6 Reasons To Escape To Madeira
The Atlantic Ocean is blessed with a group of islands – Madeira – whose main draw is their natural beauty, with a stark contrast between the leafy green vegetation and the deep blue of the Atlantic waters. Not for nothing has it acted as a place of refuge, rest and inspiration over the last few centuries, seeing the passage of such figures as Napoleon Bonaparte, the Empress Sissi, Emperor Charles I of Austria, the writer George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill, among others. You could be the next traveller to become captivated by these isles. Here are the main reasons it is worth flying to Madeira:
1. Good Climate All Year Around
The geographical location of these islands and their mountain relief have endowed them with a tropical oceanic climate, featuring pleasant temperatures all year around, ranging from 17°C in winter to 25°C in summer. This means that any time of year is suitable for visiting and enjoying the archipelago.
2. Funchal, the Capital
The capital and one of the largest cities in Madeira is Funchal, which lies in the south of the archipelago. Standout landmarks in the city’s priceless historic centre include the 16th-century Sé Cathedral – noteworthy for its Mudéjar-style, wood-panelled ceiling – and the Igreja do Colégio collegiate church, its interior studded with gold panelling and tiles.
One of the inevitable rituals for sightseers when they come to the city – assuming they are bold enough and don’t suffer from vertigo – is to go up in the cable-car that leads to the lofty suburb of Monte. The hill affords spectacular views of the bay and it is worth visiting the local Monte Palace Tropical Garden and Leite Monteiro Park. The return trip down the hillside can be negotiated on an unusual form of transport – a kind of wicker toboggan driven by two men dressed in white called carreiros who steer the cart down the slope.
3. Unique Fauna and Flora
One of the highlights of the island is the presence of indigenous animal and plant species. A must-see is the World Heritage Laurisilva Forest. Another must-visit are the Desertas Islands, a marine nature reserve which boasts indigenous shellfish and sea birds like Cory's shearwater and the Madeiran storm-petrel. Animal species also include the monk seal, indigenous to the archipelago.
4. Porto Santo Beach
Curiously, the island terrain limits the number of natural beaches to the island of Porto Santo, which has 9 kilometres of fine, golden sand and crystal-clear water. The beach has rightly been considered one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Of the typical Madeiran dishes, we can recommend the swordfish, preferably combined with banana, in addition to caldeirada (a fish soup), bife de atum e milho frito (tuna fish with fried corn) and espetada (charcoal-roasted beef on a bay leaf skewer). For dessert, we can heartily recommend a typical sweet known as bolo de mel (a honey cake with Madeira honey).
6. Madeira Wine
Ever since the sugar cane plantations went into decline in the 17th century, having been overtaken by the sugar farming in Brazil, grape-growing and viniculture came into their own and still play an important part in Madeira’s economy. Notable local grape varieties are the Bual – which is similar to Port – Verdelho, Sercial and Malmsey, the most popular of all.
Ready to discover this lost paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? Check out your Vueling here.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by David Stanley, Greg_Men, penjelly, Krzysztof Belczyński, Hannes Grobe
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Their interior design and decor are clearly aimed at newcomers and avant-garde visitors, but they retain the traditional flavours of their cuisine through formulas cherished for their long-standing success. I am referring to Bodega La Cigaleña and Bodega del Riojano, two beacons of Santander whose labour reminds us that wholesome traditional cuisine based on no-frills quality produce is the secret of their permanence over time.
Bodega La Cigaleña
Wine, wine, wine; produce, produce, produce; history, history, history – that’s what makes Bodega La Cigaleña the epitome of classics in downtown Santander, a place well worth visiting, particularly to savour their food and drink. Simple dishes based on the finest ingredients is the perfect excuse to try the best wines – especially the natural ones – a trend picked up on some years back like some visionary pioneer by the manager of the establishment, Andrés Conde Laya, the third generation of business owners here since it opened in 1949. An eatery with the atmosphere of a rustic inn and a museum of myriad curiosities.
And, if they are not natural wines, don’t fret, as their wine cellar, with some 10,000 items, can count itself among the finest in Spain. You need only to look up to discover a ceiling crammed with bottles – they have, for instance, a Madeira wine from 1830.
Not-to-be-missed dishes include a sauté of 18 vegetables (a tribute to a creation by Michelle Bras), and grilled octopus and Norway lobster covered in a thick sauce of lobster heads. A word of advice – let yourself be guided by Andrés when it comes to choosing a wine.
Bodega del Riojano
Bodega del Riojano, which celebrates its platinum anniversary this year, is one of the quaintest eateries in town on account of its wine casks decorated by artists. Most of them are located above the heads of the guests. This restaurant-gallery features snapshots of Woody Allen, and works by Ramon Calderón, Antoni Clavé, Oswaldo Guayasamil, Eduardo Gruber, Manuel Viola, Miguel Ibarz and even the comedians, Andreu Buenafuente and Moncho Borrajo.
Their culinary offerings could be described as homemade, with a prevalence of traditional recipes and stews, like their leading performers – red beans, peppers stuffed with beef, and pork and codfish with tomato. Also noteworthy are their mussels and prawn croquettes and their scrambled eggs with ham and baby broad beans.
Text and photos by Ferran Imedio of Gastronomistas.commore info
Journey To a More Intimate Gran Canaria
One August morning in 2014, Stephen Curry, one of the world’s best basketball players, looked out of the window in the hotel where he was staying in the south of the island, together with the American national team, and wrote a message for posterity on the social networks: “Gran Canaria, God’s creation” was the immortalising phrase he wrote while taking in the scenery. He thus confirmed, decades later, that what the writer and journalist Domingo Doreste had said about his land of birth being a miniature continent was still true. The key to this is the combination of factors which make Gran Canaria a unique destination for nature lovers.
In 2005, almost half the island’s surface area was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, a tribute to the incalculable wealth of its species and a state of conservation which has kept human impact on the environment to a bare minimum. Indeed, man’s traces in the protected nature areas open to visitors is hardly perceptible. Each strip of land, whether on the coastline or in the mountains, reveals a genuine flourish of beauty.
One of the must-visit landmarks is Caldera de Tejeda, which affords stunning views of the north-west of the island. It is home to both Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga, two basalt monoliths regarded as emblematic by the islanders. The summit is presided over by El Pico de las Nieves, at an altitude of 1,949 metres. This great height often puts it above the cloud level, setting up an effect known as the “sea of clouds”.
This spectacular backdrop, swathed in silence, exerts a great pull on visitors seeking direct contact with the living legacy of Macaronesia, the ensemble of five archipelagoes in the North Atlantic, made up of the Canary Islands, the Azores, the Cape Verde Islands, Madeira and the Savage Islands. The flora of Gran Canaria is one of the island’s great draws and has aroused interest among the scientific community for centuries. Over a hundred plant species are indigenous to this island alone, while another five hundred species are endemic to the Archipelago. Laurel forests and towering pines are conducive to immersing oneself in an environment blessed with a privileged climate. If you’re fond of botany, be sure to visit the Jardín Viera y Clavijo – also known as the Jardín Canario (Canary Island Garden) – given over primarily to flowers and plants endemic to the seven Canary Islands.
The indigenous fauna scattered across the island is also interesting. In addition to lizards, perenquenes (Canary wall geckos) and such iconic birds as the blue chaffinch, Gran Canaria is home to almost fifty types of nesting birds. The sea is another of its fortes. The waters surrounding the island feature a broad variety of fish, notably the comber, grouper, island grouper, cow bream and white seabream, among many others. It is also quite common to spot dolphins and whales coasting along at a safe distance.
Gran Canaria’s biodiversity can be seen in all its splendour from the Red de Miradores, a network of viewpoints comprising 31 observation platforms affording the best possible views and where you can take great photos. Further, if you’re an enthusiast of trekking, climbing or cycling, Gran Canaria offers endless opportunities in the form of routes with various difficulty ratings.
Accommodation at stunning sites is provided by a good range of rural hotels and houses spread across the whole island. Small spiritual retreats, where you can dispel all stress, located in gorges and other concealed tracts of land, guaranteed to enhance your experience of Gran Canaria.
Come and live it out for yourself. Check out our flights here.
Photos by Patronato Turismo Gran Canaria