Like many, Covid had put paid to numerous holiday plans of mine, so after two and a half years since last being on a plane, it was exciting to finally be heading abroad for a change of scenery, a break from my desk and hopefully a week’s sunshine.
I wanted a hotel with a tropical resort feel that had both indoor and outdoor pools, plus a good reputation for food - the Hotel Porto Mare ticked all the boxes.
We had a large spacious room with a huge balcony that overlooked the gardens, pool and the sea, and my palm tree obsession was well catered for with many to admire in the pretty hotel grounds.
Madeira has a reputation for quality food, so we had opted for half board and were most impressed with the hotel’s excellent live cooking stations with everything hot and fresh.
Although not to everyone’s taste, one evening the chef was carving a joint of veal, something I had never previously seen on a hotel buffet.
The hotel offered a meal credit for their specialty restaurants, one Italian and the other Portuguese. They also offered a lovely casual restaurant and bar by the main pool which was perfect for a lunchtime snack.
Outside seating was available so breakfast could be enjoyed in the sun overlooking the gardens and pool. The staff and service were excellent throughout our stay.
The Port Mare had been chosen with relaxation in mind, but we were keen to venture out and explore the island a little too.
We could walk into Funchal in around 20 minutes and enjoyed exploring the waterfront and town. Ever the keen travel agent, I was eager to have a good look at both Reid's Palace and the Savoy Palace hotels. They are very different hotels and when I return to Madeira, I could easily stay in either.
The Belmond Reid's Palace was featured in the BBC’s excellent Amazing Hotels series and is famous for its prime location and views, luxurious rooms and fine dining. Many people will have heard of the famous Reid's afternoon tea, but it also has a lot of history as Winston Churchill stayed here, writing his memoirs in the 1950s.
The Savoy Palace is a prominent feature of Funchal's skyline. It's an architectural masterpiece from the outside and the entire interior design was created by one of the world’s most prestigious designers, the locally born Nini Andrade Silva.
This amazing hotel is well worth a visit. It includes six pools, from sky and infinity pools to children’s outdoor and indoor ones, along with seven bars and restaurants. Once in the hotel grounds, it’s hard to believe you are so close to the city.
We took the famous Monte Cable Car and enjoyed the Monte Palace Madeira with its multiple levels of gardens to explore. The grounds were a lot larger than I had anticipated, covering 70,000 sq metres, and I felt spoilt with the fantastic exotic plants from all around the world.
Keeping with the gardens, we then took the cable car back down to the botanical gardens which were quite different with a large area of indigenous and endemic plants.
We took the local bus to visit Baía de Câmara de Lobos, a traditional fishing village about five km from Funchal, and a lovely spot for a drink by the harbour and a fresh local seafood lunch. There's lots of street art in this village, all made from recycled materials, and it’s not until you get up very close that you realise just how clever the artwork is.
This was a perfect week away to recharge after all the challenges of the last couple of years and reignite the appetite to get planning further trips to share and hopefully inspire.