Sunday, 22 May 2016

MY EUROPEAN HOLIDAY 2016|PORTUGAL PART 3| HEAVENLY MADEIRA

Hello my dear readers,

If you are just joining us now, then here is what you have missed so far: Athens, Santorini, Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais.  Those who have been following my narrative about our 2016 European holiday, will recall that our last stop was Lisbon where we spent four exciting, jam-packed with discoveries days and after that we flew to Madeira, an island in the Portuguese archipelago about two hours flight from Lisbon but when we stepped outside the terminal I thought we landed on a different continent altogether.

The first thing we noticed was the warm balmy weather that felt so nice after being subjected to the cold for the last three weeks.  We also noticed how bright, rich and luscious the flora around us was, with the bright sun shining on us and the blue sea sparkling under its rays, it felt like a slice of paradise.

Again, we rented a car but the driving and navigation was so much easier than in Santorini that I was no longer scared to be smashed into a cliff or thrown over the railing into an abyss and for a change I was actually enjoying the ride to the hotel.

All the rooms in our suite of the Cliff Bay Hotel were overlooking the sea and the blue pools and rows of white deck chairs below.  And everywhere I looked, I saw tall and slender palm trees, thick bushes of flowering bougonvelia, emerald green lawns all sparkling and shining under the bright spring sun.  It reminded me a lot of Sydney in summer.  Our hotel was packed with Brits enjoying the warm weather and natural beauty of Madeira.

On our first night we had a scrumptious dinner (that my foodie husband reserved months ago) at Il Gallo D'Oro, a Michelin starred restaurant that happened to be situated on the ground floor of our hotel.

We only had a one full day and a bit, so after a short discussion with the concierge of what the “must see sites” in Madeira are, we got into our rented car and headed in the direction of the town centre.  There we boarded the funicular (Cable Car) that took us up 560 meters to a full view of the breathtaking landscapes of the city.

After the ride, we did some sightseeing around the charming streets of the old part of town, visited the local produce market, walked along narrow alleys with walls adorned by the funky murals and after a short stop at a local coffee house for a cup of delicious cappuccino (it was before 11 am so cappuccino is allowed) we returned to the car and set off to Porto Moniz, situated in northwest corner of Madeira, which has long been famous for its natural swimming pools and its pure, beautiful scenery.

It took us just over an hour to get there.  It was fascinating to watch the change in the landscape, the flat green fields gradually morphing into black rocks soaring high into the sky, away went the thick blooming bushes, replaced by dense jungles of tall trees and thick vines.  The temperature was dropping so fast that by the time we reached Porto Moniz and got out of the car, we needed to put on our jumpers and scarves.  But the place was magnificent and looked rather dramatic and primeval.

The natural lava swimming pools are the highlight of the village of Porto Moniz.  They are made up of volcanic rock, into which the sea flows naturally.  The water is crystal clear and these natural wonders are a delight to swim in during the summer or just watch the sea surge forward to fill them with water and then draw back leaving them quite shallow.
First driving, then walking made us quite hungry and we stopped at the local seafood restaurant for a plate of grilled sardines, a Portuguese delicacy.

We returned to our hotel late in the afternoon.  We were glad to feel the hot sun on our skin and spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing near the pool overlooking the shimmering sea.

We retreated to our room quite early as the next morning we were flying to Zurich, our last stop before coming home.  But I will tell you about that in my next post.


Until then