Our latest tale from the boot room is a story of adventure and discovery. Jo and Jamie tell of their time spent in Madeira and the adventures they undertook to uncover the secrets of this island.
“We arrived at Funchal airport at around 9am after a very early start to be greeted with bright blue skies. It was only a short taxi to the hotel but the views in every direction were incredible which made us realise we were going to have a great time. We also realised that apart from the motorway Madeira is not very flat!
We soon arrived at our hotel, The Galo Sol. We were greeted in the large reception area and taken to our room. We have travelled together numerous times and are always keen to see what our room will be like… we were delighted.
The room was bright and airy, the balcony looked over the sea which was a great spot for relaxing in the evenings. We were shown around the hotel by the duty manager, something she does with all HF Holidays’ groups on their arrival.
The hotel is large and has great facilities including a gym, a spa and three restaurants. Something we looked forward to trying out!
We filled our days with trips to get us out exploring the area and to give us a feel of what Madeira has to offer. Our first trip was with a local guide, Graca. She took us to the market in Funchal. She was full of knowledge and knew lots of the workers. She got us trying locally produced fruit and introduced us the workers in their traditional dress.
We took a walk into Funchals’ old town, where our guide was keen to show us a particular road called Santa Maria which had lots of derelict buildings… we thought “why?!”
On closer inspection, each of the doors of the derelict buildings have been painted by artists to make them look more attractive. Each door was so unique and we all had our favourites. We were also lucky enough to meet the artist that had come up with the idea!
We then took the cable car from the old town 3,170 metres up to Monte. The journey took 15 minutes. The views were incredible and we got to see some of the amazing houses that were built into the hills. Once we arrived in Monte we visited Nossa Senhora Do Monte (Church of our Lady), a quick stop by the tropical gardens and had a taboggan ride.. the highlight of the day.
We were taken 2km downhill in a wicker basket controlled by local men in their traditional dress. We were nervous at first but really enjoyed the experience. This form of transport is from the 1850’s!
Later in the day we visited the Madeira Wine Company. We took a tour of the wine lodge, learnt the history of the wine and the Blandy family that own it, followed by a taste of their dessert and table wine… we found it to be an acquired taste!
The following day we went dolphin watching. We expected a large boat full of guests like previous trips we’ve been on but were surprised by a speed boat that sat around 8-10 people. This made the experience even better as we got as close as possible to the many different species of dolphins known in the area. The guides were full of knowledge and knew the right spots to go to make the most of the trip.
Our last trip was a jeep safari, the absolute highlight of our trip and something we would highly recommend. We went from the hotel into the mountains and stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the harbour, at that point we thought the trip couldn’t get better, but we were wrong.
As we went higher the views got better and the landscape changed. We took a short 20 minute walk along the Levada, but found out that some are around 20 miles long (we would have needed an extra day to conquer this). The 4×4’s are the only vehicles allowed off the beaten track and every so often our driver would put the window down and grab a piece of fruit to try or lavender to smell.
We stopped at the wicker museum, a local market, a local church where we were lucky enough to experience part of the Sunday service. We also stopped at a traditional bar to try the local drink, Poncha. The drink was made from honey, lemon and rum. One was enough!!
On the Saturday evening we took the bus from the hotel to Fuchal. The journey was around 45 minutes and around 2 Euros each, a cheap way to get to Funchal and the bus stops right by the hotel. We sat for dinner by the harbour and watched the firework display – something that happens every Saturday in June, and is an event both tourists and locals come out for.
Overall we had a great trip and really got a feel for local life in Madeira. We managed to fit a lot into our short time there and would highly recommend Madeira. Were eager to go back!
Thank you Jo and Jamie for sharing your tale and whetting all our appetites for Madeira.