It all started with a free shot and a strike. The strike actually happened first, although I had no clue until I tried to board a flight in Newark that no longer existed.
“Oh, I don’t think we’re flying that route today. We went on strike you see” said the friendly hostess
“But my baggage is already tagged to go to Porto” I replied helplessly
“Oh don’t worry. We’ll just switch things around and our guy will take care of the bag in the back” she answered with a reassuring smile
I wasn’t entirely convinced. With upwards of 90,000 bags going through Newark each day, “the guy in the back” and my one lonely bag didn’t seem like too sure of a thing, but I really had no choice but to go with the flow. That was when tequila entered the picture. I’d made it through security, sat down rather dejectedly in the bar and must have had “the look” because the bartender took pity and offered me a free shot. Shortly thereafter a couple and another guy came over to join in and within a happy half an hour we had a little party going. The world was already looking rosier.
“It’s Portugal, so don’t worry. Things will work out” they all cheered happily
And I have to admit they were right. A mere 20 hours or so later I landed in Madeira and my bags appeared magically before me. The high cliffs and rolling coast of the island stretched into the ocean and a warm, breezy air was fanning the coast. My sister was seated next to me, my parents were on their way and we were going to spend a full week in paradise. Things were definitely looking rosier….
Now I have to admit I really didn’t know much about Madeira before coming here. With a bit of short-hand googling I’d learned it was part of Portugal and that it looked like a fairly small island waaaaay out in the Atlantic ocean. I also knew that they make a fortified wine named after the spot itself which I had a vague notion tasted something like Port. The Portuguese airline hostess in Newark had added to my repertoire by telling me I was going to the Hawaii of the Atlantic, a paradise island and one of the 7 wonders of Portugal.
“You’ll wish you had three weeks over there” she said dreamily
What I subsequently found out was quite a lot more. Madeira not only has a varied and fascinating geography (with several different climates), but boasts a wide breadth of culture and a rather rich history. Through a meticulous and systematic in-depth one-on-one study of the local wine, I’ve also learned that Madeira wine is most definitely not Port, putz grila! In fact the mere comparison is considered a sacrilegious insult which might possibly get you booted off the island. But all that good stuff is for Part II and I need another few drams before I can get that far. As they say “the best is yet to come” so stay tuned, my friends…