Monday, 31 October 2016

On Our Travels and Our First Levada Experience - Marocos

Levada from the word 'levar' meaning to carry, a mini canal.  Irrigation channels specific to Madeira and a staggering 1300 miles of them!
Levada walks Madeira
Staggering meaning = 'that's what you're doing after walking one of them'! :)

For our first Levada experience we chose the Marocos Levada walk also known as 'Levada das Mimosas' - Mimosa Valley. 

It appealed to us as it was described as 'relaxing Levada walk between mountains and valleys'

Difficulty degree - Easy/Moderate - Distance 9km - Duration 2.5hours

So our walk begins in Marocos and ends in Ribeira Seca.

At this point I would suggest comfy walking shoes.  Most of the group we were with had trainers on.  I failed to pack mine as we were travelling light and my trainers would have taken up too much room.  It was a mistake, I should have made room!

Note to self:  Two and a half hours of walking requires shoes that support adequately.   

This walk, we discovered, takes you along the valley of Machico, which in the past was the first capital of Madeira.
levada walk views

We got to see fabulous landscapes and views and the famous "Poios Madeirenses" (agricultural terraces)

You will see the locals going about their daily chores, even hanging out washed carrier bags.   And, of course, there was the occasional goat and cat!
The locals go about their chores on levada

Most homes grow their own fruit and vegetables and there are boxes of seasonal fresh fruit at points along the walk which are available to buy and you just pop your money in the honesty box.
The locals make their home grown fruit available to buy

Spending a couple of hours in a typical environment on Madeira Island was a fabulous experience and to be honest a little humbling to see how hard these people work.  

If you, like us, are not the fittest of people then the Marocos Levada is  a good walk to do.  

We loved our time on this walk.  

Back at Hotel Saccharum that evening we relaxed with a glow and a glass of something cool on our balcony.  Well all that walking was thirsty work.

Don't worry, we did drink lots of water on the walk to keep hydrated.
Saccharum balcony view with glass of wine
Thank you for travelling with us once more.  We hope to see you again soon.

If you have experienced a Levada Walk or tour let us know!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Travel to a Place Near You For One Day Only

When you have kids, you just can't beat the beach.  

Actually, I love the beach too and a day at Avon Beach with the weather on your side is perfect.

And to begin .. a breakfast at The Noisy Lobster is a very good place to start.

Loads to choose from.  My favourite and one grandson's was the pancakes, maple syrup and apple puree.  Among the family favourites were good old English breakfast for Malcolm, eggs benedict for my son and his wife and granola and fresh fruit for the other grandson.

Orange juice and coffees - perfect.

All delicious!

You can also hire a beach hut for a day.  We did!

  A word of warning.  
If you want daily hire you can't book in advance. 
You have to arrive by 8.30am to ensure you get your beach hut.  They are very popular.  We arrived at 8.30 on the dot and some had gone already as we weren't first in the queue!

Our beach hut was No 87 and away from the restaurant, shop and eateries.  But that's exactly where we wanted it.  We wanted to be at a quieter part of the beach. 

If you like the hustle and bustle within easy reach of the shop, coffee bar etc. you will want to be in the lower numbers. 

The beach huts are basic with deckchairs and a table.  To be honest you really don't need much more.  It's just great to have a base and be able to sit out of the sun or rain!

You can also hire Celebration Huts too with all facilities to cater for your party.  Great fun.

And, of course, if you don't want to self cater at all, you can always go back to The Noisy Lobster for lunch and supper.

For one day only this staycation in a beach hut on Avon Beach.  
A most enjoyable day it was too.
Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Prepare to be Amazed at Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

If you've been with us on our travels in Madeira, you will have seen our

The cable car has taken us to the top of the island and to the
spectacular tropical gardens visited by thousands of tourists every year.

70,000 square meters!

But first the view when you reach the top.
Now prepare to be amazed as we wander through the Monte Palace stunning tropical gardens green and lush with waterfalls around every corner.
There is a large collection around the gardens of tile panels acquired by Jose Berardo, a business man and art collector, who now owns the house in the centre of the gardens.

This one was a particular favourite of mine.

Oriental gardens with walkways through and across lakes where the koi, of course, play an important part.  And Malcolm felt quite at home here!
Just a practical word.  I wore Fitflops for my trip to Funchal and tropical gardens.  Not ideal!  Malcolm was far more sensible.

Sadly it is time to leave this beautiful place and walk back up to our return journey on the cable car. 

Ah I think first we may need a little light refreshment.  And those little tables we can see above look like just the place to sit and digest the lovely gardens we've just seen, maybe with a glass of something.
This is a truly unforgettable experience.

By the way you can see some of the beautiful flowers of Madeira here.

But we haven't finished in Madeira yet .... stay with us for walks that took our breath away and mine for more reasons than one!

Friday, 21 October 2016

Who'd Have Thought It Me in a Cable Car in Madeira

We took a slow meander past all the pretty cafes (we were tempted to stop and watch the world go by but if time allowed we would do that on the way back)  and finally arrived at the departure station which is situated at the park Almirante Reis.

I was comforted to see how clean, modern and safe it looked!

We joined the queue, but these cable cars are efficiently run and there was not much waiting to be done! 

Come fly with me .... 

 Up, up and away, but not in our beautiful balloon, in our cable car.
This is truly the most amazing experience.  I am not one for being brave in any way shape or form, but this cable car ride is incredible and you never feel unsafe and, coming from me that's saying something!  

See below a very smiley me!
But then it was tinged with sadness.
We just couldn't believe it.  We were totally shocked by the devastation of the fires in Madeira. 
It was quite surreal that some homes had totally disappeared, yet some seemed to have escaped any fire damage at all.  

It is said that Madeira's very own world class footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo has donated thousands of pounds to help the people of Madeira who have been affected by the fires.
As you can see Funchal is a popular destination for the cruise ships.

Who'd have thought it ....

At the beginning of the 20th Century here was a steam train.  It would take the Tourists up the Monte hills.
Now replaced by a modern and the most amazing cable car ride with views as far as the eye can see.

And who'd have thought it indeed that I would go in a cable car ride! 

Stay with us on this trip for the surprise at the top.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Loved it First Time - Funchal, Madeira

We stayed in Calheta wanting a relaxing few days as our year had been rather hectic.  However, we didn't want to miss out on visiting the capital of the island.

Our hotel, Saccharum Hotel Resort & Spa, put on several bus trips so we booked ourselves on the trip to Funchal.

Along the route you could not fail to miss the tiers of banana plants, that we had become very used to seeing now and the magnificent extended runway!  I am told that it was even more scary landing in Madeira before that was built.  I shudder to think ... so moving on!

Given its name by the Portuguese settlers over 5 centuries ago, from the Funcho (fennel) which grew in abundance there.

Funchal is now very modern and the largest city in Madeira with a population of over 111,000.  A city where many tourists visit all year round as the climate is apparently always warm.  

Safe and clean and full of modern shopping areas, relaxed cafes and bars and fabulous restaurants.

Funchal has a backdrop of stunning mountains.
When you come to seats that look like ice cream cones it would be rude not to sit down and have an ice cream wouldn't it?  

I didn't have two ice creams....someone had to take the photo!  It was kind of hard not to lick both ice creams though.
It is really difficult not to feel part of this city.  The hustle and bustle in the beautiful sunshine gives you a warm feeling inside and out. 

Even the police look warm and friendly and take time out to get a cold drink.
There are fresh fruit stalls on each street corner and pretty cafes on the promenade. The fountain in the centre is stunning and ever changing water fountains.

Ah and the prosecco isn't bad either!

There is so much to see in Funchal.  We loved it first time.  We will definitely visit again.

However, when you visit the first time, you must do the Cable Car ride and the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens.

Watch this space for our visit to both and be prepared to be amazed. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Travel Come Rain Come Shine to Exbury Gardens

Soon these beautiful gardens in the New Forest will be closed for the Winter.   Said to be one of the finest woodland gardens in the country and a great way to spend a day. 

Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway, situated in Beaulieu in the New Forest.
Over 20 miles of pathways and 200 acres of gardens I had no time to spare on this October afternoon if I was going to even get round half way.  

You could easily while away a day here and come back tomorrow for more!

First and foremost some OCTOBER information for you.

Become a member/Friend of Exbury in October and save a massive 25% on annual membership.

Which means prices for October 2016 are:
  • Individual  £38.00 in October
  • Joint £76.00 in October
  • Family £86.00 in October
  • (all above include voluntary gift aid) and prices are correct at time of going to press
OPENING TIMES are from March to beginning of November 10am - 6pm

Whatever time of year you can be sure of a garden to delight all your senses.  And I love to find the odd surprise.  Let's go discover.

This is just a taster .... and
Hello Autumn - color in abundance!
There is a full programme of exhibitions on here.  Currently the Nerine Exhibition first developed by Lionel de Rothchild in 1920's.  This runs until 6th November.
And the a foreboding sky ...
Time for me to run for cover ....
and conveniently .....
Tea and cake!
Run for cover!
Just in time too!  But you see there is always somewhere undercover for these downpours.
I found another place under cover in the Sundial Garden.
 Under the shade of the Wistaria, which, by the way, is absolutely wonderful when in bloom and a must see!  It puts on its very own show.
Even in the rain this little bee was working his hardest!
Now remember you still have time to visit....come rain, come shine
 and you may be able to solve the mystery of the headless gardener .... ouch!

Staying longer than a day?  Why not try The Montagu Arms Hotel a beautiful Country House Hotel in Beaulieu.  Be warned ... you may not be able to drag yourself away.