Friday, 9 January 2009

Through the wardrobe - Fireworks and Fried Limpets



A glass of Madeira, m'dear?



When Columbus was asked to describe Madeira, he tore a page from his journal, crunched it up and flicked it onto the table. It was the perfect depiction of an island where tall peaks crumple into deep crevices and where tiny towns and villages full of whitewashed houses bask in the sun in deep verdant valleys and provide gentle contrast to the dramatically sheer coastal cliffs that plunge spectacularly into a sea of deep blue silk.




Mist smudged peaks and verdant valleys



Madeira is a dream of Eden; a place where fairytales surely come true. (I’m pretty certain I saw a smiling polka-dotted dragon and Eeyore looking happy, oh and Aslan, the lion from Narnia…….) The warm air, fragrant with eucalyptus and pine, is heady and pure. Wild flowers spill over every hillside and valley. Vivid blue Agapanthus and wild hydrangeas line the roads that wind dizzyingly up into mist smudged peaks. There are strelitzias, those floral birds of paradise, poised haughtily on slender stems and red hot pokers compete with waxy white camellias as tall as oaks. Wild lilies, exotic orchids and nasturtiums cascade down mountain sides and swathes of glowing orange succulents crawl over walls and roofs like a living net.


Luminosity


The interior is awesome – in the most literal sense of the word. As you wind higher and higher the spiraling peaks rise through ribbons of mist above the valleys, crystalline streams and cascading waterfalls. The thickly wooded slopes that gave the place its name: Ilha da Madeira (island of wood), rush to meet the darkly glowing basalt cliffs and then plunge in a dramatic dive to the diamond- glitter ocean below.


Do you believe in fairies?



Look closely.


You can climb the towering peaks and watch buzzards riding the thermals or walk a levada, the old irrigation channels that snake their way round the entire island. Cut by slaves imported by the Portuguese from their former colonies in Africa; these men were sometimes suspended by ropes from baskets to hack ledges across the steepest cliffs. The levadas are extraordinary feats of engineering, each cut at just the right gradient to allow a steady flow of water and often bored through solid rock to form long tunnels.

a one.....




a two....



a... three!
Lavada, anyone?


One of the most endearing things about Madeira, in this age of mass tourism and the resultant Disneyesque feel to ‘places of interest’, is that it is a real life, living, breathing working island. There are shops selling hardware and fishing tackle, groceries devoted to dried salt cod and olives, cafes and bars in back streets where few foreigners penetrate, and a covered fruit, flower and vegetable market where stalls are heaped with shiny peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, jewel-like berries, a dozen varieties of fruit and tropical flowers so fresh that the dew has barely dried on the petals.




Dew drop fruit and flowers, crisply cropped veggies, dried herbs and spices...




....and fish so fresh it's still swimming.


Many of the bustling little coastal towns have promenades of Edwardian prettiness, lined with old Portuguese houses: pale stucco, dark wood and decorative carved windows. Sit for a while at a pavement café and delight in the slow pace of life while sipping a frosty glass of VinoVerde, accompanied by a small pan of fried limpets cooked with oodles of garlic and drizzled with delicious, unfiltered olive oil.



mmmm...is dat my limpets, lady?


New Year, new growth - Madeira style.

We spent New Year’s Eve having ‘lupper’ (combination lunch and supper in armadillo language) at our favourite restaurant, O Vergillo in Sao Vincente. It was a balmy evening so we sat outside on the verandah and watched the sunset surfers catching long, lugubriously rolling waves as we feasted on grilled calamari and lemony rice, delectably fresh seared tuna and a pudding of passion fruit soufflé that had quite obviously been made by an angel. Every now and again our laughter-fuelled conversation would be interrupted by an almighty BANG. We’d all levitate simultaneously and then settle back in our rattan chairs to raise our glasses as the echo rumbled down through the valley. Gradually the cicada song would swell again until someone, somewhere on that island of magic let off another gunpowder-filled firecracker.




The youngies wait for the wrinklies...and look quite pleased to see them!


The shadows lengthen....



special moments are shared.....



and, with the bronze fisherman at Paul do Mar, we look forward to a New Year.


Happy happiest 2009, dear bloggy friends around the globe!

20 comments:

karen said...

Tessa, how absolutely gorgeous... totally inspiring for 2009! :-)

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Oh my, what a most wonderfully written post with perfect pics . Thanks for sharing your vacation and making it memorable for us too!
Happy New Year to you too!

Sally's Chateau said...

I was transported beautifully, Thank You, er slight envy though ... Happy New Year to you too.

Elizabeth said...

I have never seen pictures of Madeira before.
So stunning and lovely........
and we lived so near - in Morocco for 2 years.....
now I must go there.

Anonymous said...

I wanna go...I wanna go.....adding to my bucket list. I'm going to have to live until I'm 150 to do everything :) Southshoreartist

Renee said...

Thanks for the trip I totally enjoyed it. It was so nice to get away from 42 below 0 in this snowfilled landscape I am in.

I felt toasty warm and think that you have encouraged me to go buy some tropical flowers.

Love Renee

adrienne trafford said...

breathtaking - i'm going to take another look and then another because right now i'm speechless...

Fabric Fotos said...

Tessa, your blog is absolutely wonderful! Thank you for taking me on the beautiful trip to fairyland. Char

yoon see said...

Thanks for sharing your excitement through your stories and pictures.
They are so beautiful ^^

Lori ann said...

oh my, oh my my my! how absoultely stunning. Tessa, you are brilliant, your words, photos, words... you have taken us all there! thank you so much for sharing! and SO glad you had a wonderful,magical time. I do see the fairies!
xxx

Sandi McBride said...

Oh Tessa, you described it so beautifully that all I need do to revisit this beautiful spot in the universe is close my eyes and I'm there. Lovely lovely work...no, I'm sure this was not work for you, but pure pleasure. You're a pleasure to visit, sweetie!
Sandi
ps
with tongue in cheek you do realize that my date with a camera down my throat is only two weeks hence? LOL

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

Tessa, these are just to, to, to FABULOUS!!! great pictures and thanks for sharing these. You have a wonderful eye! I really loved everything.

DEB said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Tessa! You weren't kidding - You really DO have so many gorgeous photos!

The W.O.W. factor said...

Tessa!
Why yes! I'll take a "glass of Madeira", Thank you!
What a beautiful feeling you expressed here! Sounds like a perfect place to make absolutely perfect memories, as you surely did!
Thank you for taking me along!

(is that you and your family? Absolutely gorgeous! All of you!)

Pencil Sanity said...

Absolutely stunning photos.

Kendra Joyner said...

Tessa...these pictures are GORGEOUS!! Thanks for taking us on such a beautiful journey! I also love Lola down below and totally agree with the whole nap thing! :)

Linda Sue said...

When I catch my breath I might be able to comment!!!This place exists REALLY! WOW wow WOW

Vickie said...

Thanks for the lovely photo tour. It is so beautiful and interesting.

mousewords said...

This is completely stunning--thank you so much for sharing!

I learn so much from you, about the best way to see life. :-)

Sarah said...

Wow! Thank you so much for powerfully transporting me away for a whirl of nature, culture and beautiful photographs. A gorgeous post and I hope this year is filled with many more happy memories.