Wednesday October 8, 2014
Every night in every city around the world it happens. People pour into local watering holes to well…drink. It’s our mission to traverse the globe getting to know these different people and their drinking customs, bellying up to the bar, and with any luck, making some new friends. Wait a minute, that sounds kind of familiar. Ah yes, that’s right. I stole it from Three Sheets (Around the world one drink at a time), but I think it aptly describes our night in Funchal tonight. Except, instead of getting to know the locals and their drinking customs, we observed them with two Aussies and three Norwegians.
We met Michelle and Adam, the two Aussies, two days ago when all of us happened to be headed to the marina’s showers at the same time. Or the loo, or whatever it might be referred to as by them, not even realizing they were just hot off a passage themselves. Isn’t that so fun to say though?, ‘I met them on my way to the loo’. Since how were we supposed to know at the time that this young couple were cruisers and not just backpackers looking for a lukewarm shower? You don’t see many young people out in these mid-Atlantic islands, it just doesn’t happen.
Except for the 30-something American guy I struck up a conversation with in Horta while going up to the marina bar for a bag of ice. He probably thought I was getting ready to throw some kind of mixer on our boat that evening, completely unaware it’s real use was to dump over my head with a bucket of water. Come to think of it, he looked kind of fun. I should have gotten his boat card or an email address…something that would have kept us in contact and let us do something social during our weeks in Faial. Instead of sitting on the boat by ourselves. Every night.
But getting back to the people we hung out with tonight, Henrik, Kristian, and Marius, of S/Y Doris, make up the Norwegian part of the group are three of the cutest young guys you’ve ever seen. These friends, that we met through Michelle and Adam, are on their way from Bergen to Sydney in just one year. These three boys have piled themselves into a 32 ft boat, and if you ask them why they’re out doing this they’ll tell you Because it will be the adventure of our lives – who could say no to something like that!
The seven of us started our night at one of the quaint little bistros that line the concrete walls surrounding the marina, and with a nice tall beer cheaply priced at 1,30€, the next few hours few by as we all talked about our travels and shut the place down at the early hour of 23:00. (Yes, military time. That’s something you have to get used to over here). Not ready to end the night, and after speaking with Michelle about some of the local drinks and customs, we definitely were not ready to call it quits before trying some Poncha. A local drink from Madeira made with a distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon rind, and added flavors. Sounded tasty to me, and since I never got my birthday Caipirinha, I was not going to leave this island without getting a Poncha in me.
Dragging our group to the old town next, since I’ve fallen so extremely in love with it over the past few days, we expected the clubs to be going strong and overflowing with other tourists like ourselves. How wrong we were though. Wandering it’s most restaurant and bar ridden road we only came across only one establishment that was still open, the Santa Marina Gin Bar. Sounds like the perfect place to grab a Poncha, right? After the group of us grabbed another round of beers and made our way to the posh outdoor terrace, Michelle and I decided it was time to skedaddle off on our own to try this drink.
Walking up to the bartender we asked the gentleman if they offered it. He told us that no, they did not, but there was a place open in the downtown area that was still open and did carry it. Since we were already saddled up to the bar we asked how much a gin & tonic would cost. We did happen to be in a gin bar, and when in Rome… “8€” replied the bartender. “Oh”. We sighed nonchalantly, not about to drop that much money on one drink but also trying to come off as upscale as the bar we were in. “Did a guy just walk out of here with 7 beers?” “Yes”. “Well, we’re all set then, thanks anyway!”, and ran away, hoping he didn’t see us counting the meager change in our coin purses.
Back out on the patio where the cheap beers were flowing, we sat around and talked for a bit about Australia and all the things that can kill you there. Michelle and Adam, living their lives here, and the Norwegian boys, on their way here, were all very interested in this topic. Yes, drop bears did come up a few times. Before we knew it we had closed down the gin bar as well but still had not had a single taste of Poncha. Getting directions from the bartender on this mythical place where we could actually find it, we wandered the dark roads of Funchal until we wound up directly across the street from the marina where we had begun. Another round of beers were ordered and this cute old man that we think runs the place kept bringing us out little plates of popcorn and seemed to be very charmed every time we would take a moment out of our conversation to thank him for this.
Eventually Michelle wandered off inside and when she came back she was holding two passion fruit Ponchas for us girls to drink. Just as the description promises, it was very sugary and sweet. I was really going to take my time and enjoy this drink along with cigars, such as those drew estate cigars, for example. That was, until Henrik spied us and I handed over my glass for him to have a taste. The next think I know my whole glass of syrupy goodness was down his throat. After I’d only had one sip. I started at him slack-jawed and stuttered “But…but..that was my drink! You drank my drink!”. Completely stone faced Michelle looked on at him and replied, “That was her drink. You need to go buy her another one.” The poor guy had no idea that I was only offering a taste and not the whole thing. But, being the good guy that he is, he disappeared into the bar and came out with a tray of seven Ponchas in his hand. And Michelle, being the sweet girl that she is, placed her already existing one between us to share.
After this point, all was right with the world again. I had my Poncha, I had popcorn, and I had friends. And can I just say that after not having gone out for a social night with other people since back in Miami, it felt really really good.
I stole some of the guys items as photo props.