Funchal is the capital of the Madeira Islands, which have belonged to Portugal since 1976. The islands are volcanic and their climate is mild. The 150,000 residents here make their living from farming and tourism; most of the tourists are European since this spot is not on the radar of many Americans. We stopped here on a cruise a few years ago and had a very complete tour. We sipped Madeira wine and ate local cheese, took photographs of lush green valleys from cloud enshrouded mountain tops, and came down steep hills on wicker sleds. Since the tours the ship offered today did the very same things, we opted to mosey around town on our own. Today is Sunday and we were warned that most stores would be closed, but the owners of stores that tourists might be interested in can hardly ignore 2,000 potential shoppers. Lovely hand embroidered items such as tablecloths and blouses that looked like they needed a lot of ironing hung in many windows. And of course, the Madeira wine that is named for the region was also a big seller. The bouquet in our cabin is turning brown, so we bought fresh flowers from sales ladies dressed in colorful local garb. Some flowers that look like small daffodils exuded a powerful perfume. The Xmas decorations on the streets reminded us that the holiday is getting close, but the weather and flowers feel like spring.
We spent a lot of time in the central square enjoying the free internet. For the next six days we will be at sea and how connected we will be is uncertain. The TV signals are already starting to fade. It is likely that satellite TV purveyors pretty much ignore the middle of Atlantic since few subscribers reside there.
Just like our previous visit, heavy clouds hung on the tops of the mountains even though the weather was really sunny and in the '70's. We are admiring the last view of land for the next six days, watching wind surfers take off from the black sand beach and zig zag back and forth beneath us. It would be great to come back and stay for a week, soaking up the charming ambiance.