I don’t think we went to a restaurant in Madeira where football wasn’t playing on a TV in the corner. Not a massive surprise; this is the country that gave the world Cristiano Ronaldo after all. Anyway, while we were staying in Funchal we got the chance to go and see his home team – Nacional – play Sporting Lisbon. It involved driving up some very steep, narrow and winding roads in the dark to a stadium perched on the side of a mountain and shrouded in clouds. In all honesty, it was more Sunny’s thing than mine – it has to be said, I’m not a huge fan of football – but I was lured there with the promise of street food. 🙂
There weren’t any pie and mash shops, no burger stalls or newsagents – just one option. Bolo do Caco com Chourico. I had no idea about it at the time, but apparently it’s a traditional Madeiran bread that’s cooked on a stone and filled with garlic butter and other fillings – in this case, Chorizo. It was warm, it was soft, it was lush. If they served these at games back in the UK then I’d probably go along more often! 🙂
The game itself wasn’t exactly the most exciting of games. Not a single goal in the whole 90 minutes! But the Nacional fans sitting around us seemed pleased with a draw anyway, and it was interesting watching the clouds passing over the roof of the stand (the views from the stadium during the day must be amazing!). The most exciting part for me (other than the food) was when Sunny accidentally dropped one of the peanuts he was eating into the hood of the man sitting in the row in front of him.
I’ve been stuck in bed for the past three days with the flu (I normally love Autumn, but this year? Nope). So looking back at these pictures whilst bundled up under a duvet and surrounded by hundreds of snotty tissues is – not gonna lie – a little bit depressing!
Anyway, Funchal. Such a colourful city! I’d always had it stuck in my mind that Madeira was the sort of place over-sixties went to get a lil’ bit of sun – no idea why – perhaps I’d never heard of anyone younger go and rave about it. I was so far off the mark, because the steep streets were enough to make my knees and hips creak let alone those of a sixty year old! It’s a beautiful place with colourful houses that sprawl from the sea up the mountain-side into the clouds. Birds of Paradise and Banana Trees grow along the roadside and in gardens and the water is probably the clearest (and coldest!) I’ve ever seen. The people were so lovely – especially considering I hadn’t had time to learn a few Portuguese phrases other than Bom Dia and Obrigada and had to constantly utter those dreaded words, “Do you speak English?” And the weather – even in late October – was up in the twenties every day.
Although a sprawling city, it’s very easy to get around – the buses are fab and nothing is far – and you can pretty much see everything in a day if you storm it, or three if you stroll it. So, here are my top 4 things to see!
1. Mercado dos Lavradores (Worker’s Market)
If you’re like me and can’t go to a new city without seeing a market then you’ll want to make sure you stop by the Mercado dos Lavradores. It’s right on the edge of Old Town and the cloisters inside are full of stalls with locally produced fresh fruit and veg and flowers along with an accompanying fish hall where you can watch the fresh catch being gutted. It’s definitely worth stopping by to see what’s on offer and to taste some unusual fruit, but beware! The fruit sold by the vendors is pricey! We got wrangled by a vendor upstairs who had us taste three different varieties of passionfruit and banana. We thought we’d buy a couple of each to snack on later and it ended up costing TEN EUROS. For fruit!!! Browse, taste, take pictures – but just be aware than you can buy fruit that’s just as good and half the price from the supermarket around the corner. It’s great, but definitely a bit of a tourist trap.
2. The Painted Doors of Old Town
Take some time to stroll around the narrow streets of old town and enjoy the art! In an effort to reviltalise the peeling walls and splintered shutters, the Funchal city council called on local artists and designers to repaint the doors and walls and turn old town into a gallery. There are over two hundred doors that have been given a face lift, and every single one is different. Definitely worth a wander. 🙂
3. Belmond Reid’s Palace
I definitely get this from my Mum, but I love having a snoop in swanky hotels when I’m on holiday, and in Funchal, Belmond Reid’s is The One. Built on the cliffs overlooking the sea and Funchal, the powder pink building has been the hotel of choice for famous visitors (like Winston Churchill and Gregory Peck) for over a century. I felt a bit cheeky poking my head through the door, but the people at the front desk were more than happy for us to have a snoop around.
4. Monte & Monte Palace Tropical Gardens
Be sure to take the cable car from the beach front up to Monte – it’s cheap and you get a fantastic view of the terracotta rooftops creeping up the mountainside and the sea twinkling away. There are a few things to see in Monte itself. Originally I’d planned to go and see the Botanical Garden (which can usually be reached by another cable car from Monte), but unfortunately it had been damaged in the fires over the summer and so you couldn’t get to it. But the Tropical Gardens, apparently, are far better anyway. Full of exotic plants, the garden covers 70,000 square metres down the side of Monte Hill with paths, bridges, steps and walkways zigzagging everywhere. Definitely somewhere worth getting lost one afternoon 🙂
Once you’ve seen the gardens and the church (Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte – Our Lady of the Mountain) you can either take the cable car back down the mountain, or toboggan it! The Toboggan Run is one of the most popular attractions in Funchal where visitors can sit in a wicker basket and be pushed down the mountain by two carreiros dressed in white with rubber heels as brakes. A little expensive perhaps, but a lot of fun!
Funchal is an easy city to enjoy getting lost in. 🙂 Obviously, there’s plenty more to see than just the above; there’s the Christiano Ronaldo Museum (CR7) if you’re into that, The Forum near São Martinho is great for shopping, and the Civic Buildings in the centre are definitely worth a snoop to see the traditional “Azulejos” (blue, painted tiles). Another favourite was going to see a football match up in the mountains but I think I’ll do a separate post on that so stayed tuned.