We sailed into the port of Funchal on the island of Madeira, Portugal bright and early one October morning. The sun was just beginning to peek above the water and the colors painting the sky were vibrant and welcoming. As soon as it was light enough to see the island, I couldn't help but snap a flurry of photos. The terrain had an interesting mix of tropical and mountainous characteristics. In the foreground, you could see palm trees, sandy beaches, and rocky cliffs jutting out into the sea. But in the distance, hills and mountains covered in thick, green vegetation towered over the heavily populated city below. As D and I stared at the island from our balcony, we couldn't help but think Madeira must be a wonderful getaway from the hustle and bustle of cities like Lisbon on mainland Portugal. The sleepy city had yet to wake up, so we savored the tranquility as we slowly floated into port.
For our day in Funchal, we had a variety of activities lined up to give us a hearty picture of what Portuguese island life was like. Once we disembarked the ship, we hopped a bus that took us to the Monte area of Funchal to visit Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte (500 year old church in the Monte hills) and to enjoy a funicular ride high above the city. One of my favorite things to do when traveling to a new city is finding vantage points high up so that we can see the lay of the land. You get such great perspectives (and photos!) from atop mountains, bell towers, and cable cars…so don't miss opportunities to get high on your vacation! Ahem, you know what I mean. ;)
The historic walk and cable car views were a great start to our day, but we were most looking forward to participating in the Funchal tradition of wicker toboggan riding. Not sure what I'm talking about? Stay tuned!