In the week before the carnival in Funchal the broad boulevard beside our apartment turned into a riotous mass of swirling shapes and colour. Madeira was in party mood.
Bright awnings pierced with shapes were slung between trees. Beneath these, numerous stalls sold poncha, a favourite local brew made with aguardente de cana, alcohol distilled from sugar cane juice. Sugar cane used to grow in abundance on the island, but these days bananas and grapes seem the main crop. Other ingredients of poncha are honey, sugar, lemon rind and fruit juice which varies according to the version of poncha. Traditionally lemon juice is used.
And attracting crowds were bands, most dressed up for the occasion, all playing sambas with gusto.
When no bands were around, samba music played from loud speakers hidden in the trees.
Whenever music played you could watch groups of people dancing or just swaying to the rhythm, a dreamy smile on their faces. Such a wonderful atmosphere, too – relaxed yet joyous, people enjoying themselves.
In the small Municipal Park entered from the boulevard more entertainment could be found at the open air amphitheatre where community groups gathered in their gladrags.
So many clowns, presumably all from one organisation. No idea what a group of so many might be called, but a chuckle of clowns seems appropriate.
As we didn’t realize all this entertainment would be on when we booked our break, it was truly an added bonus to the scenery, the sunshine and the friendliness of the Madeirans.
And in the evenings when the street-partying was over for the day, we were left with the lights strung through the trees reflecting in windows and on the designs of the limestone-cobbled pavements.