A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Portugal - Page 2

While on the island of Madeira, we took a couple of tours, and also did our own mini-tour one day. There is a Gondola ride that takes you from downtown Funchal to a the town of Monte which is at the top of the hill. The ride is quite incredible - you can see how big Funchal is and some of their road systems. According to our driver, Portugal was quite poor and not too well maintained when they joined the European Union in the 1980's. But since then they have been able to build roads, tunnels, train tracks, airports, etc. and their infrastructure has vastly improved. Of course, he went on to tell us all the BAD things about joining the EU, too!

Monte is an interesting town. Lovely church at the highest point, and winding hilly streets. "Back in the day" (as my kids would say), one of the means of transportation through town was wicker baskets that were pulled by men in white outfits wearing straw hats. While that is no longer for transportation, it is now quite a tourist attraction. When we got there, the basket pullers ( I'm sure they have a more formal name) didn't have much business. So they while away their time playing cards and waiting for suckers - I mean customers. Their straw hats are safely stowed in the front of the store. Finally we saw someone pay for a ride and watched them being pulled down the hill.

Then it was our turn. You can see how thrilled Ed was about the whole thing. Actually, he did enjoy it, but this photo was too good not to use.

Next stop on our tour was Camara de Lobos which is a little fishing village where Winston Churchill often stayed and painted the bay with all it's boats. It was a lovely little town. The fisherman were done with their morning runs and were killing time until the tide was back in - or out, whatever. It seems like the men in Portugal spend a lot of time during the day playing cards and hanging out waiting for customers or fish.

By the way, this fish is the black scabbard (espada) that we ate almost daily. It looks awful, but tastes wonderful.

The country side in Madeira is beautiful. Hills covered with white houses, everything is green, and there are banana trees all around. Apparently, prior to joining the EU Madeira exported 90,000 pounds (or maybe tons?) of bananas annually. Now they're down to a couple of thousand. So many of the banana fields have been converted to other uses. But those that still exist are terraced and you could see bunches of green bananas hanging everywhere. Very cool.

Also, it appears that livestock pretty much have the run of the place. One day it was cows crossing the street in front of us, the next day it was sheep.

And, of course, there are the traditional things. The women in traditional dress sailing incredible flowers. And the statues dedicated to the women who embroider. Embroidery is something all young girls learn and it is one of the main exports of Portugal. Although, the women are no longer permitted to set up booths on the streets where they used to do their embroidery and sell it to tourists. Now it all needs to be sold in licensed shops. But it is beautiful.

On a closing note today, I leave you with one of the street signs that sort of cracked me up. Apparently there are several old people trying to cross the street and they want to keep them safe. Not a bad idea, I must say.


It's Me said...

Wow.....the basket pullers playing cards is very interesting. I love the pic of ed and u in the basket.
Ed: "Oh, lovely...this is fun!"
Ha ha! I would love to basket ride, but I'm afraid my big ass would tear a hole in the straw as 10 men strained to pull me a few feet!! ah ah! LOL

Jenni said...

The picture of the basket-pullers playing cards is great! And that last sign made me laugh. :)

Anonymous said...

That basket ride seems so funny. It's like what we used to do as kids. Pulling each other around in wooden crates or going "sled riding" down a dried grass slope in the heat of summer. Actually, lots of fun! LOL

namaste said...

i guess i'll have to take your word for it about the fish. doesn't look tasty, looks fishy. ;)

cute pic of you and ed in the basket ride.

i would be terrified of that trolly in the sky.

so with all those cows and sheep hogging the road, were there any smells disrupting the fresh outdoor air? just curious.


ba and the boys said...

beautiful doesnt even describe this place!
the best is the old people crossing sign! im so getting me one of those!

Fleur de Lisa said...

I love that you rode around in a wicker basket!

That fish is scary. Makes me not want to eat fish. :)

That picture of the signs cracks me up!

Luz said...

Just getting caught up in reading your blog posts about Portugal. Seems like a wonderful place. Love the sign about the "elderly crossing". Enjoyed viewing all the photos. While I enjoyed my travel to Europe back in the early 80's I too was sooo glad to be back home in the good US of A.