Posted by: kathandroger | November 7, 2016

Madeira.

What do we do when the holidays are over?-we go on holiday! Actually we had nothing planned for our winter break, but friends Clare and Paul invited us to share their time share in Madeira. Now to be honest I had little idea of where the place is, other than it was in the Atlantic and has to be reached by plane. Several minutes on google soon sorted that out and we were off via Nantes airport to Lisbon and then to the Island itself. I can’t say I ever feel in need of a holiday, life itself is a breeze here, but it was exciting to be landing onto a volcanic blob in the ocean, and even better to be met by our friends and driven to the luxury resort.

Small, mountainous, very green, wonderful terracing, impressive tunnels and very narrow winding roads up to the vertiginous and lush interior. But what we had no idea about was the Levadas, narrow man built waterways which were constructed many years ago to better distribute the rain, which falls mainly on the north of the Island. There are very many miles of these mini canals, most constructed by slaves over the past centuries, and alongside are narrow paths used initially for maintenance but now used as walkways. madeira-1These lavada walks are, for me, the most individual attraction of the island. They vary in difficulty due to dangerous exposed ledges and windy ridges, and often involve groping through deep tunnels in the rock.madeira-2 One can only imagine the difficulty of construction and the very many lives lost-but then lives were cheap in the days of slavery. Terraces were also constructed and the reddish volcanic soil, watered from the canals, is very fertile. The advantage of the routes is that they are mainly on the level, an unusual feature on the island, but reaching some can mean a long climb beforehand, and we spent many hours walking. madeira-3The old knees held up well, and I still can’t make my mind up whether walking poles are worth the effort. They do give some reassurance for the steep descents, but can be a bit of a nuisance on the flat. There is not much wildlife on the island, and it would have been an added attraction to see some monkeys swinging through the wonderful trees. It was a little sad to see that the Eucalyptus has been imported and now seems to be taking over some areas, but there are no Koalas!

After the rigors of the day the food and drink were well tried. Madeira is wine fortified with brandy and heat treated, which made it less likely to spoil when sent on ships to the mainland, and it has become the best known feature of the place. We did enjoy the standard wines, though, and the plentiful fish dishes were well received, especially the deep water Scabbard fish, which is rare elsewhere. The residents seemed happy and prosperous, unlike the British Virgin Isles, which seemed to have two populations, the rich tourists and the poor locals. Six days is only enough to get a quick overview of the island, but we did enjoy the totally different anatomy of the volcano, and would love to see all the wonderful flowers of the springtime. But the world is a big place, and there are so many places to see. It was, as always, lovely to be back in France, despite the cold weather and the piles of leaves to be swept up, and we both reflected on the ease of travel these days. Anywhere in the world is reachable now,and I wonder where we will end up next time.

 


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