Madeira

We got a berth in Quinta do Lorde marina on Saturday morning. To John's horror the mariniero said we should reverse into the berth 'because you have a bow thruster, Sir. It will be easy, no wind and I will help.' It went well, no problems, lots of space but John still hates doing it! The holiday complex is unrecognisable from the building site of four years ago. The hotel is very swanky, we didn't go in, but we did eat in the restaurant on the quayside. Interesting food, beautifully presented with a price tag to match however it is nice to eat in lovely surroundings with an attentive waiter. I could get used to this. We hired a car for two days. On Monday we went for a levada walk. Levadas are narrow irrigation ditches with a footpath alongside to allow maintenance and operation of the sluices if necessary. They are quite ancient and some have recently been restored. The beauty of them is the gradient is very gentle, you don't realise you are walking uphill until you look down. We were recommended a short one starting at the village of Ribeiro Frio (Cold River) to a panoramic viewpoint at Balcon and back. Even John said it wasn't a bad walk. High praise indeed. From there we drove to the north coast and visited a couple of viewpoints before heading for the Express Via back towards the boat. The Expressways are quite new, with lots of tunnels, steep hills, sharp bends and various speed limits (max 100 kmh). The beauty of them is they are two lane dual carriageways. The other roads are like switchbacks, very steep hills, often very narrow and lots of hairpin bends. They don't make for relaxing driving. On Tuesday we battled the traffic in Funchal. We finally found a car park on our third circuit! Subterranean, beneath a new shopping mall, they make lots of parking spaces by a) making the road in and out at an angle of 45 degrees, fun stopping on the way up to put your ticket in the machine; b) ensuring all 'roadways' between the parking bays are as narrow as possible, one bit between two columns was not more than 18 inches wider than the car; c) assuming all cars will happily do a three or five point turn to get around corners. There is plenty of evidence that many drivers fail! Moral of this story, small is better. We had a Nissan Micra, quite good but a Smart car might have been better. I didn't put any dents or scrapes on the car though previous drivers had. We had booked Afternoon Tea on the terrace at Reid's Palace Hotel and enjoyed the optional glass of champagne for starters. The whole place is reminiscent of the Savoy in London, though with a more attractive approach and surrounded by lovely gardens. The last time we had Afternoon Tea at a posh place was at The Complete Angler on the Thames celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, 14 years go. Apart from 5 sorts of sandwiches, scones with butter, jam and cream and 8 assorted small cakes there was also the choice of about 7 teas plus herb teas or coffee if desired. We had a large china pot each and a tea strainer each because it certainly wasn't made from a teabag. It was a lovely experience and a birthday present to remember. Needless to say, having the car meant several trips to the supermarkets to buy milk, wine, more wine and salad items. The Continente, with a lovely spacious car park, and the Pingo Doce, with a car park not unlike the one described above, were within 100 yards of each other, great for price comparisons. Time is pressing so we left Quinta do Lorde on Wednesday morning.

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