Madeira – the verdant island

I’m on a much anticipated holiday in Madeira. It goes without saying that it is tinged with anxiety about COVID-19. It appears that anyone arriving tomorrow will be quarantined for 14 days. There are no cases in Madeira so you can understand why they want to keep it that way.

The holiday is an embroidery retreat, just 8 of us including our tutor. Today, our first full day was spent travelling around the island in a mini-bus, to all points of the compass.

Despite the overcast weather and sometimes rain we spent the morning in the rural East, which the locals call old Madeira as it is very much as things were 40 or so years ago before Madeira became autonomous from Portugal and started to invest in its own future, rather than pay most taxes to Portugal.

Traditional A frame house in Santana

We visited Santana and saw the traditional A frame houses, whose thatch has to be replaced every 5 years, had very strong coffee and Portuguese custard tarts – delicious. Then along the cost to Porto Monzi where we had lunch overlooking the natural swimming pools.

Even though it is early in the season it is amazing how lush everything is. Apparently they had had a dry and warm winter which has confused many plants and you can spot the odd agapanthus starting to flower months ahead of time. The road sides are lined with agapanthus plants, even along the roads up in the hills, and I wondered for a while if they had seeded themselves there. This wouldn’t have been surprising given the richness of the soil and the climate but it turns out they are planted along the ends of roads so that the roots help with soil erosion. What a pretty way to address this problem.

Porto Monzi

Other plants flowering in gardens and along the roads are Crocosmia, Protea, and Watsonia. As you can see from the top photo the Watsonia are large and lush making my pale pink one back in my UK garden look quite insipid.

We returned via the west side of the island, the hilly side, although this is clearly an understatement as the fruit terraces and vineyards seem quite treacherous tittering in the side of steep hills. The west side is warmer so the crops here are sugar cane, lots and lots of bananas and vines. The east coast is more vegetables – potatoes, cabbages, beans. We also saw avocado and mahogany trees.

In theory we will be out and about in Funchal on Monday but it will depend on what restrictions are put in place. If we are required to stay in the hotel for the rest of the stay then there could be worse places to be.

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