I was born in Madeira and lived for twenty years in Lisbon but have now been back on the island for nearly four years. The best word to describe this return to my origins is gratitude! How can I describe walking along levadas with breathtaking views and swimming in the big blue Atlantic and the constant state of wonder this place has me in?
Being a professional storyteller, I am lucky to be able to share that wonder with visitors who come on the wine tours (link to http://www.discoveringmadeira.com) that I lead. Here are some of the places we go to and some additional personal favourites:
Blandy’s Wine Lodge:
Placed in a beautiful 17th century monastery in the middle of town, it has been a house of wine since the beginning of the 19th century. After crossing a Brazilian satinwood vat that stills smells of wine, the friendly and knowledgeable company guides give you an introduction to the history and production of the exquisite Madeira Wine with a bonus tasting to top the tour.
A quaint village on the north coast complete with a black sandy beach perfect for swimming and bodyboarding and pristine vulcanic rock pools that are more secluded than the more famous and commercial ones in Porto Moniz. The views here of the north coast, with its sheer green forrested cliffs and waterfalls, will take your breath away.
On the outskirts of the capital, Funchal, you will find a haven for local endemic fauna and flora mixed with trees and plants from all over the world. A cup of tea and a slice of cake at the tea house are the perfect excuse to sit down for a while to enjoy the perfume coming from the miriad of different flowers that bloom all year round and listen to the birds fluttering in the tree tops.
Fajã dos Padres:
A tropical paradise nestled against the high cliffs on the southwest coast, this organic fruit farm has the oldest strain of Malvasia Cândida on the island. Bake in the sun on the lido deck, snorkel in the crystal turquoise waters and delight in the fresh grilled fish at the restaurant under the palm trees. Top off the meal with the mango produced on the property paired with the sweet Madeira from the vines you see there. Saúde!
Right beside the market you will find the unlikely spot for the best poncha in town. Invented by sailors who needed to take lemons on board the ships to prevent scurvy and preserved them in rum to make them last, it is still today considered the perfect medicine to cure a sore throat, a runny nose or a broken heart. Dona Inês and Sr António run this grocery that sells things by weight (her mixture of spices is very popular) with a hidden bar at the back that was in the past only for men. Toast with the butchers who cross the road in the market for a break and a chat, and smile at the sound that peanut shells make under your feet as you enter this unmissable time capsule.
Barreirinha Bar Café
There’s no better way to end the day than sitting al fresco by the sea with a glass of table wine from Madeira in hand. After roaming the old town you will find here a mixed crowd of young locals and families and visitors. The live music at the weekends provides a lively evening with delicious snacks like the typical Prego (a steak sandwich in Bolo do Caco bread, with cheese and ham and lettuce and tomate and garlic butter) or a caesar salad to keep your dancing shoes tapping.
I could go on and on and on, but I suggest you come to this gem of a place and make some unforgettable memories of your own!
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