A word of caution - driving in Madeira is not for the inexperienced bravehearts. Roads shoot down and creep up at more than 15 degrees. Pedestrian crossings appear at the feet or at the very top of the climb, just behind the corner of a 360° turn, at the exit of the Rapida... And the patience of the local cab drivers wears off in the split second the lights turn green. The 10 minutes it took me to move the car to the hotel's parking turned into the most hair-raising driving experience in my life.&
But the quickened heart rate did not settle at the locking of the car. There was Teleférico do Funchal - a cable car that starts its journey at the sea front and reaches the top of the mountain. They call it "a journey between heaven and earth", a beautifully fitting name. While the sun bathed the shore, the upper part of Funchal was wrapped in a shawl of clouds the colour of cigar smoke in a cinematographic gents club.
If you are affraid of hights this experience isn't for you. If you are sort of affraid of hights then definitely go for it. The car moves gently uphill above the red terracotta tiles of delapidated houses and small mansions. Breathtaking vistas surround the sky cabin from every angle and if the first leg is not enough for you you can get a second cable car to the botanical gardens.
We chose the other option - a tour around the Tropical gardens right at the exit of the lift. This place must be gorgeous later in the year when the flowers have bloomed and dressed the garden in splatters of colour. Now it felt more like a jungle-humid and lucious green. It ran up and down the hill wih various installations along the paths: quaint bridges and ponds with Koi fish, African sculptures, minerals exhibition, a tile mosaic with the history of Portugal. The gem of the garden was the Monte Palace and its own garden with crane sculptures and waterfalls. Sadly the building was closed but even without a tour inside we spent good 3 hours pacing around.
Before the sun set we had a couple of hours to explore the old town, its windy streets and fish restaurants. Murals covered every single door in one quarter of town, Fado signs called tourists to visit the local venues but generally the town felt emptly. Most buildings had their shutters closed and on a close inspection the buildings downtown did not have their lights on. Yet upon passing by the church in the centre swarms of well dressed people came from the inside. Maybe that's just what Sunday rest looks like...