Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal, which is 1.5-hour by flight from Lisbon. Football fanatics probably know Madeira as the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo. British retirees probably associate Madeira with the island of perpetual sunshine and their escapade from rainy England. As for me, I’ll remember Madeira as the place where I turned 33!
Madeira attracts lots of British and Northern European tourists and its capital, Funchal, is a really lively place. During my short stay, I commented several times that Madeira has made it into my shortlist of places to retire in! As shown by the demographics of the tourists, Madeira is not a hip city where you can dance the night away. However, it represents a good mix of city and nature, with sea views which you wake up to everyday! In addition, both Portuguese and English are widely-spoken
1 May morning greeted us with a slight drizzle, but that hardly dampened our spirits. Our first stop was at Santana, which is best known for its traditional, sloping, triangular, straw rooftops. Although many of the surviving houses are tourist attractions, Querido and I saw one which was still inhabited by a local farmer. As in the past, all these houses were identically constructed with white walls, red doors and windows with blue borders.
Our next stop was at a scenic lookout point (which I’ve forgotten its name.. oops..) Partly due to its altitude, the wind was extremely strong and at times, I felt as though I might be blown off the cliff. It was almost impossible to capture a proper shot without hair strewn all over my face. Hence, I had to creatively use my hand as a temporary hair rubberband. Despite the sub-optimal weather, the view was already spectacular. Wonders of nature.
Lunch was at Muralhas Bar at Caniçal. There was a long queue and I liked the fact that it was patronised by locals! While queueing, Mariana was such a dear to flash her cheeky grin. Anyway, this lunch marked the start of many “lapas” orders for our remaining stay in Madeira. “Lapas” is a kind of limpet clam and very yummy!
After lunch, we headed to Machico. Originally, our intention was to visit the fort (Forte de Nossa Senhora do Amparo), but it was closed. Nonetheless, it was an idyllic afternoon next to the ocean. Thereafter, we also stopped for tea at a golf resort.
The next day, Querido dragged me out of bed really early as he had an ambitious itinerary! *yawn* That said, I was glad he did! The morning view at Cabo Girão was fantastic! I loved the hues of blue which somehow seemed to blur the distinction between the ocean and the sky. I could really just admire this view all day long
Porto Moniz was small but “wow”. It was a pity that the winds were too chilly for a dip in the lava-rock pools. By the way, the Madeira archipelago is made up of a group of volcanic islands, which explains the existence of these lava-rock pools.
After having lunch at a tourist trap (unfortunately), the appreciation of beautiful landscapes continued. By the way, Madeira is probably one of the rare places which produces both wine (cool climate) and bananas (tropical climate). The co-existence of such conditions is due to Madeira’s vastly-varied altitudes!
Our sightseeing for the day ended at the Valley of the Nuns. During historical times, the nuns used to hide here from pirates who were attacking Funchal. It would be almost impossible to locate this isolated village during the 16th century when the transportation network was hardly existent. This is basically a small village situated in the crater of an extinct volcano. By the way, I received my first wild flower from Querido at Eira do Serrado, overlooking the Valley Can’t believe that I am so easily contended.
As for dinner, it was a “feel young session” with Mariana! She would spontaneously pose for the camera and want other “child-like” adults to play along. Ahemm, and I happen to be the “child-like” adult who was turning 33 in 2 days. Hee.
Anyway, I enjoyed my dinner at the rodízio style restaurant. My charcoal-roasted chicken was really succulent! In addition, I had yet another serving of bolo do caco (a flat circular bread, traditionally cooked on a caco – a flat basalt stone slab, and is a specialty of Madeira). Way too much carb, but it really tasted great! Also tried the corn cubes for the first time, and they were addictive. As Madeira produces tons of passion fruit, along with the fact that everyone else seemed to be ordering the passion fruit mousse, I simply had to try it too. It was a lovely ending to my dinner.
Saving May 3 and 4 for Part 2. I know I’ve been a bit lazy recently in updating my blog, but this time round, I promise to deliver Part 2 within a week. So, do check in every now and then, especially if you love flowers. Psst.. there’ll be an overload of flowers in Part 2!