I think I set the scene in my previous post; you know why we chose madeira, where we stayed, who we chatted to and how we came to be visiting.
I didn’t tell you much about the island though and why we loved it so much.
So here are my five favourite things about Madeira.
If you follow me on Instagram you will know I adore flowers, and if you didn’t already know Madeira is famous for its flowers. I was very excited to have the opportunity to spend time on an island famous for its flowers and beauty. I had my camera and memory card well and truly prepped and ready for action.
Madeira has a famous flower festival each April where people flock to see all of the flowers at the height of their season. We visited in March and there were still plenty of gorgeous bright flowers to admire. I especially liked all the bright pinks growing wildly on the cliffs, and of course Belmond Reid’s, where we stayed, had the most lovely garden.
Funchal market is a lively and atmospheric place to visit; full of beautiful flowers, bright and tasty fruit, and herbs and spices. Downstairs is an impressive fish market – bit whiffy of course but some magnificent catches on display. On the higher floors are the fruit, flowers, herbs and other typical market items such a souvenirs, bags and purses, and alcohol. We came away with 29 Euros of passion fruit – yes really, i think they saw us coming, but have to say they were delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so good and they came in flavours such as peach, strawberry and even banana. Not a bit like the sour things we get in England, as my mother would say about most British fruit! We also bought piri piri spices – the Kon Mari method has taken effect on me at last. I did’t buy anything I didn’t really need. The spices were an essential, as were the passion fruit….
Goya is the sister restaurant of Mozart in Funchal Old Town. It was located just down the road from Reid’s so was very convenient to get to. It also had delicious food and a lovely, welcoming team. We chose the 39 Euro pp menu on each occasion because it fulfilled our requirements perfectly. Five courses of a la carte dining including pommery and wines, not the finest vintage wines or anything like that, but perfectly acceptable to accompany the delicious food. Our favourite was the scallops to start, fillet steak for main course and then chocolate fondant for desert. Normally when we are away we like to dine at different places so it is a real compliment to the team that we chose to go there twice.
Of course I can’t write about the best things to do in Madeira without mentioning Reid’s. Staying in such a beautiful, luxurious hotel really made the trip for us. We live in a lovely part of England and so when we go away we like to go somewhere special. As Mrs O always says, if you’re going away it has to be to somewhere as good, or better than home. Reid’s was that and more, and that’s largely down to the fantastic service and beautiful position of the hotel. We couldn’t have asked for a more heavenly location to read our books and get some well earned rest. Villa Cipriani was our restaurant of choice while we were staying at the hotel and I highly recommend the lobster linguine.
Sea level pool
This is part of Belmond Reid’s but I felt it needed a mention all of its own. The pool isn’t fancy and it isn’t even warm – or wasn’t when I was there, yet there’s something really rather special about it. Each afternoon we picked up our bags and set off down the steps to the edge of the sea. Very few people using the hotel chose to spend time in this area so we were usually completely by ourselves and it felt like our own little private piece of paradise. Later he would read his book while I built up courage to plunge into the pool. It might have been a little on the chilly side but I didn’t care one bit, in fact I never thought I’d hear myself say this but, the cold is actually very energising. Better still it made the pools by the hotel feel like baths when I popped back in on my way back to the room.
Madeira has a bit of a reputation in the UK for being an island for a slightly older crowd. It’s funny because I was talking to a tour guide and he said it isn’t the same for other countries, and that all ages tend to travel there. From my observations I would agree – we met some lovely couples from Denmark and America who were mid twenties to mid thirties. I mean it’s not a wild island full of parties – unless you visit during carnival season, but there’s certainly plenty of nice food and wine if you’re that way inclined.
More to the point we wanted to stay somewhere really special. We hadn’t been away for five whole years while we worked on a huge (for us) building project. We wanted our first trip away to be somewhere we’d remember. Belmond Reid’s fulfilled that requirement and more. In fact it is stored safely in my memory and will be until we visit again some day.