A friend and I visited Funchal’s Residencial Mariazinha just before Christmas in search of warmer weather and the café life. It was a lucky choice. Not only did the sun shine warmly until the day we left, the Christmas decorations were up, and lights sparkled over the hills at night.
Initially, I settled on this small hotel because it was very central; and the warm, friendly responses to my questions by Manager, Veronica, cinched the booking. She speaks excellent English, is well-informed on ‘where to go’, and wonderfully helpful in many small ways.
The hotel sits in a cobbled street of Zona Velha (Old Town) and the smells of bread and pastry waft up from the bakery below, mingling wonderfully with beeswax in the spotless interior of the late bakery owner’s home; now a hotel catering mainly for people from England and Europe. Warning: the bakery is addictive but there can be noise at night. Take earplugs, in case.
We stayed in Room 10, a suite atop two flights of wide, curving wooden stairs. They certainly improved our leg muscles while we were there. We fell in love with our spacious, comfortably furnished rooms – more like ‘home’ than the soulless designs some hotels use. A word of warning, though: the two beds symbolising entente cordiale under their double headboard drift apart at night.
Residencial Mariazinha offers free breakfast to guests. This is pleasant, if predictable: lovely fresh bread, rolls and cake from the bakery; coffee from an excellent machine; and self-service tables with fruit, yogurt and cereals, cheese and ham, plus DIY toast and the usual trimmings.
Number Ten’s spa bath was great for relaxation; and so was sipping wine in the late afternoon sun. Listening to laughter and shouts in the busy cobbled street below whet our appetites for social activity; we would descend to find a new restaurant for our evening meal, smiling “not today” at waiters attempting to hustle us into their restaurants closer to ‘home’.
This could get tiresome but we learned to shrug their zeal off; and the café waiters smiled and shrugged back, often with a laugh: they soon realised that we were intent upon exploration, not coercion of even the nicest kind.
Cafe and restaurant prices are much the same everywhere in Funchal, especially for fish; but they are more expensive at night. So if you favour something special, have it for lunch! To our surprise, however, restaurants in the Marina area cost no more than those in the back streets of Old Town. Black fish with banana is an oft publicised specialty.
Two of our favourite expeditions in Funchal were the Mercado dos Lavradores, the Farmers’ market: open daily; and the cable car. On Teleferico do Funchal, a return trip costs 23 euros for adults. With stunning views, the ride includes two days’ travel with the excellent Yellow and Blue hop-on, hop-off tour buses.
Psst, if you get tired from walking in Funchal – and the city really is very hilly – spotless, new yellow taxis are everywhere and reasonably priced; with meters.
There was only one unpleasant experience in Funchal: my mobile was stolen while we went through airport security! So be careful.
Finally, would we go back again to Residencial Mariazinha? Yes, as soon as possible. And I hope they have internet access in the rooms by then.