Monday 25th March 2019
Mum had been dropping some not so subtle hints about how little she’s used her passport. I delved around online to find somewhere we could both go and drew up a short list of places to go.
Mum quickly decided on Funchal in Madeira and we settled on a well priced all-inclusive suites hotel.
Packing was easy. Four nights somewhere warm meant we were travelling light, very light. Despite having 44kg of luggage allowance, we got everything in to one rucksack weighing under 10kg.
Boarding the flight, I noticed I was quite possibly the youngest passenger on the Jet2 737-800 out of Manchester. I suspected there wouldn’t be much in the way of rowdy behaviour on this flight!
Our first attempt to land was aborted due to the wind. As we circled a while, waiting for ATC to report that the wind had dropped, I pondered where our divert would take us but, luckily, however, it was second time lucky.
I had a slight worry when bag didn’t appear, however, rather than being on the carousel, it was in a separate oversized luggage area. This rucksack hunt did mean we were the last two to board the minibus to the resort.
The Girassol hotel was better than we hoped. A big bed room with two single beds, a large separate living area and good sized balcony.
Despite the earlier wind, the weather was nice so we headed out for a stroll to get our bearings. Passing the the Lido we reached Cais do Carvão, (coal wharf) the area were a pier once stood.
Back at the hotel we grabbed a couple more drinks (Mum tasting her first strawberry daiquiri!) before heading down for dinner. The dinning room is a large space with the self service buffet in the centre. I started with the squid salad before a ‘pick and mix’ main course of scabbard fish in banana and passion fruit butter, veal flame grilled tuna steak and pork in a white wine
Tuesday 26th March
After breakfast we took a left out of the hotel, following the coast to the Santa Catarina park. From there we headed up hill to the Fortaleza de São João Baptista do Pico, a hilltop castle overlooking the town. This was a bit of a trek especially as it was pleasantly sunny and warm.
Entrance in to the fort was free, the views were great and, being so early in the year, we had the place to ourselves.
Later in the afternoon, Mum went to the hotel’s outside pools for a swim. I’m no swimmer, so took a wander and found my first levada. These are channels bringing water from the north of the island to the drier south.
I took the narrow path alongside the water to a residential area. There wasn’t much space when other people walked past in the opposite direction!
My route back to the hotel took me past Estádio do Marítimo, Satdium of the sea, home of Marítimo football club .
Wednesday 27th March
Picked up our packed lunch from the hotel reception.
Blimey! We wouldn’t go hungry! Four cheese and ham sandwiches, fruit, tomato eggs, mango juice and two bottles of water each.
This morning, we walked along the shore to the cable car station. We purchased the combined return ticket and entrance to the botanical gardens for €32 then joined the queue. I can imagine these queues can get very long in the summer months.
In retrospect maybe the first garden in Monte may have been better. The botanical garden was decent but, in my mind, this package was overpriced.
If I took the trip again on my own, I would probably take the path down which followed alongside the the cable car took route to the gardens. Looking from the cable car window, it looked a pleasant albeit steep route.
Back at the hotel I grabbed on of the all inclusive coffees from the poolside bar. Unfortunately, the machine coffee is so bad I so took a couple of sachets from breakfast! (sadly only decaf)
Thursday 28th March
This morning, we followed the coast past the lido to the the promenade. I even managed a little scramble over the rocks (-;
We went as far as we thought interesting but decided against walking down the steep slope to the beach.
We followed pretty much the same route back, cutting up inland slightly to pop to the supermarket.
After another game of table tennis, I went for another stroll along the coast towards and beyond the cable car weaving between the residential areas. It was here, at the furthest point from the hotel, it decided to rain!
At dinner time, we had Portuguese theme night…this included a rather bland piri piri chicken and black pudding….which I managed to consume for every course!
After consuming all of the black pudding (chef is going to be very surprised by it’s popularity!), we took an evening stroll towards the CR7 museum.
Friday 29th March
The last day.
We were leaving for the airport at 11.45 which gave us time to have breakfast h quick stroll then another table tennis game.
It rained on the drive to the airport and continued while we were at the airport. That didn’t stop me going on the balcony to watch the planes. There are two outside areas, one before security and another airside.
I love outside space at airports!
So, what are my thoughts on Funchal?
It’s a pleasant enough place but three of four days is enough time to spend here. Maybe a trip out to the less populated areas and countryside may have been nice.
The people are as nice as the weather and everyone speaks very good English.
The hotel food was very ‘safe’ (read, rather bland)
I described it to someone has Eastbourne with cacti and I can see why it appeals to people but, I was already planning my next trip to the hills while sitting in the airport!