Washed out in Madeira

Today we woke up in Funchal, Madeira.  We had been here twice before; the last visit was a couple of years ago.  Madeira is a beautiful island, and is sometimes known as the garden of the Atlantic, as its flora is so green and lush.  But today we opened our curtains to grey skies and mist.  We certainly hoped it would improve; we could stay at home if we wanted dull, rainy weather.  🙂

We were due to go on a scenic coach tour and visit to a Madeira lodge this morning.  In the past we had just done our own thing, as the ship docks right in Funchal centre and everything is within walking distance.  So we’d already done the cable car and the wicker toboggan run; this time we were going on an organised excursion.

We left the ship about 9.30am and there was a light shower, certainly nothing much.  We boarded the bus and off we went to the Blandy’s Madeira lodge, to try the different Madeira wines.  They were very palatable; there was a nice medium one we started with, which tasted similar to sherry.  Then there was also a dry one and a sweet one; I wasn’t too keen on the sweet.   The wine lodge was fairly crowded with tourists, which meant you had to queue up at the bar each time to get your sample; you could also purchase bottles of Madeira at the bar.  When I say “queue up” however, I mean that’s what the British visitors did.  The Japanese absolutely did not seem to have any idea of the concept of queueing!  There was one lady in a stupid baseball hat with a massive peak, who was just determined to squeeze in, even though it was apparent that people were waiting to be served.  When I pointed this out to her, she glared at me then moved to push into another part of the queue, until she was sent packing by the person there!  Is queuing just a British phenomenon?

We bought some Madeira to take back home, and also some Madeira cake.  When we came out of the lodge it was absolutely teeming with rain!  I mean, the skies just opened and it was torrential.  The bus was parked a good five minutes walk away, but that is all it took for me to become soaked through.  If I’d jumped in the ship’s swimming pool with all my clothes on, I could not have been wetter. 😦

It was a very uncomfortable journey on the bus, particularly as they had the air conditioning on full blast and you couldn’t turn off the blowers.  So there I was, soaked to the skin, getting cold air blown onto me.  Furthermore, the windows inside the bus steamed up inside and had water pouring down them outside, so you couldn’t see anything!

The rest of the tour just consisted of the bus going up the winding streets, all the way to the top.  Normally this would have given us spectacular views and fantastic photo points, but there was just nothing to see except clouds and water.  At each of the stopping points no-one got off the coach to take any photos, and I just got the impression everyone just wanted to go back to the ship – I certainly did!  On the way back down we could see torrents of water pouring down the hillside, and manhole covers were lifting up with the force of the flood waters beneath them.

Eventually we did go back on board, by which time my teeth were chattering.  As we dripped our way up the gangplank we heard an announcement over the tannoy to say that due to “inclement weather” (understatement or what?!) all further excurions would be cancelled, and even the shuttle bus into town would be cancelled.  I don’t really blame them.

I had a good, long hot shower and changed into some clean, dry clothes – sheer bliss to get out of my damp things.  No sitting out on the balcony for us today then!

For the rest of the afternoon we just pottered around the ship as the rain continued to bucket down outside.  At least there is always plenty to do on the ship, so we weren’t bored at all.  We got ready to go down to dinner at 6.00pm as usual.  Someone on our table said that a dog had been washed into the sea in the floods and had had to be rescued by one our the Queen Elizabeth‘s crew in the pilot boat!  They couldn’t tell us any more though.

Once we had finished dinner we wasted no time in going to the Royal Court Theatre, and managed to get seats in the centre, in the second row.  Tonight we were in for a treat – Lulu was performing, along with her guest Kiki Dee.

The set on the stage was brilliant; you’d have thought you were in some theatre somewhere, never mind on a ship!  Lulu had brought her own band and backing singers with her, and the show was excellent!  She is certainly looking very good for 61 years old.  She sang her own well-known numbers, such as To Sir, With Love and Shout.  She also did some superb covers of other hit songs.  Then Kiki Dee came on and did her famous ones, such as I’ve Got the Music in Me, and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, with Lulu taking Elton John’s part.  I was pleased to hear her fluff her lines in one part, which is exactly what I’d done in the Golden Lion when I was singing this song with the pianist (I’d had a few drinks, mind you!)  😉

As usual, once the show was finished (to a standing ovation) we hot-footed it along to the Golden Lion.  We could not believe our ears when he overheard some of the old farts moaning about Lulu, saying the music was too loud, the lights were too bright etc.  There’s no pleasing some people!

In the Golden Lion later on, they were looking for four couples to take part in “The Marriage Game” (otherwise known as “Mr & Mrs”) so Trevor and I volunteered.   This is the game where they ask the four women questions about their husbands (while the men are out of the room), then bring the husband back in, ask them the same questions and they have to guess what answer their wives gave.  Then the second round is where they ask the men questions about their wives.  Trevor and I won!  We received a bottle of bubbly as well as some of the ‘wonderful’ prize vouchers.  We felt it was extremely fitting that we won, because three years ago on the Queen Victoria we participated in Mr & Mrs and we actually should have won then, but they made a mistake adding up our score and so we were robbed!

Madeira was our last port of call and we now had three days at sea to look forward to, before our arrival back at Southampton.

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