Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Madeira - First Impressions

I had a problem accessing my blog whilst in Madeira so this is going to mean that my postings about it will be a bit disjointed and not necessarily chronological.  I have finally sorted it out this morning so will attempt to share some of my experiences of this wonderful island.

We flew from Birmingham early on Monday morning, I had noticed last year that there is now a Wetherspoons after passport control and security so we elected to leave home after only coffee and juice and have a full breakfast at the airport.  It was an excellent strategy and successfully filled the hour and a half hanging around.  We left Brum at a temperature of 3C and landed at Funchal just before lunch to a temperature of 21C.  Our ordered transport was waiting for us and drove us to Cabo Girao to our home for the next fortnight.  I had booked a two bedroomed two bathroomed apartment through our Holiday Property Bond and it was excellent.  The drive to Cabo Girao in bright daylight showed that the roads are ALL like the Hardknott Pass - some of the stretches of the main road were practically vertical and I vowed not to hire the car I had been thinking about.  Coward?  Moi?  You bet I am when faced with roads like that.

The vegetation was amazing - there were thousands of red hot pokers lining the sides of the roads - they were growing like weeds everywhere and provided a brilliant carpet of scarlet.  There were some weird looking plants - I thought of them as Triffids - which were like a huge swan's neck which had thick stems at the base tapering to a point at the top which dipped and swayed in the wind.  I found out afterwards that they were a member of the aloe vera family and grown for their sap.  There were plenty of banana trees by the sides of the road too, some of the hands of bananas closest to the traffic had blue plastic bags wrapped round them to protect from exhaust fumes.   The Madeiran soil is amazingly fertile and every scrap of level land was cultivated.  The entire island is terraced in the occupied parts and a square metre of land means three or four crops of something every year.

We settled into our flat and found our bearings.  We had a lovely big terrace with dining furniture, sun loungers and loads of geckos scurrying around.  Quite little ones with scaly looking skin and lashing tails.  We had access to a large L shaped swimming pool which was half inside and half outside so that was my daily swim sorted.  For energetic types there were tennis courts and a clubhouse with table tennis and billiards but I got quite enough exercise climing the hundred or so steps between the pool and our flat.  I did say the entire island was terraced.  There was a shuttle bus around the site which Onslow took advantage of but I now have the calves of a Gurkha having done the steps three or four times daily.

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