I’ve stated before in my blog that I’m not a religious person, but I genuinely hate how commercialised Christmas has become in certain parts of the world, including where I live in Ireland. The festive season spent in the sun beckoned and in Madeira the celebration of Christmas seems more focused on family, friends, good food, delicious drinks, lights and more lights.
At 9.30pm on Saturday 23rd of December I strolled along the promenade of the capital city, Funchal, into the old town and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the throng of people who were out wining and dining, singing and chatting, or ambling around dressed in Christmas jumpers, red Santa hats and reindeer ears.
There was a wonderful community camaraderie and the hubbub was of people enjoying themselves. Wham wasn’t lamenting a broken heart, neither was Mud crying about being lonely, and Elton John wasn’t demanding I step into the festive season Any music was made by the people themselves, a wonderful eclectic mix of songs I didn’t recognise, but were upbeat and full of cheer, or maybe a result of the fruity Poncha on sale in market stalls alongside hot chocolate, coffee and sweet treats.
Lights graced every tree, streamed down the walls and spanned the streets. Some were flashing multicoloured modern constructions, changing hue, others were more traditional, especially near the cathedral where a more religious theme of angels and bells prevailed.
A life-size Nativity scene was magical, with the stable scene in the centre, flanked by the Magi arriving on camels and to the other side, a shepherd with a baby lamb.
Having enjoyed a beer in one of the tavernas I walked along the Rua de Santa Maria and admired a number of painted doors, an artistic delight. I will let the photographs of the doors speak for themselves.
I stayed in a beautiful hotel, Quinta da Bella Vista, where the atmosphere is sedate, the staff amiably professional and the food is of very high standard, as can be viewed by a typical evening menu.
Carrot cream soup with herbs olive oil
Corvina fish fillet with leek
Sautéed beef fillet with green pepper sauce
I am reasonably adventurous when it comes to food and quite happy to try something like corvina, a large fish caught in the Atlantic Ocean, (google it) and Cassata made with Beirao, a caramel liqueur from Portugal with a rather nutty flavour. Why have I never had Cassata before? Where on earth has it been hiding all my life?
The wines are all from Portugal and the red Douro is delicious, the rosé divine, light enough to enjoy a glass by the pool, and the white Sauvignon Blancs or Chardonnay were as good as their French counterparts.
However one of the highlights of my holiday was to go out on a speed boat, (or speed dinghy,) in search of whales and dolphins. A big thanks to the guys from? Rota dos Cetáceos who managed to find a pod of dolphins, but the fun was being soaked by spray from the sea and being in the sun, rather than enduring the damp, dark days back home. Thanks for the great afternoon out lads, and I will certainly go out again when I return.
I made a good call deciding to spend Christmas on the sunshine isle of Madeira, where the food and wine are locally sourced and where there is plenty to see and do. I look forward to coming back.
Happy New Year to all my readers and be sure to keep abreast with my blogs in 2024 as I’ve lined up plenty of places to visit and pass my time.
I toured the east and the west of the island of Madeira back in February 2023 and I learned a great deal as you can discover by clicking on these links.
Another highlight of my Christmas visit was taking a walk around a mountain. Discover more by clicking on this link: