Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day Twelve - The Island of Madeira, Portugal

Madeira at 5:30 am
As Our Ship Nears Port

Madeira, Portugal

 Typical View

 View from the Top

 Downtown Madeira

 Stop to Sample the Wines

Another downtown view

Famous for its flowers, lace and wine, this Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco to me was a blend of Hawaii and Napa Valley.  Madeira is a volcanic island that virtually goes straight up with no flatlands.

The lower elevations have acres and acres of hand carved terraces where bananas are grown on what they call plantations. As the elevation increases you find vineyards replacing bananas as a crop.

Amazing when you see how difficult it must be to build a house or grow a crop on a vertical plane. They must historically be a hearty lot of people and perhaps this hardiness will get them through the current difficult time.

Our tour guide mentioned that Madeira currently is experiencing a 20% unemployment rate, has a VAT of 22% and wages have declined. Yet as I walked the streets of downtown and was driven through various areas I saw clean streets and parks and the absence of panhandlers, that one would expect in such desperate times.

The population of the island is about 260,000 people with around 110,000 living in the downtown area. Every home had beautiful flowers growing in their gardens and not one weed in sight.

There are many five and four-star hotels that overlook the water. Looks like a place I could easily come and visit for a couple of weeks.

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