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  • Mar5

    Old Town Funchal

    March 5, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ 🌬 18 °C

    Oh the town of Funchal was hopping today. The cruise ships were in the harbour and it was the last day of Carnival. A big crazy parade had been planned and lots of people were in town to see it, but due to the windy and rainy weather forecast for later today, it was cancelled. But the people were there!

    Funchal, the capital city of Madeira Island, has a history that goes back over 5 centuries. The early Portuguese settlers colonised the coast in a picturesque bay surrounded by mountains where fennel (funcho) grew in abundance, this giving its name to the new town of Funchal. Over the years the population grew, with international trade attracting the attention of all of Europe. Nowadays, Funchal is a very modern city with over 112.000 inhabitants. It is one of the safest and cleanest cities in Europe. The pretty cobbled streets in the centre mixed with the modern shopping areas, cafes, bars, restaurants and tourists make Funchal an interesting and busy city.

    We walked around the area that is close to the harbour and happened to come upon the Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmers' Market) which opened in 1940. Huge panels of painted tiles, showing ladies carrying flowers to sell at the market, adorn the facade, the main entrance and the fish market.
    Inside, the colourful and open space is organised into small “Plazas”, “Squares”, “Streets” and “Little Stairways”, where all types of products are sold.
    It is actually a lovely market and building, and trust me, we have seen a lot of markets!

    Everywhere we have been so far, we have seen the word Poncha - on menus, on ads, on flyers. Today was the day we found out what Poncha was.

    We heard that some of the oldest grocery stores of Madeira are called ‘ Vendas or mercearias’ . These stores were around when life moved slowly.
    At those times, products were sold by weight, without pre-packaging or pallets. The ‘Vendas’, or general stores, sold pretty much everything - creams, potatoes, brooms, shovels, chewing gum, candies and even string. Right beside the groceries selling area, there was always a bar, selling wine with fizzy orange juice ‘ laranjada’ and Poncha.

    So, Poncha, we found out, is a regional drink made of rum ( known as sugar cane brandy), honey and lemon. Sometimes other fruits are put into the drink. Today was the day that we tried it. Yum!

    We returned to our car via the beautiful, harbour-front gardens just as the winds were starting to blow and the skies were getting pretty dark.

    Everything about Funchal shows that there is a lot of pride in the city. The cobblestones are carefully laid and taken care of, the squares are lovely, the parks are well-planned, the parking is organized and the city is clean. We can see why the cruise ships stop in this lovely city.
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