Our plan for the summer took a detour. The original plan was to enjoy the sea for the hot months somewhere in our travels. We thought a month on the sunny Mediterranean island of Crete for July and then a stay in August on the mountainous Atlantic island of Madeira off the coast of Africa would be perfect.
Anyone who, like us, grew up far from the ocean might understand our longing to spend a seaside summer. All we had to do was figure out how to get from Crete to Madeira.
That’s when detouring to Rome stepped in. The cheapest flights from Crete to Madeira stopped in Rome. Really? Well, in that case…. Why not stop in Rome for a few days? No seaside there, but, you know, break up the long flight? So, we wedged in five days in Rome, between Crete and Madeira.
We’ve been to Rome before so (we thought) this should be an easy transition. Maybe not. And the transition to Madeira after Crete should be simple. Maybe not as easy as we thought.
On Crete we lived in a very small studio close to the sea, a great AirBnB find. We easily explored the small town from one end to the other and spent many days at the beach. We enjoyed cooking again – using the many wonderful fruits and vegetables grown on the island. When we did go out to eat, a glass of raki was always offered at the end of the meal.
In Rome we stayed in a small hotel room in the heart of the city. We navigated traffic on the urban streets, and the city was too large to explore end to end on our daily walks. The hotel served huge breakfasts (too early), and we dined in the evening at trattorias. Fewer vegetables and little fruit were offered. Now we dined on pasta. Limoncello was served at the end of the meal. Who could resist the occasional gelato?
In Madeira we settled into a very large 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom AirBnB, so large we don’t know what to do with so much space. A large balcony looks out to a panoramic view of the harbor and the ocean. The small city, Funchal, clings to the mountainsides, and its verticality will make it impossible for us to fully explore it, while we’re here. That’s ok; it’s beautiful. The grocery store’s most prominent offering is seafood, with stacked piles of dry salt cod rising up by the shelf-full. Vegetable choices are limited, compared to Crete. The after dinner drink is (naturally) Madeira wine.
Crete, Rome, and Madeira are politically and culturally European, but our experience shows how very different they are. We have enjoyed those differences. That took us by surprise. Who knew? Adjusting to differences and enjoying the differences is what makes travel so interesting. In that sense, upcoming transitions produce anticipation, rather than stress.