The Hawaii of the Atlantic?

Trip Start Apr 02, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  , Madeira Islands,
Friday, March 27, 2009

I was particularly looking forward to Ed's and my trip to Madeira, as, unlike our usual hurried Saturday to Sunday trips away, this was a gloroius four whole days moored off the southern coast of Portugal on a volcanic rocky outcrop surrounded by no more than the salty Altalantic ocean.

We landed at around 11am, after a merciless 4am start, and were met at Madeira's Funchal airport by Ed's father, ever the clown Wally. And we were off! Carrying little more than clean underwear that compromised our hand luggage, we settled into the car and began our tour of the hilly, lush island. Madeira climbs an incredible 1,900m above sea level, and is beset by the four season's climates in one day thanks to this undulage. We started at a "cash-and-carry" supermarket, which despite stocking only frozen foods, still proffered a variety of food far wider than my taste-buds are accustomed to. We bought two octopi (actually octopodes to be pedantic) for dinner - to my absolute delight.

We then visited the traditional food market, stacked with fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and enormous wet fish caught that morning and of a quality I marvel at, being from London. We grabbed a crunchy apple, bought vegetables for dinner and meandered the little Portuguese streets back to the car, and set off to Ed's folks cute little home, nestled in the green grounds of the spectular and renowned Reids Palace. Once dropping off the morning's purchases, we were fortunate enough to be able to walk out of the front door and into the literally palatial hotel grounds, abundant with rare and foreign plant species - a photographer's paradise for Ed and a biology lesson for me.

Reids is THE 5-star hotel of Madeira and famous for hosting numerous affluent politicians, celebrites and European aristocrats, the most famous of whom was Winston Churchill, who retired to the Palace and whiled away his last days painting the hotel's sea view. The garden's plants engulfed the pathways as we strolled, the crisp sea air sensuous with aroma and pollen. The walk felt more like a tropical jungle exploration, complete with wet rainbow that crowned the skyline as we returned home.

Just before dinner, Ed's mother returned from work - to the big surprise of us loitering in her kitchen! She hadn't known we were coming and her face was a picture! Before we ate, we took an excursion in the car to the island's primary mirador, Cabo Girão, the second highest cliff in the World and the highest in Europe at 1,903 feet above sea level. See Ed clowning around as the alititude got to his head!

Dinner was fresh tuna steaks sauteed with capers, green salad and rice - yum! We collapsed into bed shortly after, drained by the day's good food, red wine, sea air, early start, car/bus/plane travelling and day's activities.......PHEW!!
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