Thursday 24 December 2015

Pie, mash and liquor

What is this?  Is it food?
The answer is that it is an East End tradition - pie, mash and liquor.
The pie is made of mince and is the least worst thing on the plate. Next comes the mashed potato, which I always dislike. Finally, the green liquor is made with parsley and apparently is not very nice, so the idea is to douse it with vinegar to make it a bit more palatable.
In pic two I am looking cheerful, but that's mainly because I haven't tried it yet.
We went to the famous Manzes in Walthamstow market for lunch, and so that Darren and his mum could enjoy memories from childhood. I am glad say that I didn't have to eat it when I was young, although I did endure something similar, only without the sauce.
Unfortunately, I left most of mine, so wasn't allowed any pudding.
We then had a look around the market, and on a much brighter note, headed into Turtle Bay for some Caribbean cocktails.
Two for the price of one, and absolutely gorgeous, I enjoyed them all.
Merry Christmas to all!!

Saturday 19 December 2015

Parkrun Christmas Special

We arrived back in England late last night, and this morning we took part in the Tilgate fancy dress parkrun.
We didn't know about the fancy dress part in advance, so I borrowed a bit of tinsel, and our friend Dave managed to find festive shorts and jumper. (Daz didn't dress up, so he took on the important job of taking the photo.)
It turns out that Dave and I didn't actually put enough effort into our costumes as some of the other competitors.
The final picture is of the organised chaos before the start, but just after 9am, everyone charged over the start line.
I finished in 223rd place out of 385. I was beaten by lots of Santas and a few dogs, but I was pleased to stay ahead of the lady with a rubber roast turkey on her head.
Superfit Dave was 13th and Darren a creditable 80th.

Friday 18 December 2015

Parking and driving on Madeira

It is such a relief to me that we are only using public transport and not driving on Madeira.
Personally, I have always struggled with reversing a car and Darren gave me some words of advice many years ago. He said 'don't worry as you are never as close to the car behind as you think'. I took him at his word and confidently reversed into the next door neighbours car next time I tried.
There would be much worse consequences to my recklessness here as we wouldn't have just kissed bumpers, but I would have landed right on top of it - pic 1.
I also used to struggle with a very narrow driveway when I lived in Leeds, so used to put towels along the wall to try to stop my car getting too badly scraped.
No such trouble for the drivers here in Madeira who seem to have it down to a tee - pic 2.
As for pic 3, I could never even consider driving either up or down some of the steeper streets as I am sure that my car would just fall off the world.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Modern Art

Today we walked up the hill to visit the only genuinely ugly building that I have seen on Madeira. I had noticed it before on our travels today and thought it must be a factory or perhaps a refuse collection area, but no, it's the modern art gallery.
Once inside it is actually a lovely bright building with lots of stuff on three separate floors.
If you are a regular reader you might have noticed that I struggle with modern art, and today was no exception.
However, I have decided to make some of my own in order to get in the spirit of the outing.
Creation one is the entrance area which is completely devoid of people, as during the whole of our trip we were the only visitors.
Creation two is me trying to look intelligent and thinking about the concepts raised in the gallery.
I am particularly pleased with creation three which shows Darren in the top left looking down on some artwork. That is of Jesus sitting at one end of a large table with a pile of ash at the other end - sorry but I chopped that bit off as it spoilt the shape of my image.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Night out with Santa

We went on a bus trip tonight to Funchal to see the Christmas lights. We were very surprised and pleased to find that Santa was also out and about in the town.
I managed to squeeze into one of his little helper's houses, but it wasn't very comfortable.
It was also very difficult getting back out again.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Levada das 25 Fontes

The Levada of the 25 Fountains walk is one of the most famous in the whole of Madeira. I didn't see any fountains, but there was lots of waterfalls, so it must be a problem with the translation.
The most noticeable difference between today's outing and previous ones was the number of people that we encountered. Usually we would meet between zero and half a dozen people all day, but today we saw loads.
It was a lovely walk amongst the trees and then through a tree tunnel with the Levada walls covered in bright green moss.
The highlight was pic three, a very high waterfall that fell into a pond. This is where we stopped for lunch - a couple of coconutty cakes from the local shop that were delicious. As we ate we became surrounded by chaffinches and they even took crumbs from my hand. The one in pic four arrived late and there was no crumbs left, so he stared angrily at me and chirruped loudly for more dinner!

Monday 14 December 2015

Paul do Mar round trip

Caught the bus to Paul do Mar this morning. It is a seaside town that runs along a narrow strip of land in front of incredibly high cliffs. It can only be reached through tunnels at either end and is isolated and quiet.
There is also only one bus in and out per day, so we had to make sure that we were on them.
The bus stop is at sea level at the top of picture one and we then set off through the town, stopping for a quick refreshment and planning session on the way.
I suggested taking the path at the end of the town up the cliffs. It was a great walk with lots of lovely views and flowers, and we successfully reached the top.
Daz suggested that we take the main road back to the town, and I thought that a great idea as the bus would also be using that road, so we couldn't really miss it.
Off we went and after walking a few minutes we rounded a corner and were amazed to see the view in photo four. The road was streaking away from us, disappearing into a tunnel and then re-emerging further down the mountain.
We walked along, happily enjoying the views and taking photos.
Once we were through the tunnel I realised that we only had about half an hour until the bus was due, we were still really high up and there was not a bus stop in sight.
We started to jog a little, following the hair pin bends down towards the town. We carried on jogging, then maybe even broke into a little run. Still no houses, bus stops or any other traffic on the road.
Time was ticking on but we were making good progress and with about five minutes to go we were on the edge of town. No sign of any bus stops but surely it would stop anyway?
Suddenly a bus pulled out of a side street about 100 metres ahead of us and drove down the road. I sprinted along after it, maniacally waving my arms over my head and jumping up and down - where is my stunt double when I need them?
It turned a corner and was out of my sight, but Daz was ahead of me and still chasing. It stopped - hurrah - and it turns out that was not the right bus!
I collapsed onto the pavement to get my breath back and the right bus turned up about ten minutes later.
Good outing, albeit with a bit of unnecessary drama!

Sunday 13 December 2015

Waves and a washout day

The forecast was for rain later today, so we went out early before the deluge began.
The waves were enormous and crashed into the harbour walls all the way along the sea front. Fortunately, it wasn't cold at all, so we sat outside enjoying the salty air and a hot coffee.
We made it back to our hotel - pic 1 - before the rain started and are now sheltering in our room as horizontal rain blasts past the balcony.
It's a good afternoon to stay indoors, play ping pong and pool, and catch up on Strictly.

Saturday 12 December 2015

Ponta do Pargo clifftops

On the bus again today to the most western point of Madeira, at the little town of Ponta do Pargo. It only took 40 minutes to get there on the crazy country roads, but when we arrived it was blowing a gale and was much colder than at our seaside hotel.
We set off towards the cliffs and to a path that I had read about on the Internet. We found it, walked for a few metres and then it just headed straight over the cliff edge! 
My fear grew enormously as I looked down at Darren who was a bit ahead of me. We were 350 metres above sea level, the cliff was almost vertical and we could see straight down to the seashore below us.
Darren was keen to try to walk the path, and I followed him downwards for a few minutes. I then made the mistake of looking back to take a photo of the route that we had just walked - number two - and scared myself half to death.
We carried on down some stone steps, although they were quite steep, but the handrail calmed me down nicely. Unfortunately, I then looked ahead and could see that the next section had no handrail, but just snaked down into the distance.
At this point I whimped out and I retraced my steps, all the while walking in a strange loping way as I tried not to crawl on all fours.  I am a bit mad with myself now, and I am sure that I could have done better if the wind had been a lot calmer. Well, that's my excuse anyway!
Afterwards we walked to the lighthouse at the very end of the island and had a little picnic while we enjoyed the view. Ps, is there anyone out there who could volunteer as my occasional stunt double?

Friday 11 December 2015

Levadas at Ponta do Sol

Out and about on the early bus today. It was only five miles as the crow flies to Ponta do Sol, but we endured a bus ride of over an hour to get there. One minute at sea level, a few minutes later hundreds of metres above it, but all the while twisting and turning, with amazing drops on either side.
We stopped frequently, mainly to pick up smiling old ladies who all had a chat and laugh with the driver. Just as I was starting to feel pretty ill, he announced that we had arrived, so we eagerly disembarked. Phew!
We then found out that the start of our walk was at least a couple of hundred vertical metres above the bus stop, so we set off marching upwards, past beautiful houses with flower filled gardens and patios.
Finally, we were ready to begin our walk.
We set off along the Levada Moinho which was recommended on the Walk Madeira website. It was lovely and we were soon out in the countryside following the levada as it made it's way up the mountain. It was a little bit 'safe' though and Darren in particular enjoys a bit of danger built into his walks.
Fortunately, we had the choice of returning via the Levada Nova, although there was warnings about precipitous drops and for any vertigo sufferers to stay away.
It was higher up the mountain than the Levada Moinho and we climbed a long staircase up to it. The difference was immediate, with no handrail for most of the route, except for the very scariest sections.
Suddenly we turned a corner and were walking in a cave carved out of the rock. It went behind a thundering waterfall and then around to the entrance to a tunnel.
It was very pleasing to see a light at the end of it, and we walked closely together through it, using the light from Darren's phone.
At the other side it was more of the same, although it is difficult to show how steep it was on my photos. In picture six we set off a path towards the bottom of the photo, but returned above the white village on the right.
Unfortunately, all too soon it was over and we headed back downhill, ending up in the beautiful little town of Ponta do Sol.  I bought a well deserved an ice cream and sat beside the harbour enjoying the sunshine and the view.

Thursday 10 December 2015

High tide at Jardim do Mar

We were planning on taking it easy today so decided on a flat and short walk by the seaside.
We caught the bus to Jardim do Mar which is the lovely little village featured from high above in photo one in Tuesday's blog.
Today we walked along the promenade and saw our destination of Paul do Mar in the distance. We were surprised to find that the path that we saw on our map didn't appear to exist, but we set off along the beach anyway.
After a few hundred metres we came across a guy with an eisel painting the view, and he said that the path was actually the beach, and it was passable at low tide.
We carried on, and the view back to Jardim was beautiful - pic 3. The rocks got bigger and we carried on clambering over them, although I am not sure that Daz was using the most efficient route.
Finally, we reached a section where there was no beach at all, although in between the waves we could see that the water wasn't very deep.
We decided to be patient and sit and sunbath for a while, all the time watching to see if we could run between waves - pic 5. At first I was certain that the tide was going out, but then there was a group of really big waves that looked terrifying.
In the end we gave up and walked back the way we came, which is always a big disappointment.
Back at the hotel I looked up the tide timetable and we were at stuck at the cliffs at exactly high tide, so we couldn't have timed it worse.
The good news is that it means that we will have to go back again next week when the tide is out.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Sugar cane factory visit

Today we visited the local sugar cane factory museum, as we passed by it a couple of days ago and the smell from it was just heavenly. It smelt like a beautiful cake baking in an oven and we were drawn back to find out more.
A very friendly guide told us that they only harvest the sugar cane in April and May and the rest of the year they make interesting products from the juice.
There was huge machines scattered around the building, together with lots of Christmas decorations and smiling Santas.
I was pleased to see that most of the machinery was made in England in 1887 by the amazingly named Mr A W Death.
Moving on to the tasting room we paid €1.30 each for a piece of Madeira cake (obviously), a lovely ginger biscuit and a good sized slug of sugar cane rum.
Darren had the 50% proof version while I whimped out and had a 25% rum and sugar cane concoction. Mine was very tasty but Darren's was pure firewater. Top ups were 60 cents each but we wisely resisted.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Hike from Jardim de Mar

There is one local bus per day from outside our hotel and we caught it as far as Jardim de Mar. It started off very surprisingly as for the three miles or so it drove in the opposite direction to where we were going. It wound around the crazily steep hills, picking up people from the most unlikely looking places. Take a quick look at the black line in pic 3.
Eventually it stopped at the entrance to a long tunnel. We were the only people to get off and we walked into the little village of Jardim de Mar. It is half surrounded by the sea and we could see the big waves crashing onto the shore as we marched uphill following a little track.
Our path took us up about 500 vertical metres to a small picturesque town and the place where we joined a levada. The levadas are waterways that transport precious water from the top of the hills all around the island. They are very pretty things to walk alongside and it was nice to be walking somewhere flat.
Finally we decided that we needed to start heading downhill again and with Daz shouting directions from his Smartwatch, we raced down the tracks. It was so steep that it was impossible to walk so we chugged down taking thousands of tiny steps, but sounding like charging elephants.
Fairly quickly we got back down to sea level and the welcome sight of our hotel.
It is difficult to see on the map, but we walked the red route. It was about 18kms in total and a 30,000+ step day.