Well… the long anticipated wait is over – After 25 years, a lot of time dreaming and planning, and 3 attempts, I have finally made it to Europe!
After 4 flights and a 30 hour journey, from one side of our precious globe to the other, we arrived in Funchal, the capital of Madeira (and as we are so often reminded – very proudly the home of the world’s greatest soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo!)
The trip from the airport to Gav’s house was the perfect way to re-ignite my weary mind after the mind numbing journey. A perfect introduction to our imminent European adventure. I’ll try to give you a re-count…
As we drove through the many valleys weaving our way around the switchback roads and up some pretty gnarly hills, we were surrounded in an endless array of white box-like houses with pointy orange roofs. The dramatic terrain here means that they are all built on the sides of mountains, most facing the enormous expanse of blue ocean, some perched proudly on the top of the highest peak, others precariously jutting out of the sides, and many along the bottom of the ravines. It’s beautiful, and most certainly postcard worthy. I hit the pillow that first night with the absolute feeling that I had arrived in Europe, and after so long dreaming about it, it was just as I had imagined.
We spent the first few days getting our feet back on the ground and gently finding our way around the area of Ribeira Brava (Gav’s new neighborhood) During these first few days I really fell in love with those little white boxes with pointy orange roofs. I couldn’t help but marvel at how each country has created its own style of architecture. It’s a part of travel that I have always noticed and find really interesting, but apart from just simply observing the buildings, I find it can give a good picture of how the locals live, a snippet of how we all live, of how different each culture is. It’s a nice thing to take away from all of this travel, and perhaps something that we will use when we decided plant our feet somewhere and create our own little white box with a pointy orange roof?
I had to smile when I read Jed’s account of his own first impressions of Portugal …
So, why Madeira? Liam’s dad has discovered this little island, and wants to make it his home. We’ve come to see what it’s all about.
Madeira is a mere speck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, closer to Morocco than Portugal actually, but Portuguese all the same. It’s an island of stunning landscapes and dramatic coastline. Its deep ravines and seemingly endless valleys make for a breathtaking vista at every turn.
Being an Aussie, (where our biggest hill is at the beginning of the City 2 Surf) making your way around here is very different indeed. Gav has hired a car, and graciously put me down as the second driver, and after 30 years of driving a particular way to suddenly switch it all around is a little challenging to say the least. Not to mention the sheer ‘scary scale’ of the roads here! One guidebook notes … ‘travelling by car should be reserved for confident drivers comfortable on steep, windy terrain.’ And add to that driving on the opposite side of the road! As Deni would say O.M.G!
Once rested, we all jumped into our little car and headed west – yes, with me driving … on the wrong side of EVERYTHING – the road, the car, the mechanics… ‘do something each day that scares you!’ – check!
First stop was Prazeres. A quiet, almost to the point of deserted, little village.
It was starting to drizzle, the cloud cover coming in through the valleys and the sky had turned that silver kind of grey. Gav was a little disappointed that we seemed to have left the blue skies back in Ribera Brava but to me it just added to the mystery and delight of experiencing this little village.
We wandered about and ended up in a local restaurant where the tables were decorated with checkered tablecloths and the ceilings made of heavy wooden batons. An intimate space that was alive with the sound of the theatrical Portuguese chatter. Yep … I feel like I’m in Europe now!
We were served up the trademark local bread called ‘bolo do caco’, a delicious bread made from flour and sweet potato, made in the shape of a cow-pat and served with lashings of garlic butter – delicioso!
Second stop was Jardim do Mar. A gorgeous seaside village of tiny little cobblestoned laneways that all lead towards the water. The surf was big, the ocean wild and expansive and I imagine on a nice sunny day this could be a very attractive hangout. Hopefully the weather will be good for us and we can return.
With a fist pump and slightly overworked nerves we returned home to Riveira Brava, me with a spring in my step and that addictive feeling of discovering new places and experiences.
Until the next adventure … Tchau! (cha-oh)