18 madeira/portugal TO THE BOTTOM I was filled with excitement and anticipation when it became my turn to sit in the toboggan. In preparation for my trip, I came across an urban legend that claims that Ernest Hemingway rode the toboggan and said it was the most exhilarating experience of his life. As the wicker creaked under my body, I thought, “Well, if it was good enough for Hemingway, it’s good enough for me.” THEN WE WERE OFF This mode of transport is unconventional, to say the least. As we zipped downhill, my carreiros drove from behind, controlling our basket through a combination of leaning and pushing while at times using their thick rubber-soled shoes to brake or speed up by pulling on the ropes. For quite some time we bounced from side to side as we maneuvered tight turns along the city’s walls. Then, the enormity of the view would serve as serene breaks in the excitement as we built momentum for the next descent or thrilling corner. Throughout the ride, there was one constant, which was the silly smile on my face. I felt like a kid on a skateboard again. Riding a toboggan is synonymous with Funchal, yet there’s more to explore and experience in Funchal’s green countryside. If you’re looking for a wonderful glass of wine, a home for architectural wonders or lush gardens to stroll, you’re certain to find it here. This is an ideal destination, filled with exhilarating experiences that go beyond zooming downhill in a wicker basket. Mari de Armas is a travel writer specializing in luxury cruising. She is a regular contributor to the official blog of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Luxury Goes ExploringTM. Read more of her posts at RSSCBlog.com. Not to be missed Before heading downhill on your toboggan adventure, climb the 250 steps to Our Lady of Monte Church. Built on the foundations of a primitive 15th century chapel, this church is the most important pilgrimage site in Madeira. Our Lady of Monte is adorned with elegant chandeliers, a statue of the saint revered since the days when the island was first settled, beautiful pieces of gold and silverwork crafted in the 17th and 18th centuries and the tomb of Charles I of Habsburg, the last emperor of Austria, who went into exile in Madeira in 1921.