Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Let's go to the Sunshine Island of Madeira!

The floating garden in the Atlantic Ocean. Contrasts . . .

It has been raining heavily of late here in the UK. Yu could say that it is weather for ducks! This one has caught a cold I think!

But over in the North Atlantic there are clusters of islands where it rarely rains compared to the UK. There must be some rain however for Madeira to be known as the gloating garden of the Atlantic. Here is a flavour:

An amazing firework display.

You will be have heard about the firework displays over Funchal? For me they were a "total surprise as I had always thought that the fireworks were in the harbour area. In fact –all the villages in the hills above Funchal had set up synchronised fireworks. As these synchronised displays exploded in a blaze of colour and fire in the hills above Funchal at midnight, the brightly decorated cruise ships in the harbour sounded their horns in a wonderful noisy, medley of sound. The sound of car horns added to the noisy confusion as they were pressed to greet the New Year; more and more ‘gunshot’ sounds rent the air as fireworks exploded in bursts of colour, raining down to light the inky darkness of the sky. It was relentless.

Map of the islands of the North Atlantic Ocean - Madeira.The planned and coordinated display, exploding in the air for miles around as gunpowder, released from the confines of their containers in the ground below, sent bursts of colour again and again into the darkness of the night sky. It went on and on, appearing to be never-ending. It was truly wonderful and indescribable as eventually, momentum reached a climax. Ships in the harbour eventually sounded their appreciation and farewells before sailing away, . . This called for a glass of Champagne 

An abundance of exotic flowers.

"The lush and shady gardens spread out from the immediate grounds of the hotel, across a small narrow road from where the view down to the sea was picture postcard perfect, into another garden which led down to the pool area (where I almost drowned one day).
I often paused in this secluded garden with its winding paths and exotic trees such as kapok to drink in the peace and solitude, looking up through the trees at the clear blue sky at what I thought was paradise. At this point in my life I was in stunned awe of the beauty around me. Never had I thought that one day this distant dream of mine, to visit this floating garden in the Atlantic, would become a reality. Nor was I to know that we would re-visit twice more in the future."

"The colourful market is famous. Local ladies dress in the typical Madeiran costume of red skirt with colourful stripes from waist to hem, waistcoat, white blouse, and a pointed black hat.
In the market, the choice and size of fish seemed never-ending. One fish looked very unappetising. It was scabbard fish; the one that we had been advised to try before we saw it in the market as it its appearance belied its delicious taste; we would have been put of this delicate morsel if we saw it first as it came out of the sea before eating it.

The abundant displays of fruit and enormous vegetables in wicker baskets, the masses of flowers and the cries of stall holders shouting their wares all added to this unique atmosphere.

Photo of 'Just Us Two' in a wicker basket  ready for the ride down from Monte.
In the harbour, we were treated to the sight of a boat being built. Passing the many gardens with their tumbling profusion of lush vegetation and exotic flowering plants, the water playing from the cool fountains invited you to sit awhile and rest to enjoy the beauty around you. The old town is full of culture and history."

And of course, no visit to Madeira is complete without a fast and furious ride on a toboggan down from the hill village of Monte.


Photo copyright Rosalie Marsh
Illustrated Island Interludes: Just Us Two Escape to the Sun
Photos in the eBook are in colour.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Another Sunshine Island - Sao Miguel, Azores.

"On the map, they appear to be dark and mysterious, very small blobs in the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean and seemingly inaccessible all those years ago. 

Map showing islands off the coast of Portugal and Africa.The Portuguese islands of the Azores lie in the North Atlantic Ocean on a parallel line between Lisbon and New York, about one thousand three hundred kilometres west of mainland Portugal. They are volcanic islands and, lying in the path of the Gulf Stream, winters are generally mild. Of the nine islands that make up the archipelago, São Miguel to the east is the largest with the city of Ponta Delgada being the capital of the region."

Ponta Delgada at Christmas.

"We flew in the setting sun to land at Ponta Delgada. I filmed the wing flaps opening as we came to land being entranced by everything – like a small child. A Saga representative met us at the airport which was re-assuring for us. The transfer by coach to our hotel in Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel was seamless with porterage of luggage taking the hassle out of everything. Our hotel had a lovely location with rooms and balconies overlooking the sea. They were well appointed, spacious and came with the special touch of fruit and bottled water in the room. This was welcome after a long journey."

Coloured map of the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores.Later . . .

"On his return to the hotel from his guided walk in the north of the island, my husband related to me how he saw dramatic coastlines and a farmer riding on a donkey collecting milk in milk churns in the fields, leaving dogs to guard the cattle. By contrast, the workday life in the south is more as we know it, with mobile phones in popular use in the city. He [my husband] surmised that the man on the donkey probably had a mobile phone in his pocket as well.
Later that day we walked into the city to explore. From modern cars tooting their horns to three-wheeled trucks noisily revving their engines, from cobbled streets and smart shops found in the unspoilt square, to solid buildings at every turn, everything was a bustling, thrusting, thriving mixture of sights and sounds as cars, bikes and people vied for space.
The contrast was amazing. It was Christmas – locals rushed about in shirt sleeves in the warm air and yet, in the square, there stood Santa’s Sleigh. An enormous display of lights like ribbons flowed from the centre of a maypole as the city prepared for Christmas which was only a few days away. Outside the fort, military guards paced up and down, swinging their swords. Overhead, the sky was blue. What a contrast."

Excerpt from Island Interludes: Just Us Two Escape to the Sun
You Tube video trailer 

Photograph copyright Rosalie Marsh. Maps by kind permission.

Rosalie xx