Our guide yesterday said the Portuguese style of pavement-making started in a prison in the 19th? century. A convict, who like the rest, was destined to smash stones for years as a punishment, laid out some fragments around his cell, and started a fashion. Gradually other prisoners learned how to do it, and first the prison, then the town, then the country and eventually colonies around the world (inc Brazil, he said), adopted the method. We spoke to two men repairing pebble pavements in Ribeiro Brava - one said, it takes a lot of patience.
In the gardens, we have found variations on the theme - including one rather good method which is half steps, half path, so that you get a horizontal tread even on a slope, but you don't actually have to use their pacing. Wherever you put your foot will be ok.
We went back to Monte today, partly because we didn't want another day spent mostly in a bus. Twenty minutes up the whizzy hill is fine - and then to see the so-called Tropical Garden, owned by the Bernaro Foundation, charitable arm of a rich man's fancy.
I would call this the Garden of One Thousand Choices. It is very heavily structured with paths and walls, and so many options at every point - which way to go? You feel you will miss something whichever path or bridge you take. It's very steep, wooded, and with many streams and waterfalls. It also has an astonishing collection of Zimbabwean statuary - someone must have bought up the entire work if the entire art school - pieces made from 1967 onwards, by dozens of artists. It was known as the Tengenenge School - no mention is made of its present situation, but the carvings, mostly arranged on poles, are wonderful. There is a passing reference to some of the sculptors being women - Erina Fanizani is credited with providing her husband Fanizani Akuda with the style of work which he became famous for, later on.
Senr. Bernaro was also interested in minerals, and therefore has an exemplary display of sparkling rocks from S and N America, Africa etc. There's a lot of amethyst, rose quartz, agate, Ev, which interested my owner very much, but I preferred the carvings. A girl likes her sparkling rocks set in precious metal, rather than in big old clumps screwed to fake cave walls.
Further down the garden, you meet the Japanese theme - little bridges, stone lions, a kind of wardrobe full of carved life size warriors ('stop warrying'), and lots of red railings. Then you get a huge terrace of orchids, and a lot of huge tree ferns - magnificent.
The whole place is adorned with antique and modern ceramic panels, and a vast range of statues of every kind - bronze, wood, marble, lots of concrete, classical, modern, weird, quaint, romantic, etc. Water runs everywhere, in tiny levadas, waterfalls, squirts, lakes, pipes, trickles. Luckily there are loos installed quite frequently, as the sounds of the water are rather hypnotic. At one point, there's a cave full of oriental temple bells which you can play with - a pleasant contrast in sound to the roar of a nearby cascade.
Eventually, you get to a cafe, where your entry ticket qualifies you for a free glass of Madeira wine. It's very sweet, even if you choose the dry one. They serve tea, coffee, soft drinks, and seeded baps. We paid a bit to get a ride back up to the main gate in a golf trolley, then bussed back down to the centre of town.
One dark-eyed and very soft-spoken bus driver told us how pleased he was that his two daughters, 12 and 16, have blue eyes. He gave us a Mendellian account of their grandparents and great-grandparents as to eye colour. Evidently the breeding had worked out to his great satisfaction. This conversation arose because we asked which was the best route back into town.
Another amusement between the Tropical gardens and the Largo de Fonte is the top of the famous toboggan run - which, as you know, we did not patronise the first time we came to Monte, nor thus time - but it was interesting looking down from the terrace of the chapel and seeing all the tobogganerios, wearing their dapper outfits including boater hats, playing cards on a mossy old wall. The chapel, btw, is of very ancient foundation, having been there since 1458 or something, and dedicated to the Virgin. The present building is 19th century following earthquakes and other troubles, but it is the most important church on the island, and filled with glorious paintings, chandeliers, carving, gilding, tiles, etc. You can easily trip over as you go inside, and leave, due to unexpected and unlit changes of floor level. A persuasive beggar lady sits in the middle of the great flight of steps as you leave.
The airs up at Monte are sweet with the smell of mimosa. All around are these marvellous plants - strelizia, loquat, camellias, bougainvillea, hibiscus, fruits of many kinds.... It is paradisical. All the visitors up there are old, mostly German. Coming back to Funchal we enjoyed promenading along by the smart shops, and having a coffee or whatever sitting near the raucous students in the Carmo square. Laughter!