Sunday, June 7, 2009


In May as the rain blew away and some warm temperatures showed up it was time for a family getaway, so we made a short visit to Madeira, an island that belongs to Portugal but is actually closer to Morocco. We took a couple of vacation days from work to spend a 5-day weekend there. It’s only a 2-hour flight away, which after taking Amelia on an 11-hour flight from Frankfurt to Portland seemed pretty easy.

The island reminded us of the Caribbean and Hawaii with its steep volcanic mountainsides and tropical flora, with sun shining on the coast and rainclouds hanging onto the mountains. What was missing was the sandy beaches. Madeira has very few beaches and almost no sand. The switchback driving was exciting, though, and the views always tremendous.

Madeira has a famous system of walking paths that follow along the remarkable network of irrigation ditches (called levadas) that crisscross the island. It’s a wonderful way to explore the island since the paths are flat as they hug the mountainsides and afford amazing views along the way. It was a nice way to hike with Amelia and to see some of the waterfalls. One of our walking trails went through 4 tunnels, including one of 200 meters. Amelia didn’t seem to mind the darkness as much as I (Dan) did.

One of the highlights of the visit had to be Nelson, our rather comical B&B host. He was Portuguese/South African and was quite enamored with our daughter. He insisted on holding her during each breakfast and called her “Happy Face” and “Smiley Face” and referring to her as “well-adjusted”. He did seem to think it was necessary to warn us not to have another baby because we may not be so lucky with the next one. We’re still thinking about that.

Overall, a great little getaway, with a chance to spend time as a family, have some good seafood (including parrotfish, which we had never tried before), and explore a part of Portugal.

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