Island life – part 4 – sensory experiences

My time here on Madeira has been built around not just what I have seen, but also what I have experienced with my other four senses.


  • The bells of the cathedral that start at 8am every morning and chime every quarter hour.
  • The happy “honk honk” of the Porto Santo ferry when it arrives back into port (we were usually only at home to hear the 10:30pm honking)
  • The sound of the motorbike belonging to someone who lives in this apartment block when they come home at 11pm. (Annoying, as this was usually when we were trying to get to sleep, but hey – it means someone has a job)
  • The sound of running water that accompanies our levada walks
  • The sound of drivers honking their horns as they prepare to drive around another blind hairpin bend


  • The sharp tang of eucalyptus. An introduced species, the eucalypts have taken off here and have now become an environmental menace of their own, pulling huge amounts of water out of the soil. But they have been there when we’ve been hiking and the smell makes me take deep breaths because it smells of home.
  • The smell of frying garlic wafting from – well, from almost every restaurant at some point in the day.
  • The smell of the non-eucalypt forest – that piney, herby smell with a hint of decay and a faint but not wholly unpleasant smell of wild garlic.
  • The smell of drain that we sometimes get in the bathroom (I didn’t promise that all smells would be pleasant)


  • The slap of cold seawater against my body when I get into the water to go swimming
  • The blessed release of scratching an insect bite… only to have it itch even worse once you stop scratching
  • The ache of leg muscles after a long walk
  • The faintly dizzy and sick feeling at getting off a bus after it has weaved its way up a long winding mountain road. I don’t get car sick, but sometimes, on these buses, as the road weaves its way around one tight bend after another, I start to feel a little bit giddy.


  • Fresh, ripe papaya, cold and cut up into small pieces for breakfast on a hot day
  • Pastels de nata, all custardy pastry goodness
  • The strange blend of tastes that is the national dish of espada fish with banana and passionfruit sauce
  • “Hamburger” on “traditional bread” (made with sweet potato) lashed with plenty of garlic butter
  • Coconut ice cream – one of my favourites – especially those little bits of coconut that get stuck in your teeth and bother you for hours afterwards

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