Funchal, Madeira - "the floating Garden"
We were onboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines Epic on a repositioning cruise from Port Canaveral, FL to Barcelona with various stops along the way - the second stop being Funchal.
Funchal is 3,797 sea miles from Port Canaveral and 648 sea miles southwest of Portugal. It is the largest city and the capital of Madeira. It’s population is about 111,892 and it has been the capital of Madeira for more the five hundred years. The name is derived from the Portuguese word "funcho" (fennel) and the suffix "-al", to denote "a plantation of fennel".
Madeira is sometimes called the “Floating Garden”. Flowers bloom year round on the island and there are gardens and parks all over the city of Funchal. My camera captured a few of the flowers and flowering trees as we toured the city. I kept thinking about my grandmother while I was there. She was from Portugal and plants and flowers were a big part of her life; lovingly caring for them on her front porch. I conjured an image of her in my mind…a big smile on her face, happy to see the flowers that adorn the city.
The ship took 36 hours to travel from Ponte Delgada to Funchal. It’s only 607 miles so we suspect that the ship slowed down to arrive early in the morning to allow us time to visit the city.
We didn’t book a ship excursion. Everything there is to do in town is close distance to the port and it’s easy enough to walk or take taxis which was more cost effective than the ship excursions.
If you have never been to Funchal & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;
We took a taxi to the Teleferica Do Funchal (cable car) so that we could head up to Monte to take the famous toboggan ride back down. Since we weren’t going to come back down we got a one way fair to the top which was 11 euro per adult. If you wish to see the botanical garden (via another cable car from the top) the cost would have been 31,40 euro per person. We didn’t do the garden but it hindsight I wish we had.
This building is where you purchase your tickets for the gondola ride to the top of Monte, and the queue seen in this picture gives you a pretty good idea of how popular this cable car is!
The cable car views allowed us to see the layout of the city and the harbor below. Mostly white houses with orange tile roofs make up the city. The hills are steep to the point that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable driving until I got used to it. Think San Francisco on a smaller scale, with narrower streets and sometimes steeper hills.
At the top, there was an overlook to get more photos and some gardens. It was a short walk down around the corner to the toboggan area and the Church on top of Monte.
The area at the top of Monte is partially surrounded by the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and above that is a suburban area where we hiked up along the Caminho do Ferro. The road quickly ascends to where it is above all the houses on the city-side, so the views (all the way to the harbor) were superb.
Open daily from 9:30AM to 6PM everyday and the entrance fee is €10 per person and children under 15 are free. We did not have time to enter & explore the gardens, but we did see quite a bit of it while waiting for our toboggan ride. If we had not been time limited, we would have spent more time here, as it is beautiful.
Carreiros do Monte (Toboggan run)
The toboggan run is about 2Km long and you can reach 48km per hour in spots. You can see in one of the above images where we had just started the toboggan ride, as well as one of the places where we slowed to turn a corner. Be sure to take a look at our videos (below) of our toboggan ride!
It may not look like we were going fast in the videos, and I admit that since the toboggan was low to the ground that our perspective might have made it seem faster, but it definitely felt like we were flying!
Down the hill to Funchal
We caught a taxi from the end point of the toboggan ride to the edge of the city and did some exploring. We found ourselves at Praca do Carmo plaza at lunch time where there were numerous restaurants. We ate lunch at Restaurante Sabores where we sat outside. We endulged ourselves with a bottle of Vinho Verde, some fresh fish, french fries and I had an excellent omelete.
After lunch with headed over to Mercado dos Lavradores - which was a combined shopping center and open air vegetable and fish market. There were tourist shops with cork make goods, local crafts, and the obligatory t-shirts. We saw many people from the ship here. Note that we didn’t have a map or anything we just wandered into these places. The town is pretty compact and it was not difficult to find interesting things to see.
After liking what we saw on our short visit to Madeira Terry did some deeper research and found that there are some beautiful hikes and scenery outside of the city of Funchal and much more to see and do - and we both agreed that we should place Madeira onto our list of places that we would like to revisit & spend more time there.
As an example, go to YouTube and enter "Madeira Hiking" and you will get a large list of some amazing videos, here are several good ones - and there are many more;
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