Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
On April 22 we were docked in Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The last time we were here, we took the cable car up to Monte & an excursion around this exceptionally beautiful island. See https://baderjournal.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/madeira-day-1-funchal/ and https://baderjournal.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/madeira-day-2-around-the-island/. We were pretty tired of bus trips by the time we arrived here this time (our last one for this voyage was to Florence), so we decided to spend the day walking around Funchal. We had planned to take the cable car up the mountain to Monte because last time we went up there it was late in the day and everything was closed. Some friends of ours took a bus excursion there early in the morning & said the views were fine but by the time we left the ship in miid-morning the mountain was enclosed in a cloud & it pretty much stayed that way all day, so we abandoned that plan.
Instead, we took the shuttle bus in to the edge of town & spent some time in the Jardim Municipal (Municipal Gardens). This island is famous for its abundance of beautiful flora, and we were there in early Spring when much of it was in bloom.
The gardens also have a lovely pond with swans, ducks & fountains.
We walked into town through the attractive streets of Funchal to the Municipal Plaza. The town hall is on one side of this square, but we visited the beautiful Church of St John the Evangelist that was across the way. Built in the 17th century, this church is connected to a Jesuit college. Its façade is fairly plain, in the Portuguese style of white walls outlined with dark (volcanic?) stone. In contrast, the inside is a fantasy of frescoed walls & ceiling with gilded altar pieces and tiled sections.
The Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmer’s Market) is a building several stories high with an open central courtyard. It was built in 1940. The mostly open first floor is crowded with flower, fruit & vegetable stands selling local produce under umbrellas to protect from the sun. The second floor has more fruit & vegetable stands, where vendors offer free samples, then charge exorbitant prices for more. There are also crafts & souvenir stores on this level. In the back are the butchers, hacking away at the fresh catch. It’s a very colorful market, well worth experiencing, but not a good place to actually buy fruits & vegetables because of the prices.
We walked through the old section of town behind the market, now the location of many cafes & art galleries, then out to the East side of Funchal. There we came upon the Church of Santa Maria Maior (although it also goes by other names), apparently built in the 18th century on the site of a 16th century chapel dedicated to St Tiago that was constructed to hold off an epidemic. The church was closed, but its outside was quite nice in the Portuguese black & white style.
Nearby on the waterfront is the dark yellow Fortress de Sao Tiago, built in 1614 to protect the city from pirates. Today it houses an upscale restaurant & art galleries. The best things in this area, though are the views of the coast.
Walking back toward town provided more nice views of the city & the waterfront. We also passed an archaeological site uncovering some 15th century housing & wells and an original city wall built in the late 16th century. There were many beautiful flowers along this walk as well.
One of the distinctive aspects of walking through a Portuguese city is the black and white mosaic sidewalks in many different patterns. Funchal is no exception. We always enjoy these (although the best are in Rio).
We passed the 15th century Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, known for short as the Se Catedral. It is supposed to be quite beautiful inside but it was closed the day we were there (this sure seems to happen a lot). We passed the municipal garden one more time & boarded the shuttle back to the ship.
So ended our final day in port, an enjoyable walk through a lovely city. Not as spectacular as many of the ports we visited on this voyage, but a good one for winding down toward the end. Of course, it was not really the end because we still had a week to spend at sea crossing the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale. A little more on that anon, but for now we will leave with a parting look at Funchal.