Monday, April 30, 2018

Cruise - Gibraltar

Gibraltar was our second stop and I have to admit it was a bit of a bust. It was pouring rain when we made landfall and though we did our best to ignore it, ultimately we gave up and just spent the day on the boat. We did find out that the anoraks, shoes, and rain gear we brought worked fairly well and dried quickly though (always a bright side, right?). 

Late in the day it did clear enough to get a couple shots of the rock.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Cruise - Madeira Embroidery

Besides beautiful gardens and toboggan rides, Madeira is also known for embroidery and its namesake wine. I got to kill two birds with one stone at the Bordal embroidery factory. We stumbled upon the factory by chance and while exclaiming over the shop goods, they invited us up for a tour. How cool is that???

Much like the carpet makers in India, the embroidery is done not here at the factory, but at homes across the island. It's a dying art and they're steadily losing their supply of skilled embroiderers. 

The patterns are hand drawn and the stitches are counted or measured using map tools. This determines how much the embroiderers are paid.
Example patterns
The pattern is punched into tissue paper using a tattoo-like tool.
Tracing the pattern
Then the tissue paper is brought back to the dying area and a special blue dye is used to transfer the pattern to fabric.
All their nails were painted with blue polish
There are thousands of patterns stored here.

Historical designs
The fabric is sent out to be embroidered and then brought back for washing, ironing, and cut work. 

Hand washing away the dye
Carefully cutting to reveal the stitch work
We were so fortunate to see everything and the women working there were incredibly friendly. I found out that you can take embroidery classes there too! Hmmm, an excuse to spend a few months?
Yes, I bought some.
Oh, and the wine? They just happened to have a supply of some local wine on hand. I tried the Verdelho, a medium dry Madeira, and still found it very sweet. Not so sweet that I didn't buy a bottle though...

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Cruise - Madeira

Madeira was, by far, our favorite port. We both really wished we could have spent several more days (at least) exploring the island. As it was, we really only got to see Funchal and I'm sure just a small slice of that.
Early morning arrival
Funchal and a foggy mountain top
The weather was cool with lots of cloud cover. The mountain top was enclosed in fog which made us happy we hadn't booked the hike up to Pico do Arieiro (one of the highest peaks).

While wandering around and exploring the city we found many nifty shops that sold not tourist-stuff but everyday items: sewing machines and supplies, fabric stores, butcher shops, a huge fish market, and hardware stores with tiles that you could turn into murals.

The fish market was amazing. Very large, very clean, and it didn't smell like fish at all. We really wish we could have tried the scabbard fish but it was too early in the day for lunch.
Espada or scabbard fish
Not sure if this was tuna or swordfish
Can anyone translate?
The butcher shop was really neat - hanging smoked meats, beautiful cuts of pork and beef, and olives! I bought a smallish bag for 2 Euro and spent the day nibbling on them. They went great with the bakery sandwich of chorizo and garlic butter, baked into a traditional Madeiran bread Bola do Caco. Definitely need to figure out how to make that properly.
The olives were awesome
We opted to take the cable car up to Monte, a small village that overlooks Funchal. Great price (11 Euro per person, one way) and very pleasant views. It is 12,000 feet long and has a vertical rise of over 1,800 feet. Really glad we didn't have to make that climb by foot!
Back toward the harbor
Up toward Monte
Our Lady of Monte Church
That's just lovely
There are botanical gardens up there but we opted to just wander the streets and enjoy the local gardens. They grow bananas! And gorgeous geraniums are everywhere.
From the churchyard
Getting back down (at least 4 km of steep grade) could be done by walking, taking the cable car, or riding in a toboggan! I mean, who wouldn't???
Loading up
These toboggans used to transport goods but sometime in the 1850's tourists started asking for rides. Now it's a quick ride down 2 km and it's well worth the 30 Euro cost. I only wish I could actually convey how very fun and exciting this ride was. Once they drop you off, you can take a taxi or bus back to town, or do what we did which was explore by foot.
Steep, curvy, waxed streets make for an exciting ride
Being pulled on a rare flat area
It just doesn't do it justice...
Definitely a place we want to come back to.

Hidden lane
Just gorgeous

Monday, April 23, 2018


Our latest adventure was a 14 day cruise across the Atlantic. No, not one of Chris's sailing trips (I'm not brave enough to take that small of a boat onto the ocean), but a big Princess cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona Spain.  
Beautiful views
Yummy food
We spent 7 full days at sea before coming ashore in Madeira, an absolutely gorgeous island that is part of Portugal. From there we had another day at sea and then a series of landfall: Gibraltar, Cartagena Spain, Palma Mallorca, and finally Barcelona Spain.

I'm going to do posts on each stop, but here's a quick preview.

Bock Damm beer and coffee in Barcelona
One of many churches in Barcelona
Barcelona market 
Kayaking in Cartagena
Cartagena tapas
Roman ruins in Cartagena
Madeira fish market
Madeira embroidery factory
Yet another gorgeous view
We had such a great time and were extremely fortunate in the weather and in our dinner companions. We did the traditional dining which means we had the same time/table/people each night. That can cause a bit of worry about ending up with people you just can't relate to or enjoy. We had no such trouble - in fact we ended up being one of the last tables to clear each night. 

In all, the trip was fun, the weather was cooperative, the food was unbelievably good, and when we got home most of the snow was gone. That's a winner!

More on the trip soon.

Sunday, April 1, 2018


So, this is no big deal, right? I mean, we've seen this fox before. But this time is special. 
Good picture of him, isn't it?
But wait. What's that to the right?
Is it?
It is! A little female.
Odds are good they've got a den with kits in it somewhere nearby. There has been a strong scent on the wind lately but it's not directional enough to tell just where the den could be. We'll be leaving the camera right where it is for a while though and maybe we'll get to see them bring the family out for hunting lessons. 

Oh, and I'm definitely reinforcing the fence before I bring the new chickens home.