Day 793: Madeira

Madeira, like the Azores, is an Atlantic Ocean archipelago governed by the Portuguese.  Its Mediterranean climate makes it an attractive destination for tourists; more than one million visit every year.  The main harbor in Funchal is a favorite cruise ship port of call.  Many who know little or nothing about the islands know the name, Madeira, because of its signature wine.  Fortified wines like Madeira, Port, and Sherry were developed to remain stabile during long sea voyages.  Winemakers accomplished this by distilling brandy from the wine and adding it back to raise the ethanol content.

Laetitia began the day’s tour by taking her group on a sleigh ride.  It may seem an odd thing to do on an island that has no snow, but the rapid mile-long descent through Funchal’s asphalt city streets in wicker basket cars on skids is a very popular local custom.  The group rode the cog railway to the hilltop suburb of Monte where they boarded the sleds.  Each sled accommodated two riders who sat together on a padded seat while two drivers clad in traditional white uniforms and “boater” hats steered each sled along its downward route.  Afterwards, they toured Funchal’s spectacular Botanical Gardens.  The sled ride inspired Laetitia’s limerick of the day.

If you’d have a fun Funchal day
Why not go for a ride in a sleigh
Steered by uniformed guides
These snowless thrill rides
Down the streets help you cast cares away.

Day 792: Azores

About 1,200 miles southeast of Newfoundland in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (900 miles west of Portugal) is an archipelago of nine major islands known as the Azores.  Though isolated, the name of this island group is well known to many Americans because of a poem that was often required reading in grade school textbooks during the twentieth century.  “Behind him lay the gray Azores” was the first line of a poem Uncle Ralph memorized in school and used to recite for Laetitia when she was small.  Hoosier-born poet, Cincinnatus Heine Miller (penname: Joaquin Miller), wrote the poem, Columbus, in 1892, 400 years after the first Columbian voyage.

Discovered (or rediscovered) by Portuguese ship captains sailing for Prince Henry the Navigator, these islands belong to Portugal.  Laetitia decided to tour only one island on this first visit.  She chose Faial.  Horta, the small island’s harbor city is a favorite port of call for sailing yachts crossing the Atlantic.  After an island tour, Laetitia and her group did a harbor-side walk, viewing the sailboats from all over the world.  Then they visited Peter Café Sport, a waterfront establishment that opened in 1918, famous for its scrimshaw museum and its gin and tonics served in mugs.  It also serves as a post office of sorts where yachters leave mail for their sailing friends.

On Faial, Peter Café Sport, a
Bar favorite of yachters in port, a
Place known for scrimshaw
And gin tonics that awe,
A must-see in harbor-side Horta

Day 791: Saint-Pierre et Miquelon

Before leaving the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Laetitia decided to bring her group to France or, more correctly, what remains of its former territories in North America.  Located off the south coast of Newfoundland near the entrance to Fortune Bay, Laetitia had arranged with a local guide for a coastal tour that included lighthouses, beaches and other maritime scenes but unfortunately hadn’t counted on the fog.  Views came in glimpses with the guide mostly telling the group what they would have seen if it were a clearer day.  Photo opportunities consisted mostly of what could be shot at short range.  Spider webs with pearly droplets of dew were very popular.  They spent the rest of the visit in museums and shops.  The local currency is the Euro, but most shops take Canadian or U.S. dollars and arriving at one’s destination with the right currency is easily arranged on imaginary tours.

On our brief island foray, the view
Came in glimpses infrequent and few
Through breaks in the fog
Thick as hair on a dog;
Photo ops were webs covered with dew.

Day 790: Cape Breton

Cape Breton, in Canada’s Province of Nova Scotia was the day’s destination.  Laetitia and her group spent the morning in Baddeck at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.  After the telephone that Bell invented became a commercial success, he built a mansion in the area where he and his wife, Mable, raised their children.  There he continued scientific pursuits as inventor and entrepreneur.  His pioneering research in aviation and his founding of the National Geographic Society are much less well known than his work with the telephone.  Later, they took a cruise on a schooner that offered excellent views of the Bell mansion and nesting bald eagles.

They spent the afternoon at the Fortress of Louisbourg.  Built by the French in the early eighteenth century, the citadel changed hands several times.  General James Wolfe was second-in-command of an English expedition that captured Louisbourg in 1759.  Later in the same year, he commanded the British Forces that sailed up the Saint Lawrence River and defeated the French at Quebec.  Laetitia and her group had the good fortune to hear a performance by the Men of the Deeps, a male choral ensemble whose members are former coal miners from the area.  The occasion for the concert of traditional music was the dedication of one of the reconstructed Fort Louisbourg buildings.

They had dinner at the A & K Lick-A-Chick Restaurant in Little Bras D’or near Sydney. This diner-style forty-years-old establishment features superb fried chicken and excellent hamburgers as well as double entendre.  It became the subject of Laetitia’s limerick of the day.

In Cape Breton, the home of the miner
There’s the A & K Lick-A-Chick diner
That serves burger in bun
Fried chicken and pun
That loyal fans say couldn’t be finer.