Newsletter April 2008

by: Carol Carpenter

Our trip to Madeira at the end of February was wonderful and one of the most stunning places we have ever visited. As soon as you get off the plane you can smell the flowers. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and although we were a little early for most of the flowers, the plants that were in bloom were beautiful. As this was only a short five-day visit we choose to stay in Funchal at the “ Monumental Lido” situated in an ideal position close to the city centre. The hotel was very comfortable with good - sized rooms, inside and outside pools, gymnasium and health and beauty salon. We had a great room overlooking the pool area with a beautiful sea view. The one thing that let it down though, was the restaurant. The buffet breakfast was adequate with plenty of fruit, pastries, yogurts etc, along with the usual cooked breakfast, but the evening meal was very poor. It was such a shame as the restaurant was a good size, L shaped in design which could have been split in half to provide a section for a’la Carte for those of us who are not lovers of “buffet style” evening meals. There were numerous restaurants around the area so this was not a problem, but it would have been nice to dine at the hotel some evenings, especially after touring around all day. However we did find a brilliant Sushi bar just above the hotel, all you could eat for 10 euros, with a never- ending variety of sushi making it’s way along the belt, absolutely delicious and extremely filling.

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The name Funchal derives from the sweet-smelling herb Foeniculum vulgare, commonly known to us as fennel or (funcho in Portuguese) this herb was found growing profusely in the wild when the island was first settled.
The city is surrounded by mountainous slopes, which are covered in vegetation. The cultivation of the banana and other tropical fruits, custard apple and papaya are of great importance to the island and the whole of the south coast are major banana growing areas.
Today’s visitors will find Funchal a well-planned, modern and safe city, with interesting parks and public gardens. The city relies heavily on tourism and understands how to treat its visitors, we found the Funchalenses to be warm and friendly.

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This trip was to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and also Roy’s birthday (I’m not allowed to mention how old) and we each chose things to do on our special day. Obviously we had to take the “Monte” cable car to the top, this we both agreed on. The views from here were fantastic. On reaching the top I chose to visit the “Botanical gardens” and Roy agreed, but only if I agreed to going down the mountain on the “Monte basket carriages” “Of course” I said, “It should be fun.” These carriages are made of a wicker chair with upholstered seat and back. They can take two or three passengers. Underneath the wicker chair there are two wooden sticks, like skis, which enable it to slide down the pathways. They are controlled by ropes held in the strong, capable hands and arms of two “carreiros” who stand for most of the trip on a wooden platform behind the chair. The only way to stop or slow the chair down is with their rubber boots. An exhilarating experience, the lack of protection from the front as we hurtled down the pathway whilst trying to avoid not only the road works, but also the traffic going across our path, started my screaming which continued all the way down. At the bottom we were presented with a photograph which I am sure they could have taken it before the screaming had started, as I looked as if I had been plugged into an electric chair, hair standing on end, mouth wide open with no teeth in sight, terrific- great souvenir !! We laughed so much when we saw it and were almost knocked down by an oncoming taxi. Once bitten twice shy, as they say, never again !!. Nevertheless we had a really great time in Madeira and are looking forward to returning in the not to distant future, when hopefully we will be able to join a few of the famous Levada walks.

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March has been a very busy month for us. Lawn bowls has taken a lot of our time and we have entered a few competitions, but alas we never actually won any. The closest I got was the pairs semi-final, we lost, but it was fun and a great way to improve your game.
We were also invited to a “Theatre Dinner” evening at the Raj Indian restaurant, adjacent to The Garbe Hotel in Armacao de Pera. We had a brilliant evening and enjoyed a three course Indian meal, with wine, water or soft drinks and coffee. Shortly after the dinner the play commences. The production company was Benef*actors and the play, was called “Love Sex and Other Disasters” it consisted of four short comedy play lets.They were absolutely brilliant, very well acted and extremely funny. These” Theatre Evenings” costs 30 euros and anyone wanting more details can Tel 282320260 or email
The St Patrick’s Society Party at the Villa Petra Hotel, Montechoro was a resounding success again. We will be able to donate 2000 euros to our chosen charities – Castelo dos Sonhos and Pirilampos Children’s home.
Sorry if you missed it- it was a great evening!! Maybe you will be able to join in the fun next year. Unfortunately due to personal commitments on my part and Roy’s working commitments, we were unable to attend the celebrations in Carvoeiro this year. I have been informed though, that Dirty Nelly’s was full, with everyone enjoying themselves into the early hours. We also missed the delicious Irish stew that Eilis is famous for. At least the Scot in the kilt was saved from the camera this year; I bet he wore pants this time !!
I have discovered a new café situated behind the Lagoa Auditorium. It is called “Chill Inside” they serve a really good Prato do dia costing 6.50 euros and have delicious cakes and pastries, its well worth a visit.

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There is a new patisserie and chocolaterie opening in Carvoeiro. Dutch resident Jack Breedveld, a professional pastry chef and chocolatier donated three chocolate rabbits for an Easter competition. I have not yet found out where in Carvoeiro but I will keep you informed.
The local Plus store in Lagoa is changing to Pingo Doce and the new Modelo is to become Max-Mart so I’m told. I much prefer Modelo to Intermarche and do we really need a Max-Mart? At long last the Lagoa camara has revealed that Carvoeiro square is to be renovated at a cost of 700,000 euros. The centre has experienced parking problems and the main alterations are aimed at improving traffic and parking. The existing parking lot next to the beach, with 40 spaces, is going to be closed with a new one opening close to the Algar Seco road for 80 vehicles. The two roads that lead to the beach, Pescadores and Barranco, will still be open, but with restricted traffic as there will be no parking areas nearby. Drivers are advised to take alternative routes to travel to different parts of the town. Apparently the main purpose of the renovations is to create a more social, tranquil and inviting area for residents and tourists.
Thanks Jan and Mark for a superb evening celebrating your 1st anniversary. An excellent buffet was provided along with champagne and wine and we all had a great evening. The restaurant was full to capacity and among the guests were Graham and Galia from the Irish times, Linda and Nigel (Klonakilty) with their partners and Sandy and Gordon (Rampage) who were on a short visit from Miri in Borneo. Jan and Mark never stopped working all night making sure the drinks flowed and replenishing the buffet table. Later in the evening they were presented with a huge chocolate cake.

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Joao from the Algar Seco Bistro has now taken over the Estrala do Mar. If you follow signs for Bubbles Bar the restaurant is on the corner. We found him in good spirits the other night although he has not been very busy. The restaurant is a good size and has two terraces one which looks over the swimming pool. The menu is the similar to before but with a few additions. We enjoyed a very nice meal there last Saturday and he was very pleased to see us. Roy has negotiated a 10% discount for anyone wearing a CVO badge which you can buy from the Ice Cream Parlour. The proceeds are all donated to charity.

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There is a new snack bar “ Ponto Encontro” at the beginning of Arieos dos Moinhos. Situated by the reception area. Locals are concerned as the sign for Areios dos Moinhos has been replaced with the name of the restaurant. Some of the residents there are quite elderly and are worried in case the emergency services, if needed cannot find them. Hopefully there will be a new sign in the not too distant future.
Nothing else to report on Carvoeiro at the moment, driving through the village this morning it was all very peaceful at 9.30am. But even at this early hour I still could not park the car.
We have had a little hiccup with the photos once again and unfortunately have lost a lot of the Madeira photos. Luckily a friend of ours was able to supply some shots of the Island. I have also included some photos we missed in the last newsletter, those of the new charity shop in Carvoeiro and also Geraldine of Smilers bar as she hosted a quiz for our Canadian visitors, joined by Jan and Mark as they enjoyed their day off.

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I cannot really believe that its April already - time is certainly flying. We are off next week to join Sharen and Michael Crane on a Med Cruise with an all-inclusive drinks package. It should be a hoot and I will let you have all the details in next months newsletter.