There are some holiday destinations where you arrive and instantly feel relaxed and comfortable. For me that is Madeira. It is the place I return to year after year. As soon as I step off the plane everything seems OK and all those day-to-day problems that we all have vanish.
Situated off the west coast of Africa, Madeira is an Island belonging to Portugal. It has a sub-tropical climate which supports an abundant collection of flora and fauna all year around. Fabulous flowers just growing on the road side, gardens with bananas ripening. I urge you to try a banana from Madeira, they taste like bananas should be, slightly waxy in texture, sweet and full of flavour. If you have ever had a pointsetia at Christmas and failed to keep it alive by January you can only look and weep at the huge ones just growing by the side of the road and the palm trees gently swaying in the warm breeze all year around.
I first came here back in the nineties with my then boyfriend (now my husband) and it did have the reputation as an older person’s holiday destination. We did feel like the kids in the hotel that we stayed in, but lately that has changed a lot. It attracts a far more diverse age group for the wide range of sports and leisure activities.
The capital Funchal has an old colonial feel to it due to its prosperity as a place for passing ships to stop and refuel in the 1800s. It is situated just off shipping lanes bound for Africa and the Far East. While here, they would also buy provisions. This led to the popularity the sweet fortified Madeira wine, which kept well in the warm environment of the ships, and it soon became renowned worldwide. There are stories of people like Churchill and Napoleon being given barrels of the wine to give to dignitaries.
John Blandy moved from England to Madeira in the early 1800s due to ill health in order to benefit from the restorative climate. He set up his wine business a few years later. Due to its success and a desire to diversify, he then bought several businesses including the famous Reid’s Hotel. The family no longer own this but it is the number one hotel on the island and you only have to enter the reception to look at and feel the splendour that still exists today. Blandys, still run by the family, is possibly the most well-known of the Madeira wines and operates a very informative tour where you can learn how Madeira is made, about the different grapes and see the private Blandy family collection with wines that date back to 1500.
The centre of Funchal is also home to the most fabulous market building which manages to keep cool even in the searing heat. Scabbard fish, any chilli you could name and the freshest of fruit and vegetables are all on sale alongside an amazing collection of cut flowers.
Madeira is a beautiful place, over the next three blog posts I will be exploring some of my favourite things to do, places to eat and the beautiful flowers.
All trips and items shown were purchased by me.