Our walking tour of Funchal began with the farmers’ market which has meat and fish markets at the back and plants, herbs, spices and seeds upstairs.
Along the sides are independent shops. We found some rum of the north in a shop whose ceiling was composed of wine bottles. The proprietor told us how to best drink the rum: take a brandy glass and put in a teaspoon, add hot water and stir before removing the spoon & water and adding the rum. This is the best way to release the aroma.
I also bought some seeds and some cardamom pods. Our next stop was the Bordal Embroidery factory where we had a guided tour.
Once the fabric has been prepared it is sent out to the embroiderers. Some items can take as much as three months to complete. Their oldest embroiderer is 90 and we were told that no young people are taking up the trade so it may become a dying art. Continuing around the city streets we passed the taxi ranks. They are all yellow with a blue stripe in Funchal so easy to spot but this sign was interesting.
We also visited the cathedral.
It is the oldest church in Madeira, the first building being constructed in 1514. After some wine tasting at a casa with wines dating back to the 19th century
we took the cable car to the Tropical Garden at Monte.
The gardens occupy 70,000 square metres and house tropical plants from around the world. I was rated as one of the 13 most beautiful botanical gardens in the world by Condé Nast Traveler. Monte Palace Museum holds exhibitions and on our visit the Berardo Collection from Zimbabwe was on display.
Other artworks are placed around the garden:
There are also Chinese and Japanese gardens, native forest and mineral specimens. There are tiles from the 15th to 20th century and 40 tile panels outlining Portuguese history. We walked down the the cafe at the bottom of the site and the steep upward return gave us some good exercise. The central lake has swans from Iceland and Scandinavia in winter. Most would have been on their way back to their breeding grounds in April but this lonely swan had an injured wing and had stayed behind.
Some of our group decided to take the wicker sledges back down the hill:
However, we took the more sedate cable car back down to the seafront.
At the final group dinner in a local restaurant, we gave our group leader a signed boomerang in addition to his tip. They are on sale in Madeira. I had always associated boomerangs with indigenous Australians, but it turns out that they were also used in Europe and Africa with the earliest one found in Poland. It was made from a mammoth tusk and estimated to be around 23,000 years old.
There is so much more to be seen in Funchal: gardens, museums, the Frente Mar walk along the shore and other areas of the island to explore so I am sure that we will be back.