When visiting the Canary Islands it's too easy to forget where you are. We'll start where we began: Madeira. The archipelago lies in the Atlantic Ocean, north of the Canaries, and west of Morocco. I've been to Portugal a few years ago yet never spared a thought for the Portuguese islands lying 600 miles south-west of Lisbon.
Bom dia (Good day), Madeira.
MISTY MORNING AT FUNCHAL (Madeira's Capital)
Though a comparatively short stop, I knew right away I'll happily revisit (and hope to). I opted not to ride the cable car this time, though I would if we ever return. If interested, footage can be found on someone's trip aboard on youtube. There's much else to see and do in Funchal, not least of all to try Madeira cake which puts our supermarket variety to shame. I was also rather taken with Poncha -- the traditional alcoholic drink made from the island's sugar cane, containing honey, and aguardiente de cana (a distilled spirit) and different fruit juices, though we were told usually orange, and the best way to describe ours is as 'alcoholic orange juice'. Locals imbibe to 'ward off colds and flu'; I guess the orange juice makes it healthy, right?
My second highlight has to be the good reason it's referred to as an island of flowers. I was naturally going to be instantly fond of Madeira because it's green. Mountainous with deep valleys, it's scenic qualities is one of those I love best.
I decided to visit the caves at Sao Vicente for personal grounds I had heard these caves were like visiting no other and it's true. It's cool and wet so I needed my rain jacket, not outside once on this holiday, but underground exploring Madeira's geological past. The display at the end of the cave walk is a little dated but the film shown enlightens the visitor on how the islands formed and change. A volcanic eruption 890 years ago created the caves, and after creating the inner world for my Space 1889 story 'A Fistful of Dust' set on Phobos, I wanted to explore. These are lava tubes. The idea of walking where lava once flowed was too good for me to ignore.
(What do you think, Andy? A good setting?)