Our day on Madeira proved to be quite magical, and a wonderful way to end the land part of the journey. It started with Tom getting up early with me to watch us come in in the dawn dark. The island is a mountain cut with canyons, and from the harbor side it was spangled uniformly with lights. The canyons weren’t visible. By the end of the morning we had threaded through tunnels, wound along impossible roads, stopped to peer off precipices, and come back to the ship through old streets with beautiful trees, so we felt we had taken the island into our bones. We pulled out into open ocean at the end of the day, still in the bright sun, with an inexplicable feeling of longing.
Our taxi driver had created our route and was voluble in heavily Portuguese-accented Spanish. From him we learned what had created a mysterious band of grey, dead, trees above the city (a forest fire last August caused by a cigarette smoker.) He took us to beautiful corners of the island on everything from one-lane, serpentine cliff-hangers to freeway viaducts.
If anyone’s interested in some out-of-the-way reading, Ann Bridge has written some good novels that are strong in a sense of place. One of them, The Malady in Madeira, had been up to now my sole knowledge of this place. She died in 1974 or so, had been a diplomat’s wife, and was a good observer of people and places.