Barcelona and Transatlantic Cruise 2008 – Day 9 – Madeira, Portugal

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Editor’s Note: Sorry for the delayed updates here, but technical difficulties have prevented posting. Yes, even Internet Service Down issues apply while cruising. Hopefully back to normal now.

Today we had a port of call in Funchal, Madeira which is part of Portugal. We arrived into port at about 7 AM. While we planned to go ashore, we didn’t have any planned tours, so we arose around 8 AM with breakfast in the cabin. We enjoyed eggs benedict with some bacon and sausage.

It was about 9:30 in the morning when we went ashore. We had two distinct areas of touring planned, one near the ship and one a bit of a ways away. The first, near the ship consisted of the local town.

We toured some gardens, a museum, walked around the center of town and did some souvenir shopping. Suzanne got a t-shirt, I got a sweat shirt and the kids purchased a few knick knack type souvenirs.

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I have also been bothered by the constant questioning of the kids on this trip as to what time it was. Thus, I have decreed that both kids would be buying a watch and soon. Savannah picked up a nice little white watch in Madeira. Sean was ready to buy the exact same watch that I wear at one of the shops on the cruise ship, but I think it would be silly for him to spend $125 on a watch, so have agreed to look for a new watch for myself and then sell him my current watch. This may backfire on me as I am not sure I want to spend the money for a new watch and thus he may have come up with a good way to not buy a watch. We will have to see.

We also wanted to tour this military history museum in Madeira but couldn’t really find it. At the building we thought was it was a very foreboding, armed man guarding this door. He didn’t look like he wanted to be troubled with so we didn’t investigate further. Later, we saw folks entering that door, so it must have been the right place and we just didn’t investigate far enough.

We also stopped a local Madeira wine store and sampled some of the famous local wine. In my opinion, it was all terrible. I don’t enjoy drinking fortified wines at all though I do cook with it from time to time. I don’t think Suzanne was impressed either, but still she bought a small bottle to take home. We took our loot back to the ship before heading out on our second tour.

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This time we took a cab up the mountain to a small town about Funchal called Monty. We viewed a temple and enjoyed the views above the town, but the primary purpose of the visit was to ride the famous toboggans or sleds down the mountain. You get in these wicker baskets on rails and two drivers push you down the road. Actually, most of the time they simple “try” to steer you as gravity drives you down the hill. Suzanne filmed the ride down the hill so it will be interesting to see how it came out. As they cautioned folks with back issues about doing the ride, I opted to not ride down. It looked like quite an interesting ride down the mountain side and of course, Suzanne said at the bottom that I could have done it without any back issues – oh well, better safe than sorry with so much of the cruise to go.

After getting off the sleds, we still had about a mile and half walk back to the ship – all down hill through winding, very narrow roads. It must be hell getting around that town if you lived there.

We arrived back on the ship in plenty of time to get ready for the sail away party. The weather on this cruise remains a bit colder than it was supposed to be. The entire European/Mediterranean region is dealing with unseasonable cold weather. The average weather in Madeira and Canary Islands for this time of year is supposed to be in the upper 70’s. It was definitely light coat weather as the mercury maybe hit the low 60’s.

Because of the weather, we haven’t enjoyed our balcony as much as planned, but enjoyed the sail away from Funchal on it. As it turns out, it was a great place for the sail away as the ship backed its back end almost parallel to the island before pulling out. We enjoyed a glass of wine and some great views of Madera as we begun our journey to the Canary Islands.

For dinner, Sean enjoyed a four cheese pasta and his usual 2 shrimp cocktails. He was pleasantly surprised to find an extra shrimp in each of his cocktails tonight. I think he is going to turn into a shrimp. Savannah and Suzanne opted for the roasted chicken and I had a perfectly cooked medium rare Prime Rib. I was a bit leery of getting prime rib as it’s often not cooked right or not very warm when not cooked at home. It couldn’t have been better prepared tonight.

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After dinner, it was time for the traditional 50’s/60’s Sock Hop. Suzanne and Savannah were again dressed in their poodle skirts and shirts brought along just for this event. Sean normally has some proper looking jeans and a shirt for this event, but at the pre-packing clothes try on at home, found that they no longer fit him. The party band Front Liners continues to impress and we danced the night away at the sock hop until about 12:30.

Tomorrow we make the first of three stops in the Canary Islands at Lanzarote.