Written by Praskipark on 29 Jan, 2009
When somebody mentions Madeira what do you think about or what immediately comes into your head? I think of crusie ships, humidity, primeval vegetation, exotic flowers, sub-tropical plants, . I have been to Funchal several times before but the last time was three days before…Read More
When somebody mentions Madeira what do you think about or what immediately comes into your head? I think of crusie ships, humidity, primeval vegetation, exotic flowers, sub-tropical plants, . I have been to Funchal several times before but the last time was three days before New Year with my family. It was a four day stay in the capital to see the firework carnival as so many people had told me how amazing a spectacle it was and I wanted to see with my own eyes. We flew from Lisboa and it was quite fun waiting in the airport to board the plane as there was a thrill of excitement everywhere as many Portuguese were travelling to see their families. Many people were togged up in suits and posh frocks even before the festivities had started and a lot of women were carrying small dogs like chihuahuas, as it is a favourite dog of the Portuguese. My family was excited as we all love fireworks.The flight was comfortable and took approximately 90 minutes. I think flying time from other parts of Europe is about 2 hours and now the cheaper airlines like Easy Jet have offers on flying to Madeira. Another way to travel to the island would be by boat. The landing was a bit freaky as it was very windy and the runway is very dramatic running out into the sea. When I first flew into Madeira years ago it was terrifying and I really thought we were going straight into the sea. The runway was then very short and with it being surrounded by high mountains and the Atlantic ocean makes landing very difficult. Major construction work has since taken place as the runway has been extended by over 1000 metres partially covering the sea and is supported by over 180 pillars. It is quite an outstanding structure and feat of workmanship. Once outsde the airport a mini bus picked us up with another party to take us to the hotel. Santa Catarina airport is in Santa Cruz which is in the eastern part of the island and is situated 16 kilometres from Funchal. The trip from the airport to the main city takes about thirty minutes. The views are breathtaking even at night. The mountains become alive with all the lights twinkling and glowing in every direction and with it being Xmas there were more lights than usual. The roads are mountainous and winding and I spent the whole time pointing at all the colours and bright lights. For the duration of the holiday we stayed in a two star budget hotel in the centre of the city which had great views from the flat roof overlooking the marina and harbour. We chose this particular hotel because we wanted to see the cruise ships docking. The hotel was adequate although the breakfast was dire - eggs every day cooked in about a hundred different ways, soggy hot dog sausages and soggy cornflakes with warm milk. Still it didn't really matter as we ate out in the evening and it was only somewhere to lay our heads. Madeira - geography and a little history ********************************************* The story goes like this.... Prince Henry the Navigator who was probably the most famous Portuguese navigator sent two of his navigators - Joao Goncalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira on a trip to explore the African coast. This was in the year 1418. They were found shipwrecked on Porto Santo as their ship had been blown of course. They then returned to Portugal and told Henry about the discovered island and immediately they were sent back to colonise the island. Madeira was shortly colonised later with it being only 50 kilometres away and hence Funchal was founded. Shortly after 1974 when the Portuguese coup ended, Madeira was granted full autonomy from Portugal but the Madeirenses chose to be part of the mainland. Portugal joined the European Union in 1986 and Madeira has grown succesfully with tourism being it's main income and industry. Tourism is booming now but even back in the mid 1850's tourism was popular with wealthy European families. It's climate is mild throughout the year and this is one of the reasons it has always been popular with tourists as well as it's green vegetation and mountainous landscapes. The main tourists who visit the island these days are Portuguese, Germans and English. A tour of the city. ******************* Funchal was named because fennel grew wild on the island and the Portuguese word for fennel is funcho. The city itself is interesting and pleasing to the eye. The focal point is the harbour and then the city spreads out rising over 1200 metres high forming the shape of an ampitheatre. The hillsides are filled with luxury villas, narrow, winding roads, estates filled with exotic and luscious plants. The cente is a mixture of the old and the new and a lot of the buildings are still art deco in style which overall in the old parts of the town gives you the feeling of being back in the thirties. It seems very old fashioned to me although I can accept that parts of the city on the outskirts are modern in design. I like the old world charm - it is like Portugal used to be. The city is easy to find your way around on foot but the traffic is a little hectic and there is congestion in the centre. Avenida do Mar runs east to west and along the waterside and marina. Avenida Arriga is the main street of Funchal and this is where several hotels are situated. Linking the waterfront with the old city is the road called Avenida Zarco. Taxis fly around everywhere and it's always best to negotiate the fare before getting in the cab. Madeirenses are very different to mainland Portuguese. They are very much more extrovert and pushy in my opinion and always trying to sell you something. I found it a bit off putting when I first visited as I was so used to Portuguese being quite a shy race. As it was Xmas all the streets were very heavily decorated and all trees had garlands and fairy lights twinkling in different colours and shapes . The fruit and farmers market (Mercado dos Lavradores) was exceptionally colourful as was all other stalls selling hand made crafts. The churches in the city are typically Portuguese in style and displays of nativity scenes were present. I found the shops in the city fascinating because they seemed in a time warp. It was like going shopping with my grandmother in England when I was a child. Tailors, silversmiths, bootmakers, all the old traditional types of workshops and shops. It was like a real life museum. Absolutely fascinating. The marina and waterfront is a lively place to visit more so in the evening as the fish restuarants come alive and the whole area is very boisterous. In the day it is fascinating to walk around looking at the different boats, and trying to remember flags and were they have all sailed from. Madeira is a big game fishing island so there are a lot of fishing boats to view and if you fancy a day fishing there are plenty of opportunities. Close
Written by Drever on 11 Feb, 2007
West Coast WondersA visit to the island isn’t complete without a tour of the spectacular scenery on this volcanic island. We took 'West Coast Wonders,' a full day tour run by our holiday company.Heading west, we came to Camara de Lobos, a traditional fishing port.…Read More
West Coast WondersA visit to the island isn’t complete without a tour of the spectacular scenery on this volcanic island. We took 'West Coast Wonders,' a full day tour run by our holiday company.Heading west, we came to Camara de Lobos, a traditional fishing port. Winston Churchill loved to set up his easel and paint this peaceful scene. Only a short way out the volcanic rock of the island drops down into deep water so fish caught here are deep-water varieties. Hopefully the boats, which I had hoped to see, were having a fruitful day!Winding our way through the mist-shrouded mountains we came to Cabo Girao—at 590 metres, the highest sea cliff in Europe. Bizarrely, it has a small area of cultivated land at its foot. A short coffee stop at the fishing village of Ribeira Brava gave us time to explore the St. Benedict church containing some of the island’s finest gilded and carved woodwork.Leaving there the coach heading north along the dramatic coastal road with its breathtaking views. At one point the bus passed through a waterfall cascading down the cliff face to the ocean and obtained a quick wash.We enjoyed a leisurely lunch overlooking the volcanic rock pools of Porto Moniz on the western tip. The afternoon drive took us up through cloud-capped mountains to the Paul de Serra plateau, which resembles the bleak moors of Scotland, before descending back to Funchal.Folklore & Feast We attended a fun evening of 'Folklore & Feast' at the Coral Cerveja, a typical Madeira restaurant. Seated on benches at a long row of tables, we were welcomed with a glass of Madeira wine followed by local soup and the famous Madeiran Espetada. This consists of mouthwatering cubes of beef seasoned with garlic and bay leaves served at tables on 3-foot skewers. It was in unlimited supply, as was the wine. A mixed salad, potatoes, and hot country bread accompanies the meal, followed by fresh fruit salad, coffee, and liqueur. Throughout the meal we had the opportunity to listen to a live performance of 'Fado', which is rather mournful but characteristic of Portugal folk music. Folklore dancers entertained with guests joining in. A young girl aged about three stole the show. In the national dress with pointy cap she looked like a wee pixy—it was difficult to know what she was going to do next.Show Time, LegendsWe also attended 'Show Time, Legends' at the Casino. The evening kicked off at 7:30pm with a three-course dinner and wine. Sian Lesley and her dancers then took us through the past 50 years of music and medleys. In truth, while lively and with plenty of scantly clad girls, the show didn’t hit the mark as far as the renditions of the songs were concerned. It wasn’t the sing-a-long evening that I had expected. Still, at least visiting the casino was an experience for us. Close
Written by Harrod on 24 Jun, 2006
Tourism is the mainstay of the Madeira economy. Funchal, the capital city, is the place that most people base themselves. It’s a busy town with lots of tourists but I’ve always found it very relaxed. ‘Hassle’ doesn’t seem to translate into Portuguese. You can stroll…Read More
Tourism is the mainstay of the Madeira economy. Funchal, the capital city, is the place that most people base themselves. It’s a busy town with lots of tourists but I’ve always found it very relaxed. ‘Hassle’ doesn’t seem to translate into Portuguese. You can stroll around admiring the views, taking the air, looking in the shops, and no one worries you. There are no timeshare touts, the taxi drivers don’t bother you. It’s true that waiters do their best to persuade you to come into their restaurant but they do it in the most diffident and polite way it’s sometimes hard to refuse.The old centre of Funchal is down by the sea. The surrounding hills over which the town has developed and spread over the years seem to focus down on the sea front promenade and the Marina and Harbour. It’s inevitable that you will find your way there at some point during your stay. The old saying of ‘All roads lead to……’ is true of Funchal in that wherever you decide to stroll in the city you always end up down on the sea front. It’s magnetic.Truth be told, it’s not exciting but there are still lots of things that catch the eye and keep you interested. If you’re staying to the west of the town in the Lido area where many hotels are located your first approach to the Marina area is a leisurely walk through the Santa Caterina Park on a slope overlooking the whole Harbour and Marina area. Like all the municipal gardens and open spaces in Funchal the park is well kept with interesting plants and trees lots of which have informative labels. As you would expect there are lots of benches to sit and have a break, look out to sea and count how many boats you can see.The Harbour itself is the main port of the island. It is busy with commercial shipping. Cruise liners are regular visitors some of them really enormous towering over the whole waterfront. The ferry to the nearby island of Porto Santo where Christopher Columbus once lived comes and goes during the day. Smaller cargo ships tie up and unload. Everything in Madeira comes and goes through this dock. It’s interesting to sit and watch for a while but not really a place to walk around.But the inner Marina is indeed a place to wander. As you look down on the Marina from the sea front promenade you can see all the yachts and motor boats tied up. But if you don’t go down to walk around you will miss things. First of all there is a row of busy restaurants tucked away under the sea front wall. Quite naturally they specialise in fish with refrigerated displays for you to inspect. They are busy throughout the day and night. Good places either to sit in the morning with a coffee and watch the boats come and go or to have a meal in the evening and watch the citizens of Funchal and their tourist guests promenading in the evening.There are also lots of little kiosks offering boat trips, sea fishing expeditions, ferry tickets, and helicopter rides. You can take short pleasure boat rides out to get a view of Madeira from the sea. We went on one which took us to the west of the town. As you leave the Harbour you begin to play ‘spot your hotel’ as you coast along. Leaving the city behind you, and slipping past Cabo Girao with the highest sea cliffs in Europe. You see tiny fields and patches of cultivation on the cliffs that seem impossible to get to. There are some little huts and gardens at the bottom of the cliffs that are only accessible from the sea by boat. On we went past the small town of Camara de Lobos and on to the slightly larger town of Ribeira Brava. Having spent a few days walking up and down the hilly streets of Funchal and taking tours into the mountainous interior it is fascinating to see it all from the sea. Quite often the mountain tops are covered in cloud but the scenery is magnificent with green hills and valleys, picturesque towns and villages all the houses white with red tiled roofs and roads and paths snaking up and down between the woods and fields.Back in the Marina it is always full of yachts and motor boats. Many of them are based in Funchal but lots are also visitors using Madeira as a staging post for a long sea voyage. If you take the trouble to stroll along the outer arm of the Marina you will see boats from all over Europe. They seem to come from every country. The far North in Scandinavia, East from Poland and others from the France, Germany and the Portuguese mainland. On the concrete sea wall of this outer arm a tradition seems to have developed of visiting crews painting symbols and messages as a memento of their visit. There are paintings of flags, coats of arms and emblems each with a ship’s name and sometimes including a short message. It always gives me the impression of a ship’s crew idling the time away waiting for their boat to be provisioned and for the right winds to spring up before launching themselves out into the Atlantic to head West for the Americas or South to Africa. It makes me feel envious and at the same time daunted by the courage the crews display in setting out into such a large ocean in such small boats.As you leave the Marina you can stroll eastwards along the sea front promenade. There are lots of little restaurants and kiosks selling souvenirs. The sea front restaurants tend towards the gimmicky. The most prominent is the ‘Beatles Boat’ a large motor yacht once owned by the Beatles and now beached and converted into a restaurant. They are OK but really the better restaurants are further along in the old town clustered around Rua Don Carlos 1 near the cable car station. The promenade itself has been landscaped recently and there are lots of benches to sit and take the air, watch people walking by, and just enjoy the sea, the view and the fact that you are here on holiday and not back at home at work. Close
Written by Harrod on 08 Jun, 2006
Horarios do Funchal is the local bus service. Who are the heroes? The bus drivers of course. Why are they such heroes? Have you seen the streets in Funchal? Funchal stands on steep South facing hills looking down on a…Read More
Horarios do Funchal is the local bus service. Who are the heroes? The bus drivers of course. Why are they such heroes? Have you seen the streets in Funchal? Funchal stands on steep South facing hills looking down on a gently curving bay. The mountains drop straight into the sea. There is no beach. Most of Funchal was built before the motor car became so ubiquitous. The roads are steep, narrow and twisting. Houses are perched wherever they can be. So imagine what a job it is to drive something the size of a bus around these streets. To my mind these guys are heroes. The Horarios buses are painted bright, cheerful yellow. A door at the front to get on and check your ticket and doors in the middle and back to get off. They are a great way to get around town and see the sights. There is a good route network but sometimes the buses are not too frequent so it’s best to get a timetable. You can get them from the Tourist Information Office on Avenida Arriaga or at the kiosks down by the bus station at the eastern end of the Avenida do Mar e Das Communidades Madeirenses, which is the sea front promenade. As I remember there is a small charge, but it is not very much. By the way the Tourist Office is one of the most curious I have come across. It is quite big, spacious inside with plate glass windows, but when you go in there is not a single leaflet or brochure on display anywhere. There is nothing to browse through at all. At the information desk there are two or three ladies who will politely answer your questions and know their stuff but I’ve always felt I was intruding on them. Not the most welcoming place I’ve ever been.Anyway, back to the buses. If you are in a hotel in the Lido area out to the West of the main city then the bus is a really good way to get into the centre of Funchal. Lots of buses go along the Estrada Monumental and the Avenida do Infante. You can buy a ticket from the driver but it is cheaper to get a pass from one of the kiosks. A seven day pass doesn’t cost very much. Bus numbers 20 and 21 go up to Monte where you get great views out over the city and the bay and where you can visit the Monte Palace Gardens. You can come back by bus of course or you could try the cable car or the traditional wicker sledges that slide down the streets. Bus numbers 29, 30 and 31 go up to the Botanic Gardens. Some of the bends on this route are particularly tight and precipitous. I remember once on the way back down a ticket inspector had got on and as we approached an especially tight bend overlooking a steep valley I noticed that he crossed himself. I obviously had more confidence in the driver than he did.A really good route is bus number 48, which starts in Nazare and twists and turns its way up to Monte but via a roundabout way. Number 48 doesn’t go into Funchal city centre, but if you are in a hotel in the Lido area you can pick it up along Estrada Monumental. It heads towards the city but turns uphill before it gets to Avenida do Infante. It then climbs its way all the way up to Pico dos Barcelos, which is a high vantage point overlooking the city at 355m above sea level. You could get off here and spend some time admiring the view and wait for the next bus to take you further. Number 48 is generally speaking an hourly service. Beyond Pico de Barcelos the bus traverses across the top of Funchal through several local districts. All the time you get glimpses of the view down to the city as the driver negotiates around the tight little streets with nonchalant ease. The local residents get on and off and chat amongst themselves whilst we the tourists stare out to the window to admire the views, the pretty houses and gardens and wince occasionally as the bus approaches a particularly tight bend that we think he just can’t get round. Eventually the bus arrives at its final destination of Monte. A total journey time of just less than an hour, and a tour of heights of Funchal for the price of a local bus ticket.It’s just an everyday job to the drivers and for the most part they do it well. The buses are well kept and pretty much keep to the timetable. From time to time one of the drivers may have delusions that he is Michael Schumacher and take things a little too quickly for comfort, but everybody has a bad day at the office sometime don’t they. Close
Written by Harrod on 04 Jun, 2006
Taxi drivers the world over have a bit of a reputation. They inflate the fares, they talk too much, they sometimes don’t know where they are going. My worst experiences have been in Warsaw. I may have been unlucky but I have been ripped off…Read More
Taxi drivers the world over have a bit of a reputation. They inflate the fares, they talk too much, they sometimes don’t know where they are going. My worst experiences have been in Warsaw. I may have been unlucky but I have been ripped off regularly by that city’s drivers. Moscow hardly has any taxis at all. At least not official ones. All you have to do is stand by the side of the road and wave a car down. Any car. You won’t be there for more than 5 minutes before someone stops. Beijing on the other hand has more taxis than you can imagine. Lots of little Daihatsu hatch backs buzzing around the streets. The drivers always give you a receipt and don’t accept tips.Funchal’s taxis are some of the best I have come across. First of all there are lots of them. All painted bright yellow all immaculately clean and well cared for. Most of them are Mercedes. Funchal city centre has lots of taxi ranks so you are never more than a couple of minutes walk away from one. If you book one through your hotel reception they come pretty quickly. The fares are reasonable and the drivers helpful and friendly. It may be that I have been as lucky in Funchal as I have been unlucky in Warsaw but in seven visits to the island I haven’t had a bad experience with a taxi driver yet.As well as taking you from point A to point B Funchal’s taxi drivers will offer to take you on tours of the island. Madeira is a small, mountainous island. It doesn’t take long to drive around it. Most tour operators offer two standard day trips. One circling the West of the Island and the other doing the same to the East. Each is a good day out. A lot of people hire cars so that they can look around at their own pace. My fear of heights prevents me from driving on the tight mountainous roads but if someone else is doing the driving I can just about manage to enjoy the tours without getting too nervous.Funchal’s taxis have standard prices for tours of the island so no need to worry about haggling or getting ripped off. Prices for days out are around €80 to €90, which compares well with the price offered by tour companies. With the taxi you have the advantage of having a car to yourselves, being flexible about when you go and when you come back and about the exact route that you take. And you have a personal guide in the driver.For our tour of the Eastern part of the island Sirgilio in taxi number 1176 picked us up from our hotel at around 10am. We climbed out of Funchal towards the small village of Camacha, where we stopped to look at wicker work being made. A traditional craft in Madeira. Of course you are tempted to buy. Wicker on offer ranges from small baskets and trays to full scale tables and chairs.We then turned West and the drive through lovely meadows and forests took us further up the mountains to Poiso where the road forks and we carried on upwards almost to the very peak of Madeira at Pico de Ariero 1810 metres above sea level. On a clear day the views are stunning. Craggy mountains and deep valleys. Walkers setting off on the routes around the extensive levada network of irrigation channels. A small hotel and restaurant right at the top provides a good chance for a break and to relax and admire the views over a cup of coffee. For me it was a chance to calm my nerves after the drive along narrow winding roads with incredibly steep drops at the side unprotected by any fencing.After leaving Pico de Ariero we gradually descend heading towards the North side of the island. On the way down we stop at Ribeiro Frio a small village in a steep valley. It’s fascinating to walk around the trout hatchery and see the various sizes of fish in the different pools fed by the mountain stream. Traders sell locally made woollen goods. As the road goes on you notice houses and farms clinging to the steep slopes and wonder how on earth anyone gets to them. Small sheds house cows. They can’t roam free in fields, the hills are too steep.We come down to the coast at Santana famous for its picturesque brightly painted A-framed houses. Many of the older Madeirans are quite small in stature. These houses are by no means miniature dolls houses but they are very compact. So being small does have some advantages sometimes. Instead of being bussed off for a set lunch as we would on one of the tours we stroll around the village and then Sirgilio suggests a quiet little restaurant right down on the sea shore. After a leisurely lunch we find Sirgilio waiting for us having a quiet cigarette on the sea wall. We stroll back to the taxi which he has parked in the shade just near the restaurant and set off eastwards towards Machico. In the last few years Madeira has had lots of European Union investment in its infrastructure, so there are many new roads cutting tunnels through the mountains and flying over deep valleys on high bridges. The road to Machico is typically pretty Madeiran countryside. Green mountains, villages perched on impossibly steep slopes, mostly singly story houses painted white with red tiled roofs. Machico is a small town by the sea right on the eastern edge of the island. We stop for a short stroll around and make a mental note to check hotels here. It might make a quiet place for our next winter break. We always enjoy Funchal, but maybe a change of venue next time would be interesting. Coming out of Machico we take a slight detour up to a high vantage point overlooking the sea and looking down on Madeira airport. The runway is built on concrete stilts suspended between the mountains and the sea. We spend a little while watching the planes take off and land glad it isn’t our turn to be going home quite yet.Back in the taxi we cruise round the eastern edge of the island back into Funchal and Sigilio drops us right at the door of our hotel. A tour in a taxi has meant we picked the day and time we wanted to go, we went at our own pace, we travelled in comfort in the back seats of a Mercedes, we had our own personal guide in the shape of Sirgilio the driver and we stopped for breaks and meals wherever we liked. Just a little bit more expensive than tours offered by the tour companies but not very much. Taxi tours are definitely recommended. Close
Written by Harrod on 28 May, 2006
A sense of expectancy builds up in the days leading to Funchal’s deservedly famous New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Cruise ships begin to arrive in the harbour. Late arrivals have to anchor out in the bay. We counted twelve each with little tenders busily ferrying…Read More
A sense of expectancy builds up in the days leading to Funchal’s deservedly famous New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Cruise ships begin to arrive in the harbour. Late arrivals have to anchor out in the bay. We counted twelve each with little tenders busily ferrying people to and from the harbour. People begin to talk excitedly about which is the best place to view the display. Some prefer the seafront, others prefer the view from higher up in the hills. Workmen go around checking that everything is OK. White painted shipping containers with their tops cut off have been placed at intervals all along the sea front promenade, linked by miles of electrical wiring to ensure that everything goes off with split second timing. They house fireworks the size of maroons.Imagine the setting. Funchal town stretches out around a pretty bay with a small harbour and marina as its focus. At each end of the bay to the east and west it is framed by high cliffs. The hills sweep back from the sea front. It is a natural amphitheatre on a large scale.In the early evening buses start to arrive bringing people from all over the island. The promenade and seafront restaurants begin to fill up. Local residents bring out their picnics and look for the best places to settle down. The hotels begin to spruce themselves up for the gala dinners that they all put on. Hotel residents retreat to their rooms to put on their best clothes. In many hotels, the dress code for the night is suits and evening dresses. Tables are set with flowers, decorations, and candles. The Porto Santo ferry leaves the harbour to join the cruise ships out in the bay as a floating viewing platformDinner begins. Everyone talks with eager anticipation. As midnight approaches, the dining rooms empty as all the guests drift outside. People check their watches with each other. Champagne is opened, ready for the midnight toast. On the stroke of midnight the display begins. Fireworks whoosh into the night sky all along the seafront. Clouds of colours burst over the harbour and the town. Roman candles, rockets, and every other sort of firecracker you can imagine join an amazing pyrotechnic display. The seafront display is augmented by unseen sites further back up in the hills. The amphitheatre is covered in showers of colour and streams of sparks. Some of the cruise ships out in the bay add their own contributions. As the display progresses, the promenade begins to fade in a smoky haze. The noise, the smell, the sights, all seem to pummel each of your senses.In about 15 minutes it is all over, but what a 15 minutes. I’ve never seen a fireworks display quite like it, for its scale and colour. It takes your breathe away. Guests reluctantly move back into their hotels, not quite believing it has finished. But then the gala balls begin in earnest. Some of the hotels serve breakfast later in the night to sustain the revellers.New Year’s day dawns quietly with a sense of anticlimax. The cleanup operation is already underway, and the cruise ships slide away to their next destination. By midday the sea is empty. It takes a little while to realise that you are still on holiday, and there is some serious relaxing yet to do. New Year is high season in Madeira, and hotels charge premium rates. But it’s worth it. Funchal puts on a tremendous show. Close
Written by Harrod on 21 May, 2006
If you are a nervous flier then your arrival and departure from Madeira Airport isn’t going to be the best beginning and end to your holiday. Madeira is a small, mountainous island. There is hardly a flat, level spot anywhere. So the airport is built…Read More
If you are a nervous flier then your arrival and departure from Madeira Airport isn’t going to be the best beginning and end to your holiday. Madeira is a small, mountainous island. There is hardly a flat, level spot anywhere. So the airport is built on huge, concrete stilts sticking out over the sea on the eastern edge of the island, near the town of Santa Cruz. On one side is the sea. On the other the mountains.If you have a window seat the views of Madeira as you make the approach are stupendous if it is a clear day. You will be approaching from the North. If you are sitting on the right hand side of the plane you will get views of the mountains of Madeira itself. If you are on the left you will see the smaller Islas Desertas and Porto Santo to the West of the main island.As the plane makes a gradual descent you will be able to pick out the airport and its runway perched on the side of the island. Your plane will fly past it then make a low level turn to the right over the sea and continue its drop towards the runway. If you are still looking out of the window on the right hand side you will see nothing but sea and you are getting very close to it. You wonder when on earth the runway is going to come into sight. On the left-hand side you can see hills with roads, villages, and banana plantations, and you feel very close to them. As the airport is on an exposed site it is quite often breezy, which sometimes causes low level turbulence to add to your nervousness. Then all of a sudden you are down and the plane is braking hard. A few years ago planes braked very hard but the runway has been extended so it is now not quite so fierce as it once was. Off the plane, a stroll to the bus that takes you to the terminal, and a chance to breathe some fresh sea air and calm your nerves.Take off at the end of your holiday isn’t quite such an ordeal. The plane usually takes off in a north westerly direction which means the mountains will be on your left and the sea on your right. It will taxi right to the end of the runway to begin its take-off. Everything is normal, nothing unusual except that as the plane picks up speed those hills to the left do begin to look very close. But then you are off and up in the air. The last slight hiccup. Almost as soon as it has left the ground, the plane needs to make a turn to the right to avoid the hills above the town of Machico as it climbs.Madeira Airport has been extensively modernised and extended in the last few years, and is now not bad as airports go. But if you are a nervous flier, pick an aisle seat and don’t look at the view as you land or take off. Close
Written by Harrod on 16 May, 2006
It might not be the first thing you would think of, but Funchal is a great place to shop for shoes. Now my wife likes shoes, but she has a problem. She has very small feet. A U.K. size of just 2, continental 34, which…Read More
It might not be the first thing you would think of, but Funchal is a great place to shop for shoes. Now my wife likes shoes, but she has a problem. She has very small feet. A U.K. size of just 2, continental 34, which I think converts into a U.S. size of 3.5. As you can imagine, it’s a problem for her to find nice, stylish shoes. Lots of children’s stuff, but when you’re in your 50s you don’t want to be wearing shoes intended for 12 year olds. Now, those of you who have been to Madeira will have noticed that a typical Madeiran build is quite short and stocky. Must be something to do with the mountains. But this means that there are lots of small shoes in the shops. The first time we went there, she couldn’t believe it when she went into almost any shoe shop in Funchal and they had not just the odd pair in her size, but a real choice of modern, stylish shoes. So, shopping for shoes has become a regular part of our time in Funchal. We come with a half empty suitcase, and she normally goes home with three or four pairs of new shoes that keep her going till the next visit. The area around Rua dos Taneiros seems to be the centre for shoe shops. There are at least half a dozen on that street, and more in the streets around. My Portuguese is not so good, and at first I thought "Taneiros" would translate into English as "tanner," and so make the connection with leather and so with shoes. But I was wrong. "Taneiros" apparently translates as "cooper," so this area used to be a centre for making barrels. No longer. And the mystery remains as to how it came to specialise in shoes.There are cheap shops, where you can search for bargains, and there are some real bargains. She was pleased to find a nice pair of dark brown formal shoes for just €5 on our last visit. And there are shops that sell expensive designer examples at very high prices. At first, I let her get on with her hunt for new footwear, waiting happily in a nearby café with a coffee or a beer; but then I began to look around at shoes in my sizes, and now I too usually come back with a pair or two. There is a really wide choice, not limited by the usual high street monotony in the U.K. The prices are so much better. and you get good, personal service from the small shopkeepers. Close
Written by Eve Carr on 01 Aug, 2002
Whenever we visit a new destination, we always like to try the local wines. We don’t compare them to wines from other places; we just appreciate them for themselves.
Although the island is well-known for its…Read More
Whenever we visit a new destination, we always like to try the local wines. We don’t compare them to wines from other places; we just appreciate them for themselves.
Although the island is well-known for its Madeira, a fortified wine that ranges from dry to dessert sweet, in recent years, its white, and especially red, table wines have become increasingly popular with discerning diners.
We especially enjoyed the wines of the Enxurros Winery and the young Vinho Verde it produces. They are fresh, fruity, and have a pleasant effervescence.
With the establishment of the Madeira Wine Cooperative in 1990, more individual farmers will be able to develop their table wines. The Winery building, constructed in 1999, provides viticulture study and services and also gives individual farmers a place where they can develop their wines. While the farmers supply the grapes, bottles, corks, and labels, this government service winery then produces the wine and bottles it for them.
As a result, look to Portugal to see some interesting things happening in the production of red and white wines as well.
With balmy breezes from the Atlantic and a sub-tropical climate, Madeira is, indeed, an island paradise. Its Funchal is modern and offers all the amenities you could want, yet the Maderian countryside is rugged and…Read More
With balmy breezes from the Atlantic and a sub-tropical climate, Madeira is, indeed, an island paradise. Its Funchal is modern and offers all the amenities you could want, yet the Maderian countryside is rugged and quaint. The blending of the old with the new is one of the reasons we like this island so much.
We were particularly impressed with this combination after we visited Madeira’s 61-year old Central Market. Just up the street, at the Global Net Café, owned by Norwegian-born Trude Stien and Maderian Antonio Basilio, we were able to not only surf the Internet and stay in touch with colleagues, friends and family, but do so in an incredibly modern setting for the equivalent of $2.50 per hour. And there’s more.
We were good this time because we had just had lunch. We drank only bottled water but, if we had wanted to, we could also have purchased food and drink, sipping Maderian wine and savoring Norwegian waffles and local pastries as we surfed.
In addition, the Global Net Café is multi-lingual, offering services in English, Scandinavian, Spanish and Portuguese. And, there a book and magazine exchange.
So when you visit the Market, be certain to check out the Global Net Café. It's located at Rua do Hospital Velho, n 25 in Funchal, Madeira Phone 351 291 280671 and, naturally, you can reach them at email@example.com