Note Number 20…A Glimpse of Madeira and the High Life…

The Hotel Taken from the pool and Reid’s Tea Terrace 

We have just returned from an amazing ten-day holiday at Reid’s Hotel in Funchal Madeira. It was a holiday of a lifetime, (apologies for the cliché).
We should have been travelling to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, but after a busy 2016 I just couldn’t face the lengthy flights, but, we wanted a little bit of winter sun so ended up in Madeira, spending about the same money as a two-month vacation in the Southern Hemisphere! However, I’m not sorry.

The hotel did not disappoint and the room with a promised view of the sea, was spacious, with a desk and two armchairs as well as an enormous bed. A luxury marble bathroom and separate WC. I loved it! Reid’s has been around for 125 years and the atmosphere is unique. Photographs of rich and famous people who have visited in the past are kept in glass cases in a large walk-through lounge which joins the old hotel to the new bit (you can’t tell the difference between the two).

Room with a View…and early morning sun…

The gardens at Reid’s are tropical and lush with paths and seating areas throughout. I cannot emphasise the beauty of the place enough. The staff at the hotel were friendly and rushed about attending to our every need and appeared to enjoy their job. I don’t generally like being waited on, but they made me feel as though it was no trouble at all and that they genuinely wanted to help make our holiday the best it could be. On the tables by the pool there were little buzzers that you could use to call a waiter.

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The Buzzer or Call Button…

It took me about half an hour to pluck up the courage to ring it one morning, as it seemed such a decadent thing to do, but when the smiley waitress arrived, happy to serve me with a cocktail and a sandwich all my concerns vanished. Other guests were similar to us. I had expected a lot of stuck up toffs but on the whole they were ordinary people enjoying spending their well-earned money. There were of course a few whose opinions and demands could be heard above all others. But, as one waiter told us, ‘We learn to be just friendly enough and we respond to how we are treated, if the person doesn’t smile or speak well to us, then we serve them but we don’t make good conversation. We leave them alone and give them the bare minimum.’ Most of the older staff have been with Reid’s for many years, over twenty at least, which has to be a good sign. Although the hotel was originally family owned, it is now in the hands of Belmond (new branding for Orient Express) but, essentially, the atmosphere remains that of a family run business. That is probably the secret of its success. A grand hotel which feels like home from home.

A little slide show for you….

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We didn’t manage to take a basket sledge because by the time we had reached the top of the hill on the cable car it was too late…another time perhaps.

The breakfast was the best spread I have ever seen in a hotel, there was literally everything you can imagine, the choice was unlimited…fresh fruit, cereals, bread, croissants, pastries, cheese, ham, smoked salmon and other fish, plus bacon, eggs, vodka and champagne, etc., there was literally everything you could wish for.

Amazing Breakfast…and…

Amazing Desserts…and…

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Amazing Tea on Reid’s Tea Terrace… (oh and we also had scones).  By the way, the little round brown cake at the back with an almond on the top I believe is a Madeira Cake…they don’t have anything like the pale lemon flavoured cake that we know as Madeira…how about that? 

I have been thoroughly spoilt and The Man was responsible. We did attend the fitness centre (him everyday and me for seven out of the ten) and tried only to eat breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner never the three. On two occasions we ate breakfast and then a Reid’s tea. We walked from the hotel to Câmara De Lobos, about 7.5k…we got a taxi back then I went swimming and The Man went to the gym. Câmara De Lobos, was a place often visited by Churchill where he sat and painted the little fishing village. He also stayed regularly at Reid’s with Clementine, I believe.

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Câmara De Lobos – Churchill’s Favourite Village on Madeira (so we’re led to believe…)

Random Snippets about Madeira…

It’s an island in the Atlantic approximately 1000k South of Portugal and close to 600k from the North African coast.

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Over the Sea and Far Away…Madeira sits in the Atlantic…

 It has several micro climates so you cannot easily predict the weather but it is warm most of the time. We experienced between 13 and 23 degrees for our ten-day stay. Rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon or vice versa. Five of our days were sunshine all the way.
Bananas grow everywhere.

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Bananas – taken through the mini bus window…hence the reflection

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Sugar Cane also grows in Madeira

Espada (pronounced ESHPAADA)is the local fish and it is not pretty . Apparently it looks a bit like an ugly eel. We were told that it is line fished from more than 2000 metres deep in the sea around Madeira and that when it is pulled up the pressure causes the fish to burst so that all the innards come out negating the requirement to gut and clean the thing…sounds disgusting doesn’t it? You eat it pan-fried with banana, if you want to have it in the traditional way.

Limpet Rice served with Espada and Banana…

The poncha drink is local rum, honey and lemon… (It tasted a bit medicinal I think)
Tea at Reid’s hotel is a must for any tourist.

img_3245Poncha…as drunk by me…

Madeira has the highest cliff in Europe and you can stand at the top of it and look down through a glass platform.

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It’s a Long Way Down…

There are Levada (irrigation channnels) walks that can be taken but we didn’t go on this occasion, but if you want to see more look here

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Somewhere in this photo is a Levada Walk…I know because our guide Christina said so…

A replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria is moored in Funchal and does daily trips out to sea…not sure it’s entirely propelled by sails now though….

Painted Doors in Old Funchal Town….

There was so much to see and do in Madeira, we merely covered a few of them. A day trip out took us to the North side of the island and the weather was very changeable from wild, windy, misty and wet…to sunny and bright, although the sea remained monstrous.

Changeable on the North Coast…these photos were taken less than ten minutes apart.

One of very few places on the list for a return visit…Have you been?

Al Fresco…or is it?

First of all, the expression ‘Al Fresco’ although they are Italian words, are not used in the same way in Italy. ‘Al fresco’ to the the Italians means ‘in the cooler’ an expression which is the same as the slang, meaning ‘in prison’.  If they talk about eating outside they say, ‘all’aperto’ (in the open) or maybe ‘a fuori’ (outside). Strange that an Italian phrase used all over the world means something different in its country of origin. I blame the Americans…I’m joking!

We love eating outside. We can do it here in Italy for probably two thirds of the year. I know the weather has been good in the UK for a while and I’m pleased that all my friends and relations living there have been able to enjoy eating in the sunshine or under the stars, having picnics and barbecues.

Friends at Re Squarchio

Friends at Re Squarchio

Andrea Preparing the Tables

Andrea Preparing the Tables

Andrea from the Ristorante Re Squarchio put his tables outside about a month ago and we have been there twice already this season. It’s wonderful to sit close to the Tre Archi. This is the triple arched gateway, built of local brick, at the entrance to the old Medieval town centre. They have recently been restored for only the second time since they were built about 500 years ago.  At night they are lit up, in green, white and red, the colours of the Italian flag. I always feel a sense of history, imagining the many people entering our town throughout the ages, travellers, monks, nuns, aristocrats, peasants, tax collectors…ooh I think I’ll stop there.

My Sausage Rolls

My Sausage Rolls

Last weekend in Petritoli we enjoyed the International Supper. All the stranieri (foreigners) living here make a plate of food typical of their country and take it to be offered as part of the buffet. I had intended to make Toad in the Hole but decided the batter would be soggy before it could be eaten so I made Sausage Rolls. Not very adventurous I know but in previous years I have made, Shepherd’s Pie, and a Victoria Sponge, so had to think of something different. Of course I stupidly put on Facebook that I was doing Toad in the Hole, consequently there were some disappointed faces and questions but as they didn’t have a clue what Toad in the Hole was, Rospo nel Buco is the literal Google translation but goodness knows what the Italians would have made of that,. Anyone know the derivation of Toad in the Hole?

other food Romanian

Italian Salami

Italian Salami

This town is not very big, about 2000 people in Petritoli and the small towns of Valmir and Moregnano belonging to the same parish,  but 10% of those living here are foreigners and that 10% come from over twenty different countries. The food was brilliant, I always like the Mexican and the Albanian food. The Italians are not very gastronomically adventurous but those who attended the evening enjoyed it immensely and there were shouts of ‘complimenti’ all round. Having said that, the Italian friends we sat with ate the Italian food that they brought with them!

It was a successful evening with entertainment and of course a raffle with some great prizes, I won a jar of olives and a bottle of wine, not quite what I had my eye on but nevertheless a win is a win. Someone else won the dinner at Re Squarchio….(damn them).

My Raffle Prize

My Raffle Prize

Out on our deck in the town we can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the sun or shade. The view is stunning and I will never tire of the scene, beautiful Marche countryside rolling down to the sea, with Medieval hilltop towns dotted here and there. Lucky us.

viewAll three bars in Petritoli also have their tables out now. By the photos you would think they weren’t busy but that’s down to the time they were taken. At 6.30pm most evenings everyone is out taking a stroll (passeggiata), stopping for drinks and nibbles (aperitivi) or ice cream, (gelato) Chatting and passing the time of day with each other. It’s a wonderful way of life.

Tre Archi Bar

Tre Archi Bar

Fanny Bar

Fanny Bar

Crist'El Bar

Crist’El Bar