The Norwegian Epic is docking at the port of Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira today. It’s also the American Thanksgiving Day!
Early Morning Aboard
For some reason (maybe that big meal) I slept terrible last night and finally gave up shortly after five am and went to the Garden Court for coffee. When I used the restrooms up there, grey water came out of the sink before clearing. One of NCL employees was cleaning in there and said the water was out for a bit during the night and apologized. (Not that she needed too). I did notice a terrible sewage smell in our hallway further down from our cabin.
After a couple of cups of coffee, I went down to the cabin and Sister T. Was getting up. We want to get to Taste around when it opens at 7 am. After our big meals at Cagneys the night before, we didn’t eat too much this morning. I had bacon and cheese omelette (that came out as ham and cheese, LOL) with country style potatoes and Sister T. Had multi grain waffle with bacon.
After breakfast, we got ready for our day. It was officially the $20 bag of laundry day so my sister filled a bag.
In an earlier post, I mentioned what we were doing but didn’t provide specifics. I had booked the #2 Nun’s Valley Tour from Daniel Madeira Taxis which came highly recommended on both CruiseCritic and Tripadvisor. We had a 15 passenger bus and split the 180 euros fee amongst 10 people I easily found in our roll call online. To ensure no one ended up paying more than 18 euros per person I collected payment about 2 months in advance via PayPal.
The group met group in Maltings on deck seven. Everyone was on time. It was an easy walk down the stairs and escalators to deck five where disembarkation was today (when we came back we got on deck 4). We found our guide/driver, Olivia, outside. She walked us to the minibus where we settled in. I was given the front seat which was nice.
We had four stops. As we drove out of the city center, she gave us information on the major sites there.
Our first stop is the parish of Monte where you have the option to ride cable cars up/down and ride a toboggan down the hill.
Olivia told us the cable cars weren’t going until 9:30 but the toboggans started at 9 am. So we decided not to do cable cars and six of us did the toboggans which was so fun.
I thought it would be scary but it wasn’t. The cost is $15 euros per person unless you go solo and that’s $30 euros and I rode with one of other ladies in the group.
The 2 km ride went quickly and we actually ended up in another town! Of course, they took pictures on the route and I bought it for $10 euros.
So much more reasonable than the photo at Cagneys the night before! Olivia and the other tour members were waiting with the van when we got down the hill. The next photo depicts how they used to get the baskets back to the starting point.
Ironically the van was parked next to a truck full of baskets ready to be driven back up.
Pico dos Barcelos
Next we drove to our first lookout spot, Pico dos Barcelos.
The viewpoint is 355 meters (or 1,164 feet) above sea level. Not only is the view great but also the gardens there are worth seeing.
You can see some of the beautiful landscaping behind me.
We had 20 minutes and I used every moment taking in the sight.
The view to the ocean had another scenic church.
I couldn’t resist framing it with the trees and flowers.
All too soon our 20 minute stop was over and we loaded back up to head to the third stop.
Eira do Serrado
This stop was was the highlight for me (although those toboggans were close). The drive to the Eira do Serrado viewpoint was beautiful. When we arrived at the stop (1,095 meters up which is nearly 4,000 feet) we had 45 minutes on our own. Most of us elected to walk up to the highest lookout which had a lot of steps but was doable as long as I paced myself (unfortunately I didn’t get a snap of the steps).
It was worth it! You can see the homes in the valley (our next stop).
Looking west of the valley.
Such beautiful scenery and I know my photos don’t do it justice.
After I went down, I did a little shopping (my first of the trip) in the gift shop and bought a bottle of water. I was kicking myself for not bringing a bottle of my NCL water load. (I had ordered six liters which come in half liter bottles). The restrooms were clean and had many stalls but there was a fee of 50 cents and a lady at the top of the stairs down to them collecting the money.
It was a gorgeous day and quite warm. Shorts and short sleeves would have been great as I was rather warm in my long sleeves and long pants.
Curral das Freiras
After leaving the viewpoint, Olivia drove us down into the Nun’s Valley village and we could see how it looks from the bottom.
There was a vendor there selling her homemade baked goods that were still warm.
Many of us bought a chestnut bread for 1.20 that was just delicious. Sister T and I split one after Anne shared a taste of hers.
Didn’t look great but man on man was it good. Had cinnamon in it too.
This was a cute village and the ladies said the prices at shop there were very good for ponchos.
Then it was time to go back to Funchal. What I didn’t say yet is that throughout the trip, Olivia was sharing information, answering questions and driving the narrow windy roads. She was amazing!
The plants reminded me so much of San Diego. There were eucalyptus trees, hibiscus flowers, birds of paradise, bougainvillea and more. I even saw a shop named Sousas on the main drag which is the last name of my company’s president.
We had the choice of getting dropped off by the old city center or at the port. Most of us got off in the city but a couple including Sister T. Went back to the ship. She wanted to do some work in the wifi lounge at the terminal there.
I walked around a bit. There were beautiful tile artwork in the walls.
There was a statue of Joao Goncalves Zarco who I later learned was an early Portuguese explorer to who settled the island.
I found a cafe where I had a front row table and could people watch and enjoy a bite for lunch. Restaurante de Sa had amazing wifi and I uploaded about 300 pics to Dropbox while there (once I realized its as so good).
I had a “real” coke which was so refreshing and a steak sandwich. It tasted way better than it looked and it had garlic butter on the bread.
I had a hard time getting my bill but after paying it and using the free bathroom I decided to wander back to the ship. Instead of the 20 minutes walk a couple of people had said throughout the day, it was more like 30 minutes at a steady pace (although I did stop a couple of times to take photos).
Not sure why this bust of Gandhi was here.
A lot of the streets had patterns of tile in the street or sidewalks This large one was so beautiful.
Even the walls along the road had artwork!
A lot of people were walking back and I just followed them. The Aida ship was a good 10 minutes closer than the Epic. I got back about 2:45 and the line to get back on the ship was already a bit long in the sun. These flowers lined the way to the terminal.
I really did appreciate the cold drinks and wash clothes given to us as we passed through the gate. Back in the room, I saw that my laundry had returned which was a day earlier than Joseph had told me so it was a pleasant surprise.
It was three by this time and I wanted to shower and have a cocktail at Shaker’s before our 5:30 pm dinner reservation so no nap time. While relaxing in the cabin room service came by with a delivery from Cagney’s maitre’d of chocolate covered strawberries.
We both dressed up tonight and were at Shaker’s when it opened. Just enough time for a cocktail.
I had a lavender patch and T had a lemon drop. We left at 5:25 for the dining room and it hadn’t yet opened when we got there but once it did, the hostess from Shanghai’s was offering seating there to people in line. It was an offer we decided to take hoping to avoid the craziness at the main dining room. We were seated at a table for two by the window and were just the third table seated so it was very quiet for most of our meal.
They were only serving the thanksgiving menu in this venue tonight. I started with butternut squash soup (very good)…
while Sister T. Had coconut shrimp.
My next course was a ham and mushroom tart which you can’t see under the greens.
Sister T. Had salmon tartare with avocado. It looked great!
She continued with the non traditional choices for main course going with the ham dinner.
I had to have turkey. They did come around with cranberry sauce after I took this picture.
What I should have asked for is more gravy! I had a hard time choosing between the pumpkins cheesecake and the pecan pie for dessert but knew I didn’t have room for both! I ended up with the pecan pie which was absolutely delicious.
Sister T. Had the cherries and berries and quite enjoyed it.
I went to the showroom about 7 pm and it was packed by the time it started with couples sitting in single seats in separate rows. It was a tribute show to ABBA and was okay. She didn’t sing Fernando but did sing a couple of songs I hadn’t heard or that weren’t that popular.
That did it for me after a busy day and not so good sleep the night before. I had 12,943 steps today and 4.5 miles. No wonder I’m tired!
Below is today’s Freestyle Daily. Click on the image for the full PDF.