Have you ever visited a country and found yourself saying: “I could see myself living here”? There were occasions that I found myself discussing that possibility with my husband, yet I always follow to say: “Don’t forget that we are seeing this country from a tourist perspective and not through the views of a local”.
Today I’ll give you a general outlook of the Madeira Island I grew up on and know!
The island is set in the Atlantic Ocean at 360km of the Morocco Coast and has always attracted holidaymakers looking for good weather, natural beauty and gastronomic delights.
It is a tourist destination and the island thrives from it, welcoming several cruises on a daily basis. Funchal town centre is relatively small and can be explored by foot, if you use a comfortable pair of shoes! While the quaint cobbled roads and the hilly topography can be unforgiving on your feet, the high levels of humidity can challenge you at the best of times, especially in a hot summer day.
When walking through the streets of Funchal, you may find it too touristy with waiters at the restaurant doors trying to allure you with the traditional food menus. The truth is that you are right, it is touristy and the majority of the restaurants are aimed to visitors, offering overpriced meals without the gastronomic value of the real Madeiran cuisine. As a rule of thumb, when in a foreign country I always go to eat in places where the locals go, and Madeira is no different.
You have to walk through the small alleys to spot the popular places amongst the locals.
The people are amicable and have pride in being good hosts. The yearly event calendar is a good proof of it; every month Madeira has something happening from January to December. We celebrate Christmas; have firework display in New Years’ eve, dance samba in Carnival, display flower arrangements during the Flower festival, have more fireworks in summer and get merry during the Madeira wine festival in September.
You will experience a greatly laid back way of living, ‘there is always time to do everything and if not today, there will always be tomorrow’, which can be quite frustrating at times. On-line shopping and e-mail usage still needs to mature, therefore when organizing any event the most conventional methods are still the way to go.
Funchal is equipped with public transports and hop on hop off buses. Nonetheless, I would recommend car rental to travel around the island and experience the true Madeiran gastronomy without creating a big dent in your bank account.
The newly asphalted dual carriageways and tunnels through the mountains make the driving experience in Madeira quite swift and pleasant, without that ‘edge of a cliff’ feeling that we once experienced. However, if you are looking for a scenic thrilling drive, some of those roads are still available for you to explore. Just make sure you keep your brakes cool by using your gearbox to slow down on the steep slopes!
The traditional beaches in Madeira are of volcanic origin, with oversized pebbles or black sand. However, locals can now bathe in two white sand man-made beaches that were completed with imported sand from the Sahara desert. For natural gold sandy beaches, you can always take the car with you and get a ferry to the sister island Porto Santo – renowned by its sand therapeutic properties.
Even though our natural beaches are coarse, you cannot leave Madeira without trying the volcanic pools in Porto Moniz. During your visit, you can sightsee, relax by the pool and/or explore the hidden beauty of the Laurisilva forest by going in a Levada walk. For the adrenaline seeker there is always diving, paragliding and canyoning.
Madeira has so much to offer!
In future posts, I will go into more detail about what to eat see and do while visiting Madeira, with some do and don’ts into the mixture. For now, I hope I leave you with a tantalizing taste of Madeira.