Curral Das Freiras is located on the island of Madeira [owned by Portugal]. It is a very small town way up in the mountains of the island. The town is in a valley with steep mountain cliffs all around it. Less than 2000 people live in this town for it is very isolated.
The bus ride to Curral Das Freiras is crazy – just centimeters away from the edge of a cliff the whole way there. On a clear day, the scenery is something off a postcard, but the mountains are so tall, that the bus is usually in the clouds.
[notice in 1 of the pictures, the trees are growing OUT instead of UP because the mountain is so steep!]
The bus stops at a pull-off location where you can choose to either stay on the bus and take it to the edge of the town [down the hill], or get off the bus to get a view of the mountain and to see the town from above…
I love to see culture whenever I can instead of just nice scenery, so my travel-buddies and I chose to go to the town itself… and I’m so glad we did! Little did we know about the great day we had in store for us…
We walked down the steep hill for quite some time. As our legs began to hurt, we wondered where exactly the center of town was located. We looked off in the distance, but nowhere really seemed bustling….
We were semi-pressed for time because we had to get back to our cruise-ship, so we decided to ask a woman that was watering her flowers. We didn’t get far on the matter of the town center due to the fact that the woman didn’t speak a word of English [nor we, Portuguese].
We started to walk away but then noticed that the woman and her family were waving us into their home for some home-made wine and cookies! Hmm… keep on walking down a ridiculous hill to see a few buildings, or stick around for some home-made wine, cookies, and culture….? Tough call.
The wine was good and STRONG, and I was, well, “done with the wine” after a half of glass… but that didn’t stop the woman from filling up my glass 4 or 5 times!
Communication was more of a game of Charades. The locals kept speaking in Portuguese [so I’m unsure about what I’m about to say], but I think they were trying to tell us how the wine was made. They showed us the grapes on the vine and mimed how it was made.
We tried to explain where we were from, but even country names didn’t make much sense to them. We tried to draw a map, but after a few glasses of that wine, our map looked more like a Jackson Pollock painting than a map! We had to have been confusing our new friends, because even we started to not understand each other!
We then learned that “thank you” in Portuguese is “orbrigado” or “orbrigada” [depending on whether you’re speaking to a man or a woman] and tried out this new-learned word about 50 times before we left.
Even though going back was all up-hill, that walk seemed a lot more entertaining.
We’ll never forget the kindness of the locals in Curral Das Freiras…