Coimbra, a very old university town!

Coimbra is on every “what to see in Portugal” list.  So, we packed our bags and hopped on the train.  It was a comfortable and scenic trip south of Porto. The train system was easy to use, convenient, and very reasonable. One of the folks who pointed us to the francesinas in Porto turned us on to the train systems app which made it really easy to find and book our train travels.

When we arrived in Coimbra and checked into our hotel the woman who helped us was so enthusiastic about what we could see and do! We were arriving just as the University term was ending so there were lots of students in town doing end of term activities, including lots of Fado singing. Fado is traditional Portugese singing and Coimbra is considered to be quite the hotspot. While we are still avoiding crowds and stayed away from the really big gatherings we did come across groups of students in their black academic robes singing and playing as we wandered around town. It was very enjoyable.

This church dates back to the 1100s and has beautiful detail on the columns and entries.
Zoom in for some information on the church. The restoration is pretty impressive.
The entry to the monastery in town. It is now a museum. A popular and crowded museum, so we may go in on another visit during a quieter season.
We were encouraged by our friend from the hotel to check out the “amazing beautiful botanical garden.” She was not wrong. And, we love it when someone is so enthusiastic their place!
Blooms in the Botanical Garden.
The view from the top entrance of the Botanical Garden over the River Mondego.
The old Roman Aqueduct that runs along the side of the gardens.
At the University there are many old buildings housing various academic departments and activities. While the Library is famous (and too crowded for us this trip) we wandered in to the psychology building and came across this lovely area.
Just some public art in the student quarter.
The arched entry to the park. They were taking down the last of the booths that had been there for a week long francesina festival that we missed by one day.
A fountain in the park. Coimbra is very hilly and the park flows up hill. It is a nice shady walk though.

One morning we set out from the hotel with no plan. Dan said something like “let’s just take a short walk to the other side of the river.” At least we brought the backpack and water bottle because we ended up spending most of the day meandering up the other side of the river valley, visiting an impressive Monastery, and wandering around a new neighborhood.

Across the river is a huge building, the Monastery Santa Clara-a-Nova. The remains of Queen Isabel, who is also a saint, are there in a silver casket on the alter. Her husband the king was important in setting up the University. I think. I gotta start taking better notes about the many factoids we come across. Anyway the courtyard was lovely.
In the church, back in a smaller chapel/sacristry, they had some fancy light fixtures and decorations.
This isn’t even the main chapel.
Again, not in the main chapel, the elaborate decor of the churches always amazes me.
Looking from the alter to the back of the main chapel.

Coimbra also has a large cemetery with mausoleums that can be seen from the river valley. After spotting them, we put that on our list of places to find. One morning off we went, uphill, in that direction.

The central chapel surrounded by family monuments.

Coumbra is a city with a lot of history that also has the energy of a university town. The narrow streets and hilly terrain give you the opportunity to turn a corner and find something fun every time you head out.

Porto, Portugal, Good food, good (fortified) wine and beautiful sights.

We spent a few days in the heart of Porto, steps from the River Douro, Se Cathedral and across the river from the famed river port that stores the even more famous Port wines!

On the way to Porto. The transportation from Spain to Porto was a bit…complicated. Dan found a “private tour” that would take us door to door for not much more than a multi transfer trip with hours spent going the wrong way. It was a delightful treat, our driver was great and informative about her hometown of Porto! Bonus. She, like most people in Porto, mostly recommended food and wine. “We love to eat” was a common comment!
Tiled buildings in the center of town. Porto is pretty hilly by the river, we entered the Plaza of the Se Cathedral at street level and this is looking over the wall on the opposite side.
My cod dinner. There were very few places that didn’t have a cod dish on the menu.
The main road along the river heading toward the ocean was built out over the water. The medieval walls and old buildings were in the way of other options, I guess.
Along the Atlantic coast just north of the mouth of the Douro River. Not sure what the concrete boat was before it became this bit of art.
One of many tiled churches in downtown Porto.
Inside the Sao Bento train station. The tiles tell stories from the history of Portugal. Also, a bustling regional train station.
Another, famous (but alas, the name not recorded by yours truly) tiled church. This one is very near the major market in Porto. The historical market building is undergoing major renovations so the market was in temporary digs at the mall down the street. We can’t wait to check it out next time we’re in town.
Another very pretty church we wandered by as we explored a neighborhood a few transit stops from the river.

For some reason we often wander into a cemetery if we come across them on our travels, or even as we wander around closer to home. We are interested in how long they’ve been in use and there always are at least a few interesting comments on the headstones.

This is part of the cemetery at the Lapa Church. The church is lovely, but the cemetery is amazing. These are graveside and many seem to hold multiple members of a family.
There were also a lot of these mausoleums, some dating back to the 1800s and still in use. Others were not in use and a few had signs indicating they were available for use by a new family.
A mausoleum with some of the beautiful tile work.

We had some business to conduct in Porto and the folks we met with pointed us to some authentic franceshina, a local specialty. As we worked our way to the restaurant we heard some chiming bells and stopped to look around. It was an animatronic clock with quite the display. What really intrigued us though was the NO ONE had mentioned anything about this, and we had talked to lots of folks about we should see while in town.

This photo does not do justice to the animatronic show that occurred on this street corner!
Franceschina is a sandwich of steak, ham, sausage, and possibly some other meat, that is smothered in cheese, doused in a tangy gravy and served with a fried egg on top. Apparently the really good ones are differentiated by the sauce. Delicious.
And, when in Porto, Port!

Guimaraes, another short train ride from Porto

We had so much success with our day trip to Braga, a few days later we headed to Guimaraes, often referred to as the birthplace of Portugal. It was here that King Afonso Henriques was born, and near where Portugese forces expelled the Ottoman forces and Portugal began to assert itself.

The King

There is a Castle and the residence of a Duke that can be toured, but as we approached the site a large group of school children arrived for a field trip. For those of you who don’t know us that well, that means we decided to put those attractions on the list for “next time, a quieter time.” And we wandered a little bit down the road.

We came across this church with the fancy sign pointing to the museum. We paid a Euro each to the nice man at the desk. He then proceeded to show us a few highlights. As his English was only slightly better than our Portugese, it was a lot of pointing and enthusiastic waving and air writing the dates of various church and hospital artifacts. He was delightful!
A beautiful old clock, he opened the case and advanced the time so we could hear the lovely chimes. My dad has an antique clock that plays the same chimes.
A restored area in the church.
Then we went up to the choir loft and he showed us the 300 year old pipe organ. Which he proceeded to turn on and open the access panel so we could see the bellows fill with air. Then he sat to show us how good it sounded.
He admitted to not been much of an organist and insisted that I play. So we had two “not much of an organists” banging away on a 300 year old organ! Best. Tour. Ever!
The interior of the church from the loft.

After he turned off the organ he explained he needed to get back to the desk, but he left us to explore, and showed us the very narrow stone steps to the bell tower and encouraged us to check it out.

The bell tower, yes that is a rope, yes were were supposed to tug it and ring the bell!
The view in to the courtyard from the bell tower.
While we took a pass on the interior tours of the castle and Duke’s place, we walked the grounds and marveled at the buildings.
The side of the Duke’s Residence. Apparently it was a very influential and wealthy Duchy.
Well, it has been a while since I posted a photo of some flowers.
There are often doors on older buildings that are not exactly Dan sized.
At the edge of the old part of the city looking through the medieval wall at the plaza leading to a church.
The church at the end of the Plaza.

Braga: Historical, Architectural, and Natural Beauty abound!

Well, this happened a few (or more) weeks ago, but we’ve been having so much fun!

Using Porto as our base, we decided to take the regional train for some day trips. Braga was an easy hour or so trip north and appears on so many of the must see lists.

A beautiful fountain as you approach the old section of the city.
A church dating back to the 900s, like so many old churches here, it had been updated, but not for a century or so.
The interior of the church. I am waiting to see if I will ever not be surprised by how ornate they are.
A major attraction here is the Bom Jesus which presides over the city from the hilltop. First, you walk over halfway up the hill, then you start up a path, then you get to the steps. Needless to say, Fitbit says we climbed a lot of flights this day.
A view back to Braga from the plaza. My camera was not really up to the task of getting good photos of the many small buildings that hold life-size depictions of the Crucifiction and Stations of the Cross.
The church, just a few more flights.
Another ornate interior. There was a wedding later in the day.
Another view from the top. Did I mention how much climbing we did?
The city gate, taking you back in to the old city center. As we spent most of our time climbing a hill and stairs, we have to return to see more of this lovely city.

Salamanca and Cuidad Rodrigo, walled cities and churches and storks, so many storks.

We passed this bell towers on our way from the train to our hotel, it was just the first of many towers sporting huge nests and multiple pairs of storks!

We took the slow train from Madrid to Salamanca, which was nice because the countryside was lovely and the regular speed allowed us to catch more than just a quick glimpse of the stone walls and villages, as well as some cows and blooming fields. The train had two stops in Salamanca and the second was closer to our hotel. What we didn’t know was that the stop was just that. The train stopped, there was a platform, but no signs, no buildings; so it was a good thing some guy on the train told the people in front of us that we were at the last stop and should exit. We followed them. I don’t remember what exactly our plan was for getting to the hotel, a short two kilometers away, but it is good we pack so we can make those walks.

When we were planning the trip we came across several suggestions to add Salamanca to our itinerary, so we did. But, as we walked along a nice but nondescript commercial strip, I admitted to Dan that I forgot why we put the city on the list of places to stop. His response “I’m sure there is something worthwhile here.” That’s why he is the best of travel companions (and husbands). As we got closer to the hotel we started to pass by the amazing buildings the city is famous for and I remembered why we came!

Salamanca is home to two major cathedrals, a university, monasteries and cloisters. The city still has much of the medieval walls intact and a bridge dating back to the days Spain was part of the Roman Empire. We enjoyed several days wandering around looking at the buildings and enjoying the end of term vibe given off by the students. One day as we finished our (too early by Spanish standards) lunch, we realized that all of the folks we’d seen walking around in various costumes were following some musicians down the street in an impromptu parade. Apparently it’s a thing, but we couldn’t find many details about it.

The dome of a University of Salamanca building behind some other lovely structures.
An entrance to the “new” Cathedral, built a mere few hundred years after the “old” Cathedral, which still stands. Salamanca is unusual in that it has two Cathedrals. And they are connected.
The “new” Cathedral, done well before the United States declared independence, in the early 1700s. The “old” Cathedral was at least 100 years old at that point.

We took the “tower tour” and made sure we got there early to avoid the lines. We were the first to enter and enjoyed poking around the stairways, rooftop walkways, and various rooms and exhibits with very few others. Good timing too, because as we made our way down and out there were several large groups working their way up to the bell tower.

A view from a lower terrace (3 or 4 steep flights up) at the towers of both cathedrals. The shorter, sharper tower is to the Old Cathedral, and the dome is for the New Cathedral.
The tower tour does not include the nave in either Cathedral, but you do walk across a narrow and very high balcony overlooking the main space of the New Cathedral.
The walkway over the roofs of both Cathedrals.
The balcony on the other side and some of the stained glass.
A view into the old city from one of the many terraces on our way to the bell tower.
The bells in the bell tower. They chime every quarter hour, we managed to be NOT in the tower when that occurred. The stairs were circular, very steep, and winding. They had a set of timed red and green lights to manage traffic and it worked really well.
This room housed the gears for the clock. These gears no longer keep the time on the clock.
The Roman Bridge, built when the Iberian Penninsula was part of the empire, so yep it’s old.

Cuidad Rodrigo

Our original plans for the trip through Spain included Vigo on the west coast, but the transportation just didn’t work out. So, faced with a need to find a way to get to Porto we came across a private tour where a driver would take us! It was only a little more than the other options and took way less time. There was an option to add a “tour” and Dan signed us up for the stop at the town of Cuidad Rodrigo. It was perfect! Marta was friendly, knowledgeable, and was almost s excited we were going to Porto (her home town) as we were.

Your random flowering tree for this post. They smelled really good too!
Still defending the town! The fortification walls still surround the town. The walls are very thick. We didn’t get a photo, but we drove through a gate and it was at least twenty feet in that section.
A bell tower with more nesting storks!

On the drive to reach Ciudad Rodrigo we passed so many more nesting storks. I started pointing out the ones I saw and Marta, our delightful Portugese driver, was so impressed that when I dubbed myself “stork spotter” she agreed! Dan mumbled something along the lines: they can’t be storks, there aren’t anywhere near enough babies…

A view of the Cathedral from the walking path along the wall. This is one of the few spots where there weren’t locals out getting their steps in!

Madrid, Spain-where everybody had to be out and about!

We took the high speed train from Barcelona to Madrid, and it was fast! With only 2 short stops, the trip was easy. It helped that I took advantage of the onboard free wifi to put up a blog post. What a great way to travel, too bad we can’t do that in the US because a train like that to Pittsburgh or Indianapolis would allow me to really annoy some of my favorite family members!

If you have ever heard my dad tell stories of our travels through England in 1972, you will get why I sent this photo to him and my sister with the caption “looks like Wisconsin.” You can also see from the way the tracks look that we were moving pretty fast!
These are some of the train cars, they look a little fast…
Dan took a screenshot, this was not the fastest we were going, but close!

We arrived to a rainy Madrid a few hours before we could check in to our accommodations, so we decided to store our bags and check out some of the city. There was a place to store bags a few hundred meters from the station, so we headed over stash our stuff. The whole thing was automated, just select the size locker you need (S,M,L), choose how many hours, a locker magically opens and they email you the code you need to open it with later. Easy peasy! Again, why isn’t this a thing in the US?

We wandered away from the train station and found ourselves near the botanical garden, which those of you who remember the posts from Australia and New Zealand know we are susceptible to, but it was closed for some event. We carried on and found a large city park and spent time wandering there. It was lovely.

The Madrid Atocha Train Station. This station has high speed rail connections to many Eurpean cities.
A plaza at the park. Yes, it was very rainy, yes were very wet by the time we were ready to head to our accommodations. I am a bit surprised the cab driver didn’t charge us extra for the puddles we must have left in the cab…

We stayed in the “Times Square of Madrid” full of theaters, neon billboards, shops, and action. It was located near many of the highlights of old Madrid, so it was a great, if noisy, location! We inquired at the i-Site (tourist information center) about the Hop on Hop off bus on Saturday but they advised that we should avoid it on Saturday due to a “labor demonstration” and on Sunday for the Madrid Marathon. So, we just started wandering around. We ended up in a local market and decided to buy some cheese and wine at a booth. While waiting in line a man asked me something in rapid fire Spanish. At my befuddled look, he immediately asked me in un-accented English if I was in line. I said yes and then asked him to repeat slowly which he did. He asked where I was from, and then because I said Ohio, he admitted to being from Indianapolis! He said he usually says Chicago because it’s easier. Nice Midwestern chat ensued where I learned he had followed a woman to Madrid (and introduced me to the 6ish year old result of that who was with him). Small world indeed.

The next few days we walked around Madrid, took the Hop on Hop off, found some “outside the tourist district” neighborhoods for low key, yummy food. We also learned that sometimes you need to pre buy the tickets! Oh well, we will just have to go back to Madrid so we can tour the palace next time!

Lots of monuments in Madrid.
The Cathedral, and the crowds in the square it shares with the castle, so you can see the need to pre-book.
One of the many impressive doors to the Cathedral.
Just one example of the buildings along the Via Grande. Many had large sculptures adorning the roofs.
Madrid is a very large and busy city, but there are parks, fountains and public art scattered everywhere, so you are always able to stop and take a deep, appreciative breath.
I don’t only make Dan visit government buildings in US.
The main square in Madrid. This was taken on our second visit, the first was on a weekend and it was full of people!
The lake in the middle of the main city park on our rainy arrival day.
The same view of the lake a few days later, when the sun was out. Between the Madrid Marathon, the good weather and the weekend, I would have sworn the city passed an ordinance saying no one was allowed to stay home!

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

We departed our ocean going transport early on Easter Sunday and made our way to our hotel in Barcelona. The hotel, located right on Las Ramblas, was in the heart of the tourist district. This proved to be a good base to wander the city. As our room was not ready, we left our bags and moseyed up Las Ramblas to see what was there. We came across the Hop on Hop off bus and bought a 2 day ticket. That way we could use day one to get the lay of the land and day two to see the major highlights.

One of many buildings designed by Barcelona’s favorite architect, Gaudy.
Just a really cool building!

The tour allowed us to figure out where various places were, what was walkable versus what wasn’t, and see what things were crowded by mid afternoon. One intriguing area, Montjuic, had a cable car, a castle, a park, the Olympic Stadium, and huge lines by 2 pm. So, we made a plan to be on the early bus and get off there, tomorrow! The plan worked, the cable car line had not really started, and the castle was not yet overrun when we got there the next morning.

The view from the cable car. It took a 90 degree turn half way to the top!
The view from the walls of the castle.
The port-cruise ships dock below us, the freight ships hang out. While shipping has been a major thing in Barcelona for hundreds of years, this port was built out in the last 200 years or so and is huge.

We enjoyed a variety of views from the castle and learned that it began as a look out station, but when the city was attacked the defenders were able to quickly fortify it from a land attack and it became a major player in up to, and including the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and World War II.

Plazas along the center square of the fort.
Vaulted ceiling leading in to the central square.
Pretty flowers blooming near where the moat was.

We took the cable car back down to the station, which is about half way up the mountain, and started to walk the rest of the way down. We entered a park and meandered along various paths, mostly just making sure we were going more down than up.

Lovely blooms on a pergola along the path.
Neat embellishments on the roof of a building being renovated along the path. And, a view of the city.
A view of the museum building.

Our goal was to reach the bottom of the path near a plaza with a large fountain so we could hop in the bus to head back closer to our hotel. As we did that, it became apparent the fountain was really part of a series of water features we would see in our trek down.

The fountain near the museum.
The cascading water at the next plaza.
More water at another plaza. Catalonia celebrates Easter Monday, it was a beautiful day, and there were lots of people enjoying the sights.
And, the fountain at the bottom.

We went to see La Segruda Familia, which is the building Gaudy devoted decades of his life to designing, and which continues to be constructed over 100 years after his death. There is a lot going on at the site, both visually and physically. It is worth looking the place up, and I am not up to the task of really explaining. We didn’t take a tour as the crowds were more than we wanted to interact with.

Each side of the building has different scenes and embellishments.
Part of Gaudy’s style incorporates nature themes and a variety of textures.
In part due to the lengthy construction process you can see how the stone has aged compared to the matching design on the more recently completed area.
There are many spires and each has a different top. Like I said, there is a lot going on on this building.

The beautiful weather of the first few days gave way to more cloudy skies and some rain, but we were able to see a fair amount on foot and took a morning to visit the Maritime museum. The museum is housed in a building that had been the Naval ship yard and in continuous use for 600 years. The displays were amazing and the building itself definitely worth the visit.

We walked through a large park in town and came across this impressive monument.
These sculptures were at every gate. I found the snails to be a nice feature.
The Arch de Triomp-we never did find out which triumph was being celebrated.
When we first saw this from the Hop on Hop off I wondered if it was a Roy Lichtenstein. When we were able to walk over and check it out we confirmed it was! We will now need to revisit the Lichtenstein at John Glenn International Airport when we get back to Columbus.
A replica of a Royal Galley at the Maritime Museum, but mostly the building.
Another angle of the Royal Galley and the building.

Spain! Málaga and Alicante, ports of call for our ship.

Each of these beautiful coastal cities likely deserves it’s own post, but since our behavior in each was so similar I worry that folks might get confused about which one they are reading!

The port in Malaga on the Costa del Sol. This area was developed in the 1960’s and 1970’s to be the “Florida of Spain.”

We made port in Málaga on the Thursday of Easter week and were warned to be aware of an Easter Procession that might impact how long it would take to make it back. The main procession was scheduled for 5 pm, but folks were already lining up near the port at 9 am, many of the main roads were closed and people were pouring in to the city center as Dan and I began our meandering exploration. We spotted a castle high on a hill overlooking town and headed that direction.

Lots of interesting buildings in town.
As we climbed higher we saw a variety of rooftops.

The city was bustling and had a very holiday vibe, even early in the day. We continued to climb on a nicely laid out path with several good places to stop and “enjoy the view” (take a break from the climbing). As we neared the top, we heard a marching band from below and noticed a grouping of boats near where the crowd had been gathering earlier. The many trees lining in the park that went along side the main street kept us from seeing the parade, but is was well attended!

The view from an overlook, we are not done climbing yet!

We arrived at the end of the trail and the signs said the castle was a twenty minute climb up the hill. Dan joked that we’d already made a big climb, so we might as well buy the combination ticket to see both the fort and the castle! We spent a fun 40 minutes or so poking around the stone fortifications, parade grounds and in the big hall looking at the armor and uniforms. We also took advantage of the small cafe to enjoy a really good lunch of a queso bocadillo, a small baguette type loaf of really good bread and delicious cheese melted on it.

The stonework everywhere in the city was nicely done.
This is the ceiling of a vaulted chamber about 3 stories high.t
The walls, they are high and about 4 feet wide.

After out lunch we felt energized enough to head the 20 minutes up hill to the castle! We started looking for the path to take, but it wasn’t very well marked. I took my little tourist map over to the security guard and asked how to get to the castle. She gave me a strange look and I was worried I might have to try in Spanish which wasn’t going to be much of an improvement. Then she pointed down the hill and said we should tour the fort next. Yep, we had no clue which big stone structure was which!

Back down the path we went. Sure was a lot easier than we anticipated! The fort was right in town, surrounded by a bustling neighborhood and overlooking a Roman Theatre archeological site. The Fort actually seemed a bit fancier and more livable than the castle.

Just some cool stuff in the fort.
One of several structures in the fort. It was home to an exhibit on an ancient method of pottery while we were there.
The stonework in the fort was more elaborate than what we saw in the castle.
The Roman Theatre, and the sidewalk there is part of the surrounding neighborhood.

During the day we heard and saw a few parrots, including several flying by with branches which seemed pretty big-the nests must be impressive!

A pair of parrots near the fort.

Alicante – another hilly walk up to the castle!

We landed in Alicante on Good Friday and there was going to be some big to do at the Cathedral, but apparently no traffic impacting processions.

From the port we could see a hilltop fortification and Dan has a theory about forts which means we usually visit. They always have a good view. So off we went to find a way up the hill. Walking along the beach we saw a large queue of folks taking over the sidewalk near where we thought the path began. Ugh, maybe the castle/fort is too popular. As we approached we found out it was to take the elevators to the castle. We put on our intrepid attitudes and kept walking.

The view of Alicante from the port. That’s the castle on top of the hill.

We followed some steep and winding streets, saw some stairs and a few other other tourists obviously trying to do the same as us. Finally one of the other folks started up the steps as if they knew the way so, with a shrug, we followed. The city has a nice park that is really just a well structured path with various plazas and resting places at the switchbacks that delivers you to the castle.

That’s where we’re headed! We are about half way up at this point

The castle was very crowded, but Dan was right, the views were amazing! There were several buildings still standing and the walls were still very protective!

Just outside the walls of the castle, some cool plants and a cat.
Some details in the castle.
One of the amazing views that made the climb well worth the effort.

As we worked our way back to the ship we ran in to a couple from Cornwall in the UK. As we stood chatting they mentioned they had made their way up to the castle the day before. They also had a crowd and the gentleman admitted that he had had his pocket picked while there. He had a good attitude about it though, he had lost some cash and had to cancel a credit card, but he “could still buy a drink” with the Euros left in his pocket. They also recommended the converted convent where they were staying and hoped we got as good a room as they did if we made it back there. Just another one of those lovely, random interactions that add something special to your travels.

Funchal, Madeira

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.

A tower of flowers!
This street name appealed to me, the climb was not bad at all.

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.

Many buildings had beautiful, whimsical, and interesting murals and other art.
More flowers at a little park.

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.

Dried Hibiscus.

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.

The basement sales space, upstairs was very similar, but with more suff against the walls instead of all of wine that was down here.

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.

Another view from the cellar with some of the dusty wine bottles behind the barrels. There was a wide array of wine stored down there, with Ports and Madeira going back many years.
Enough said.
Funchal, Madeira

Bermuda

We are taking a cruise ship to Europe. Repositioning cruises can be a bargain and are a fun way get somewhere. We like the slow aspect because it helps you understand how far you’re really going.

Our first port of call was Bermuda. We took the free boat ride from the port to the other end of the Island to see St. George. While we didn’t go up to the fort, we enjoyed walking around the area.

A lovely park.
This ruin is an unfinished church. It was mostly constructed by the late 1800’s, including the roof. It was abandoned by the congregation before it was ever in use. Alas, it was damaged in a storm in the 1920s. It sits toward the top of a hill and is visible from lots of places.
These gateposts are just another reminder of how long this area was a British Settlement, Since 1609, so a little over 400 years.

Unfortunately most of the museums here have not resumed regular hours; so I will have to learn about the history of the area, including the role Bermuda played in the US Civil War, some other time. As good a reason to return as any, I guess.

Regular followers of the blog know I like to post photos of random flowers we see. No, I have no idea what it is, if you find out please share in the comments!
One several parrot fish we saw near the warf. Yes, the water is that clear and the fish is even brighter!
Cuttlefish lined up in a row.

The people here are very nice! As Dan and I walked along a street we got into single file so the car coming at us would have plenty of room as the streets are pretty narrow. Then we realized we were crossing the drive to the lot they wanted to turn into. We gave the “sorry” wave and hustled along. They smiled and told us “you’re fine, have a great day in Bermuda!”

It was an overnight stop so we had a second day to explore the Royal Naval Dockyards which are the cruiseport. It includes an old fort which is now a museum. Learned about how Bermuda was “discovered” and how important it was for the British in maintaining their colonization in the US. Nothing on the Civil War though, so my excuse to return remains, phew!

Just a little decor near the prison cells.
The sheep were unexpected.

The fort was built primarily with convict labor as the British were very fond of this source of free labor. Even after outlawing prison labor in the 1850s, the Fort was still used as a prison of some sort through the Boer War which ended in 1902. The display on the use as a prison was very informative and included reports from both the people imprisonered there and the officers in charge. The difference in perspective was stark.

As we walked the grounds we came across some workers getting ready to move a cannon.
Phew! Made it, a mishap would have resulted in a very wet cannon and the need for a lot longer rope.