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SPLENDOUR OF THE VEGETATION.
the only trace of vegetation ; but farther on, the arborescent heaths appear and grow to a great size. The path now leads over a ridge of mountain that divides the Coural from the Serra d'Agoa, a valley similar to that of the Coural, and in my mind no way inferior, except in being more inaccessible. Here the path is very steep, being supported merely by the jutting cornice of a rock, and in some places so rugged and uneven, that it is with great difficulty a horse can be led over it. The laurus Indicus, the vinhatico or mahogany of the island, clothed with its dark foliage the sides of the cliffs, growing at a great elevation, whereas the chestnut is scarce, and principally confined to the bottom and the lower parts of the island, being an introduced tree.* The day was one of the finest we had for some time-not a cloud or mist could be seen throughout the Coural, nor in the sky above us, save an occasional “woolpack” floating at a great elevation, which was for an instant caught in its transit by one of the highest peaks, as if to remind one of their elevation; but it would soon pass away, and all would again become serene and spotless in the intense azure of the canopy above. The descent was difficult, and took us until three o'clock. As we neared the bottom, vegetation increased; many of the splendid laurels around us were covered with a beautiful white feathery moss, (usnea barbata,) that made them look as if clothed with hoar-frost. The ragged scoriæ along the banks were draped with numerous lichens ; and where a fissure occurred in the basalt itself, large bunches of the Madeirian house-leek sprouted out like so many cockades. I did not see a single arbutus in this region, nor could I find the arnica montana, described by Bowditch, but this may be owing to the season of the year. The
* Bowditch, one of the most talented and interesting of modern travellers, and who has so graphically and at the same time so scientifically, described the scenery, botany, and geology of this garden of the Hesperides, divides the regions of vegetation into—First, The vines, which will grow and give fruit as high as 2700 feet, but will not produce wine higher than 2080, the bottom of the Coural. Second, The region of the brooms, in which, I think, may be also ranked the pines, together with the ferns and some chestnuts—this ascends as high as 3700 feet. Third, That of the vaccinium and laurels, to 5600. Fourth, That of the heaths, even as high as 6000 feet.
balm is in great quantity; the sonchus grows to a vast size; and two species of saxifrage occupy any spots of moisture that may occur; there are different species of origanum, and numerous heaths, but which a cursory visit would not allow me to examine. Woodcocks are said to inhabit this valley the whole year round. We reached the bottom just as the declining sun had thrown one-half of the Coural into shade. It is rich in every species of vegetation, and although 2080 feet above the level of the sea, the grape produces wine.
The Coural das Freiras, or “sheepfold of the nuns," is so called from its retired lonely situation, and being a place of security to send the women and defenceless to in case of invasion. In the centre of the valley stands the small chapel of the Livramento upon a rising knoll—a pleasing object in that wild and beautiful spot. There is something in basaltic scenery calculated to inspire awe; I never felt it more than to-day, on looking round me in this noble amphitheatre, from which there seemed no possible outlet, and whose hanging crags and perpendicular walls seemed as if they would momentarily crumble and crush me in their ruin. It is a spot whose scenic beauty defies alike the pencil and the pen ; the powers of the latter have been frequently tried on it, but have always failed, for nature seems here to have studied the sublime. The heart of man may indeed devise, and the hand may execute what is justly to be admired in its day, but what efforts can bear comparison with such as these? The proudest triumphs of genius—the noblest monuments of the Egyptians—the Grecians—the Romanswhere are they now ? Fast crumbling into their original elements; while this picture in the book of nature's landscape smiles on unchanged and unchangeable for ages, and tells of Him from whose master-touch the very dead creation assumes a mimic life.
It seemed to have but one want—that of the deep autumnal tints, that add so much variety to our scenery, and which are never to be seen amidst the evergreens of the Coural. The road leading out of the valley is of frightful steepness, and, as I looked back upon the scene I had left, its parting glance seemed even yet more transcendently lovely than before; for now the fast declining sun, as it topped peak after peak, looked as if a crown of glory shed down its golden rays upon those stupendous crags of fluted basalt, that appeared like so many vast cathedral
pillars ;—the memory of that day's excursion is even yet a solace in the hour of gloom or sorrow, and bids me still remain
“ The adoring child Of nature's majesty, sublime or wild."
Scenes no way inferior to the Coural, in depth of verdure, variety and boldness of outline, and magnificence of colouring, and fully equal to it in the sublimity of their impressions upon the tourist, are to be met with in other parts of the island, particularly on the northern side, where
“ The orange tints that gild the greenest bough,
The torrents that from cliff to valley leap,
Mix'd in one mighty scene, with varied beauty glow.”
The value of Madeira as a climate suitable to invalids, is daily more appreciated, because daily becoming better known; and the year I visited the island numbers could hardly find accommodation. Besides hotels and boarding houses, families (and many are now resident there) can procure houses for the winter season, although at rather a dear rate. These can be had either in the town itself, or in some of the beautiful suburban retreats, which, if not situated at too great an elevation, will be found very advantageous. Unless for those who go early in the season, it will be necessary to write beforehand, in order to procure good accommodation of this description. So great was the demand in the year 1837, that the Portuguese, as might be expected, took advantage of it to raise the prices of their houses. It is much to be regretted that some enterprising merchant has not erected a number of small comfortable dwellings in the different sheltered spots near the town, or in the valley of the Cama de Lobos, for the reception of invalids, who, with their friends, last season (1842–3) amounted to nearly four hundred, and generally number upwards of two hundred; and they, with very few exceptions, are all English.
There are three descriptions of accommodation at Madeira, viz.: furnished houses either in the town, or quintas in the vicinity, such as the Deanery, Palmeira, the Quinta de Sanat
Luzia, &c. &c., amounting to upwards of twenty-five at present, each capable of containing a moderate family, and varying in expense from 601. to 1001., 1501. or 2001. for the season —that is, from September to June. These, at least the principal ones and the better class, which are mostly the property of the English residents, it is necessary to bespeak some time beforehand; and independent of the many comforts they afford, they supply a home to the invalid immediately on landing, without the necessity of going to a hotel or boardinghouse. Linen and plate, with easy chairs, musical instruments, books, and such other luxuries of that description as can be afforded, are recommended to be brought out by persons taking furnished houses in the island. One English servant will be sufficient; and when ladies go, I would always recommend a female one, for I have invariably found that invalids suffer much more in foreign countries from the want of bed-room comforts than from any defect in either the accommodation or the cuisine. A sufficient number of Portuguese servants of passing honesty, and who speak English fluently, can always be procured for all other purposes; and in marketing, the douceur exacted by these servants is invariably less than the impositions that would be practised on an English one, or any visitor not thoroughly acquainted with Portuguese dealings.
The second mode of accommodation is in family hotels, where small families may be entertained, in separate apartments, at from forty-five to fifty dollars a head per month, and servants at ten dollars. There are now, I understand, five such establishments, and at the period of my visit Solden's and MacGuinn's were the most esteemed.
The third, consists of boarding houses, conducted much on the same plan as similar descriptions of establishments are at home, with a table-d'hote, or general dining-table. There are six such boarding-houses now in Funchal, all conducted by English people. Their terms are something similar to the former ; but for ladies or small families they are less preferable. Independent of all those, private lodgings can now be obtained at the houses of the natives, and several Portuguese families receive boarders.
When the first edition of this work was published, the duty on all English goods, even to wearing apparel, was quite exorbitant; during the past year, however, this has been entirely struck off, and strangers can now carry into the island free of duty, besides
their wearing apparel, whatever else they choose, upon signing a bond at the Custom-house to pay the regular duty on all such articles left or disposed of in the island at the end of eighteen months. It may be useful to families going out to know that the furniture manufactured in Funchal is both cheap and appropriate. By means of steamers plying directly between Southampton and Funchal for the express purpose of invalids, by the regular West Indian vessels touching at the island, and by Brazilian packets sailing from Falmouth, as well as by English and Portuguese traders, the communication is now both certain and agreeable. It is constantly urged, however, that though it may be easy enough to get out, it is often difficult to return ; this, however, as will be seen by an examination of the various modes of transit specified in the following notes, and the information which I have derived from the latest and best authorities, is very much exaggerated.* English letters can be answered within a month.
* In connection with the subject of invalids, I here beg leave to offer some information upon the different modes of transit, derived from the most authentic sources, and brought down to the present time. During the last two seasons, the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company sent out one of their vessels, the Royal Tar, direct to the island. The prospectus states, that she “will leave Southampton on the 18th of October ; and after landing her goods and passengers at Madeira and Teneriffe, will proceed to Gibraltar, from whence she will make two trips to Madeira, leaving Gibraltar, on the first trip, about the 2nd, and on the second trip, about the 12th of November, to convey to the island such passengers as may be desirous of visiting the Peninsular ports (Vigo, Oporto, Lisbon, Cadiz, and Gibraltar).” One of the same company's steam-ships will go out to Madeira in spring to bring home passengers. The latest and the amended prospectus of this company states, that passengers can be “ booked out in the fall and home in the spring of the year. Outwards-passengers have the option of two ways of proceeding, viz. : either by way of the Peninsula, in the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company's Peninsular steam-ships, which start from Southampton for Gibraltar, every Saturday, at four P.m., calling at Vigo, Oporto, Lisbon, and Cadiz; at any, or all of which places, passengers will have the privilege of making such stay as they require, being taken from port to port by following steamers, without additional charge, and finally embarking at Gibraltar for Madeira, on board the Royal Tar, which vessel will make one or more trips for that purpose, between Gibraltar and Madeira, starting from the former place on or about the 4th of Novembe, on her first trip-or, passengers may proceed to Madeira direct, by the