Thursday, May 26, 2016

our last couple days of vacation...

In the name of full disclosure, I'm writing this from the comfort and quiet of home.  That was one fantastic trip.

Our last morning in Madeira, we got up bright and early and checked out of our B&B, and were then picked up by a Land Rover from Madeira Mountain Expeditions.  We had such a good experience doing a jeep tour in the Azores that we thought we'd squeeze one in on our last day in Madeira.  We wanted to visit Cabo Girao (super high sea cliff) and to see Nun's Valley, and this seemed like an easy and fun way to do it.

The view from Cabo Girao (I closed my eyes and held my phone over the railing.  Heights are terrifying to me!)

The customer service from Madeira Mountain Expeditions was fantastic - they picked us up early in Ribeira Brava and solved the problem of holding our bags for the day (Ribeira Brava was 20 km west of Funchal, which in turn was 20 km west of the airport, so we didn't want to loop back at the end of the day before our flight).  They really went above and beyond in the regard.

The flower in this photo is called the "pride of Madeira" - the bees were loving it!  Nun's Valley is in the background

Our guide, Andre, was also super nice and quite entertaining.  That said, we didn't love this tour quite as much as the other, first because it was full, which meant that we were in very close proximity to the other tourists for the duration of the tour (as haters of crowds and crowded places, this was not my favourite), and I also felt like we spent a little more time driving around 'off road' rather than seeing interesting places.  BUT, we did see some amazing scenery, and it was overall a really good way to spend our last day in Madeira.  I'd love to go back and hike through Nun's Valley - it looks breathtaking.  Check out this video (taken from the top):

As a tip for anyone else considering a jeep tour though, I would be tempted to check out the taxi tours first - taxis have a fixed rate of 20 euros/hour (if you call in advance and book and request) and they will take you anywhere you want.  So if you are less concerned about off-roading, and know exactly where you want to go, I'd probably go for a taxi tour and then just pay the driver to wait while you wander around places.

Here is a photo from Camara dos Lobos, which is a cute fishing village

But all that said, we saw amazing things, and I got to have a little more poncha, which certainly made me feel at ease.  :)

Our plane was delayed a few hours flying out of Madeira, which meant we did miss out on our much-sought reservations at A Tasca in Ponta Delgada (the backstory here is that we tried three separate times to eat at this top-rated restaurant, only to be turned away, so we had made reservations in advance for our last night.....except we were still stuck in Madeira when they happened!).  Note to any future diners - make reservations!!!!

But no worries - we had a fancy airport dinner of Pizza Hut (and beer!), which was nicely covered by SATA (due to the delay), and we got into our hotel (Hotel Canadiano) at about 10:30 that night.  The hotel name cracked me up a bit, but they carried the Canadian/maple leaf theme on all the towels, linens, etc.  The rooms have a bit of a 70s 'movie' vibe to them, but the price and location were right.

Disclaimer - not my pic.  From hotel website.  Champagne did not greet us here.  ;)
And the breakfast wasn't bad either!  WHY do we not have passionfruit yogourt here?

I made Brad take me to A Tasca for lunch on our very last day in Ponta Delgada, and I have to say it was worth overstuffing myself.  We weren't super hungry and so only had fried octopus, garlic bread and a cheese plate, but they were fantastic.

Obviously, I was not about to pass up one of the last opportunities to have wine, so we enjoyed this with a bottle of vinho verde.  I was very stoked to learn I can buy this at the LCBO - a great, refreshing summer sipper, with the slightest effervescence.

Our flight to Toronto was uneventful, and then we settled into the overpriced airport bar to wait a few hours for our flight to Ottawa (regarding the airport bar pricing, the three beers we had at Corso cost more than the bottle of wine, cheese plate, garlic bread and octopus we had at A Tasca.....).

I have one more post to come, where I'll break down the trip costs, for the nosy/curious.

We had such an amazing trip - so many adventures, so much yummy food and memorable, incredible sights.  The people were met in the Azores and Madeira were mostly very friendly and welcoming, and they are both fantastic places for anyone who wants to explore nature, eat seafood and drink wine.  :)

On that note, we were quizzed by Portugal Tourism folks at Ponta Delgada airport, and when asked how we would rate our trip, out of 10, neither one of us hesitated before declaring the trip a perfect 10.  :)  Would definitely do it again, especially with my fantastic travel buddy.

We were super happy to get home and squeeze our little girls tight, and most grateful to Grandpa M, who did an amazing job of keeping them fed, clothed, safe and entertained while we were gone.  THANK YOU!!!!!

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