Madeira is an island off of the coast of North Africa and is a self governing region of Portugal. It is also a really pretty place. There were spring flowers in bloom and lots of great views, especially if you went up the steep streets. You’ll have to trust me on the views, apparently I enjoyed them so much I didn’t take a photo.
We had several fun retail experiences as we meandered through the streets of the main part of town. We stopped at one shop with lots of souvenirs and an older gentleman sitting near the front. I greeted him with “bom dia” (good morning) and looked around. There was a lot of stuff and most of it was very nice, but we are terrible tourists and seldom buy things. As I left, I said “obrigada!” (Thank you). He then began to tell me something he seemed to think I should know. Alas, I had to admit that my Portugese did not extend much past the meager greetings I had recently offered. He smiled, and told me we should check out the basement where we could taste Madeira, sweet cakes and chocolate. It was pretty early in the day, so we continued on our walk.
As we worked our way through town we found a bustling two story market. Part of the reason it was bustling was there were two cruise ships in town and it was easily accessed from the port. In addition, the Easter holidays were underway so there were a lot of tourists enjoying the beautiful weather. It was a regular market that also catered to tourists and had an eclectic collection of items. One very enterprising salesperson plied us with samples of dried fruit, flowers, and nuts. She was pretty good at her job and we left with a bag of dried hibiscus flowers.
After that, I convinced Dan to head back to the first little shop and try some of the fortified wine named for the island. I have always thought Madeira was a sweet wine, but it is a fortified wine, Port is another example of fortified wine, the fermentation is stopped and more alcohol is added. We got there, selected some postcards and an older woman, I assume the wife of the man from our earlier stop, counted them out and carefully wrote the total on a scrap of paper and pointed me to my friend from earlier. He collected our payment with a smile. We asked if the wine tasting was still happening and he sent us down with his lovely assistant.
She poured us tastes of both sweet and dry Madeira to compare. They were sufficiently enjoyable that we purchased a bottle of the dry. With no idea how to determine what we got, we are assuming it was a pretty middle of the road option. We will likely try some more in the future. There was also Madeira Cake. I asked what is was and the response was “like Christmas cake” which I took to mean fruit cake. I took a little slice and it was pretty yummy and a good fruitcake. It is also known as cane sugar syrup cake we learned later. Yes, we bought some chocolate, yes it was good.