. Before you ask, I did risk life and limb to cross the road rather than use the zoom!
If I have it right this is a crucified Christ and that does not give me a problem, nor does the graphic description of that particularly Italian method of execution but it just got to me.
I mentioned on another post is that one thing Funchal certainly doesn’t lack is parks and open spaces and on much the same theme of public amenities another thing it seems to have in abundance is public art specifically statues although murals are also much in evidence.
The best place to see this art is on the Avenida del Mar which is the main promenade along the seafront but you can bump into other examples just about anywhere.
I enjoyed the art when I was there but whilst researching this page, as so often, I have come upon some information that has coloured my thinking slightly about it. Apparently the Autonomous Region that Madeira is part of was then absolutely crippled by debt, specifically to the Federal States of E aka EU, which has been pumping billions of €€€s into it and the allegation from some quarters was that much of it has been spent on needless white elephants and vanity projects. Pleasant as the art is I wonder how much of it was funded by the outside grants when perhaps other projects would have been more appropriate.
Leaving the politics aside, much of it is very aesthetically pleasing but this just unsettled me a bit so let’s move on.
The next thing I did will surprise anyone who knows me and knows how much I detest shopping but I couldn’t resist a wander round the Forum Shopping Centre mainly because I liked the look of the architecture which is not something I would normally say about either modern buildings or retail outlets. I had no intention of buying anything and nor did I but it was a pleasant diversion.
Don’t ask me how many shops there are in there as they do not apparently know themselves. If you look at the link I gave you above they claim 61 and 86 within two paragraphs so who knows? It is big, that is all I know. There is a cinema and any amount of eating and drinking venues but I resisted as I don’t really want to drink in a shopping centre, it just seems wrong somehow.
What happened next was truly weird even by the standards of my pretty odd travel style and I wondered at it for years, five and another three weeks to be precise and which made absolutely no sense to me until about ten minutes before writing this. The image above is a bit of a spoiler I suppose.
I had ust been picking random roads to walk along and had discovered the beautiful T2 in the back end of nowhere which had pleased me no end and so, when I saw the thing of beauty in the image, I thought I was either drunk (not possible as I had only had a few beers and walked them off), tripping (not possible as I don’t do drugs) or had died and gone to Heaven (eminently possible given my lifestyle) but it turns out it was none of the above.
Less than two hours and two miles after I had seen the first T2 I really thought I was seeing things when I walked past a bar / restaurant called La Paella in the Lido district and saw the second thing of beauty you see here. This is a T2 Bay which dates it to between 1967 and 1979. Apologies, but I did warn you I was a bit of a fanatic about these things. I say I walked past but I didn’t do any such thing, I walked straight in and ordered a beer just so I could have a good look at it.
I did have a brief word with the restaurant owner, whose van it is, but he was rather busy with his customers. I really could not believe my luck in stumbling upon two such beautifully maintained / restored vans in one afternoon and so to the denouement as I believe the French have it. Whilst looking for a link to this restaurant I came upon their facebook page and there, right at the top, was an image of T2 #1 of the day parked outside the premises in exactly the position this one was in. It would appear the restaurant owner is a complete fan like me and owned both of them.
I am so glad that I appear to have solved the mystery of the presence of these two brilliant vehicles in one day although I am not, nor ever will be, a member of the evil that is facebook (don’t get me on that soapbox!) so I cannot investigate further but I am fairly sure I am right in my assessment. The best was yet to come.
I was happy enough to just sit a few feet away from this triumph of vehicular and recreational engineering, an icon of the hippy days of the 60’s and even 70’s post-Altamont (look it up) but, during a brief lull in service, (they were one of the busier restaurants / bars I had seen) the boss came out, opened the doors and motioned me to help myself and have a look inside. What? I was in Hog Heaven as I think the expression is. Happy, happy days, I was just made up.
I honestly don’t know how much was original, perhaps it was what they call a barn find, I don’t know how much had been restored or how much was a new and very sympathetic re-working but it was superb. I go on quite a lot about art and I have seen some of the “Masters” which I enjoyed to greater or lesser extent, I do like the old very dark Dutch Masters, but this to me was nothing short of a work of art and I am going to skillfully avoid yet another soapbox, the one discussing “what is art”? This qualifies on all levels.
The guy had obviously seen my passion for these things and recognised a fellow traveller in every sense of the word and I decided that he deserved my patronage, not that he seemed to need it, and so I just settled down for a few. I knew more or less where I was, I knew how to get home, I knew I would be damned unlucky to have anything more unfortunate than a trip over a kerbstone happen to me (yes, I’ve done that!) so life was good.
The evening wore on as it invariably does and I promise that my campervan anorak has been well and truly hung up on the hook! It is on the hook so you are off said hook regarding vehicles with beds in the back. I have forgotten how many vehicles I have slept in the back of, beds, mattresses (a luxury), or no.
I decided eventually that I should maybe make a move back towards home before it all got too out of hand and I really did try but it didn’t seem to work out exactly as planned. Well, once on that slippery slope opened up to me with the lovely La Paella bar I had got myself into a very relaxed state and it was just going to be an easy walk home with maybe a little nightcap in my snackbar “base” on the way back.
I am sure I had a few cans of beer in the fridge in the apartment but I am almost equally sure I left most of them for the cleaner when I left. It was just so easy and much more preferable to hang out in the bar where, by now, I had become something of a fixture (no surprise there) and was greeted like the prodigal son every time I went in. I always know I have been accepted somewhere when they do not even ask me what I drink and just start pouring as soon as I walk in the door. Ludicrous I know but simple pleasures…………..
There was still one hurdle to overcome before I could reach the nirvana of my little local bar. OK, I am lying, there were dozens of them as this really is the tourist part of town and, pleasant as it was, I was again quite glad I was staying in the old town.
The hurdle mentioned was the obviously golf-themed Hole in One bar, not a five minute walk from La Paella. This is a complete “mixed metaphor” in terms of boozers in that the theme is obviously golf but the entire marketing is “Irish theme pub”, a genre I normally dislike and do not frequent. As I say, I had obviously become a bit mellow earlier on. As always, I must mention that this may well have been put of out of business or bought out in business by the Chinese, I have no idea. I speak from before the days when the Chinese destroyed the world as we knew it and a world that will never return. Thank you, CCP, for ruining what is little left of my life. You care nothing ad have spent millennia trying to conquer the world and you are doing it now, I am impressed. Disgusted, thankful I will be dead soon but impressed nonetheless. If anyone wishes to take exception with these facts, please get in touch so I can show you how wrong you are.
The Hole in One is undoubtedly a beautiful building which is apparently an old farmhouse, the service was quick and friendly and I certainly have no complaints about it but it just represents a concept to me that I do not like. I like Irish pubs, damn it I was virtually raised in them (neither of my late parents drank much but I did!), but I do not like “Irish pubs” and you can work out the difference for yourselves. This place promotes Guinness and Kilkenny (both Irish beers and neither of which travels well) so I contented myself with a local brew and a look round.
This area is obviously another “tourist central” and not really my gig so I took off back to my little snack bar where I knew I was likely to be the only non-Madeiran in the place, would be greeted kindly, was not going to pay a King’s ransom for a badly poured pint of ill-kept Guinness, poured inexpertly. Guinness is probably one of the few beers in the world that requires precise and proper pouring. Their own advertising even reflects this.
A brisk walk back along the front gave me an opportunity for some shots of the Xmas lights. I had arrived in Funchal on the first day of December quite late in the evening and there were municipal workers putting up Christmas lights. I left exactly two weeks later and on my way to get the airport bus again I walked past municipal workers putting up Christmas lights and all this despite the fact that the whole city was completely festooned with them already. I dread to think how many bulbs are deployed or indeed what the electricity bill must be. It seems there isn’t a spare inch of space that isn’t given over to the festival. It looks pretty though even if Xmas is not my thing.
I made the snack bar in good order for my nightcap, or several if truth be told, as they don’t seem to know when to close there and it was a short but slightly unsteady wander back to my lovely apartment, my rooftop view of the Cathedral and it’s associated hourly bell, and into my comfy bed. I was a very happy man.
I know that time is an issue for many people when they travel, I know that some people are unsure about travelling in countries that are strange to them, which provides mates of mine like Claus with a living, and that is great. I am sure that in the time I was wandering on this day I could probably have done a daytrip round half the island and still been back in tiOn the wOme for a traditional meal and “folklore” show in some Funchal bar but that is not my way.
I have always said that there is no right and no wrong way to travel, you go as suits you and the best of luck. I had just gone out and wandered aimlessly with the result of having had an utterly brilliant day. Not a museum, art gallery nor archaeological sight in sight (sorry about that use of language) and yet I had enjoyed a brilliant day out and, in some small way, I would suggest I had learned rather a lot about Madeiran life that most cruise ship tourists never see. I can live with that.
On the way home K was treated to some of the wonderful Xmas lights that the CMF provides and here is look. I hate Xmas but this even made me smile.
Back at HQ, as I was now referring to it something lovely happened. I t was nothing of huge importance in the grand scene and certainly not culinarily. Beig somewhat of a “local” by then and obviously “on the firm” (please excuse the London parlance here) I was enjoying my beer when a snack plate was thrust in front of me. It was very obviously the detritus of the day’s “special” that I was served with a cocktail stick rather than a fork but it represented so much to me as it showed that I was a “face” there, one of the “in-crowd”. I do quite like a cold pasta salad anyway. I was being treated like a local and that pleased me. I probably stayed there a little longer than was strictly necessary for research reasons but I didn’t care.
I was in a place where I had apparently been accepted, five minutes walk from a brilliant apartment and after a a wonderful evening.
I have no idea of what your lives hold, especially now that the Chinese have made us effectively prisoners in our own homes in pursuit of their centuries old world domination plan, just look at the BRI. Please feel free to try and take me to task over this but you will struggle and eventually fail. The Chinese, on the back of a pandemic disease they were well placed to stop and did not, have effectively and wilfully destroyed the world as we knew it a year ago. That suits them as everything does. Chances are I will never be able to visit Madeira again and, if I can, it will be a fraction of the wonderful experience it was in 2015 .
Any takers for a sparring partner in war you know you must lose? The Chinese have killed the world and they are loving it because it suits them politically and economically. Lives mean nothing to the CCP, they have millions to throw away. Please do contact me with your Guardian / Channel 4/ left wing nonsense if you like and I will prove to you that you are wrong which will not take much work. Come on Guardian readers and C4 watchers (does anyone really watch that?), go for it, hit me with your best shot (as Pat Benatar once sang) and I will show you your error. although being of that ilk, you will ignore me in the face of the overwhelming evidence and just try to shout louder. That is what the left wing does, isn’t it and that is all that is left of the world I once knew, the world I am writing about here. Those were happy days.
Anyway, this is the end of this particular rather enjoyable episode and I do hope I have provoked a little controversy, at least it will prove you have read all the way through if you start ranting at me.
Eiher way, we have couple of days to go so stay tuned and spread the word.
I was not moved out quickly at official closing time and probably sat there a bit longer than strictly necessary but that probably indicated me “locals” status. Ludicrous as it and such a small thig it touched me deeply, it meant no that I was one of them as Madeirans are Madeirans but it meant that I was at least “accepted” and that meant more to me than you can imagine. I always try to integrate.
Only a couple of days now on Madeira but there is still the odd thing to see so, as always, stay tuned and spread the word.