We had hoped to go horse riding today, but they had no availability. Instead, a day of relaxation stretched ahead and sunbeds by the pool beckoned. This is what holidays used to be like before I took early retirement from my demanding job in senior management. Holidays back then provided much-needed R and R. Holidays now are all about exploration, adventures, and enjoying new experiences.
Evening approached and our driver for the evening, drove us past the point on the sea front where he would collect us after the fireworks before dropping us off at the restaurant O Celeiro for our evening meal.
It was fairly early (about 7.15) which was just as well as the outside seating on the narrow terrace rapidly filled up. We ordered prawns with avocado for starters and were served a generous portion of 6 or 7 enormous, juicy prawns each on a bed of avocado with seafood sauce. Very much like a giant prawn cocktail. I had a glass of light and fruity house white served in a large glass: John enjoyed the local beer.
We both selected catch of the day which was a whole sea bass each, filleted and cooked to perfection. Bowls of vegetables and creamed spinach were also served. After all the delicious gourmet food at our hotel, it was almost a relief to enjoy some straightforward, simple cooking.
Entertainment was provided by the jazz restaurant next door which had live music playing loud enough to hear but not so loud that it drowned out conversation. The only downside to the evening was feeling rather hemmed in by the neighbouring tables on the outside terrace: there was no space between us and the couple next to us. However, there appeared to be plenty of room inside for anyone requiring a more intimate setting. When it came to paying the bill, we used a 10% discount voucher discovered in a booklet within our hotel room which was accepted without question, so long as we paid cash.
The Atlantic Festival, which kicks off Madeira’s summer season, comprises the Madeira Music Festival, the International Fireworks Competition and performances by philharmonic bands in Funchal’s centre. Classical music performances are held in the Palácio de São Lourenço, Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias, Casa das Mudas and several churches in Funchal. In 2021, it coincides with Regional Arts Week (which is a showcase of the art of 4,000 students), the Atlantic Roots Festival (celebrating the 600th anniversary of the discovery of Madeira and Porto Santo), and a Regional Bread Fair!
On every Saturday night in June, contestants from different countries organise magnificent firework displays with accompanying music as part of the International Fireworks Competition. We had the honour of receiving VIP tickets to the opening round of this exciting event in Funchal harbour.
We took up our seats in the VIP stand on the pier. There was a lively atmosphere around the sea front with the Madeira Light Orchestra playing light jazz at the entrance to the pier and vendors selling glow sticks to families strolling in the warm evening air.
This was the first of four Saturday night displays and as we passed through the barrier, we were given a voting slip with the appropriately onomatopoeic words Fraco, Bom, Muito Bom and Aceitavel. Were these names of the 4 different displays? Was Fraco Portuguese for France? Fortunately I realised that Bom and Muito Bom were not countries but Portuguese for Good and Very Good.
The seats gradually filled as did every space upon the harbour wall. At 10.30 everyone stood for the Portuguese national anthem. Then the announcer explained in several different languages that tonight’s musical theme was “Baladas de Rock” (Rock Ballads). Great – I have eclectic tastes in music and some of the best firework displays I have experienced were set to John Michelle Jarre’s Oxygene and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, though my all-time favourite was Handel’s Music for Royal Fireworks which played at the first public display I attended as a small child.
The instantly recognisable opening beats to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” (theme tune for Rocky) blasted out of the speakers and the sky was filled with sparkling light as the first of the rockets erupted hurling thousands of sparkling, shimmering stars into the night air.
Rocky’s theme finished and was followed by Bon Jovi’s slightly gentler “Bed of Roses”. Impressively the fireworks began to resemble bright red roses bursting open in the darkness.
Bon Jovi faded and was replaced by Queen belting out: “I Want It All!” an anthem used throughout the world as a protest and rallying song. The colours changed to greens and mauves with one particularly stunning display resembling the island’s lilac blue agapanthus.
The display worked up to a magnificent crescendo of explosions that lit up the entire harbour.
With one final battery of blasts that filled the night sky the show drew to a close and, following a round of applause, we made our way back through the happy crowds to meet our driver. We were slightly alarmed to discover the sea front roads had been closed during the display and experienced several anxious moments wondering how and where we would find him. Fortunately, he was first in the queue when the roads re-opened, and we were soon back at the hotel. It had been a grand opening to the festival, and I was so proud to have been there representing Silver Travel Advisor.
- Madeira Island – Day 1 – Casa Velha do Palheiro
- Madeira Island – Day 2 – Walking along the Levada
- Madeira Island – Day 3 – Exploring Funchal – Part 1
- Madeira Island – Day 3 – Exploring Funchal – Part 2
- Madeira Island – Day 3 – Exploring Funchal – Part 3
- Madeira Island – Day 4 – Exploring Funchal – Part 4
- Madeira Island – Day 5 – Jeep tour into the mountains
- Madeira Island – Day 7 – Vivaldi and Apollo