Madeira - the flower islandMadeira is known as the 'flower island', and between Portugal and Africa in, it is even closer to Africa.
See http://worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/europe/madeira.htm for an overview map.
Madeira has a subtropical climate. I found the climate agreeable, it was hot but not terribly hot, and I did not notice much humidity. On some days in the morning it can be foggy or damp or there can be clouds, but in general you can enjoy the sun year-round. Madeira is a Portuguese island, and the people speak Portuguese. Madeira is quite small, you can travel in about 2 hours from one side to the other.
In the summer of 2006, I went to Funchal, the capital of Madeira.
Pronunciation: Ma-dei-ra long eiiiiiii ,
On Madeira you can do several things:
- enjoy the sun and the beaches
- visit old sights
- go to several parks and gardens
- enjoy the town, stroll around, and eat and drink
- go for a hike along a levada
What is a Levada? A levada is an irrigation channel, this is a narrow strip where water runs through, of approximately 30, 35 cm wide. In the old days these levadas were constructed to irrigate the land. The Levadas are at times miles long. Sometimes there are fish and frogs swimming through.
On two days I went for a walk along a levada. One of those, the Levada Dos Reis, runs through the Laurissilva. The Laurissilva, a very old forest, is on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. See the Madeiran website for the Laurissilva, http://www.madeira-island.com/features/1999/laurissilva/index.html
The beaches on Madeira are mostly pebbles, so the Madeirese constructed plateaus where you can sunbathe, around swimming pools where you can swim. They also built the plateaus around natural pools. From the plateaus you have access to the sea as well. There are life-guards around for safety. I went to some beaches on Madeira, one was Doca do Cavacas, a natural pool. There was a nice life guard, who called me back when I swam too far in the sea. The sea was pretty wild, and I swam towards a cave / cove in the rocks, to see how deep the water went in there. I was close enough to see that it was not very far, when the water got very rough. Doca do Cavacas has a nice pool, as shown on the image on http://madeiraweb.net/PagesUK/beaches/doca-cavacas.html , with seawater, which is in places a few meters deep, and other places shallow, and there was also sealife, little crabs swimming around.
Madeira is relatively small.
It's not such a beautiful flower island as they say, you must go to the really beautiful places, on the street it looks just like for example Spain, the name is a bit exaggerated.
And, there were mainly older tourists.
Travel to Madeira can be quite expensive. It is worthwile to see if booking a plane and hotel by yourselves, instead of a package through a travel agency, is cheaper. Since booking separately probably is cheaper.
The kitchen of Madeira is relatively simple, I have eaten really good twice, once was a squid dish, the other time a delicious soup. The poncha, a local drink, was not to my taste. The Madeiran wine is at times good though, and can be quite heavy and thick.
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