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Madeira; Things to Do & See

15th April 2019

If you’re anything like us, you hear Madeira, you think cake. However, each year for the last few, we’ve boarded the plane to Madeira to explore the island and spend some time in the sun. There’s a few places we wanted to blog about and tell you more about – a must visit island, it’s such a stunning place to spend a holiday with so much to it!

Madeira is famous for it’s flowers – not only within the markets but all over the island. We visited in Spring, so the island was in bloom! The parks are overflowing with beautiful and exotic plants and it looks like every bush along the streets have flowers within them. When we’ve been in January, it’s still a very green island but there’s no where near the amount of flowers in every shade and hue!

You also must visit the “Mercado dos Lavradores” (Farmer´s Market.) This is where these photos are taken – within the market you will find not only exotic fruit and veg but also spices and herbs, downstairs you will be able to find the fish market by following the smell(!) and on a weekend the whole place is filled with the sound of vendors selling their items. We spent ages wandering round looking at what everything was – many thing were new for us and some were fun to see what they looked like in the market – who knew there was so many different spices!

Outside the market were women in the traditional dress and they also were working on the flower stalls. The flowers here seem very reasonable when you consider the price of a bunch in M&S! They’re exotic and fun to look at – our favourites were the birds of paradise. You’ll see them growing round the island too, we love the pop of colour and the ‘beak’ they’re famous for. The Strelitzia variety of the birds of paradise only grow in Madeira and South Africa so we’re lucky to see them.

Outside the market, take a left and walk down the streets of the older parts of town, and visit the painted doors on Rua de Santa Maria. These ladies plus the ones with mermaids on were our favourites, though it’s fun to see them all – some had paintings of people on so we wondered if they represented the people that lived in the homes.

To make the area revitalised, the council commissioned an art project in the area so local artists could turn the previously quite average doorways into works of art. 200 doors have received attention from the artists which includes homes, restaurants, art galleries and businesses in the ‘Zona Velha’ (old town.) Using the door as the canvas is rather striking as it invites the passers by in a little more – asking the question of why is that mermaid swimming on that door and the next doorway features African styled drawings. It’s well worth a visit and achieves the aim of inviting passers by to slow down and look at the doors – making art of something very ordinary.

We took our William Morris Brother Rabbit tote bag with us on holiday. With long straps and a zip top – with a zip top pocket inside, it’s our top pick for a holiday bag. The zip adds security and the size allows you to pop everything you need to carry within; jumpers for the evening, suncream for the daytime and plenty of space for any shopping you may do!

Brother Rabbit is such an eye-catching design; it’s also sometimes referred to as ‘Brer Rabbit.’ It was inspired by the Uncle Remus Stories by J.C.Harris which Morris read to his two daughters Jenny and May. The birds within the design were drawn by his close friend and colleague, Philip Webb.

We also saw this graceful swan in the park; though there are taxis available everywhere – at a reasonable rate too, if you can, we’d recommend walking much of the island. Take your time to walk down through the park, you’ll see so much of their flowers but also these swans. You’ll also have a great vista point of the cruise ships coming into the port – we loved sitting and watching them approach and the different ones from all round the world – though watch out, little lizards are everywhere and aren’t shy when coming to say hello!

We also took a walk to Câmara de Lobos which is 7km from Funchal. During January 1950, Sir Winston Churchill spent 12 days on holidays in Madeira and has left a huge imprint in the areas tourism. Reid’s Palace Hotel sent the invitation Summer 1949 when it reopened following the Second World War. Winston arrived 1st January 1950 aboard the Durban Castle Ship along with his wife, eldest daughter and two secretaries, concierge, body guard and his councillor in writing his memories – Colonel Frederick Deakin.
He went to the area on the 8th January, arriving in a Rolls Royce and set up an easel and canvas to paint the bay and the islet. Today, this is known as Winston Churchill Viewpoint and is visited by many to see what he saw. We took the scenic coastal route and walked past beautiful volcanic beaches and a waterfall or two which we assume were formed by water running off the higher points of the island. The banana plantations were so fun to walk past – bananas are grown at the latitude Madeira sits on, so there’s lots being grown round the island – we got to try them at the hotel and they’re very delicious! They somehow taste better knowing they’re grown so locally!

 

You also should head up to the top of the island on the cable cars. Not only are there stunning gardens up here but also, where the traditional Madeiran sledges are – careering down the streets, two men push two visitors down the steep streets in sledges. We didn’t try it ourselves but there’s always a next time! You can go up and back down in the cable cars and it gives a panoramic view of the island that’s like no other.

In our hotel (Enotel Lido) we got to see traditional Madeira dancing too – if your hotel doesn’t offer it, there’s lots of nightlife and you’ll be able to find somewhere that offers it. We’d really recommend it!

There’s so much to see and do in Madeira, have you been? What’s your favourite thing to do?

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