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Wednesday 29th September 1954

From a letter:

“It is just incredible, I am dazed and dizzy with loveliness. If a place in this world can be as exquisite as Madeira is this morning, must the other side be like? It makes me cry to think of. I am sitting out on my own little private balcony in my dressing gown with a coat around my shoulders having my breakfast all on my little own. Coffee, toast, rolls, and butter and marmalade.

“I specially ordered a “Breakfast Portugaise” though most of the others seemed to be ordering eggs and bacon!

“On my right a banana grove in the hotel grounds slopes up almost level with the balcony, with masses of bunches of fat little green bananas. I tried a banana at dinner last night. You know how I loathe the big coarse bananas one gets in England, well you and Aunt Janey were perfectly right: these short little green fat bananas are as different as chalk from cheese and are perfectly delicious.

“I have a corner room in the annex, facing west and south. The banana grove slopes up hill to the west ending yards away. There is some sort of small building with a cascade of mauvey–pink morning glory all over it. To the south immediately below my balcony is a vine covered walk leading to the main hotel about 60 – 70 yards away with lawns to the left, and what will be a glimpse of the sea when the mist has cleared. Also a huge candelabra cactus reminiscent of that in the Pass of Angostura. The sun is just breaking through the mists; the air is full of the scream of swifts, and the tap – tap – tap of workmen laying cobbles. The car horns would take you back, back to wherever they always do – is it Santiago? Last night the cicada were screaming themselves, and me, quite silly; but I don’t mind them, it is all part of it.”
 
Avenida leading down to Funchal from MiramarAvenida leading down to Funchal from MiramarAfter breakfast I set off down the big avenida leading down to the town. Near the Miramar it crosses a very deep ravine, filled with trees and vegetation, which we are told is a favourite place for committing suicide. There are several of these ravines, about four I believe, running through the town from the mountains behind. The others are smaller than this one and at present are dry, boulder filled water courses, but at certain times of the year the water comes down in spate.
HammockScenes In FunchalIt was intensely hot walking down, and I kept dodging from one patch of shade to another.
Bullock CarroBullock CarroAn old woman wrapped up in a black shawl begged from me as I passed, my first experience of what was to become an all too familiar routine.
Governor's PalaceFunchal MapI went first to the Tourismo in the square opposite the Governor’s Palace, and booked up trips for Friday and Saturday.
Phelps LargoPhelps LargoThen on past the cathedral seeking for the Carmo, the old ancestral townhouse of the Phelps family, of which Aunt Janey Phelps had told me so much.
Phelps LargoCarmoI found Largo do Phelps, a square named after Aunt Janey’s eldest sister, my great aunt Elizabeth, who founded the embroidery industry here in 1858. At the corner of the square is the Carmo Church, and just beyond is the great old house. The glory is now sadly departed, as it is all made over into offices etc. and an open-air cinema is being built in the patio.
Phelps LargoDespite that, it was one of the greatest moments of my life to see the actual house of which I have heard of so much, and in which the furniture used to stand which I came to know so well when living with Aunt Janey just after I left school.
CathedralCathedralEnglish visitors can’t move anywhere in the town without being pestered by touts and I had a lot of trouble to shake off several who firmly attached themselves to me, clamouring to show me wine stores, embroidery shops, the market and anything else they could think of. However I eventually got a taxi back to the hotel.
SchoolThere are quite a lot of busses, but they are such frightful old bone shakers, all apparently tied together with string, besides being appallingly crowded, that I avoided them like the plague. I did go in one on about two occasions, which was quite enough. I was very much struck by the youthfulness of the conductors. They looked like boys of 14 or 15 and probably were, as education is at a very low ebb in the island although efforts are being made to raise the standard.
 
SavoyFunchal From Savoy HotelMy table companion at meals was a most interesting girl, Diana Cragoe. She had worked for many years in Madrid and spoke Spanish like a native. She had also travelled a great deal, so we found plenty of interests in common.
Running CarroI rested during the afternoon as I was frightfully tired with the heat, and my feet were already blistering from the cobbles.

Later on Janet Smith came round from the Savoy and invited me round there after dinner. I introduced Diana, and we arranged to meet. After tea Diana and I strolled out towards the Lido, but it was so hot that we didn’t get there. The vegetation was fascinating, vines growing on trellises everywhere and melons trailing over the roofs of cottages. There were also groves of sugar cane and of course bananas everywhere.
BayBayIn the evening Diana and I went round to the Savoy.

It is a far larger and more dressy place than the Miramar, but looked very pretty in the dark with illuminations along the terraces and spangling the trees.

Illuminations hung about trees look garish and crude in Brighton, but in the warm exotic dark of Madeira they fit with the atmosphere and are most attractive.

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