|Murals by Irene Quintal of IQ Designs|
|One of the most famous poncha bars on the island.|
Madeira is also chalk full of natural pleasures for you to enjoy. Being an island, you know that there are bound to be beaches. There are black sand beaches, yellow sand beaches and rock beaches, so you can take your pick, or experience them all. Madeira also happens to be an archipelago which means that more than one island makes up the region. They have dedicated the island of Porto Santo for beach culture. You can take the boat over for the day or spend a couple of days soaking up the sun and doing a myriad of water activities.
With it's mountainous terrain, Madeira is also perfect for the avid trekker. There are many guided treks through pre-historic protected forests to choose from. I did one of these treks and came across a six foot tall dandelion. Cool? Well, I thought so. I chose to do the levada trek. Levadas are the canals that carry the water from the top of the mountains down through the villages and eventually out to sea. If you're feeling really daring you can also choose to do the walk that goes between the highest peaks. This is not for the faint of heart, those afraid of heights, or those who feel like they might suffer from vertigo. These points are really high and there aren't any railings so you'll have to be extra careful to watch your step. It wouldn't take much for a disasterous fall to occur.
Because Madeira is a small mountainous island, the weather can change rather quickly so remember to always carry and extra layer just in case. Most of the locals keep a cardigan close by at all times. That being said, summer time in Funchal is almost always 23 degrees with sun and a few clouds.
Once you've done all of that adventuring you're going to be hungry. Really hungry! But deciding off the menu is hard because it's all good. These are the must-haves to taste.
- Carne Espetada com milho frito - That is a giant sish kabob of meat that will probably serve 3 and a side of fried corn meal squares.
- Fresh Tuna steaks
- Grilled Lapas - lapas are kind of like one-sided mussels that are grilled with butter and lemon. It's shell serves as it's own individual serving dish
- Espada preta com banana frita - Black Scabbard Fish with a fried banana. I know it sounds weird, but it is so tasty and you can't really get this anywhere else since Madeira doesn't export their bananas.
- gaiado - dried skip jack tuna that is then cooked and prepared in a parsley and onion sauce (this is more of a snack or appetizer than a meal)
The seafood is always an excellent option as it's always fresh and often caught that morning. It's a good thing you're doing all that walking or you'll have to buy some new clothes too to go along with all that eating.
-Bolo de Mel - a dense cake made of molasses
I've already mentioned a few, but I have to let you in on a few more.
for folklore on Saturday nights: Cafe Relogio, Camacha (you can also get your wicker handicrafts here)
Espetada: O Lagar, Camara de Lobos
Seafood by the sea: Doca do Cavacas, Funchal (the shrimp here is my favourite)
Festa das Flores: The flower festival. There's a big parade in Funchal and is usually held in May
Festa da Nossa Senora do Monte: Festival of Our Lady. August 15. This is the big religious festival on the island and is celebrated with lots of food and drink. It is celebrated all over the island, but specifically at Monte which is just a cable car ride from Funchal.
Apple Cider Festival: Santo do Serra in September
New Year's Eve: This might be Madeira's biggest tourist draw as the island is lit up with a spectacular fireworks display at midnight. Have a great time!