It's all over by noon, so we set out early for the Funchal fish market (Mercado dos Labradors). Upon arrival all we saw was fruits and vegetables. Nice enough, but not what we were looking for. And then there was that unmistakable smell--fish fresh off the boat. We entered the balcony of a large modern hall. Down below were the fish mongers, tuna and other assorted other seafood delights, and customers. Some restaurants do buy from the market, but the customers appeared to be local shoppers. We were told that some restaurants contract directly with the fisherman, thereby cutting out the middleman.
While strolling through the fruit and vegetable stands after our visit to the seafood section of the market, I heard a familiar riff on a Japanese stringed instrument--yep the bass line that opens Smoke On the Water--the only riff I can play. Long ago we heard Patti Page and Tony Bennett in all sorts of public spaces. Now it is the Baby Boomers who are imposing their long gone youth on today's kids. PBS fundraiser, anybody?
The Mercado dos Labradors is clean, brightly lit, and humming with activity. We spent a couple of hours watching the goings on. Later in the day, we enjoyed a fish dinner at Gavião Novo, which is consistently ranked one of the top fish restaurants in town. Don't think white table cloth. This is a simple, narrow rectangular-shaped restaurant with the exposed kitchen located in the back in not much more than a closet. We started with a plate of limpets, which are similar to mussels, but local to the waters surrounding Madeira. Then, at the waiter's recommendation, we ordered grilled parrot fish and piece porco. Excellent recommendation. The fish was accompanied by a medley of carrots, boiled island grown potatoes, and broccoli. In fact, all are grown on the owner's estate.
Our appetite was well earned. We left the market, and headed to the botanical garden, which is not to be confused with the tropical garden further up the mountain that we had visited two days earlier. I have never seen a better collection of succulents. The garden's centerpiece is the colorful green, yellow, and maroon tapestry, which is a good football (American) field in length. After about two hours wandering the garden, we took the cable car up to Monte, where I took a wrong turn in search for the Ingreja da Nossa Senhora where Austrian Emperor Karl I is entombed. Eventually we found it, after a very steep uphill climb followed by a wrong turn that situated us in back of the church. We were saved when Evelyn rang a doorbell on the gate. Someone opened it, saving us a rather lengthy trip to another entrance to the churchyard. Of course, several tourists followed me because it looked like I knew what I was doing. I don't know how they got that impression with Evelyn yelling and screaming the entire way.
As we exited the church, we came upon the famous toboggan run. Men in straw hats wearing white shirts and pants push a wicker basket toboggan down hill for two kilometers down with two to four passengers seated on a bench. The toboggan uses wood runners rather than wheels. The cost is 30 Euro, so we took a pass, but there was a very long line of passengers waiting. We are convinced that the entire operation is run by a taxi company. By our assessment, the run ends in the middle of nowhere, with a good four kilometers left before reaching downtown Funchal. For us, it was back to the cable car, and the 15-minute ride down to Funchal.
We then headed back to Old Town, where we spent sometime admiring the painted doors which are part of a very successful public art project.
Given that it was 95 degrees Fahrenheit all day, we decided to head back to the hotel around 7PM, calling it a day.
Copyright 2016, Jack B. Siegel. All Rights Reserved