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Clare
Clare

Day 5: Madeira Botanical Garden (and my birthday!)

When we woke up in Madeira this morning, we found it wasn't quite as sunny as it had been on previous days. The dark clouds promised by the weather forecast seemed to have materialised and it also looked quite windy outside. When we walked out of the hotel after breakfast, we could see that the top of Cabo Girão was starting to disappear into the clouds.

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Today was my 40th birthday and to do something different, I'd booked tickets for a boat trip which was due to depart from the marina in Funchal at 11am. The instructions had said that we needed to be there 30 minutes in advance to check in, so it was around 09.30 when we started the walk from our hotel into the centre of town.

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We'd almost made it as far as the harbour at 10.15 when I realised I'd missed a message on my phone. It was from the boat company, explaining that they'd cancelled all their trips for today because of the bad weather. Oh dear :( 

We went into a nearby McDonalds to grab some coffee and cake and try to figure out what to do next.

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When we'd visited the Monte Tropical Gardens on Sunday, there was a second cable car we could have taken to see the Madeira Botanical Garden on a nearby hill. We hadn't been there on Sunday because it felt like one garden was enough excitement, but that felt like it could be an alternative option for today. We decided to walk to the first cable car station and see whether there was a huge cruise-ship related queue today.

There actually turned out to be barely any queue at all and, more surprisingly, no cruise ship in the port. I thought when I'd looked it up before the trip that there was supposed to be a cruise ship in port every day, so not sure what had happened to today's! But it was great for us and meant we were able to board the cable car within a few minutes.

The first part of the journey was very scenic as we climbed up above Funchal. Partway through the trip, however, we suddenly entered the clouds :o 

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Good job we'd already seen the view from here on Sunday! From the top of the first cable car station we had a walk of less than 10 minutes downhill to the second cable car, which runs to the botanical gardens. We'd been able to buy a combination ticket at the bottom, which included both cable cars plus entry to the botanical gardens, so were able to swipe our tickets and get straight on the second cable car.

Somewhat counterintuitively, the botanical gardens are actually downhill from the other cable car station, i.e. you go up on the first cable car and then down a bit on the second one. But that turned out to be good because we emerged from the clouds and could now see down to Funchal again.

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The botanical garden was very pleasant.

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I had wondered whether it would be worth visiting at this time of year or whether there wouldn't be many flowers left in November, but there turned out to be plenty to see.

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Like with the tropical gardens we visited on Sunday, this garden is built on a slope. 

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So although there are some flat paths in the pictures, we did spend a lot of time walking downhill and then back up again!

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Every so often we emerged at viewpoints from where we could see Funchal.

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We could also see back up the hill in the direction that we'd come from.

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In the direction of Funchal the weather looked if not totally sunny, at least dry.

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In the other direction it was still very misty though. We could just make out the cabins of the gondola we'd ridden here on disappearing into the clouds.

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We climbed down a bit further and found a bit of the botanical gardens that I'd seen pictures of online.

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This whole area is full of colourful hedges, cut into shapes.

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These hedges spelled out "Jardim Botanico da Madeira" :) 

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The overall effect was really cool.

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As we made our way further downhill we caught sight of something else really cool!

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Cactuses. Lots and lots of cactuses :) 

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There were all kinds of different types.

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Some were reminiscent of cactuses we'd seen in Arizona...

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...but they came in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.

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In places the paths between them were actually quite narrow, so you had to be careful not to accidentally walk into something spiky!

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Unfortunately, as we were walking round the cactuses the clouds started to get a bit heavier.

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By the time we'd made it to the palm tree section of the gardens, it was starting to drizzle.

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We came to a decorative pond...

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...and I realised that what I'd initially thought were statues were actually real turtles!

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At this point the heavens really opened, so we had to seek shelter!

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The heavy rain didn't last too long but the cloud and wind continued. When we got back to the cable car station we were told that the cable car had temporarily closed while they assessed whether it was going to be too windy for it to keep running today.

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I had a birthday Aperol Spritz in the cable car cafe while we waited to hear what was happening.

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Unfortunately, the wind didn't seem to be easing off so we weren't able to get on the cable car.

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Instead, we got the unused portions of our tickets refunded plus a bus ticket which we were able to use to catch a bus back down into the centre of Funchal. The bus went down some very steep, narrow streets and multiple other cars had to reverse to let it through!

Once we were back down in Funchal we then had quite a long (and in places, steep!) walk to get back to the hotel. It seems impossible to go anywhere in Madeira without walking uphill :D 

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When we got back to the hotel room, there was a surprise waiting for me: the hotel had left a bottle of something bubbly in the room for my birthday :)

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After a shower to recover from the humidity outside, it was time to sit on the balcony and open some presents :) 

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The weather might not have been quite what I'd hoped for my birthday, but despite that today has been a really fun day :) 




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