Wintertime always brings on an extra holiday-yearning in myself, therefore with a friend we decided to look for a sunny winter destination, local culture and not too far away. Ohhhh… hmmm, possibly a bit too many wish-for’s as not all destinations have winter seasonal flights. As we surfed the web, we hopped on several Greek islands, checked out the Sicilian possibilities, road tripped in southern Spain and Portugal, then we landed on Madeira. Hey Madeira… why not, abundance in flowers, and a similar degree of latitude as Morocco…nice, and there was a great holiday fly-drive deal! Booked, paid and done. A few weeks later, early December, we were winging off to our “sunny” destination Madeira. Yes a small speck in the Atlantic ocean.
After collecting the rental car we drove towards Porto Moniz farthest in the North Western part of the island. My goodness the amount of tunnels, it became clear to us the island was not one to whizz across and pop over for dinner to Funchal. We also found out that Porto Moniz with her magnificent volcanic coastline was very quiet this time of year, but then on the positive side relaxed and no tourism overload. During our stay we made several road-trips over, across en through the island (read… via many many tunnels), walked some of the levadas (Irrigation aqueducts) so typical of the island, entered beautiful churches with ancient azulejos and we were impressed at the dramatic coast. More than often up on the mountain crest we walked with our heads in the clouds, or were wrapped up in mist on the forested hillsides. For nature lovers Madeira is a wonderful island! Put on your hiking boots, take along a picnic and enjoy.
Lombo Das Tercas towards Ponta do Sol & Teleferico das Achada da Cruz on the west coast
Paúl da Serra plateau
Paúl da Serra plateau on our way to Boca da Encumeada (which was closed off due to bad weather)
Levada of Queimadas near Santana and the Levada da Janela
Queimadas and ‘The Fairy Forest – UNESCO area “Laurisilva de Madeira”, in the “Parque Natural da Madeira”
Sheer rock faces and tunnels
Ponta Delgada with her “Bom Jesus” church
Church in Calheta with Azuljos
The Azuljos and statues in the chruch of Calheta
As we also wanted a bit of cultural bustle we decided to spend the last few days in a ‘Quinta’ hotel in Funchal. As the time of year was nearing Christmas, the city was being decorated – an illuminated festive light event – typical for Madeira these stunning light decorations and nativity scenes will remain throughout the city from December 8th until the 6th of January. Make sure to see the Funchal promenade and her old historic town centre for the most beautiful lights. Funchal has lots to offer for the cultural satisfaction , museums, an old monastery, walk through the old historic centre over beautifully decorated cobbled pavements, several historic gardens, the mount, Blandy Wine Museum, the esplanades and cafes. In the evening Zona Velha comes alive and something not to miss is a real Fado dinner. Before dinner check-out the beautifully painted doors around Rua de Santa Maria. And of course a high tea with a afternoon pianist in the famous Reids Hotel, although the whole thing was one big rip off it was a step back into a decadent British era. Imagine…meeting Winston Churchill or Gregory Peck here on patio.
Historic town centre of Funchal and the cobbeld streets
Santa Clara Convent & the statue of Fatima
Monte Tropical Palace Garden in Funchal
Mercado dos Lavradores – Market of Funchal with the traditionally dressed flower ladies and the large fish market area
Fruits of Madeira at Mercado dos Lavradores
Zona Velha – “ArT of opEN doors project in Rua de Santa Maria” >website
Fado evening with dinner in Zona Velha. Even the owner and cook as locals took part in singing their favourites!
Travel website ‘Bestemming in Beeld’ (Destination in Pictures) published a joint article of mine. I’d accepted a “Travel Duel” with another globe-trotter and our article – “Madeira in the winter” was published 14th february 2014. We asked, compared and agreed and disagreed about our travel experiences on Madeira making it an interesting and special blog. We both visited Madeira in the winter periode, though separate from each other. We’re slightly different travel types in what we do and like, or…are we that really? This ‘duel’ was great fun to do and making it handy background document with valuable tips for other Dutch travellers.
Christmas lights in Funchal – From the 8th December to 6th january