Friday, June 10, 2011

Driving Madeira

On Friday and Saturday we had a rental car and toured the outlying areas of the island of Madeira.  Our first stop was Santa Cruz where there is, supposedly, an amazing whaling museum.  Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation.  So we headed to the eastern-most tip of the island where dramatic cliffs plunge into the sea.  It was beautiful but windy - with the wind coming off of the ocean, hitting the cliffs and shooting upward.  (Do click on the pictures below to see the full size version - the thumbnail shots don't do it justice.)

From here we went along the northern coast, stopping for more pictures.

We ended up at Quinta do Furão for lunch.  That is Portuguese for Farm of the Ferret.  Luckily it wasn't on the menu.  What was on the menu was fantastic.  This is a destination lunch or dinner spot if there ever was one.  For starters, there is the uninterrupted view of the Atlantic and steep seaside cliffs.

The food was remarkable - traditional Madeiran ingredients but with a modern twist.  Our starter was fresh avocado topped with a Surinam cherry foam and drizzled with light olive oil.  This was to die for.  I had the catch-of-the-day, a Dorado, roasted in a bed of sea salt  So simple, but so good.  The salt seals in the moisture and the occasional crunch of sea salt is very nice.  Peggy had the tuna (fresh at this time of the year) wrapped in bacon.  Dessert was a banana and sweet corn creme brulee and sweet potato profiteroles.

We finished off the first day with a 'levada' walk.  These are paths along the old irrigation channels cut into the sides of the mountains.  They are level, naturally, and often involve some stunning views.   This one was among the trees - very shady and peaceful.

On Saturday we headed out to see the western part of the island.  As we turned away from the coast we had the magnificent sight of the clouds that had formed in the inland valleys literally flowing over the pass.  It looked like the biggest dry-ice display ever.

We continued inland, this time through the fast but less scenic tunnels to get to São Vincente and the lava tubes that were left behind by the last eruption about 900,000 years ago.   These were quite dramatic, but we were, embarrassingly, equally excited by the fact that there were chickens roaming freely on the grounds...

We continued around the coast, seeing more waterfalls and natural sea pools.

Our second levada walk was out of the trees and in the sunshine.  We followed a narrow trail next to the levada. 

There were plenty of frogs, nice views, and the occasional cow eating the bushes or drinking the water.

Driving across the island on the small roads was quite a thrill.  We spent half the time going up hill in 2nd gear, the other half going down hill riding the brakes wondering if there is any sort of advance warning when they overheat and fail...

Luckily they didn't fail and we got back to Funchal so that we could celebrate Peggy's birthday with a nice Italian dinner at a restaurant affiliated with one of the old luxury hotels on the island.  The view ... again!  ... overlooked the ocean.  After dinner we headed back to a favorite place for another few sips of that delicious licor tin tan tum.  This is one we may try to make at home.  It was a real treat to spend Peggy's birthday in such an amazing place.

Before heading to the airport on Sunday, we completed our trip at one of the amazing gardens, which someone, obviously, got pretty excited about!  ~ Eric

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to your description we will definitely go there next time! I'm going to start playing the Mexican Lottery since unfortunately traveling cost so much money!!