Exploring Funchal

After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast we walk downtown. At Avenida do Mar by the harbour you can buy a ticket for the city buses valid for 7 days (remember your passport!). This Passe Turistico costs only 15 Euro.

The yellow buses are excellent for getting around in Funchal. You can select your destination and the appropriate bus, or you can enter one at random and see where it takes you.

7-day ticket for the buses

Get off somewhere, go for a walk and then take a bus back. It almost impossible to get lost in Funchal - if in doubt just go downhill!

Add for perfumed toilet paper

On all bus sheds are an advert for toilet paper: an ecstatic male photo model sniffs to a roll of toilet paper. It must be the perfumed brand they use at the hotel. What will be next?

Having bought the tickets we stroll at random in the centre and buy two small umbrellas as defence against the frequent showers that drift from the mountaintops.

At the main square is a pavement-café, which offers rest for the weary. Here are many locals chatting. Civil servants dressed in suits, housewives and students sip "bica". Bica is a small strong coffee - like espresso. The coffee quality is excellent.

The market

Nearby, at the market, they sell flowers, vegetables, fruit, leather goods, meat, live chicken and much more. There are vegetables and fruits we have never seen before.

From the market in Funchal
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The green fruit that looks like a hand grenade (in the middle of the picture to the right) is annona, which has a delicious sweet/sour taste with a touch of vanilla.

The market and the neighbouring small pubs are crowded. Beside the vegetable market is the fish market where we see the night's catch of espada, the deep-sea fish with the huge eyes and the greedy mouth. There are also sardines, squid and huge chunks of tuna. Outside we get a sandwich and surprise: the sun is shining! We catch a bus to the hotel - siesta-time.

Funchal's botanical garden - and rain

Botanical Garden

Later bus 31 takes us to the botanical garden. On the way to the bus there are occasional droplets, and the umbrellas come in handy.

The Volvo bus has orange plastic seats and is a bit shorter than its Danish brethren. The gear is manual, and the motor roars like a wild animal. The compact size makes sense; up and up we go via many hairpin bends where two cars can hardly pass at a time, and before a corner the chauffeur will honk the horn: "Here I come!". The chauffeur drives aggressively but with great skill. You must hold firmly on to something or you'll slide of the plastic seat. I'd prefer not to get my driver's license here!

From the Botanical Garden in Funchal Orchid in Funchal's botanical garden From the Botanical Garden
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The Botanical Garden is the last stop. Here are plants, trees and flowers from all over the world. We recognize some of the plants we grow in small pots back home, but here they are tree-sized!

The view over Funchal is breathtaking, but from the mountaintops roll clouds still darker and more menacing, so we agree that we have seen enough flowers and go to the bus stop. While we wait with 3 elderly locals and two other tourists the rain starts again. This is no gentle shower, but more like a torrent and soon the little street above rising 40° is transformed into a muddy brown river.

Waiting for the bus by the botanical garden in Funchal
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Fortunately the bus arrives soon, and after the 10-minute chauffeur-break we go downhill. It is very steep, and the motor roars and breaks in first gear. Pray, if you have a God!

Supper in Funchal's old town

In the old town we find a restaurant with tables outside. Some tables are like dry islands under parasols, and the thought of retreating indoors doesn't appeal to us. We get a cup of coffee and a glass of Madeira.

There aren't many guests in this weather, and the waitress looks depressed while saving cushions from chairs as the rain defeats more and more parasols.

A small dog with damp fur and begging eyes circles two German tourists having a meal. However that surly table offers no morsels - and no smiles either for that matter. Of course heavy rain isn't in your holiday dreams, but you cannot negotiate the weather. And after all, aren't we quite comfortable? At least our parasol is steadfast and offers good protection. It isn't cold and things could be worse - your glass could be empty for instance.

We drown the last drops of Madeira and walk a short distance to the restaurant we have chosen, Estrela Do Mar. The waiters are professional and eager, but none the less all guests are tourists.

The food is excellent. We get a creamy fish soup, and of course the compulsory garlic bread. Main course is espetada, grilled beef on a spit (local recipe) and it is delicious. The red country wine is pleasant. Unfortunately we have no room for dessert.

Actually the place seems to be more like a fish restaurant, and the name of the place means "Star of the sea". The waiter prepares many dishes at the table. He uses a small stove on wheels and generous splashes of spirits are set aflame in the copper pans. One guest asks for a taxi, and the waiter walks outside and shouts. Here you don't call for a cap - you yell!

On our way home we spot another restaurant filled to the brim, and not all guests look like tourists. We must try that tomorrow! The rain is still heavy and we run to the bus.