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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Tuesday 16th January. Mindelo, Cape Verde Islands and mixed fortunes

There are several people on board that are part of the “Passenger Enrichment Program”.  There is my Peter, with his art classes, Peter Counsell, who provides paint, designs and wooden boxes for people to decorate.  Then there is another Peter, Pete Crush, running ukulele classes every morning and Christine Robinson runs creative writing classes every afternoon.  The two lecturers on board (there should have been three, but one couldn’t make it), are Lena Mookerjee and Ian Butterfield.

We did have another crafter lady, Jan, but she had to leave the ship at Madeira.  She fell a few days ago as we crossed the Bay of Biscay, and x-rays in Vigo confirmed that she had broken her shoulder.  She’s had to have an operation in Madeira and isn’t able to continue the cruise.  Both her and her husband are very disappointed, and I am sorry for them.  My Peter, and Peter Counsell will now both run their craft classes every sea day to fill her schedule.

We’ve had a couple of uneventful sea days with Peter running his classes in the afternoon.  And then yesterday we learnt that Jan was not the only person to leave the ship at Madeira.  Lena one of the Shore Excursions team also had to leave because of something at home. 

And today we are in Mindelo.  We arrived much earlier than scheduled, because there was a medical emergency on board, and the Captain had put his foot down to get the ship here as quickly as possible.   We seem to be having a lot of medical situations at the moment.  Hopefully whoever it was has been treated, and is back on board ship.  But, if it was that much of an emergency, there is a good chance they would have had to remain in a hospital in Mindelo. 

Peter and I were asked to escort “A glimpse of the island” tours, so this morning, we were on the quay at 8.30 waiting for the buses.  It’s quite a good tour, you get to go to the top of Mont Verde and see the fantastic views, as well as a little truckle around the sights of Mindelo.   The excursions had finished by 12.30, so Peter and I decided to go back into town to get a few more photographs, particularly of the fishing boats, as Peter wanted to paint them.  Whilst in town, I messaged my oldest daughter, asking about an interview that she’d attended, and it turns out she’s got the job.  I was feeling pleased for her good news as we got back on board.  Not the case for Peter Crush and his wife.  We met them as we walked back to our cabin and unfortunately the news they’d received when they contacted home was very different.  So much so, they were packing to leave the ship immediately.

After hearing this, Peter and I sat in the cabin drinking tea, mulling over how easy it is to have the tables completely turned as you travel through life.  Jan and her fall, the emergency medical cases, messages from home........   It could so easily have been us, one minute chatting and laughing at the dinner table, looking forward to the adventures of Brazil, and the next, rushing home to face whatever trouble that had come about.  We are resolved to appreciate our good health and good fortune and enjoy it while it lasts. We also sincerely hope that everything ends well for our friends and colleagues.  Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow is a sea day, the first of four before we reach the mouth of the mighty Amazon, we expect flying fish, and I will make a concerted effort to photograph some.   Watch this space.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Saturday 13th January – Funchal, Madeira

We like it here.  It’s a lovely place, lush and green with flowers everywhere. We’ve been loads of times before, and we’ve been up on the cable car, around the church at Monte, visited the gardens up there and come back down to Funchal on the sledges.  We’ve walked the main streets, have spent hours looking for Tourist Information, visited the cathedral and viewed the city from the tower of the university church.  We’ve sat in the cafe on the main street, indulging in over rich cakes and watching the taxi drivers pushing their cabs along in the queue.  We’ve photographed the terrapins live in the fountain of the council buildings, listened to folk bands during New Year celebrations and walked the sea front through several periods of building work.  Each year has seen the city change bit by bit, all for the better.

And today we were going to take it easy.  No excursions to escort, just a bit of free time to take a walk into town, have a look around, and pick up a few bits n pieces from the Spar.  Even though we’ve been to Funchal many times before, there are loads of streets and places we’ve not seen.  One of them was a little park on top the cliff which could be seen from the deck of our cruise ship, so that’s where we headed.

We had a bit of job working out the best way to get to it though.  I knew there was a path and stairs from the main road near the sea front, but we thought we could see a quicker way.  This was not quite the case, and we ended up walking uphill with no way through.  We got to the top, and thought we had found a route.
But  the route involved a wander around the gardens of the Pestana Casino Park, which turns out to be a very nice looking hotel.  I would say classy and expensive, but I’m not entirely sure it was, because when we nosed through the windows at the restaurant, it didn’t look any more classy and expensive than the Bistro here on the ship.   The gardens and the pool were stunning though, definitely classy and expensive looking, and we thought it might be a nice place to stay.  If we could afford it!
View of the Magellan and Madeira from the hotel grounds.  The sun did come out later
After trespassing around the grounds for a while though, we worked out we couldn’t get to the park we wanted to, so we had to leave and walk along the road, and find the right park entrance.
Statue in the park
As I said, Funchal is lovely.  Lush and green with flowers everywhere, which also encourages  birds and insects. 
From the park we took a little walk through the town, finishing up at the Spar just next to the shuttle bus.  We loaded up on teabags, water and coffee and made our way back to the ship.  Lunch today was a hot dog and chips, out on deck in the warm sunshine of Madeira.
The ship is about to sail, so I’ll finish up and get this blog uploaded.  We have two sea days until Mindelo in the Cape Verde islands.  As Peter says, “Bring it on”.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Friday 12th January - Sea day

First I should say that the sea has been quite calm all day, which makes me feel so much better, thankfully, because Peter and I turned up at the craft area this morning expecting a difficult couple of hours.  Housekeeping turned up, tables were arranged, the dividers were set up, we stretched the equipment out to allow 32 spaces and the passengers started  to arrive.

Much to our surprise, it all worked perfectly.  The passengers queued “in an orderly fashion”, and when the tables were ready and they all sat down, we didn’t have to turn more than a couple away, and that was for the first class.  On the second class we even had free seats.

So the morning went well, we had a lovely quiet afternoon just chilling (although Peter worked on his online students), and we spent the evening in the pub.  We are back to everything going smoothly again.............

Tomorrow we get to Funchal, Madeira.  Excellent.