Heights, Hills and Tastes of Madeira!


My cruise this past June was called “Sunshine in the Canary Islands” and so you would imagine that the focus would be… well, the canary islands. However, after visiting Lisbon four days prior, I spent my whole time in the Canaries looking forward to my next Portugal port. Finally, we pulled into Madeira/Funchal for a day of adventure.

Madeira is really cool. All the roofs (rooves? no…) are the same deep orange colour, and the houses are stacked unevenly up the line to the very top of the hill they’re all built on. We drove alongside them until we arrived at the Botanical Gardens, our stop for the morning.

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We climbed too-steep stairs to a church that was not impressive, then walked down the hill a bit to go on a toboggan ride, 2 km back down the hill we just drove up. Yes, the traffic ridden, slippery hill. It was VERY scary but also very cool.  I was paired up with a British girl, Jess, who was on the cruise with her parents. Two men jumped on the back of our little wooden sled and steered us down the hill, against traffic and never even coming close to the cars driving towards us. We got to the bottom of the hill, and I felt all proud, conquering my fear of heights and all… and then, suddenly, the bus drove us back to the top again!

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As I’ve aged (Because I’m so old) I’ve become more and more afraid of heights. I don’t know if it’s because I’m becoming more aware of the dangers of the world, or because things just seem further down now that I’m taller… but cable cars have always worried me the most. I think it’s because I just know I wouldn’t do well, even if I did survive the fall, in the wilderness. Cable cars are always on mountains, often overtop of snowy hills or deep forests, and I just don’t think that’s the kind of conditions I would thrive in while waiting for my rescuers (WHAT IF THEY NEVER CAME?!) BUT, hey. I was in Portugal. I was with my grandparents. I’d just ridden down a suicide hill and lived to tell the tale. And so, I hopped onto the cable car with barely more than a tremor, and away we went.

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After our exciting morning adventures, our guide took us into town to walk through the markets and do a wine sampling. I lost the group when we went through the fish market because it smelled absolutely horrible and I didn’t really want to spend the rest of my time in Funchal smelling like a dead fish. Instead, I got lost in the flower and fruit markets, listening to the street buskers perform Portuguese music on their keyboards and guitars.

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Finally, we went to the wine sampling. Now, I’ve talked before about my experience in wineries. I know how to sip and spit, gargle and spin my glass around… this was not one of those types of tastings. Instead, they gave us little shooters of the “famous” Madeira wine, which I can only taste-describe as an imperfect mixture of maple syrup and vodka. 10/10 would not recommend. We decided to forgo the wine demonstration and wander through the mall, where I bought chai flavoured chocolates from a girl my age, and got so lost in conversation with her, about how all students here were made to learn English, and how much she’d like to visit Canada… that I forgot to pay her, and she had to run after me. Oops! Tourist Kylie strikes again.

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What do you think? Did I do all there is to do in Portugal, or is it worth a second visit?

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