Winter Break in Madeira
We found heaters in the apartment, and managed to warm up a bit. There’s no central air conditioning or central heating—I assume because usually all year round is ambient. It’s colder this year. I woke early, before sunrise (it’s not light here until about an hour after it’s light in the UK). When it was light, we went for a run. Although not sunny, it wasn’t cold. The light is different here. It’s a comforting light. Most of Madeira is mountainous, so lots of people run on the only flat land, along the promenade. It’s a pretty place to run, with little areas of garden, and interesting statues and the sea lapping onto pebbles next to you. There are often cruise ships, towering over the docks, and occasionally we had to dodge large groups who were touring the island, led by a guide to the most famous sights. I prefer living here, even for a few days, to try to absorb some of the real life. It was fun to watch the ships arriving though, such impossibly huge structures balanced on the water.
After a shower, we walked back to the little cafe where last year we went every morning, Husband always had a cheese and onion bolo, and I had an espresso. But the cafe was shut. What a shame. We wandered around, looking for somewhere to recreate the same ‘coffee with the locals’ feel, but most cafes looked very touristy. Then we settled on the cafe under the apartment, which wasn’t in such a nice location (okay, it is a horrible location, as it’s basically right on a busy road). But it had plastic chairs, and locals sipping espressos, and it looked clean. We ordered (Husband had chips. Chips. For breakfast.)
While we waited for our coffee (and chips) we saw the elderly man from last year’s café. He sat outside and had his coffee, and we wondered whether we should say hello, but decided we didn’t speak enough Portuguese and he didn’t speak English, and probably it would just confuse him. So we didn’t. But we mentioned it to the waitress, and she told us that he still runs his café, but the roof fell down, so he’s waiting for it to be fixed. This is why I like returning to the same places. Being on holiday is a break from life, but if you travel a lot, it can mean that you never engage in life, you are never part of anything, which seems a waste. When we return to the same places, we can be part of a different community — even if only very briefly. I think life is about connections, not being isolated. I’m not a great one for drifting, I like to have a purpose.
Caffeine replenished, we set off to find the boot shop. Last year I packed the right clothes, but not the right footwear, and when we had torrential rain, my only ‘waterproof’ shoes were drenched. We found a little shop that sold boots, and I bought a pair because they weren’t too expensive. They have been the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned, and are still worn all the time. They are brown boots, and I don’t like wearing brown shoes with grey trousers, so I was keen to buy some black ones. But would we manage to find the shop?
We set off, past the market (Mercado dos Lavradores) and all the aggressive salesmen selling fruit at inflated prices to unsuspecting tourists. We crossed the road, rounded the corner where they are building a Savoy hotel, and headed into the lanes of the old town. We half-remembered the road, and that the shop was opposite a larger shoe shop selling fashion shoes. We found a smaller shoe shop opposite, and went inside. It looked slightly different, but was in the right place, selling shoes. I explained what I wanted, showed the salesman my brown boots, and he went off to find some black ones. He returned with several boots, some of the black, none of them the same manufacturer as mine. I explained that I wanted the exact same boot, but in black (otherwise I may as well buy them in England). He came back with some similar boots, which he spent a long time stretching, undoing the laces, bending them open. I tried them on, knowing they were a size smaller than I wanted. I thanked him for trying, and left. The man suggested I should try in the big shop opposite, but I knew they only sold fashion shoes, and I wanted the same good quality leather boots.
I set off towards the apartment, refusing to listen when Husband suggested we should look in other shops, because I hate shopping, and only went to that place because I thought it would be easy. Husband insisted. I said I would look in one more shop. Husband led me up the road . . . To the exact same shop we had visited last year! We had been in a different shop, which explained why they hadn’t had my boots. This shop only sold Tapadas boots. Which begs the question: why did the other shop, when I was leaving anyway, not direct me back up the road? He must have known the Tapadas shop was there, and he wasn’t making the sale, so why not tell me? I dislike mean people. If you want comfortable boots (the sort of boots you can wear on an all-day hike on the day you buy them and not get blisters) then head to Abreu’s Sapataria.
I like Madeira, but I cannot quite get a feel for what it must be like to live here. Unless you want to work in the service/tourist industry, or to be an engineer (because there are some serious mountains to build on/through) then I’m not sure what work the island offers. There are the huge cruise ships that visit regularly, but the passengers tend to eat onboard, and only do brief excursions into town, making shops and attractions overly busy and then leaving, returning the narrow streets to the locals. The restaurants tout for business by trying to persuade passing people inside, which I always find uncomfortable, but maybe they have to, maybe there isn’t quite enough tourism for the number of restaurants. I suspect it’s a difficult place to run a business. We ate in some restaurants that were lovely, with delicious food and staff who worked very hard to keep everything clean and efficient. But they were rarely full, and sometimes we were the only customers, which felt sad given how hard people worked. But for us, it was lovely. I like visiting places out of season, pretending that I live here.
I will tell you more next week. Thanks for reading.
Have a good week, and take care.
Love, Anne x