Home > Travelogues > Madeira 2003 > Funchal's city centre
Trip report from a holiday in Madeira. Friday 21. February 2003.
We're late for sunrise today. There's some magic about this place, because even I, who usually make do with a cup of espresso in the morning, eat English and Continental breakfast with eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato, cheese, bread and fruit.
OK, it helps that you don't need to make things yourself, and then there's the magnificent view over the Atlantic and the hotel pool, where some guests work hard for absolution or at least a better conscience.
The weather seems changeable today - one moment sun, the next rain. We decide to go for a walk in the Northern part of the city centre.
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Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas
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When we pass "Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas" in Calcade de Santa Clara, the museum has just opened. It is a beautiful house with many rooms and holds the collections of a Madeira lawyer. A few days before he died he willed the lot to the state, and now his house has been turned into a beautiful museum.
Frederico de Freitas must have been a passionate collector, because the number of objects and artifacts is amazing: furniture, ceramics, pottery, statuettes etc. etc. Especially the painted tiles are impressive, and it isn't cheap stuff - the old Persian, Chinese and Dutch tiles must be worth a fortune. So either lawyers in Madeira make good money or Mr. Freitas had some other income.
There's a small army of custodians who kindly, but firmly insist that you see things and the rooms in a special sequence. We don't go to museums that often, but this one is definitely worth a visit.
The city-hall square is close by and we visit the café before entering a bus at random. The bus takes us up the mountain to a residential area high above Funchal, West of Monte. We get off before the last stop and walk around looking at houses, gardens and Funchal and the sea far below.
The houses are beautiful and well kept. The roofs are red tile with a pagoda-like sway, and at the corners are small tile figures - a head, a dove or a ship. There are many plants and flowers in pots outside, and in the lush gardens you see bananas, wine and many other plants. In front of many houses there's a year laid in mosaic in the pavement - probably the year the house was built. Houses are very expensive, and Madeira couples save for many years or work abroad before they get their own.
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It is impossible to get lost. Funchal lies open to the sea below, so you just walk downhill. The sun shines bright from a clear sky. That is: it is clear above us, but as usual the mountaintops are wrapped in clouds, and the wind carries rain to us. So in brilliant sunshine we unfold our umbrellas, because it is more than just the occasional droplet. However the wind is too strong and unable to handle the umbrellas we seek shelter in a local bar.
The beer is the fine local brand Coral, and here a bottle is less than 1 Euro. As soon as we're seated the rain stops, but anyway it is nice to rest a bit. There's a handful of locals at the bar, and a grandmother in black guards a few children. Above the door the TV broadcasts news in Portuguese, and the bartender serves, listens, nods and answers like bartenders do all over the world.
50 meters from the bar is a bus stop, and we have to wait 5 minutes only before a bus arrives and takes us downhill at breakneck speed.
Evening in Funchal's Zona Velha
After a light lunch and siesta we go to the old town. We enjoy a glass of white wine at the café across the street from the cable car station before going to Largo do Santo. We get a table in the small cellar at "A Muralha", which means "The Wall". One of the old walls is a beautiful stonewall, and the floor is mosaic like many of the pavements, though polished to a smooth surface like terrazzo - beautiful.
The service is exquisite and the waiter's English excellent. As first course I get mussels grilled in the shell, and Helle gets a tuna salad. Tuna here is not canned. Helle's main course is chicken curry with banana, and I get espatada (beef on a laurel spit) again. The red Portuguese, "Piriquita" or something like that, is full-bodied, fruity and pleasant.
After dessert (pie) we get a cup of coffee and I ask the waiter if they make a local brandy. In fact they do, he says and serves a brandy made from sugarcane. Compared to e.g. cognac or Metaxa it is a bit raw, but definitely not bad. Being in the romantic mood I imagine it gets the golden colour from maturing in Madeira casks, but of course caramel could be a more prosaic explanation. Just as we're about to leave the waiter serves a glass of sweet Madeira on the house.
We're so full we could roll home, so we do exactly that in one of the many waiting taxis. Taxis are cheap here, and the trip to the hotel is less than 4 EUR.
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