Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Relaxing Day

We have an all together more relaxing day today. Not idle, but not to strenuous either. After a good breakfast we returned to the room to decide on the day's activity. The Gorse Fox had noticed a promenade marked on the map, and it started not too far from the hotel.

We set off in a westerly direction and dropped down from the main road, passing some hotels to the coast (it can't really be called a beach). The promenade heads right along the coast (just like the promenade in Bognor) passing the seawater lido and various play areas, sports facilities, bars, and restaurants. It really is quite a nice walk.

The promenade loops round over a small headland then rises towards another. Then you walk down a long hill to a further lido and then up a steep hill round a headland towards the end of the paved route. The hills were good because they got the heart pumping and afforded some excellent views across the bays. We stopped and took in the view for a while then turned and headed back the way we had come.

Back at the hotel we decided on a quiet afternoon down in the Olive Garden. We had our swimming gear on, in case we felt like a swim. As it turns out our Kindles provided all the stimulation we needed for the afternoon as we both cracked on with our respective books. It was somewhat anachronistic to be sitting in the warm afternoon sun, reading, when all of a sudden the sounds of a choir practise breaks the silence. The Gorse Fox assumes this was their first practise as they sounded more like a football crowd than a polished choir. The Gorse Fox was, however, able to distinguish several of the Christmas carols they were murdering.

As the sun left the gardens we headed up to our room. Being on the tenth floor our balcony would remain in the sun for a further hour or two.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Totally Tropical

Sustained by a good breakfast we ordered a taxi for the trip up to the Monte Palace Gardens (referred to by our airport driver as the Tropical Gardens). It only took about 15 minutes as we wound our way up the hills, around the switchback roads and through the little hamlets. The driver dropped us  by the gates at the end of the cable car run. Conde Nast Traveler rates these as one of the thirteen most beautiful botanical gardens in the world. The Gorse Fox would not dispute this. He would rate them as the best he has ever seen.

We started with a coffee on the terrace looking down through the dense foliage. Here and there you could make out pathways, streams, bridges, and arches. This was going to be interesting. As we perused the map and discussed the route we realised that while the gardens occupied 70,000 sq m, there was a lot to see. That started with the ceramic pot just behind the SIlver Vixen. This must have been 8 feet high and was certainly large enough to house a family of four and their dog.

We started down through the glades. Waterfalls and streams tumbled and trickled down by the well maintained walkways. Oriental styled bridges and arches led to new viewpoints, stone Buddhas lined the paths and grinned from the undergrowth. Huge Japanese stone lanterns sat watchfully, lining the route. It was quite magical. Slowly we made our way down, zigging first this way and then zagging back the other. There was so much to see and every sight had multiple viewpoints.

Eventually the denser planting open out to a central lake. Water played across the surface from several fountains and a huge cascade. A few small islands were  accessible across causeways or bridges and a high-level path led round, overlooking the whole view. We took the high level route and wound our way past koi ponds to the very edge of the garden. Here we found the boundary road which is famous for the wicker toboggans that whisk people down the mountain side. We watched in amusement as people hurtled past - in some cases screaming. Would the Gorse Fox or Silver Vixen do this? Not on your nelly.

We stopped for a while near the bottom of the garden and just sat and took in the view over the Bay of Funchal. Behind us was a statue of a woman pulling a young girl. The caption immediately came to  mind 'No, Ellie, there's no more cheese!'

We moved on passing the Monte Palace itself. This had once been an hotel but closed when the owner died. The whole place was then bought by a businessmen who had made his money in minerals. He set about creating the whole venture as we see it today and donated it to a foundation, which he funded.

We looped back round past the lake and down into the southern Oriental garden. This was more Chinese in style (the upper garden being more Japanese). Koi grazed through the streams and water trickled everywhere. It really was quite magical. It was also time for a beer. We made our way to a terrace in the south eastern corner and grabbed a beer and a cake and just sat under the trees watching the world go by. Finally it was time to move and we looped back up through the eastern side of the garden. As we went we read the huge ceramic panels that illustrated the history of Portugal back through the ages.

Back near the top of the garden was museum. Two level showed Africa art - essentially stone carvings. Now the Gorse Fox knows what he likes and concludes that he is a Philistine. He though they (and there may have been close on a 1000 items) were ugly and wouldn't give them shelf space in an outside loo, let alone in a museum. The third level of the museum, however, was a collection of minerals. Again there were about 1000 exhibits but these were superb. Nearly all of them were from Brasil but illustrated the various crystalline structures lurking in the banks of the rivers there. It really was intriguing.

Finally, after three or four hours, we were done. The garden had filled us with joy and made our spirits soar. It was time to join them, so we climbed aboard the cable car and took off into thin air, dangling in a pod hanging from a cable strung between pylons that strode down the mountainside right down to the marina where we had been yesterday. The Silver Vixen had been nervous about it but decided she would face her fear. Half way down, the immortal words 'Are we nearly there yet?' indicated she was not enjoying it too much.

Back at the marina we decided that we would walk back to the hotel rather than get a taxi (which had been the original plan). What a day that had been.

Sleep

The Gorse Fox usually sleeps well but must say that he is sleeping even better than usual while here in Madeira; even the Silver Vixen is sleeping well.

The Gorse Fox was up soon after seven as usual. The sun was up soon after and put on an impressive display as it prepared to beet the day. Plans may change, but at the moment our plan is to visit the Tropical Gardens. (We have been warned the the famous Botanical Gardens are in a bit of a state at the moment and after some recent storms many of the paths have been washed away or are in a poor state of repair).

But first we have breakfast!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Lazy Sunday

A lazy start to the day as befits a Sunday morning. The Gorse Fox was up early and watched the sun come up in the east, then settled down with his book for some reading while he waited for the Silver Vixen to appear.

Breakfast was another tasty affair where we could graze our way through ranges of fruit, breads, cheeses, cured meats, salads, and of course cooked food. We didn't stint on our selection with the expectation that we wouldn't need to eat again until supper.

The sun was up and scattered clouds drifted aimlessly across the blue sky. We decided that we would take a walk towards the old town and have a look at the Santa Catarina park. It's only a couple of kilometres from the hotel so we walked in the morning sunshine.

The park isn't huge but it is very tranquil and very pretty. Obviously at this time of year the flowers aren't at their best, but there was a faded beauty that made the whole place quite inviting.

The park also afforded some wonderful views across Funchal, along the coast, and down to port and the marina.

We descended the steps at the side of the park to the level of the port. We crossed the road opposite the Christiano Ronaldo museum and then strolled along the promenade up to the marina.

There four cruise liners in port - The Black Watch, The Saga Sapphire, The World, and The Seabourn Odyssey. None of these was huge, but nevertheless they were very imposing.

Once we had passed the marina we turned back and headed back along the lower coastal road. Now you have recognise that Funchal is very hilly. This meant that while we had started on the level coastal road, we had to divert up a hill to get back at the right level for our hotel. Halfway up the hill we decided that a drink would be nice so dropped in to the Royal Savoy hotel and went to the poolside bar. We sat in Art Deco splendour and enjoyed a cold beer before return to our route and heading for the hotel.

Back at the hotel we have spent the afternoon sitting on our sun drenched, tenth floor balcony reading our books.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Retail Laps

Well the forecast turned out to be inaccurate. We have had a lovely day plenty of blue sky and a few clouds to break the monotony. As the Gorse Fox commented earlier, there was a big cruise ship in port. We decided this was a good excuse NOT to do any of the 'must do' sights.

We had a long leisurely breakfast... and for those that care (you know who you are) yes, champagne was available - but as you would expect, we didn't bother.

We decided that today we would explore on foot and head in a westerly direction. A mile or so up the road we found a big shopping centre, The Forum, so went in for some retail therapy and a coffee. Considering we didn't really plan to get anything we left after a couple of hours clutching an arm full of bags.

Back at the hotel we made the most of the sheltered patio to have a drink and a bite of lunch while deciding what we would do during the afternoon. We decided to stay put but have a look around the hotel gardens and swim.

The hotel has a selection of pools. There are three (or four) outdoor pools overlooking the sea. These are salt water pools and look particularly inviting. The Gorse Fox may try one of these later in the week. Today, the indoor pool seemed more inviting and certainly was the only one that tempted the Silver Vixen. In reality the pol was really quite warm and you could swim through an opening in the wall into an outdoor extension of the pool. This too was heated so the whole experience was quite delightful.

After the swim we went and dried off in the sun in one corner of the garden, sheltered by olive trees and palm trees. Finally as the sun dropped, we went back to the room for a quiet hour or so watching the sunset before we head down for supper. The Gorse Fox noticed the cruise liner left during the afternoon, but a second liner has arrived this evening.

Stormy

DInner, yesterday evening, was in the large Ocean Restaurant. This was essentially a buffet. It was busy but actually very good. The selection was varied and, in some cases, surprising. The Gorse Fox tried the brussel sprout salad, something he had never seen before. It was a mixture of halved, roasted sprouts in a dressing with blue cheese. It was quite delicious. For our main course we both selected the turkey. This was cooked in a gravy with cep mushrooms. It was deliciously moist and very tasty. Certainly nothing to complain about on the food front.

A storm was forecast overnight and boy did it hit. It crashed in about one o'clock in the morning with howling winds and very heavy rain. Having said that, though we heard it, it didn't really disturb either of us. This morning is bright and sunny and the clouds have blown away. There is still a forecast for some rain but we're ok for the moment.


It'll probably be busy in and around the town today as a cruise liner has just sailed past towards the harbour.

Friday, November 16, 2018

33000 Feet

We took a limo up to Gatwick last night, having checked our bags in, we then wandered across to the hotel. This was not as easy at it sounded. The Gorse Fox has a recollection that you used to be able straight across a walkway into the Hilton. Well you can't now. You have to walk across to the car park, go down a level and then join a walkway that takes you there. Once in the right place we picked up the key and dropped our hand baggage in the room. We then called Urban-Cub with a view to meeting her when we went down to dinner.

We went to the restaurant and opted for the buffet. Urban-Cub arrived and sat down for a chat. She didn't stay long but it was nice to see her before we left.

It was an early start this morning. We were walking through security (where we both got stopped in the body scanner) early enough that we had time to go to the lounge for breakfast before the flight. While walking through the terminal we saw two of our neighbours. We stopped for a chat. It turns out that they too were heading for Madeira and were on the same flight as us.

The plane is fairly full but managed to push back about ten minutes early and will, apparently, land about forty minutes early. Let's hope the driver in Funchal has checked the flight arrival times!

A few more minutes have passed and the cabin crew just arrived at our row with some champagne and a card for the Silver Vixen's upcoming birthday. It was a really lovely thought - and not one that the Gorse Fox had pre-arranged. I had just made a comment as we chatted on boarding that we were going away for her birthday. They took the initiative. Excellent. (The Gorse Fox will have to see who else he can tell while we're away).

The rest of the flight was uneventful as was our arrival in Madeira. Our driver was waiting for us and whisked us into Funchal. As she drove (and the Gorse Fox uses that term lightly) she made full use of the road from one armco barrier to the next without actually touching them. She talked the whole time about shoes, her grandmother, and her niece. There was also a last minute brain dump about Madeira and Funchal in particular.

Our hotel is excellent. A modern building comprising two towers containing several restaurants, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, squash and tennis courts, and exercise studio, and a gym. We were informed on our arrival that we had been upgraded and were shown to what would pass as a very acceptable apartment. We have a huge bedroom, a bathroom, and at the end of the corridor, a big lounge that opens onto a balcony. We are up at the top  of the building and have wonderful views out to sea and along the coast in both directions.

After unpacking, we went out to explore and found our way down to pools and one of the restaurants where we stopped for a snack. A breeze had picked up and though the sun was trying its best, clouds insisted on obscuring it. We returned to our room for a jumper and then went exploring some more. This time we ventured out along the main drag towards the old town. We'll venture further next time.

Back at the hotel we sat on the balcony and watched the sun go down. We are now getting ready to go down for dinner. It has been a good day and the Gorse Fox is delighted with the choice of hotel.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Busy day

Ellie was kind enough, despite a cough, to sleep through until nearly eight this morning. That was a nice bonus. It was a busy start to the day as the Silver Vixen and Gorse Fox tag-teamed Ellie while clearing the fridges of anything that won't last and trying to cram everything into the various bins for today's collection.

Jasper stayed well out of the way - he didn't want to get swept up! Little did he know. By mid morning he had been lulled into a false sense of security and the Gorse Fox took the opportunity to grab him and put him in his basket. Ellie and the Silver Vixen climbed into the car and Jasper was strapped in. He was off on his Spa Break at the cattery. Though he meowed the whole way there, Mark greeted him and he immediately settled.

We grabbed some lunch back home and then Ellie went down for a sleep. This meant that we had a little quiet time in which we could do our own packing and preparation. Despite all of the Gorse Fox's lists, he is sure he will have forgotten something.

Pistol Pete should be picking Ellie up in a few hours and then the taxi should arrive to take us to Gatwick where we can drop our bags and then meet up with Urban-Cub.

Talking of Urban-Cub, the Gorse Fox has heard from Cousteau-Cub. SHe's in Phuket, safe and sound. Her latest set of blood tests have come back and look very promising. Obviously a few weeks of TLC from mum helped a great deal!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Stuff

It looks like Cousteau-Cub has just landed in Doha. That's the first leg of the journey complete. Now she has a brief layover before getting the next flight from Doha to Phuket.

Meanwhile the Silver Vixen has been in to Chichester for a hair appointment and the Gorse Fox has been out for a walk and also round to M&S to pick up some new slacks that he had ordered online. Envelopes have also been stuffed with cash for the taxi to and from the airport and for Jasper's spa break at the cattery.

As the Gorse Fox writes this, Ellie is having an afternoon nap in the back bedroom, Jasper is having a nap in the Orangery, and the Silver Vixen has popped round to get her prescription filled. Supper is planned - we're having some UFOs along with whatever fresh vegetables we have left.

Gone girl

A four o'clock start today. There was a trip to Gatwick needed to get Cousteau-Cub off and away. The Silver Vixen got up to see us off, then we headed out into the darkness for the trip across the county. We arrived at 6 a.m. - right on the Gorse Fox's mental schedule.

Cousteau-Cub was fairly quickly checked-in and as Urban-Cub had warned that security might be busy at that time, the Gorse Fox paid for Cousteau-Cub to use the Premium service. We said our goodbyes and the Gorse Fox stifled the lump in his throat as she disappeared. It'll be many months before we see her again and we are already missing her dreadfully (and she only took-off an hour ago).

It's now time that the Silver Vixen and the Gorse Fox started to focus on our own trip.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Last Day

Today is Cousteau-Cub's last full day before returning to Thailand. The plan for the day was to spend as much time as possible together as a family. To that end, Urban-Cub and Ellie came over and we just chilled. Nothing startling. Nothing on the agenda. Just time together. Perfect.

As the day wore on the Gorse Fox took Ellie round to the lake to feed the ducks - but that was the main excitement for the day. Later we had to complete some admin... printing Cousteau-Cub's boarding passes and printing some more photos for her to take back with her.

The last 24 hours are always hard.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Showers

A day of mixed sun and heavy showers.

We didn't have any firm plans. As it waste of Cousteau-Cub's last days here we thought we'd keep it fluid so we could adapt to any of her requirements. The Gorse Fox was amused to see a bulletin declaring the M23 would be closed overnight when he needed it to get to the airport on Wednesday morning. Extra time will need to be allowed for the diversion.

The Gorse Fox put the Orangery back to its normal configuration. The trestle table was stowed back in the garage and the floors were washed with the new Karcher device. Late morning he took Cousteau-Cub into Bognor Regis for her appointment with the acupuncturist... then picked her up when she was finished. She said how good he seems and it had been making a difference. This is good and we should probably leave some feedback on PrickAdvisor.

Lat afternoon we went and raided Sainsbury's for the various bits that Cousteau-Cub needs to take back for the Coventry Hobbit. Then to finish her hedonistic trip, she picked up a kebab for supper. Only one more full day before her return to Thailand. It'll be such a shame to see her go but at least we seem to have built up her strength while she's been home.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

And breathe

After the excitement of yesterday, today was much more relaxed. There was no hurry to get up, or at least there shouldn't have been. The problem was that the Gorse Fox had forgotten to put out Jasper's breakfast. Needless to say he was not amused, but to be fair left it until after seven before he started to slap the Gorse Fox around.

The rest of the morning was spent sorting some photos, finishing the tidying up, and just chilling. The Silver Vixen made the most of the time by going through her wardrobe (no not into Narnia) selecting her various outfits for our forthcoming trip.

Meanwhile, Urban-Cub had been at work and called us on her drive home. We collectively agreed to meet for supper at the Oystercatcher, so added that to the day's plan. (As if there was ever a plan!)

The Gorse Fox went for a walk early afternoon. It was bright and cool, but very pleasant for walking. He timed it to perfection. As he walked back in the door and sat down the heavens opened and it poured with rain. A few minutes earlier and he would have been drenched.

We went across to the Oystercatcher. Urban-Cub, Pistol Pete and Ellie were already there so we settled down and chatted. Ellie was busy drawing and completely captivating the waitress and the nearby diners. The best part was when the drinks had been delivered and she grabbed the (empty) bottle of alcohol-free wine, lifted it to her lips and said "Cheers".

While we were waiting for the food, Ellie also made friends with a young girl at the nearby table and they kept waving and smiling at each other. She was absolutely intrigued by her t-shirt which had some form of foil leaves on it. As these were moved in one direction they showed as silver, but when flipped in the other direction, they displayed a rainbow. Very clever.

The meal arrived and clearly the Gorse Fox, Cousteau-Cub, and Urban-Cub chose well. We had gone for the pork, lamb, and turkey respectively. Unfortunately Pistol Pete and the Silver Vixen chose the beef and it really wasn't very nice, apparently. This is the second time we have eaten at Vintage Inns (the chain that runs The Oystercatcher), chosen their "Roast", and been disappointed. This isn't a mistake we will make again.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Family Do

The day had arrived. We were having a bit of a "do". The Gorse Fox got up early with a view to getting things under way but soon realised there was little he could do until M&S emailed to say the food was ready for collection. He did what he does best - he paced up and down and faffed around until it was time for collection.

The email didn't come. The Gorse Fox gave up and went to M&S - all the food was there and ready, they just hadn't informed him... until 30 minutes after he got home with it! While out, he also collected the cake he had had made for the Silver Vixen... after all, it is a special birthday next week.

Back home we moved into high gear. Food was being stashed in fridges or prepared for cooking. The Gorse Fox was preparing salads and other side dishes. Glasses and plates were emerging from all their hiding places. The Sonos was playing an all-day playlist in the background. We were ready.

People started arriving just before midday and there was a steady stream of family for the next 30 minutes. The ovens were working overtime. It very quickly moved into full swing as each part of the family caught up with others and exchanged all their news and all of them caught up with Cousteau-Cub (some hadn't seen her for more than a decade).

The food ws ready and the table could hardly cope. In fact Cousteau-Cub had to find some further fall tables on which to spread some of the food. (It was only after everyone had finished that the Gorse Fox noticed he had a huge gala pie tucked away in the fridge still... unopened). We had a side of salmon, pork belly squares, bulgar wheat salad, chicken pies, steak pies, sandwiches, wraps, chicken drumsticks, cheese, and salad. Then, just as we made a dent in that, it was all cleared away and out came the cheesecake, berries, trifle, eclairs, and fondants. Nobody leaves this house hungry!

As the afternoon wore on the children were kept amused by the bubble wands.

Ellie didn't seem quite her normal self. She was a bit clingy, and very quiet. She might have been a bit overawed by all the people but we suspect not. Cousin Louis was very well behaved and the two of them got on well.

Eventually it was decided that we all needed some air. The Gorse Fox and Trevor headed out for a walk. As he has recently had his hip done, he needs to get the exercise and build up the strength again, so the Gorse Fox took him on one of his usual routes.

The others took some bird seed and the children and went to the lake to feed the ducks.

While all this was going on, young Bec had gone to the pharmacy. She was a little concerned and needed to be checked. The pharmacist thinks she may have shingles. Hopefully she's caught it early enough that it isn't too uncomfortable.

Back home it was time for more teas, coffees, wines, etc. and to cut the cake. The Gorse Fox suspects he may have chosen the wrong size. After everyone had eaten one or helpings of the delicious cake, there is still more than half of it left. He suspects that we may be eating cake for a few days for breakfast, dinner, and tea.

By early evening people started drifting away. The Gorse Fox, the Silver Vixen and Cousteau-Cub cleared away and then settled down for a quiet evening - it had been quite a day!

Friday, November 09, 2018

Just stuff

No real focus for today as so much was dependent on what the family had planned (or unplanned).

The first thing was to get the Orangery sorted out... chairs and tables moved, spare table brought in from garage, running machine parked, and floor cleaned. Tick.

Next the Gorse Fox sorted out the outstanding photos that needed to be placed in the last few frames and get them mounted on the wall. Tick.

Drop Cousteau-Cub in Bognor for her appointment. Tick

Urban-Cub arrived with Ellie, so we chatted, had some lunch and monitored Ellie until it was time for them to head home. Tick.

Collect Cousteau-Cub from her appointment. Tick.

Finish shopping list and go with the Silver Vixen to Sainsbury's to pick up those items for the family "do" that aren't being provided by M&S in the morning. Tick.

Decide what to do about tonight's dinner... Outstanding.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Farming Today

There was a bright blue sky and the sun was trying its hardest to warm everything up. It struggled up to about 14C in the end, so it wasn't a bad day.

We had to wait in for Ocado but then had plans to meet up with Urban-cub, Cousteau-Cub and Ellie. Predictably, because we had something planned, Ocado turned up nearly 20 minutes later than the allotted time slot. Strangely that always seems to be the case if we have arranged to go out.

Once the shopping had arrived and been put away we hopped in the car and made our way up towards Billingshurst. Just outside Wisborough Green is Fisher's Farm where we would meet up. It only took about 40 minutes to get there and we quickly found Ellie on arrival.

We then spent a lovely four hours or so wandering round and seeing the animals (rabbits, pigs, goats, ponies, horses, ducks, geese, peacocks, alpacas, cows, tortoises, and donkeys). Ellie seemed to love it.

Along with all the animals there were rides, slides, swings, things on which to climb, and goodness only knows what else. Ellie was in her element and ran from one thing to the next as she exhausted each new experience before moving on to the next.

We stopped for some lunch in their restaurant, then carried on, refreshed. Ellie started again and rushed round from one thing to the next with all the rest of us in tow, and in some cases one or other of us involved in the particular ride. Even Grandpa ended up going down one or two slides with Ellie.

As the afternoon wore on the sun dropped lower in the sky (as it does) and the temperature started to drop. Enough was enough. We packed up and after a lovely day headed off home.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Stand and Deliver

It was a wet, miserable, grey day. It was how the Gorse Fox imagines life to be if you are north of Watford.

The Silver Vixen headed off to Pilates, but the Gorse Fox skipped football as we had various deliveries expected during the day. During the morning he went digging through the loft and then the garage looking for some collections of old toys. They took quite a bit of locating and in the end the Gorse Fox had to make a hook to reach across the roof space to grab the bag containing the huge collection of Fisher-Price toys. The next hour or so was spent cleaning all these. It's amazing the filth that washed off this long-stored collection. Just as the Gorse Fox was finishing, Urban-Cub arrived with Ellie and the Silver Vixen followed a few minutes later.

We prepared some lunch for Ellie and then the Silver Vixen, Urban-Cub, Cousteau-Cub, and Ellie headed off to Chichester for some shopping. The Gorse Fox was still tied to the house awaiting the deliveries. Fortunately both deliveries arrived before two o'clock, so the Gorse Fox put on his gear and headed off to join the family in Chichester. As the Silver Vixen had he car in Chichester, the Gorse Fox used his bus pass and then strolled through the town to join up with them. We strolled around from shop to shop as Cousteau-Cub raided the charity shops and Urban-Cub and the Silver Vixen looked in the kiddy-shops. Eventually we split up and the Gorse Fox raided M&S.

As the afternoon wore on, Urban-Cub, Cousteau-Cub, and Ellie went home and the Silver Vixen and the Gorse Fox stayed on for a bit more shopping.