We enjoyed yet another leisurely breakfast on our hotel terrace overlooking the ocean, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so it seemed to be a perfect morning to take the Gondola up the hillside to Monte. Patience is a virtue so the proverb goes, and it was true for us that morning. Unlike the previous day when there were lengthy queues of cruise passengers waiting to take the cable car, there was virtually no queue, so we felt pleased that we had not taken the trip a day earlier.
The cable car takes approximately 15 minutes to reach Monte, gliding over hundreds of bright red tiled rooftops on its way, passing road bridges and tunnels hewn out of rock. From the upper station it’s an easy walk leftwards to view the famous Monte wicker toboggan rides. Originating from the 1850’s as a quick means of transport down the steep hills to Funchal, they are now one of the town’s premier attractions.
Costing €25 for one person or €30 for two, tourists sit in a wicker chair with a sledge like base and are pushed down the steep hills by men clad in white uniforms wearing straw boaters. The journey covers 2km and lasts around 10 minutes ending at Livramento, quite a distance out of town leaving many people needing to return to the town centre by taxi.
Standing on a cliff, high above the wicker basket rides, is the church of Our Lady of the Mountain. Accessed by a long flight of stone steps, the small church has splendid Portuguese tiling and a small gallery on each side. From the steps, panoramic views of Funchal and its harbour can be seen. Wandering in the other direction we passed the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens and down a steep lane we came to a second gondola taking visitors to Funchal’s Botanic Gardens lower down the hillside.
Returning down to Funchal we were fortunate to have sole use of a cabin as we enjoyed far reaching views of the port and of our hotel, the Casino Park.
After a light lunch on the seafront we strolled through Santa Caterina Park up to our hotel where we spent the afternoon relaxing in the warm sunshine by the pool. After a visit to the steam room we enjoyed pre dinner drinks and nibbles in the hotel before having dinner in one of the many restaurants in the centre of Funchal.
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