Most of the things I wanted to do and see were in Funchal so I ended up spending quite a few full days there. The shuttle bus from our accommodation dropped and collected us from the marina area so we had the opportunity to see the cruise ships which make the island part of their itinerary. Because the island rises out of the sea practically vertically the big ships can anchor very close to the shore so can be inspected in some detail easily without the aid of binoculars. There was at least one ship in every single day and one day there were three. Of the ships seen two impressed me particularly for different reasons. The Royal Caribbean Spirit of Independence is absolutely massive. I have never seen anything like it before and am certainly not tempted to go on it. There are fourteen passenger decks and more than four thousand people can be carried. Add on more than a thousand staff and we are looking at the population of the small market town in which I live. The second ship - which might tempt me on a cruise - was German and called Aida.sol which came in twice during our visit. They had bicycles on board and there were organised trips round the island on the bikes for about fifty people at a time. We saw groups of ten being competently led - all properly dressed with matching helmets. We saw groups on ordinary bicycles and some using electric ones.
I have never been particularly good at heights and foolishly was persuaded to go up to Monte and then the Botanical Gardens on the cable car. I broke out in a cold sweat, felt physically nauseous and ended up doing the journey with my eyes closed - which helped a bit. Although I really enjoyed both Monte and the lovely garden I was unable to return on the cable car and caught the bus back, wasting my return ticket. The day we were at Monte one of the big ships was in and we saw 19 separate groups of fifty being led around. A bit crowded, to say the least.
There are two rivers running through the middle of Funchal which were practically dry whilst we were there, the severe floods two years ago caused the banks to be rebuilt and they are covered in concrete with bridges across to navigate from one side to the other. Some bright spark had the idea of stringing wires across the top and planting bougainvillae at the sides which have grown across and there is now a fabulous sight - a mass of scarlet and purple beautifully scented.
The pavements are amazing, they are made from stones in black and white and have been made into patterns. It is really interesting to simply walk around looking at them - the ones in front of the theatre are works of art. Thinking about it, Funchal is one big work of art. The architecture is amazing, the Bank of Portugal has most impressive wrought iron everywhere, the Blandy Wine Lodge is beautifully maintained with original shutters, the theatre is lovely and the municipal buildings really interesting. I had intended to go to Reid's for afternoon tea but never managed it, our trip on the open top bus enabled me to look over the walls though and I would really have loved to have gone there.