The Story of The Fine Grains of Sand
“How many grains of sand are in this beach?” asked Anna with a genuine curiosity, as soon as they arrived at the Calheta cove, in Madeira Island. Her parents smiled at each other, both waiting for the other one to come forward with an answer. Truth be told, Anna was just expressing, like a five-year-old does, the same awe her parents were feeling as they encountered this extension of yellow sand.
In a volcanic island where the angular coastline is sizzled with rocks, black stones and dark sand, where did those golden grains come from? Was it a nature’s whim only found in this cove facing south in the middle of the Atlantic? Or was it a way someone found to add an element of fun to nature at its roughest?
Be it as it may, this sand was the promise of many castles, puddles and a giant turtle, decorated with sea shells. Or, in Matias’s perspective, the brother of Anna, three years older than her, the perfect terrain for long Formula 1 tracks, a football field and a few messages for the aliens, monitoring from high above.
And if Dad wanted to join all these activities to a couple of stand up paddle outings or to the reading of the book he started on their last vacation, Mom, on the other hand, would rather spend the day between the pools and the spa of the hotel, two steps away from the beach. After a family agreement, the solution was found and it was a simple one: they could do a bit of everything, because this was the place to grant the wishes of endlessly energetic children as well as recharge the batteries of well needed adults. Actually, that was one of the main missions of this trip – head out to a destination that would include sun, mild weather, fun for everyone, rest for who deserves it, great food and beautiful trekking paths. All included?... Well, all but stress.
Soon enough they found that they could spend entire days without leaving that quiet cove, facing a crystal clear sea, shielded by an amphitheatre of rock formations. Entertainment was plenty, there were delicious options of local food and from other distant places, snacks, refreshments and the very necessary kids club. If it is true that you need to work hard for your luck, now was the time for the parents of Anna and Matias to enjoy theirs.
And there was even more to experience without having to leave the cove. Next to it, the marina with the recreational vessels and the fishing boats that every morning bring in a fresh bounty of fish that always find their way to the hotel table.
After a short walk, they would find a place of great importance to understand Calheta’s history (one of the oldest regions of Madeira, inhabited by the first settlers). A sugar refining mill with almost 120 years that is still producing molasses and the delicious Madeira rum from the local sugar cane, a place where you can learn how sugar was produced, once named white gold, such was its value.
At the end of a small climb, they visited MUDAS, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Madeira, an awarded building (Alvar Aalto medal, 2012) that offers a great view over the cove and the ocean. And they would have more to find, other outings and experiences outside the cove that caught their heart.
On their last night on the island, the four of them went for a walk on the beach. The sky was clear, all the stars were out, it was a beautiful night. Dad grabbed a handful of sand and said to Anna: “According to a very wise man called Carl Sagan, in my hand alone there are around 10.000 grains of sand”. Anna was in awe with the immeasurable number. “That’s quite a lot”. Dad continued “But let me ask you something: are there more grains of sand on earth or stars in the sky?” Anna and Matias looked up and started counting.