Madeira 2007 (1)

We decided to treat ourselves to a week in Madeira to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. We had no idea what to expect but anyone we spoke to who'd been there said how nice it was so off we went.

There was a huge amount to see (and photograph) and we ran out of time to do all we wanted. This bit of the website is split into 2 pages covering the 2 halves of the week - it would take far too long to load in otherwise.

This page covers Sunday to Tuesday. For Wednesday to Friday, please click here.


We stayed at Quinta Da Casa Branca, a lovely 5* hotel just a short walk from the town centre and the harbour so far enough away to be quiet but near enough to get to easily.

The hotel had lovely gardens, very nice to wander around, and also provided Jonathon with internet access so he didn't get too many withdrawal symptoms.

This is our view first thing in the morning as the sun is starting to rise. A quick look to the left gives lovely views of the city crawling up the mountain side and a look to the right gives a really nice garden view.

There were loads of flowers and plants in the garden - these are on a separate page - please click here to see them.

As we were near the sea, our first day was spent on the sea (the morning anyway). We went out on the Ventura do Mar and saw lots of different types of boat ...
... but the highlight (and the purpose) of the trip was to see whales. Although quite far away, we did spot a pod of pilot whales and bottle nosed dolphins socialising in the sunshine.
Unfortunately, they didn't hang around for long but it was good to see them.
The journey back gave us a good view of the cliffs - the oldest nature reserve in Portugal - ...
... and some good views of Funchal and surroundings from the sea.
Lunch was back at the hotel (and delicious) before we took ourselves into the mountains for an explore. We'd seen somewhere called the Valley of the Nuns that was supposed to be very pretty and so off we went through the valley to a small town at the end called ...
Unfortunately it was so foggy that we couldn't see the valley at all! However, the mountains surrounding the town were quite dramatic and the town was pretty interesting to look at with some of the houses having seen better days and some having interesting terraced gardens.

Some were in much better condition and very prettily painted

One of the main occupations of the Curral people seems to be sitting on a wall watching the world go by. They seem quite laid back so maybe there's something in that - must practice when I get home. They also play football as we discovered having taken a wrong turn and ending up at a dead end. As we approached the end of the road one of the players pointed to a stone. We thought he was pointing out a hazard but in fact this was one of a pair of goalposts and he was making sure we didn't disturb them!

Back to the mountains and the clouds ... even though the views weren't that good, the clouds made for some interesting pictures.

The cloudy weather didn't stop the flowers putting on a good show in Curral. There were quite a few in bloom - some that seemed to be flowering around the same time as they would at home (eg. blossom) and some that would be completely out of season.
The plan was to go to Curral through the tunnel then do the pretty route home. The pretty route was shut so that didn't work out. The southern end of the pretty route was open but all we could see was fog so we turned round and went back to the hotel instead. It's very relaxing sitting reading a book, eating afternoon tea and generally being pampered. Perhaps I could try it at home sometime!
Monday (anniversary day) and we took ourselves off to the North West of the island. We set off fairly early to try and get there before the fog came in - it worked and the fog came in around lunch time just when we were driving back through the mountains! First stop - Porto Moniz. What a lovely coastline. It wasn't a particularly windy/rough sea day but the sun and the waves made for good photos.
We spent ages watching the waves - they were so beautiful. The colour of the sea and the bright white of the waves just made you want to dive in (if only it hadn't been so cold!)
There was a calmer area which allowed for pretty reflections and gave a good contrast against the white foamy breakers but the waves were the more spectacular!
From there we started to travel back south, calling in at one or two places en route. First stopping off point was Ponta do Pargo as there was a binocular sign meaning good views! We weren't disappointed.
Jonathon doesn't like heights so he did very well to get as close as he did to the edge. He had a panic when he watched me going closer to the edge than he liked but didn't volunteer to come and rescue me!!
Sometimes you have to go to the edge to get the best photos - I wouldn't have been able to see this lovely coloured water if I'd not ventured out.
Back to more sensible positions and there were plenty of things to photograph, not least the lighthouse and sheer cliffs.
Before we venture to the middle of the country, it's time to introduce you to a couple of friends. The gekko represents the hundreds (if not thousands) of them that we saw and the car is Alfredo (Fred for short) - our hire car for the week.
Lunch was at Calheta - The Beach Hotel. Jonathon had to cook his own as he ordered steak on a hot stone so that's what we got - 2 pieces of steak and a hot stone to cook it on! I had Black Scabbard (fish) - both were very nice. As it was still earlyish afternoon (and the fog didn't seem too bad) we decided to venture inland. We soon found the fog and drove through a whole lot of it. However, our destination was Paul da Serra and this was pretty much above the clouds. Very different to anything else we'd seen - almost moor like.
The statue of Madonna and Child seemed to be a monument as there was a plaque on the side.
While we were there we could see the mist coming in - very dramatic but it made driving back to the hotel a bit scary at times, particularly in the fog filled tunnels.
They say Madeira is like a greenhouse gone mad - we can see what they mean. It is really green and lush with loads of colourful plants both cultivated and wild. During the day, we saw a lot of wild flowers so here are a small number of the many plants we saw.
A lovely day and one that would be hard to follow but Tuesday saw us back on the boats and seeing lots of dolphins followed by a trip above the clouds - amazing.
First the boat trip. We decided to go out on a catamaran this time - the Seaborn - a much bigger and faster boat but no whales to be found this time. While we were waiting we could enjoy admire the other boats in the harbour.
The dolphins we saw were common dolphins and they really enjoyed playing around the bow of the boat. They were lovely to watch.
At some point, it all got a bit much for me to cope with - the dolphins had gone and I was simply enjoying being out on the water!

Lunch back at the hotel was followed b a trip to Camacha. Madeira is famous for its wicker work so Jonathon wanted to go see what all the fuss was about. We didn't buy anything but there was a lovely 2 seater and 2 single seat suite. Funnily enough this wasn't in the shop but in the factory underneath so we didn't enquire how much it was.

From there we went to ...

As you can see, the views were very special. We were above the clouds and they were moving very quickly so the landscape was changing all the time.

To give an idea of size, the little person on the photo on the right is Jonathon and there are 2 walkers on the photo below left, immediately in front of the clouds - they are the tiny sticky up bits. The walkers were on a bridge that Jonathon didn't fancy so we stayed on more solid ground.

That's all we've got room for on this page. Please click here for the second half of the week.

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