This past May we did a transatlantic cruise from Ft Lauderdale to Barcelona. There were 7 sea days before our first port, Madeira, a group of islands southwest of Portugal and while we had great weather during the crossing, we were ready to set foot on dry land.
Madeira was first claimed by the Portuguese in 1419 and was settled shortly thereafter. It was the first territorial discovery in what became known as the Portuguese Age of Discovery. It is now a popular resort noted for its wine as well as an important stop for transatlantic passenger cruises. It is the top quarter of a once active volcano system and its climate is subtropical with average year round temperatures between 64-75 F. The mild climate creates an abundance of gardens with over 2,500 species of plants.
Our ship docked in Funchal, the capital, and we took a shuttle to the center of the town from the cruise dock. Based on our research, we wanted to explore the town, its shops and cafes, visit the local market, take a cable car ride, visit the tropical garden at Monte Palace and do wine tasting of the local favorite Madeira.
When in a new town, I like to visit the market, which in Funchal was Mercado do Lavradores. Built in the 1930’s, it is a lively place with fresh produce stands, fish and meat markets, flowers and crafts. Similar to many other locations in Portugal, there are tile panels at the entrance and throughout the market.
To get to the gardens it is necessary to take a taxi, bus or ride the cable car. The cable car is much more enjoyable. The Monte Palace Tropical Gardens are right at the top of the cable car exit. They encompass an area of approximately 20 acres and stretch downhill with nice paths and walkways. Along the paths are stone works, sculptures and tile panels, including a group of 40 large panels that depict the history of Portugal. The walk is steep but easy going downhill and fortunately there is an inexpensive golf shuttle you can take back to the entrance and the cable car to ride back to town.
Our final goal for the day was to do some wine tasting at one of the many wine lodges and shops. The island, was an important provisioning point for voyages on their way to the America’s and one of the provisions they stocked up on was wine. The wine’s unique taste comes from repeated heating of the wine which deepens the flavors (this occurred as the ships passed through the tropics), a process that is now duplicated commercially. The wine is available in a range of dry to sweet styles and is very similar to Portuguese Port. Madeira wine also played an important role with our founding fathers when it was used to toast the Declaration of Independence in 1776 as well as George Washington’s inauguration. We found a great shop that provided us with an education as well as ample tastings and purchased a bottle to enjoy for the remainder of our cruise.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day in Funchal, Madeira and look forward to visiting again in our travels.
I hope you enjoy the pictures and thanks for visiting