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A lovely island off the coast of North Africa, it's Madeira, M'Dear
By Christopher Reynolds
Jun 3, 2008 - 10:07:45 AM

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'The washing machine'

The following day, I hire Fernando again and we circle most of the island, periodically pausing for me to hike a little in the high country near Serra de Agua and Rabacal to lunch above the crashing waves and black lava rocks of Porto Moniz. Mile by mile, the scenery gets stranger and more wonderful. And the road itself gets steadily more memorable, especially R101 on the north coast of the island, between Porto Moniz and Sao Jorge. "We call this the washing machine," says Fernando a little later, grinning suspiciously and slowing the Mercedes. And sure enough, we approach a modest waterfall that splashes down not near the road, but on it. We slowly roll through, our windshield and roof bespattered, sheer cliffs falling away on our left. In two days, I have traveled from sea level to 5,000 feet and back, and from disdain to something like euphoria. On about my third island day, I make peace with Funchal. Walking Avenida Arriaga between my hotel and the center of town, I pause to admire caged peacocks and the sculpted garden of the Quinta Vigia (the governor's house), and the harbor views of the public Parque de Santa Catarina. I take in the sights, smells and sounds of the Mercado dos Lavradores, the island's foremost market, where strawberries, tomatoes, cherimoya, mango, citrus, cherries, fish and handicrafts are artfully arranged.


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