Tuesday 25th November – Monday 9th December 2019
Canary Islands – via P & O’s Aurora. Once the two days of rough seas and iffy weather got out of the way – even the sun and the sky looked pleased.
First bit of land the ropes were flung onto after leaving Southampton (FA Cup winners 1976) three days later – Maderia. For two days.
Day 1 – Saturday 29th November.
And, as the saying goes – sea travel only becomes interesting once you are close to land, and with a darkness into near daylight arrival into Maderia.
First of two days – free day of leisure on the first, so with an island to explore, having just arrived. Lets head to the airport to do some plane spotting.
Approach in to Maderia is a easy one for any pilot. Fly over the day, aim your aircraft at the mountainside. Just before you hit it, bank hard right, lower the wheels, straighten up, and don’t mix up the runway for the nearby A1 motorway.
Oh, and there’s one of them pesky observation galleries on top of the main terminal building. Ignore the photographers and bored passengers looking for something to do with the flight they are waiting for is delayed by 2 hours.
Day 2. Sunday 1st December. More of the island. In a jeep. On road and off road, getting into the hills above Funchal, on tracks that no tourist coach would ever attempt.
There’s that airport again – hiding behind that tree branch on the right.
On of the advantages of going up hills away from the main roads, is you get to see ‘rustic’ i.e a near dried up waterfall, and take photos of someones potted plant collection on their driveway.
This scenery even drove the ponsettias wild.
But what goes up, must come down and so after a 20 minute off road trek down the mountain, we once again found ourselves at sea level, for a walk around the bay sea wall, before a delightful ambush shopping opportunity at a local distillery. No photos of the latter – here’s some of the former.
And that was Maderia. Leaving just in time to miss the Christmas lights being switched on. So instead, Maderia 6pm
Day 3 – Monday 2nd December. La Palma.And a visit to get to know the island and it’s potenially catestrophic geology to the eastern seaboard of America. Should a volcano go up, or slip into the sea. Ripples, big ones.
Anyway, went for a short walk in the Unesco certificated National Park. The clouds are the visual representation of the Tradewinds. On a clear day, they hug that bit of the hillside until mid-afternoon. In the middle of the park, at the (only) acessable vantage point, just like at a Portsmouth FC home game – there’s no atmosphere or noise.
Those are that old gals roots, exposed due to soil irrosion.
A drive back into town, via a hillside photo opportunity –
And that was that.
Day 4 – Tuesday 3rd December – Gran Canaria.
Where, even the wild cranes were up early to catch the dawn breaking.
A trip out into the suburbs on the cards today.
First, to Firgas. Where they’ve made what could have been a staggeringly dull and routine stepped cut through from the upper to the lower town, into something that was a rather ‘nice’ public art feature.
Then, onto Arehucas, and into the main church in the centre of the town. With massive stained glass window, and ‘must be a bugger to paint and remove the dust’ celing decorative feature.
The centre of Arehuchas was by all accounts (source – my non existant Spanish trying to translate the broze plaque by the plinth) a grotty place, until a town planner, closed roads, knocked down buildings and made more of the view of the church.
His legacy and good work was underminded several years ago by a car park which was plonked by the side of the church – and to wind him up even more – they put a bronze bust of his head in the town square, so he can tut at those bloody tourist coaches arriving at regular intervals for the rest of his days.
But I had some rum to taste, at the only distillery on the island. Another statue of the chap that founded the company when he worked out you could make falling over juice from sugar cane. The bit about selling the wares to hordes of cruise ship tourists came much later
Oh, and the port of Gran Canaria show off some nice formation flower arranging in the coach tours drop off area.
A convenient late evening departure meant I could photograph one planet from another.
Day 5 – Wednesday 4th December. Lanzorotte.
Island of fire and dried lava. Pictorial evidence, thus..
And being a island – lets combine the two. Sea and dried up volcano.
Yer actual cactus.
Next day, was spent kicking the dry land habit, and sailing between the Canaries, and Portugal. Nothing much to see, until the sun decided it had enough..
Day whatever – Friday 6th December.
Last port – Lisbon. And after the photogenic sunset the day before, it didn’t disappoint the next morning either, as we bobbed our way into the port.
And, onto the coach to Sebutal. A port town around 45 minutes (when traffic out of Lisbon allows – otherwise add another hour) with a huge indoor market – where fish and other seafood is the main draw for the punters.
It was also nearly Christmas, so the town hall was decked out in suitable attire. There was also a Christmas ‘market’ and the miserable collection of garden sheds pumping out Europop in 25c heat, really put no-one in the mood for the festivities.
Having waved good-bye to Sebutal, onto one of the oldest wineries in Portugal. Its a storeroom and shop now, but until 20 years ago, if pressed grapes were your thing, this was the place to come. And the rest of the manor house where the storerooms are isn’t bad either.
A visual representation of the flag of Portugal, with bottles of the plonk of the company.
And that is nearly that. A coach drive back to the port via the 14th April bridge,
looked over by JC – and a ‘twin’ of the one 4,000 odd miles due west in Rio
And that was that. One last early December southern European sunset to photograph
And as darkness fell, and a what sounded like every available police car in Lisbon heading to some kind of incident, we sailed out of Portugal, and back to blighty.
And to make up for missing the Maderia Christmas lights switch on five days earlier – Lisbon provided a suitable alternative in the main square, and test of photographic skills to a) hold the camera, b) whilst on a ship, c) and with no tripod, d) from a quater of a mile away, and e) moving at 5 knots.
(Belated or a really earlier) Happy Christmas.