Friday, December 10
Hi everyone. I'm sorry to have been missing for a while - I've come to Portugal for a family visit.
After spending some time in the Algarve, we arrived in Madeira this afternoon, for some pre-Christmas R&R. Madeira is an island paradise in the Atlantic. It belongs to Portugal, but being off the coast of Morocco, it feels more like the beginning of Africa than the end of Europe. The volcanic earth has yielded all manner of colourful and plentiful flora: gigantic cactus plants, towering palms, shrubs bursting with bright red flowers and broad, stiff leaves - it's almost prehistoric.
In the taxi from the airport, we were being told all about the local food. Names like 'espada' and 'espadete' whizzed past me as I tried to take down notes in my iPhone (one index finger can only go so fast...). We have three days to explore the food (and the island), but until then, I wanted to share with you the welcome treats in our hotel room: some Typical Madeira cakes. I particularly liked the queijadinha, which was like a light sweet-savoury cheese puff atop a light but firm pastry base. The bolo de mel was good too, and very Christmassy, with its spicy sweetness.
I'm typing this in the hotel's business centre and it's just past 10.30. After two flights to get here and an Italian dinner, I think it's time for bed...