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Family & Friends: Madeira 2006

The flight was uneventful though crowded, and we were very happy when we arrived around 3 p.m. local time. The weather of course beautiful even though on our way we mostly saw clouds. What a change compared to 33 years ago when we visited this island for the first time! There was a real highway from the airport into town (we later learned that it continued much further). There were tunnels going through this volcanic island which I later labeled a "Swiss Cheese", avoiding much of the scarily winding road we had taken on our first trip to get to our then hotel. The two are not far apart from each other. We spent a wonderful week in Madeira (Portuguese and semi-independent). Therefore, all these funds from the EU for the construction of the highly, bridges, tunnels, and a few harbors with the fanciest dock construction and harbor walls for almost no or only small seemingly local boats. In all fairness, we don't know what these harbors look like in the summer. At this stage, we only saw two boats that were not Portuguese, one Italian and one from Norway. We were assured that, in the summer, there are lots of boats from all sorts of places - let's hope it is true. Otherwise, this would be a total waste of money.

The weather could have been nicer. We only spent a total of 6 hours near the pool and those not even really in bathing attire. We rented a car for two days, drove around the island, drove roads steeper than 12%, narrow like almost one-lane with two-way traffic and truck traffic which did not seem to notice the steepness or the narrowness of the roads. In one case, the truck had to back up some to permit us to drive into a tiny corner, allowing the truck to pass while I thought we would soon be pushed down the mountain - crazy... Guard rails seemed almost unknown on those small roads and the mountains were steep-sloped - gorgeous to look at, scary to drive through. In addition, it was raining with very low hanging clouds. Still, we observed many families have picnics (spelling?) on the side of these roads, near or in parking areas, barbecuing and seemingly having fun. The coastline is often so steep that the roads took us high up into these mountains from where we were supposed to have beautiful views into various valleys. Of course, the clouds covered the valleys like a vale. The town of Porto Moniz, small, most NorthEastern, almost surrounded by water from three sides with volcanic rock occasionally rising out of the ocean was cute. We skipped walking through because of an unpleasant mist which started seeping into our clothes. The return trip to Funchal and our hotel was a little easier driving with fewer curves but more tunnels and part highway. We tried to get back to the shore road a few miles before getting back to the hotel - in vain. We ended up in a dead-end in a village which had no access to the sea or the shore though being right above it.

The next day, we took the road North of Funchal to discover the most NorthWestern part of the island - unfortunately, it was cold though sunny. At least we had beautiful views over the shore and stopped occasionally for some photo shoots. This time, we took the scenic tour back to Funchal hoping to enjoy some vistas from one of the passes. Unfortunately, also on this trip, the valleys were covered by the clouds - still, the road was fun to drive on.

This was May 1st, our wedding anniversary. We had made reservations for dinner at the hotel's fanciest restaurant - it has a few. When we got back to our room, we were overwhelmed with a gigantic arrangement of Madeiran flowers, another bouquet of similar, i.e., local flowers, and a bottle of champagne. Of course, we sort of "knew" who had sent all these beautiful things and wishes, and we spent the next half hour or so on the phone chatting with the various families in Germany and the US. Juergen's family is very observant along those lines - we were almost embarrassed but also very happy. I had earlier said that we should order some champagne to celebrate, sitting on our balcony, overlooking the hotel property which is beautiful, and, more importantly, the ocean. Down near the beach, the sun was shining, and it was very nice sitting outside for a little before dinner, sipping the bubbly. Another two days on the island and it was time to depart. The day before and the morning of our departure, the weather was finally warm enough to dare donning our bathing suits and exposing ourselves to the sun. The wind was just a nice soft breeze, and so we enjoyed the last few hours on Madeira doing what we had hoped to do most of our stay.

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Our hotel in Funchal
Juergen at Harbor
Downtown Funchal
Trees in bloom
Flower Festival
Camara de Lobos
Terraces cultivated
Old tunnel on North Coast of Madeira
Rugged Coastline
Flowers in Fog