The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

But back at our ho­tel, the Golden Res­i­dence, on the out­skirts of Fun­chal, it couldn’t have felt fur­ther from this.

As we set­tled back at the At­lantic Restau­rant, the sun set­ting over the ocean in front of us, we tucked in to Mediter­ranean dishes of br­uschetta with grilled cour­gette and a lo­cal cot­tage cheese and herbs, freshly caught fish and risotto brim­ming with mush­rooms, orange and rose­mary. Sip­ping Por­tuguese wine it had that touch of lux­ury you find in the great Euro­pean cities but with­out any of the pre­ten­sion some­times as­so­ci­ated with it.

You can spot whales in th­ese wa­ters too, some year-round but be­tween April and Oc­to­ber in par­tic­u­lar. And our next stop took us along the craggy coast­line to Can­i­cal where the Museu de Baleia (or Whale Mu­seum) told the un­com­fort­able tale of the is­land’s his­tory of whal­ing, and the fate of th­ese beau­ti­ful crea­tures as boats raced out to hunt them down.

The mu­seum de­votes half of its space to arte­facts look­ing back on the is­land’s whal­ing in­dus­try, and half to a more pos­i­tive look to the fu­ture and how the whales are now part of a pro­gramme to pro­tect lo­cal wa­ters.

Turn­ing north again, we ex­plored the time­lessly beau­ti­ful town of San­tana, its fairy­tale tri­an­gu­lar houses with thatched roofs and colour­ful door­ways, be­fore set­ting off across the is­land’s cen­tre back to Fun­chal.

Trust­ing our sat­nav to guide us home, we climbed and twisted as we headed up and up and up — re­al­is­ing with hor­ror that the es­ti­mated time of

MONARCH flies to Madeira year-round from Birm­ing­ham, Manch­ester and Gatwick air­ports with fares from £83 re­turn.

Rooms at The Golden Res­i­dence cost from around £78 based on two shar­ing, in­clud­ing break­fast. www. gold­en­res­i­dence­ho­tel.

ar­rival on the sat­nav was go­ing up too. The rain started to fall, clouds de­scended and still we climbed. The rain­bow that colour­fully arched across the lush green val­ley was a crumb of a re­ward for a jour­ney that felt never-end­ing.

Find­ing our way safely back down the moun­tain, we de­cided it would be safer for us to head out on foot to dis­cover the de­lights of Fun­chal it­self. This tiny cap­i­tal ex­udes Euro­pean charm, its cob­bled streets full EDITED BY CATHY WIN­STON cwin­

Half-day tours with Green Devil Sa­fari cost from around £30 per per­son, with full day tours from around £40.­dev­il­sa­fari. com

of tiny tav­er­nas where flat tra­di­tional breads stuffed with cheese or choco­late ac­com­pany strong, black cof­fees.

While there are cer­tainly new and ex­cit­ing parts of Madeira to dis­cover, we couldn’t re­sist in­dulging in some of the more tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties too, first of which had to be the ca­ble car ride tak­ing pas­sen­gers from the seafront to the airy cool streets of Monte.

It is a firm tourist favourite but re­ally shouldn’t be missed. The views across the bay were spec­tac­u­lar and it was fas­ci­nat­ing to get a glimpse into the world of some of the res­i­dents — peer­ing down into gar­dens with lines of wash­ing sway­ing in the breeze, dogs teth­ered, cock­erels call­ing and school chil­dren play­ing.

At the top we walked the breezy grounds of Monte Palace Trop­i­cal Gar­dens, hop­ping over step­ping stones in or­na­men­tal ponds, rub­bing heads of Bud­dha stat­ues and en­joy­ing the shade of the ex­otic plants which have been a fix­ture here for over fifty years.

And to get back down? A ‘to­bog­gan’ ride. This cen­tury-old tra­di­tion sees pairs of men in straw boaters pull a wicker sledge down pre­cip­i­tous roads, steer­ing and slow­ing it as needed. Putting our faith in the creaky sledge we whizzed along, my fists clenched tight, legs braced against the front as we swerved around parked cars and tried to smile at the walk­ers tak­ing photos of us as we sped past.

As a well-de­served treat, we fin­ished with one fi­nal clas­sic: a visit to Reids, prob­a­bly the is­land’s most fa­mous ho­tel, in their spec­tac­u­lar Ital­ian restau­rant, Res­tau­rante Villa Cipri­ani. Au­bergine parmegiana was the best I’ve had and dishes of sea bass with spinach and beans, and Gen­ovese veg­etable soup were equally won­der­ful.

Stand­ing on the ho­tel’s fa­mous ter­race as the sun set, beau­ti­ful reds and or­anges shot through the sky.

Far from its rep­u­ta­tion, we found an is­land that felt in­vig­o­rated, alive and de­vel­op­ing: a per­fect mix of old Euro­pean charm and youth­ful con­fi­dence.

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