Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Madeira 2011, part two, Funchal & the floods

Tuesday, and we woke to a fiery dawn sunrise. The sun came up just left of the Desertas islands every morning. It was a wonderful way to start the day. I loved to just sit on the patio with a coffee, and watch this spectacle happen!

We decided to make today a touring Funchal day, as we love the back streets and alleyways. The further away from the front we got, the more evidence of the horrendous floods from 2009 we saw. You can see just how deep the flood channels are here, but they were overwhelmed and the top barriers broken. There are concrete slabs there now as a stop-gap.

There were huge rocks, parts of houses, cars etc etc all washed down these gullies.
Benign now, but a monster during the floods.

All that's left of the beautiful display of bougainvillea. To see how it DID look, click here;

The streets and pavement cafes had been recovered well, and to look at this peaceful scene, you wouldn't guess the horrors that had gone on here just a year ago.

The tops didn't look at ALL inviting today, shrouded in clouds, but we decided to go up there anyway.

Don't you just LOVE this - the cable car support goes right into that cafe!

Iconic view back from the car. The weather looks nice (if you looked backwards)

One of Funchals newer houses, what a glorious spot (if you don't mind cable cars passing your window every few minutes)

And yet, side by side with the opulent, this sort of house was evident.

The new road system.

There is another cable car that goes to the botanical gardens. You can just see one of the gondolas here, if you look carefully.

Again, here we saw a lot of damage. Amazingly, this house didn't get washed over the edge. They really will build just ANYWHERE on these hills. Not a good place for sleepwalkers!

They still retain their sense of humour though. Can you see the dummy sitting on the patio? (Next to the cement mixer)

The colours in some of the flowers were just amazing.

After our little trip to the clouds, we came back down to sunshine, and one of our favourite watering holes 'O Tapassol' near the cable car lower station. This is one of the friendliest places in town, and the food is good too.

The balloons etc are all to do with the carnival. Tomorrow was the last day, and the big parade, so we were really looking forward to seeing it. EVERYONE and EVERY business got into the swing, with decorations, masks, streamers etc etc. It really was a community thing.

The O Tapassol sardines are just SOOOOOOOO good!

They decided that Sue should get into the spirit of the carnival, and here she is.

Look, I don't know WHY I got the 'sad mask'!

I was FAR from sad, and we enjoyed the sunshine and warm temperatures as we finished our drink, then wended our way back to the hotel. On the way, we were to see Funchals answer to the flood detritus that was washed down. More of that in part three.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Madeira 2011, part one, getting into relaxation mode!

After narrowly avoiding the floods last year; ( )
by opting to go to the Isle of Arran instead, we decided to go back to Madeira again this year. There's a web cam there called 'people cam', and it's one that you can stand in front of and pose for the poor folks shivering back home. Last time we tried to do it, there was a malfunction, so it didn't work. This time it was fine, and that's Sue (pretty in pink) and me ('riding' the statue in the pool). Some folk never grow up!
You can see this camera here;

Anyway, to backtrack a little, we had PERFECT flying times really. We had to be at Manchester at 6:00am, which meant no rush hour driving. We decided to use a different parking service, as last times service had hiked prices. The one we used was 'value parking', and it certainly 'did what it said on the tin'. I have to say, the driver was very chirpy and amusing, but the 'mode of transport' was, shall we say, 'a bit rough'!
I'd still use them again though, as they were VERY cheap.
Last time, we had clear skies, and could see cruise ships in the Bay of Biscay, but this time almost ALL the way was shrouded in thick cloud below.

We were looking forward to the view of the 'runway on stilts', but as we approached the coast of Madeira, it was obvious that we were going to land from the opposite direction to last time. If not, it was going to be a BLO**Y tight turn!!!!

Now we knew for sure, as we passed this small spit of land off the S/E end of Madeira.

We flew past Machico, and made our final descent.

In no time at all, we were bathed in sunshine and looking out over Funchal from our perfectly positioned room. We'd asked for the same hotel, and the same room, if possible, as last time. We got an even better one, on a higher floor, with this great view over the city.

That big pink block is Reid's palace, where Sir Winston Churchill (amongst others) used to stay.

But we were more than happy with this.

The cruise ships were queuing up in the harbour.

The sea was twinkling with sunlight, and had a little action in it. We decided a walk along the front was in order. Usually, we'd head for the prom', but today we went North instead.

As usual on Madeira, flowers abounded as we walked along the road.

I just LOVE this regimented plantation of palms. I don't usually like trees in a pattern, but somehow these look right.

We saw this perfect English rose, at its most perfect as we passed.

THIS was what Susie was yearning for - a bit of sun on her back (or. front, as the case may be).

Me too, and on the patio of 'the Paradise' bar, that's exactly what it felt like.

We did all the 'must do' things (shopping, getting bus tickets, etc) and went back to the hotel to this peaceful, but cloudy, view over Funchal. We went out, but took the umbrellas (just in case). It was a good move, as it was very showery as we walked, but still warm.

The Funchal prom' at night - that mosaic paving just blows us away.

With the lights, a super stroll in anyone's book.

Even the side streets were lit with cheerful strings of light.

Later, there was a DVD show at the hotel on all parts of the island. As we had planned to go further afield this trip, we thought it would be a good show. We got back to the hotel at 8:30, and shortly after, the rain POUNDED on the roof - we were SO glad we weren't out in it!

Later, just before we retired, it looked a lot calmer. Goodnight, Funchal.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

......out like a lamb!

We started our walk today in one of Derbyshire's oldest villages, Winster. It was very big during the lead mining era, and used to have a superb seat decorated with lumps of lead. Of course, these didn't last long before they were stolen. This is a photo of just one of many very old date plaques on houses and cottages in the village. You can read up more, and see other pictures by clicking here;
This is Winster's biggest claim to fame, the market house. It's now an information point, but it still 'looks the part', standing as it does on the main corner of the village.
A REAL rarity these days, a village shop! Once upon a time, all the villages had their shop, but due to improved personal transport, etc etc, most now have nothing.
Evidence of a much older business in Winster.
Winster hall, once a public house, and I've eaten and drank there, now a private residence.
A delightful path, passing between the cottages.
Celandine were beginning to peep through in the more sheltered places. I had decided, as the weather was so good, today would see the unveiling of the shorts! Sue was a little more cautious, deciding to stay in trousers until maybe a few weeks later.
This stile has a nice 'boot pass' hacked out of the natural stone.
The ubiquitous daffodils were making an appearance too.
Every year I just LOVE to see them bloom. Sue & I SO look forward to the different species taking their turn. Bluebells are my special favourite, but Daff's and early purple orchids are a close second.
One of our goelas today - Robin Hoods Stride. That's one HELL of a stride for anyone (mind you, he WAS a legend).
This is a small carving of the crucifixion in the 'Hermits cave' on Cratcliffe tor. Again, there was some sort of statue, possibly the Madonna, in a little alcove, but this had gone too. No doubt stolen.
The outside of the cave. The bars didn't prevent the theft of the Madonna though.
No wonder climbers love these rocks. Cratcliffe offers some very great challenges.
This 'chimney' would take a strong climber to conquer it!
The view as we topped the climb to Robin hoods stride. You can just see a stone circle in the fields. We were going to visit that later.
But for now, we climbed up onto the towers of the Stride.
Pass me that Union Jack, Sue.
Those striations in the top of the rocks are caused by weathering. They are very pronounced, and the last time I saw some as good was on the standing stones at Machrie on the isle of Arran. You can see them here;
I wonder if this date was genuine?
After messing about on the stride, we decided to press on and take a look at the standing stones close by. I know no history of these - how old, who did them, or why they are there. If anyone DOES have any info', please feel free to leave a comment on this blog.
The sun was in and out as it played with the clouds. As we walked along a lane just beyond here, a hare ran out RIGHT in front of us. He was confused at first, but then cleared a wall and took off over the fields at a VERY impressive pace - we were amazed at the sudden burst of speed it produced!
We topped Harthill moor to get this stunning view of Youlgreave, ahead of us. We weren't going into the village today, but instead turned left towards the outskirts of Elton.
Shortly afterwards, we sat with our backs to a stone wall and ate our lunch. The sun was strong, and belied the fact it was only March. Out like a lamb indeed, as we sat, bathed in what felt like a June sun. After lunch, we got up to progress, and Sue amazingly spotted this deer in a wood to our left. Talk about 'Hawkeye'! I would NEVER have seen it He watched us for a while, and we watched him, until, deciding we were no threat, he wandered off.
A fabulous day today for both walking and photography. The views all around were just terrific.
A fine example of a set of stone troughs, just outside the village of Elton.
There must have been a LOT of passing animal traffic in the day, to warrant building this big set of troughs. As you can see, they are made so one drains into the next.
There was a boulder in the way of the waller here, so what did he do?
We reached the end of Gratton dale, where we saw this very unloved red phone box.
Gratton dale on, what felt like, a Summers day - beautiful!

We saw several pairs of buzzards today, this was one of them, wheeling high above us.
Sue makes her way up the rocky dale.
Today was a real day of 'ticks'! We saw deer, hares, skylarks (Sue's favourite call), Lapwing, Curlew (my own favourite), buzzard and even heard a woodpecker. Here's a skylark, sitting on a post.
Lapwings, with their call of; 'PEE-WIT....PEEEEEE-WIT' (which gives them their other name - the Pee-wit).

Not to be outdone on this bird-calling day, this fine cockerel was giving it his all.
And the little lambs were growing in numbers, the weather suiting them perfectly.
We made our way along Longedge, towards Aldwark as the sun began to set over the horizon. I wasn't worried about time though, as we still had plenty of light to finish the walk.

A fine end to a wonderful spring day.