So a week in and those grey clouds that I wrote about in the last post seem to have settled directly on top of Ribeira Brava. We’ve been rained in!
Despite this, we’ve managed to get out most days to discover a bit of this gorgeous island, bit by bit. (ahh the joys of slow travel!)
The beauty of Madeira is that everything is reasonably close, most towns under an hour away by car. The island itself is only 57 km’s long and 22 wide, and although the treacherous switch back roads make the journeys pretty slow going at times, and (a little tough on the stomach) it’s all still very do-able in short stints.
The second day of adventuring saw us head North towards another coastal town called São Vicente. As we were warned by our local friends, the weather got heavier and wilder the further north we travelled. By the time we arrived we just managed to ‘ohhh & ahhh’ at the incredible sheer rock backdrop of this little town and take the standard tourist pic before the rain came down – hard and fast and horizontal!
We ran for cover and found ourselves in a little local restaurant. The perfect opportunity to try the local dish that was recommended to us by our Madeiran buddy, Alex. It’s called an ‘espetada regional’ and it goes like this…
The choice is beef, pork and sometimes chicken. Soon after ordering the waitperson came out with this medieval-looking iron frame that fitted into a hole in the middle of the table – interesting. I discovered a little later that they also clip onto the edges of the table or come with individual stands (as in the pic) or whatever holds them upright really. To get the picture, they resemble something like an oversized cockies perch. (Cockatoo is an aussie bird for my non-aussie readers) A tall T-frame with a little hook on the end of each arm. Then came the ‘attachments’. Big chunks of meat are skewered onto huge kebab style sticks that are then hung from each hook, (just for scale, they’d be similar to the ones you see behind the counters in the kebab shops – BIG)
The meat is marinated in garlic and wine then grilled over embers of sweet bay, if cooked right they are delicious! These espetadas come with an assortment of side dishes including salad, chips, maze and other bits and pieces, so it makes for a pretty satisfying meal.
It’s always fun to experience different cuisines, and this was no different. You can imagine Jed and Deni’s surprise, but mostly delight as all of this unfolded before them, always fun to watch! And an added bonus – all of this medieval looking weaponry inspired another dragon character in Jed’s book – perfect!
Our road trip then took us around the west side of the island, through a maze of tunnels and around some pretty spectacular coastal roads, then through a town called Porto Moniz . We travelled through Calheta in search of a little bar that I’d read about somewhere and decided I wanted to visit. Apparently the perfect spot to watch the sun go down – sipping on a mojito of course. Sadly we’d travelled beyond my little bar on this day, and at that stage in the road trip all those corners and windy roads had managed to strip me of the adventurous spirit I started out with so I was happy to head for home. (We did eventually get to the little bar ‘Maktub Pub’ a few days later and I did get to enjoy that sunset mojito!)
One thing that I always find kinda cool when travelling abroad is the seemingly simple task of grocery shopping. It’s always a challenge to decipher labels and then get a handle on the different currencies. I’ve been caught many times thinking that something is ‘super cheap’ when actually, once I get my head around the exchange, it’s quite the opposite. And visa versa. But it’s always fun, and you learn pretty quickly.
On this trip, the one BIG thing that has made our Miss Deni a very happy little camper is the enormous selection of cheeses available. It’s mind boggling actually, and yes, I know it’s pretty predictable for most of Europe but it’s pretty awesome for these little Aussies to look into those cheese cabinets for the first time. It was one of those golden moments when I first showed her the cheese section – her gorgeous big eyes grew wide and her perfect little face lit up – ‘O.M.Geeeee Mummy!’
So, needless to say there have been many dinners consisting of a delectable cheese board with and assortment of olives served with fresh crusty bread. Very European of us!
And how can I not mention the beer and wine!… Liam’s chosen brew comes in at 5.49 Euro a carton, nope not a typo, and Gav and I have found our favorite end-of-day drop, much lighter than our famous WA reds but not too bad at all, and for a whopping 3 Euro a bottle – it’s do-able!
AND … a bica (espresso) for around 75c a pop … Welcome to Portugal!