Here’s an audio version of this post
I’m sitting out on my cabin balcony at night. We’re moored at Funchal Madeira. The phonetic pronunciation sounds like something you’d go to an infectious disease specialist to get rid of, but I believe the proper pronunciation is something like Foonsholl, and it means fennel, which there at least used to be a lot of here. Balconies are much more picturesque at sea, but still, Europe is Europe, and here I am, where I never expected to be.
Today we walked around some, then took a cable car gondola thing up 500 metres or so to a village with a great view. It was a neat way to get a sense of more of the island than you might on foot: lots of white or brightly coloured houses on terraced slopes, a few sheep, a smattering of roof-top gardens, some solar panels, and the usual people and cars. Tonight we went to a restaurant mostly to hear Fado singing, and ate a fantastic meal. The singer was accompanied by a bored looking guitarist and base player, and her singing was lovely, and the musical bridges in her songs were sweetly and melodically filled in by restaurant staff as they went about their work: so nice!
Apart from the mine tour and Flamenco in Cartagena, my favourite experience in Spain was walking around in Cadiz. Many of the streets are narrow, with 5 or 6 story apartment buildings on either side, which makes things nice and shady, shady in the sense of cooler because not in direct sun, not vaguely sinister. On some there are sidewalks, but these are more like concrete ledges along the building line, where one person would have a challenge to walk comfortably. They’re wide enough for one vehicle, and when cars, trucks or motorcycles do come through, they do so at precipitous speeds, and pedestrians scramble to the sides. More than once I muttered a quick and fearful “Santa Maria!” as motorbikes and trucks whizzed by, making a breeze that ruffled my hair. Even commercial areas lined with pharmacies and electronics stores are arranged in this way. For a Thursday afternoon there seemed to be quite a lot of people milling around, but because the city scape was so different from what I’m used to, this was a bit hard to interpret.
The open squares are liberally dotted with lottery kiosks which are run by the national blindness organization which, according to my partner, does extremely well by them. The electronics stores had prices that seemed to roughly parallel our own when it comes to cell phones and data packages, and their TV’s alternate in displaying dimensions in inches and cm.
Tomorrow we make our last stop in Europe, on the Portuguese island of Porto Santo. If I interpret the local pronunciation correctly, the emphasis is strongly on the first syllables of each word, so that a careless listener might hear, “Por! San!” We get tidbits of history from tourist information on the ship, and I’ve learned that Christopher Columbus was married to the daughter of the Island’s governor, so lived there for some time before his famous voyages. Our plans for the island involve finding a nice beach, and possibly swimming in the ocean if we can find a place suitably far from the harbour. Also, we failed to purchase any Madeira in Madeira, (a dreadful oversight: yum!) so we may try to hunt some up.