Long time since I’ve posted. Time has run away and left me trying to keep up, though difficult to pin down exactly what has kept me so busy.
But a holiday to escape the worst of the winter and a sleety, cold and miserable Easter Sunday has provided a window for another blog piece.
Our recent trip was booked on a whim. Forecasters warned of another cold spell bringing significant snow. Perhaps it was the cheerful display of snowdrops that had raised our hopes of spring, or perhaps it was just that winter had seemed to drag out its dark, gloomy, wet, snowy and cold months, and we desperately felt the need for some sun and warmth And bright colours.
So one week we booked cheap flights and accommodation, and the next we flew off to Madeira early on the day the snow was to descend.
We hadn’t got out first choice of apartment hotel, but what was offered looked pretty spectacular when we arrived on a warm, sunny afternoon. Our apartment was in a stunning location in a circular building on the rocks by the Atlantic. With its floor level windows looking out over the churning water it seemed as if we were in the bow cabin of a liner. Even the front of the balcony was glass, so no interruption to our sea view even when sitting.
First things first, and we made coffee and sat drinking it on the balcony taking in the view. Then across to the nearby supermarket to stock up on food and wine, grateful we hadn’t far to lug it along with the occasional bottle of Madeira – after all, when in Rome…
The following day was very breezy, with the sea churning and waves battering and booming against the rocks, but we went exploring along the coastal path, past shops, restaurants, the Lido, hotels, and more hotels under construction.
From our apartment we had noticed a helicopter flying back and forth along the coast, and on our walk we noticed it had been joined by a boat, a lifeboat, and a couple of smaller boats tossed like litter on the water. This continued all day and the following day. We concluded someone must have been swept from the shore and this was a search for them. Various paths close to the water as well as the hotel swimming pool were closed off. Being too close to the force of the waves obviously was not recommended. But from our eyrie we watched mesmerised.
We had come in search of sun but for the next ten days or so we had storms. The wind soughed through the windows making a loud eerie whistling noise: the rain battered the glass and found its way through between it and the window frames soaking the carpet in the dining area; and the boom of the sea against the rocks reverberated through the whole building.
Luckily we had brought books to read and a small library of books left by previous visitors was available. So that, trips to the supermarket, and attendance at a cocktail party organised by the management was how we spent our time. And the spacious apartment meant we didn’t feel hemmed in.
On my birthday a card and a bottle of sparkling wine was delivered. We decided to keep it till we could enjoy it on the balcony.
On one reasonable, though still windy day, we climbed the hill to the bus stop and went into the centre of Funchal. My husband had bought me a bunch or orchids for my birthday but had promised to buy me some jewellery in a little shop where I usually bought something when here. Today didn’t disappoint and I selected an unusual necklace. Outside we sat at a table and ordered coffee and some Madeiran cakes whilst watching people coming and going beneath the trees, window-shopping, and exploring. This time last year we had revelled in the Carnival, but this year that had been earlier – just as well given the weather for the participants would have been frozen and wind-battered.
Then at last the clouds broke and we glimpsed the sun. Determined to make the most of our time we sat on the balcony, huddled into jackets, clutching our books in case they blew away. As well as reading we watched from our bird’s eye view activity around the swimming pool. First a guy wearing a wetsuit and with scuba gear dived to the bottom and pulled up sticks and bits of rubbish that had been swept in by wind and waves. Then the pool was emptied, leaving inches of silt on the base.
With plastic shovels a couple of guys painstakingly shovelled the silt into a bucket that was carted to a guy on the edge who dumped the sludge into a wheelbarrow. When full he trundled it to the edge of the paving and dumped it over the edge onto the rocks.
Cleaning came next. With a brush attachment to a hose he inched his way around the pool, scrubbing and sloshing, spraying with cleaner and scrubbing and sloshing again. Eventually the pool was refilled, but for days after sand would appear from inlets, forming floral patterns in the water. So out came the pool cleaner and sucked up the offending dirt. Meanwhile sun beds had appeared and hardy humans stripped off, even ventured into the pool that must have been freezing.
Over the next few days, the weather became warmer, and eventually as we were about to leave, the wind dropped and we briefly experienced the sun and warmth we had come for.