1128 Reviews

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May, 2019

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Madeira has been on the tourist tick list for about 175 years and is still as popular today with thousands of visitors coming to enjoy its mild climate and wonderful flora.

It had been a long hard winter and I was in need of warmth and sunlight. I had read many positive reviews about Madeira and decided it sounded an interesting place to visit with its mountainous scenery and the flowers which I knew would be at their best at the end of May.

Checking out different companies I decided to go with Riviera Travel which offered the most interesting itinerary at a reasonable price and had a choice of dates from Manchester Airport. The package included some evening meals but there was the opportunity to book an additional dining option to give half board, at a very competitive rate. Travelling by myself, this as it meant I didn’t have to worry about going out and finding somewhere to eat on non-dining nights.

It was a very early morning flight from Manchester, so I booked the “Radisson Blu”: on the airport the previous night. I’ve used them before. They aren’t the cheapest but it is a very comfortable room and a short undercover walk to the terminal for an early check in.

DAY 1 – Travel to Madeira
Flights were with Jet2. Check in was efficient and it was a pleasant flight. Coming into land at Madeira Airport is exciting as the aeroplane has to swing round the bay before landing. Strong winds mean that flights can be cancelled at short notice, something the guide books rarely mention, but we were lucky.

Immigration was swift and accurate instructions from Riviera meant we soon found our guide and were taken to our coach for the short trip into Funchal.

We were booked into “Enotel Quinta do Sol “: which is a convenient location about 20 minutes walk into the centre of Funchal and with a regular bus service from the road outside. Being a single, I was allocated a small twin room at the back of the hotel. This was adequate for me but would have been cramped for two. The hotel has two sittings for dinner and guests are allocated a set table for their stay. Rather than being seated at large tables we were allocated individual tables. Being a single I had a table tucked away in a corner by the wall and away from the rest of the group, who were by the window. I did rather feel the hotel regarded singles as second class citizens. Food was buffet style. It was good and there was always plenty of choice.

After checking in, I walked down to the harbour and Jardim de Santa Catarina, with its lake and views across Funchal.

DAY 2 – Funchal and Palheiro Gardens
In the morning there was a guided walking tour of Funchal with a local guide. We began at “Mercado dos Lavradores”: before heading to the “Se Cathedral “: for a brief look and then to “Pereira d’Oliveira”: for a tasting of different Madeira wines. We finished in the Old Town for lunch before going to “Palheira Gardens”: for the afternoon.

DAY 3 – “Western Madeira”:
Today was a coach tour of the western side of the island. We began with a stop at Ribeira Brava before continuing to Madalena do Mar where we had a short walk through a banana plantation. We then drove north through the mountains with a stop at a viewpoint at Paul de Serra before dropping down to Porto Moniz for lunch. After lunch we headed east along the coast past Seixal to a viewpoint of Bridal Veil waterfall before continuing to Sao Vicente. We then headed south back through the mountains with a detour to the viewpoint at Cabo Girao before returning to the hotel.

DAY 4 – “Monte Palace Gardens “: and free time
This morning was a guided tour of Monte Palace Gardens with a local guide, followed by a free afternoon. We had the choice of a toboggan ride and returning to Funchal on the coach, or spending as long as we wanted in Monte and catching the cable car back. I did this. I visited “Igreja Nossa Senhora do Monte”: and watched watched the toboggan ride taking tourists down the mountain side before heading to the cable car. This dropped me off in the Old Town where I visited “Capela do Corpo Sante, “: “Igreja do Sorocco “: and “Sao Tiago Fort “: before walking back along the waterfront to the hotel.

DAY 5 – “Eastern Madeira”:
We had a coach tour of eastern Madeira. We drove east past the airport to Ponta do Rosto at the easternmost tip of Madera. From there we headed to Porto da Cruz on the north coast, visiting the sugar cane factory. Afterwards we drove to Sanata to see the traditional A frame houses and have lunch. We then drove back to Funchal through Ribeiro Frio National Park to a viewpoint at Pico do Arieriro.

Day 6 – Free day
I spent this by myself exploring “Funchal,”: visiting the “Jesuit College, “: “Convent of Santa Clara, “: “English Church,”: “Igreja de Sao Pedro”: and “Igreja do Colegio.”: I dropped out in Jardim do Sao Francisco during the heat of midday when most of the attractions are shut.

DAY 7 – “Central Madeira”:
This was a half day coach tour beginning with the dramatic drive up the narrow and very steep Valley of the Nuns to Eira do Serrado Viewpoint overlooking Curral das Freitas. We had a short time at Curral das Frietas before driving back down the valley to the small seaside town of Camara de Lobos for lunch and then back to the hotel. It was a very hot afternoon, so I headed to Jardim de Santa Catarina, where I dropped out for the rest of the afternoon.

DAY 8 – Return to UK.
We booked out of the hotel after breakfast for a lunchtime flight back to Manchester.

• Viewpoints at Pico do Arieiro and Eira do Serrado
• Engenhos do Norte, the sugar cane factory at Porto da Cruz
• Igreja do Colegio
• Guided tour of Santa Clara convent
• Walk through a banana plantation
• Mercado dos lavradores in Funchal

Overall I didn’t feel the holiday lived up to the experience of other Riviera Travel holidays I’ve done. I know it is difficult to please everyone on how long to stop in the different places. I enjoyed the excursions but was very frustrated as in many places we just didn’t have long enough. Ten minutes to see Se Cathedral just isn’t long enough. We had 90 minutes at Palheira gardens but twenty minutes was needed to walk from the coach to the start of the gardens and back again.

The drive to Curral das Freiras was wonderful, but I did have to question whether it was worth it considering we were only given 30 minutes once we got there. Similarly we just had 75 minutes at Camara dos Lobos – not long enough if you wanted to have lunch and see something of the place. This was a short day, getting us back to the hotel about 2pm so adding extra time shouldn’t have been a problem.

I could give many other examples.

The tour guide was knowledgeable about food but told us very little about the history or culture of the island and was poor at briefing us about what to see and do in the different places.

On previous trips, the guides have provided maps of the places visited. These have always been excellent and better than maps I’ve found on google. Nothing was provided. I did ask the hotel for a map but all they had was a leaflet showing the route of one of the HOHO buses – not quite what I wanted.

In many ways I felt short changed by the holiday. Not only hadn’t we had enough time to explore many of the places on the itinerary, I came back having learned little about the island.

All my pictures and detailed write up are “here.”:


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