This is my trip report as posted in the Madeira forum. This is the 5th time I have been to the island, staying in Funchal, the capital. First solo trip.
This was my first visit to Madeira on my own, as OH was working. I had a lovely trip, enjoyed the warm weather, had some great food and drinks and visited some new places around Funchal. It was interesting being there on my own, I found it very relaxing and was treated very well by all the locals - as one would expect for Madeirans! I was not hassled by the waiters outside the restaurants in the old town, they were much less strident in their efforts to get me into their establishments than if I had been with a partner. Also, there was no effort to put me, as a solo diner, on the worst table at the back or in a corner, which often happens in the UK! I felt extremely safe walking around on my own, day or night.
I stayed in a small apartment in the Old Town, one street behind the Barreirinha Bar, a great location and a sea view from my balcony. The music at the bar for two nights (Friday and Saturday) was unbelievably loud and went on until late but other than that it was very peaceful. A great base for walking and exploring. My landlord arranged transport to and from the airport, which turned out to be Daniel's Taxi company, very good and I would use them again any time. The airport landing and take off were very good, in fact the landing back at Gatwick was much more bumpy due to the bad weather here!
This was my first visit since the majority of the seafront works have been completed. I love what they have done and it's great to see how much the spaces are used for all sorts of activities. I saw kids breakdancing, skateboarding and paddle boarding. Saturday there was the craft fair. On the weekend mornings the new pontoon provided a sheltered area of water for remote controlled yacht races (very entertaining to watch). There was one large cruise ship and lots of private boats. I also enjoyed watching terns feeding in the early evenings, a real treat for me. And every morning I took down some bread to feed the fish.
I had some tasty meals at old favorite restaurants and cafes - O Portao, Estrella do Mar, Le Jardin, Loja do Cha. I can also highly recommend a new juice bar in the Old Town, Gigi Sumos. They do fabulous juices from fresh fruit and veg, ridiculously cheap considering the quality, also toasties and wraps. A tuna and salad wrap with a small fresh juice is €6.50.
I was looking forward to checking out Armazem do Mercado, up a side street behind the market. There are a couple of good cafes in the complex and a posh burger restaurant. Also lots of stalls and shops selling good quality artisan goods, toys, souvenirs, not the usual touristy stuff. Sadly I was up to my limit with hand luggage only on the plane, so could not buy anything. I did visit the toy museum, it was fascinating and well worth a visit. There are Portuguese toys from the 1940s onwards, games, collectibles, all from the collection of one man. All well displayed in glass cases in bright rooms. I would go again next time as they plan to rotate the displays, not enough room to have all the things out at once. I also took a walking tour with a student from the History Tellers project. Only me there so it was a private tour! He was charming and very well informed. I learned so much about the history and architecture of the Old Town, and he brought to my attention so many things I had walked past dozens of times and never noticed. Absolutely first class tour.It's a shame that Armazem do Mercado is not signposted or publicised more obviously, I only found it during my pre-holiday research. It's not a place you would just stumble across as it's down a side street.
I treated myself to an afternoon of spa treatments at the Vine Hotel. I've been before and it was even better this time. Highly recommended if you want a holiday indulgent treat, I had the Vine Teaser package and came away so relaxed and pampered, I was almost floating!
The highlight of the trip must have been my catamaran trip with VMT. I have been out several times on Sea the Best but this time it was a new catamaran, Sea Nature. Bigger, more spacious, with an upstairs viewing area too. We headed out towards the Desertas and came across about 8 pilots whales (3 or 4 were youngsters) then a large group of spotted dolphins. Every time I see these creatures the thrill is just as great as the first time. The sea was calm and all the animals were very relaxed, so we had excellent views for quite a long time. We came back via the east coast,wth good views all the way back from Machico.
I visited the Municipal Gardens a few times, fewer flowers than during my usual June visits but the flowers that were there were very exotic. Lots of the small trees which have just had ordinary green leaves on before turned out to be frangipanis, the ground beneath them was littered with their beautiful fallen blooms. I saw lots of other flowers which I did not recognise but they were very beautiful. All the trees and shrubs were much more green and lush than in the summer months.
The weather was warm in the days, around 24 degrees but feeling hotter due to high humidity and cloudy, which I did not mind as no sunburn, although I acquired a healthy glow. The nights were also hot, more than 20 degrees, which was a bit exhausting, although I had a fan in my apartment. No mozzies though, except I managed to get 3 bites on my legs at the airport on my way home.
So, as always, a fabulous time in Funchal, I would be very happy to return any time, with or without OH and I would not hesitate to recommend it as a destination for solo travellers of any age. There are many solo travellers in Madeira, of all ages and genders, all looking very relaxed and comfortable. There are so many things to do, see and experience, alone or in one of the many excellent guided tours and day trips.
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