Madiera’s best fish restaurant is just so Smart

Being an island in the middle of the Atlantic, seafood is hugely varied and very popular, although cattle are reared on the island supplying excellent beef to restaurants and hotels.

Fish is landed at THE fishing village, Camara de Logos. This is a small community, with a nest of local bars lining the grey stoned harbour. It takes an effort to apreciate the grey, volcanic sands and cliffs that make up the rather scruffy coastline around the village.

However, the village centre is shared by parked cars, fishing boats, dried fish, olocal buses, cruise buses, tourist buses, cafe tables & local card schools.

Just down from the hotel is a small parade of quality restaurants. The pizza restaurant is just that. The Mexican Steakhouse its exactly that but such excellent fillet. Having gorged out on steak and a bottle of red Mr Bossman brings out his homemade bevvy. Made with honey it has got quite a kick. He boasted that my bed would ‘bounce with sex’ after sinking a few glasses of his nectar. I think it also made him blind as he guessed me to be 58.

The fish restaurant boasts to be the best on the island. Quite an accolade but true – huge portions of wonderful fish & sea food. Our waiter, Artur, King Artur, as we called him, worked for 7 years in the ‘fast food industry in Oxfordshire’. If you know Oxfordshire you will know the chain of fish & chip shops called Smarts, who it turns out is a Greek. It seems that families from Madeira work in his chain which can be found in every market town in the county. On a Sunday they would meet up in Summertown to play footy. What a small world.

It is back home later today. I’ve enjoyed this peaceful, calm island where life is slow and the locals friendly. The coastal strip is holiday territory but the core, the spine of the island reminds me of the mountains of Europe where you can walk and trek and cycle and off road. Just beware – everywhere is up, and a steep up.



Exploring Nuns’ Valley

Most if the touristy accommodation is around the west coast of the island. In fact almost all the hotels and apartment blocks are here. So come with me on the bus to see inland Madeira and explore the mountains. First stop is a view point at 300 metres where the city is spread out below us. 200,000 live on the island with 150,000 in Funchal. You get a real feel for the landscape with the housing spreading up the ridges stopping just short of the tree line.

From the coast it looks like the central spine of Madeira is always cloaked in thick, thick cloud. This journey spends time up in the clouds but it only rarely hides the powerful landscape of towering eucalyptus trees, craggy rocks around outcrops, and sharp peaks and ridges. The next stop is at 700 metres in a small local village with few airs and tourist graces. The sun pierces the cloud to highlight small farms and rich terraces. The locals too what all locals do in rural areas the world over. They sit around chattering together and putting the world to right, they get to market, in this case on the local bus, and travel back home with their baskets bulging and they show off their new clothes and that new hataround their best purchases.

The final stop is high up at 1,000 metres where the facade of a hotel peers through the cloudy gloom overlooking the bends and loops of the Scalextrix track of the village below. The road meanders and slaloms around the houses spread out on its play mat with the toytown cars crawling up the gradients and rushing down the bending hill sides. Now this would be the place for egg rolling.

Egg rolling in Funchal

It’s Easter Sunday. The day starts with a visit to the supermecardo to purchase eggs and felt tips. Only four survive the boiling but that is enough as all are transformed into characters from a Agatha Christie novel: who will be battered to death on the hillside?

Where to find the right hillside. I wanted to roll down through the banana plantation but I was outvoted. Now wouldn’t this make the best course?

It was a bus trip into town to find the right gradient. A quick exit is required as the park overlooking the harbour flashes by. The gradient is good. Our 4 friends are released from captivity and line up ready for their destiny.

Together they are propelled down the slope.

With youthful enthusiasm they bounce down around each other and all reach the bottom undamaged. The grass is soft and rough, like a mossy rug, able to withstand Atlantic weather throughout the year so no real obstacle for Madeira’s raft of eggs. The process is repeated with the same end – no fractures, no damage, no breaks. Sadly two become hidden in the bushes below. The exercise is repeated with the last two. On this last run they too head for cover and lie undamaged but free. The gardeners will be surprised to find 4 boiled eggs hiding in their bushes. A calming exercise which sums up the day.

From here it is a short promenade down to the harbour for a coffee and then into town before grabbing a bus home.


Madeira’s Cake Basket

My first question is how the Dickens did the Portuguese discover this volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic when all they had were sails and those three masted vessels? The second question is how did the first pigeons arrive on Madeira and why is it that every city in the world boasts a large community of these arrogant birds who act as if they own the place? Funchal, Madeira’s capital is no exception.

This quiet, peaceful island has a gentle ambiance about it. The first thing that strikes is the hilly nature of this volcanic plug and the fact that one is never far from the ocean with all the sounds that accompany the surf’s perpetual motion up and down the beach. Glam & glitzy hotels and apartment blocks line the coast line and permeate the gullies and hillsides. It is all whitewashed and feels very new and modern. The old town takes a bit of finding but it is worth it with the cobbled streets, ancient houses & painted doors which surround the old fort. It is small but it really does feel old and I can imagine Vasco da Garma coming out of a sailor’s hovel to join his ship to call around the Cape to India.

The cable car makes the hard climb easy and is worth the effort as the views from Funchal’s peak are quite magnificent. The traditional way of descent is also worth the effort and gives the strapping young men a job throughout the year which builds on the traditions on the island and provides the tourists with photo opportunities. I am going to call it Madeira Baskets.