Monday October 13, 2014
I really must stop picking our activities based on TripAdvisor reviews. But this act never ceases, it happens everywhere we go. As soon as we get to a new city I’m busy typing into my computer ‘Things to do in …’. And what else comes up besides a million and one TripAdvisor reviews.
That’s exactly what I did our first morning here in Funchal, and right after riding the cable cars up to a botanical garden, making your way to the Mercado dos Lavradores, or Workers Market was a close number two. Just about every review I read on this market said it was a bustling colorful place and was an absolute must see on your stop in Funchal. Then I clicked on the pictures. Oh my god, the pictures! Every single one was stunning and vibrant, full of people, baskets of overflowing fruit, and bushels of flowers crowding the lens. I’d never heard of this place until now, but I was pretty sure I couldn’t go the rest of my life without seeing it.
Since all the reviews advise that you get there early in the morning and the fact that our internet isn’t decent until after 11 pm, let’s just say that we’ve become night owls as of late and don’t tend to get ourselves up and moving until the market is probably closing down. For a few days now I’ve set our alarm for 8:30, and this morning we finally roused ourselves out of bed to it’s sound and got moving.
Walking the few blocks through the morning haze and getting there just after 9, we were surprised to find we were just about the only ones in the whole indoor market. We (I) had assumed that every morning it would be full of locals buying their daily produce as well as tourists fresh off their cruise ships, and we’d have to elbow our way through the square to actually see anything before it was all snatched up. Not quite the case. At all.
Since we seem to visit the local supermarkets just about every other day we were fully stocked on all the necessities and this was really more just a chance to look around and for me to snap a few photos. There were still baskets brimming with tasty looking fruits on the ground level, but instead of taking up the entire center square like I had pictured, they were all tucked off to the side and the fact that no one was standing near them made me wonder if we’d just entered a zombie apocalypse. (Surely a fruit stand is the last place you’d find a zombie, so it should be where all the remaining humans are hiding.)
Anyway…it did seem as if we had the full run of the place between both shoppers and shopkeepers. It took us all of 4-5 minutes to wander the ground floor before walking up the steps to the upper level where there did seem to be just a little bit of life, mostly in the form of vendors trying to sell us things. Fresh off the staircase we did stop at one stand where a gentleman had a beautiful display of a wide variety of items, many of them things we’d never seen before.
He began pulling out partially exposed fruits and slicing off pieces to offer us a taste. The first item is what he called a pineapple-banana and looked like a very long green pine cone from the outside. Upon tasting it, it actually did taste like both a pineapple and banana (called a Monstera). He asked if we would like to purchase one of these local and found no where else in the world fruits, and we thought, ‘Why not? It’s not like we’ll ever find it anywhere else!’.* After this he motioned for us to put our hands out, and on our wrists he dolloped little gooey seeds that we were hesitant to try at first, but after sampling them found they were the sweetest and most delicious things we’d ever tried. We quickly ordered a few of them as well.
After finding out our bill for these five items was 12€ we decided that would be it for our shopping portion of the day and just began to wander instead. Matt always keeping his distance from any of the future stands since he finds it rude to browse closely without the intent to buy. ’Why just get their hopes up for a sale and end up wasting their time in the end?’, he always tells me. So we made a round of the remaining top floor without ever really stopping again, although some of the spice oriented stalls did look pretty interesting. Getting back to the staircase we wound down it and found ourselves outside the doors again after having only spent a grand total of 20 minutes inside.
I may be judging this place a little harshly, but I think we may have just come at completely the wrong time of day or the wrong day of the week altogether. As I mentioned before, we weren’t really looking to purchase, just to browse. But being the only visitors there instead of coming while it was bustling with other people and we could have been flies on the wall, we were instead the sole target of all vendors and didn’t feel like we could freely peruse as we had originally wanted. We went there for the experience and it kind of turned out to be a non-experience.
My overall thoughts on this place? It really does have everything you could want in a market if you are looking to purchase. Fruits, vegetables, a fish market, carneceria, spices, nuts, ect. An interesting spot to pop in and check out, but don’t plan your day around it. Plus, expect it to cost more than you’ll be paying at the Pingo Doce right around the corner.
*Editors Note: It turns out these pineapple-bananas are actually from Central and South America and are imported to Madeira. Liar! Now that I’m going back again and looking at a few new TripAdvisor reviews, it looks as if a few others were as underwhelmed as we were. Plus we found out they sweeten their sample fruits with sugar. No wonder the ones we tried at the market tasted so much better than the ones we brought home with us!
This is what I was looking forward to, when does this happen?
(Photo taken from here)