Cake, wine, those are what used to spring to my mind when someone said ‘Madeira.’  It was really only a few years ago, when my brother went to the island, that I gave the location any real thought.  And then I decided to visit for myself. 

I went with Hot Chocolate, the first time we’ve holidayed together.  It was a short break, only a week.  We met in Wetherspoons at Stansted, at 05.00, for our first glass of Prosecco.  Start as you mean to go on.

It’s a fairly short flight, around three and a half hours, so we arrived in time for a late lunch and time to sleep in the sun.  It was far hotter than I had expected – March is still their winter.  The pool at our hotel is a bit of a sun trap plus it shielded us from a lot of the wind making it was lovely for sunbathing. 

On our outward journey, the pilot pilot was preparing to land when, all of a sudden, (at least, that’s how it seemed to me, one of the uninformed) the thrusters were powered up and the aircraft pulled up.  I felt as though I was in a Harrison Ford film.  It turned out that the wind was too high for the pilot to land safely, so we flew around the island and then had to stack for a while before the second landing attempt.  The airport on Madeira originally had a short runway, although it has been extended a couple of times.  It is now 9124 feet long, extending out into the ocean on 180 columns that are each 230 feet high.  It is still considered to be one of the most dangerous airports in the world and pilots have to undergo additional training in order to fly here. 

On the Saturday, our first full day, we attended the welcome meeting with the tour rep.  It was very comprehensive, much better than others I’ve been to and gave us time to think about how we were going to spend our time.  Our hotel was about half an hour’s walk from Funchal, the capital city, so we decided to have a walk there.   The next day we walked the other way, but there was not as much to do that way. 

Funchal from the road just outside Reid’s Hotel

Of course, we did the tourist thing.  We visited Reid’s Palace Hotel for a glass or three of wine.  It was a beautiful view from where we sat.  The hotel itself is beautiful and there is quite a lot of history here, which is why we went – Sir Winston Churchill used to visit.  The founder, William Reid, was a Scot, who died before Reid’s was finished.  It opened in November 1891 as the New Hotel, and later changed its name to the New Palace Hotel and later to Reid’s, as it is usually known.  One of the things it is most famous for is afternoon tea, which is very reasonable at 36 euros per person (champagne is 18.50 euros a glass).

inside the hotel

We went on a coach trip to the North-west of the archipelago which is mountainous, and wetter than Funchal.  In fact, our tour guide said,

            “Welcome to Scotland,”

as it was wet and misty the day we went.  Our tour took us to Porto Moniz and Seixal, both lovely.  The church at Porto Moniz, Lady of Conception, built in the late seventeenth century, is particularly beautiful.

Lady of Conception, Porto Moniz

Later in the week, we took a trip on the cable car to Monte, which is north of Funchal.  Beautiful municipal gardens, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and church, it’s a definite must.  The cable car itself is something else, taking between 15 and 20 minutes and travelling 3200 metres, there are fantastic views across Funchal and Madeira.  We managed to get free return tickets by attending a holiday club meeting.

Funchal from the cable car

From Monte, you can travel part way back down in a basket car.  I didn’t do it this time, Hot Chocolate wasn’t up for it, and trying to work out where to meet afterwards went into the too difficult tray.

Our trip away ended all too soon.  Until the next time.

© Susan Shirley 2019


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