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ESW Jun 19th, 2019 01:53 AM

Trip Report - Seven Days in Madeira
I recently spent seven days in Madeira on a trip with Riviera Travel. My full report with all the pictures is here.

We were based at Enotel Quinta do Sol in Funchal which is within walking distance of the centre and also has plenty of buses doing past the door. My room was a bit basic but the bed was comfortable and there was a good shower. Food was plentiful and excellent. The deserts were to die for!

We had full day trips covering the usual sites in both western and eastern Madeira along with a half day trip to Curral das Freira. We also visited Palheiro and Monte Palace Gardens and had the equivalent of a full day and two half days to explore Funchal by ourselves.

The scenery is dramatic with serious mountains up to 5000’ and steep sided and very deep valleys. Flat land is at a premium and every available surface is terraced to grow crops. Even the airport runway is built on stilts. Coming into land is exciting as the plane makes a tight curve to line up with the runway. The mountain sides are not far away! The airport can be closed by strong winds with planes unable to land or take off. Guide books don’t mention this.

Highlights included
• viewpoints of Pico do Arieiro and Eira do Serrado
• Engenhos do Norte, the sugar cane factory at Porto da Cruz still using 100 year old steam driven machinery
• Baroque churches and in particular Igreja do Colegio in Funchal
• Guided tour of Santa Clara convent
• walk through a banana plantation
• Mercado dos lavradores in Funchal
• sitting enjoying the gardens in the sunshine and all the flowers

One of the disadvantages of going on a group tour is that you are limited in the time you are allowed at each place. Many times I felt we needed more time. 15 minutes for the Se Cathedral just isn’t long enough! We had 90 minutes at Palheiro Gardens, when it takes 20 minutes to walk to and from the entrance... Curral das Freira is a wonderful drive but only having 30 minutes once we got there, I did rather question whether it was worth it...

Adelaidean Jun 19th, 2019 09:14 PM

Always enjoy your blogs :)
What a stunning landscape.

annhig Jun 20th, 2019 09:35 AM

Hi ESW, thanks for the warts and all TR as well as the great photos. Madeira has been hovering on the edge of my to do list for a while but for a variety of reasons it's never got to the top, which looks as if it's a shame.

Shame too about Riviera not coming up to scratch - my one experience of them was a river cruise down the Rhone and what problems there were [high water mainly] were not down to them and they circumvented them very well. In particular I never felt rushed at any of the places we visited, in fact often it was too long for me. As you say, 10 mins for a cathedral just isn't enough and it sounds as if the guide was poorly vetted too.

Anyway thanks for the TR.

ESW Jun 20th, 2019 12:13 PM

Hi annhig. I also did the Rhone cruise a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I've also been to Sicily with them. Both trips I would rate as 10 and both had very knowledgeable and informative guides. Madeira with the issues of little time and poor guide, I'd only rate as 7. Having said that, I enjoyed it and glad I went.

IMDonehere Jun 20th, 2019 06:47 PM

We went to Madeira a number of years and enjoyed its quirky charm. We did not go on a tour and used public transportation to get around.

Did you go on a levada walk?

Did you have espada?

I do not know your nationality, but not many Americans go there, as it takes at least two flights and it is relatively unknown.

You do not see Madeira mentioned here very often.

ESW Jun 21st, 2019 03:11 AM

On of the advantages of being English is that there are direct flights to Madeira from several local airports as well as Gatwick. It is really easy to get to.

I'd have loved to do a levada walk but dodgy knees puts paid to that now.

I ate espada and watched the fish being prepared in Funchal fish market. They are ferocious looking things...

annhig Jun 21st, 2019 12:57 PM

<<On of the advantages of being English is that there are direct flights to Madeira from several local airports as well as Gatwick. It is really easy to get to.>>

Yes, out of interest I just checked on the Easyjet site and they have daily flights from Bristol [my nearest main airport] to Funchal that are pretty cheap. But if i were going by myself I think I would tend like you to want to do a tour, though i don't fancy being put in a corner to eat my meals! Sometimes they do "Singles only" trips which would avoid that problem, hopefully.

What is "espada" ? [silly me, it must be sword fish!]

ESW Jun 23rd, 2019 11:14 AM

It's known as black scabbard fish and has ferocious teeth. It's quite unattractive when seen in the markets but is skinned and deheaded and looks much better!

annhig Jun 25th, 2019 01:47 AM

oh, that is nasty looking. i was expecting a sword fish!

IMDonehere Jun 25th, 2019 06:16 PM

They are nasty looking fish, but quite satisfying.

annhig Jun 26th, 2019 09:57 AM

It had to have something going for it!

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