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Published: February 9th 2019
As I had been looking forward to my football, the Other Half had her eyes fixed on a Funchal institution - afternoon tea at the Reids Palace Hotel overlooking the bay. I was somewhat doubtful that it would live up to the Claridges experience, but she knows her own mind where afternoon teas are concerned. A booking was duly made for the Wednesday afternoon. The grounds of the hotel feature some renowned private gardens - only available for hotel guests who have paid a princely sum to enjoy an indulgent escape - or as a complementary freebie for those who have booked their afternoon tea on a Wednesday or a Sunday. The afternoon tea is a bit of a steal as these things go - 36 Euros - and if you add in the garden tour for which you could easily pay 10 to 15 Euros, it actually represents good value. The view, as they say in Mastercard circles, is priceless. Other credit cards are available! Reids Palace is named after William Reid, who set about establishing a luxury retreat on this headland about 10 minutes walk west from our Casino base. He was the son of a Scottish crofter and
Ron signs for Dortmund. Fake news.
arrived on the isle in 1836. He sadly never lived to see the completion of the project. It opened in November 1891 as the New Hotel before becoming the New Palace and eventually Reids Palace. The iconic pink building was purchased initially by the Blandy family and it has played host to the rich, famous or royal ever since. We arrived early for the 3.30 pm tour of the gardens, so we could peruse the photographs of Churchill and the like in the posh lobby. After our wander round the gardens, we were led on to the terrace. I was pleased we were on the front row of the grid, which provides an unparrelled view over the Bay of Funchal. A couple of cruise liners were at anchor. The only blot on the horizon was the new Savoy Resort Hotel being built nearby. As with all executive afternoon teas, the tea choice is bewildering but we know what we like so it was an easy choice. We had opted against the additional glass of champagne, which adds 18 Euros a head to the price. The neatly presented selection of sandwiches and cakes arrived to decorate the table. We hadn't eaten
since breakfast, so they were soon polished off. A fresh selection was offered and eagerly accepted. The plate empty for a second time, the scones arrived. A further helping was also forthcoming. We moved on to the cakes. In case you were wondering, Reids don't box up any uneaten cakes although guests can have them plated up for their enjoyment in their rooms later. Service was attentive, but not overbearing or intimidating. The Other Half recommends it to you, especially if you can fit in the Wednesday or Sunday gardens experience as a bonus. We skipped food for the rest of the day. It wasn't needed. We took an evening stroll to walk off the pounds.
We had spent the morning walking along through the town towards the eastern extremity. The Avenue of the Sea was fairly quiet, two of the big cruise ships had departed for pastures new. The lack of cruise passengers was prompting the restaurant owners to tout for business. It was our last favourite area of the place and for value, certainly to be avoided. The "Old Town" was an area where it wasn't really possible to walk down a street without being acosted with
a restaurant offer. We sat for a while near an art deco swimming lido, before settling in a the very acceptable Bar Barreirrihna where I discovered that the local Coral brewery produced a better than average stout. It was bizarrely entitled Coral Tonica. My allegiance was fixed for the remainder of the trip. Afternoon tea and stout on draft. Very civilised. the main landmark at this end of town was the Fort De Sao Tiago. In a fetching canary yellow colour, it stood out along the sea front. A few fisherman painted their boats in the sun, whilst others laid out on the concrete terraces trying to catch their rays.
The area of town we hadn't really explored to date was the western Lido. The main resort hotels were along this stretch and it seemed well to wall concrete. Madeira doesn't do beaches. In fact there were none, until 2 were constructed with yellow sand imported from Morocco. The best thing locally would be a bit of black volcanic sand or a few rocks. i have to say neither looked particularly appealing. The North East Premier Seaside it is not. The huge resorts lined the promenade with their swimming
pools looking out to sea. Concrete lidos down below at sea level charged for entry, but being January most were sparsely populated. The locals indeed were all attired in their winter coats and boots. This was apparently the coldest it was likely to get, so they were taking an opportunity to put on that winter wardobe. It was about 18 degrees! We caught the bus back to the hotel. The local buses were frequent in this area. Lines 1 and 2 ploughed the route parallel to the sea. The local bus pass card - the Giro - gave fares of 1.35 Euros a journey for pre-loaded credits against a cash price from the driver of 1.95 Euros. 2 stops or travel to the end of the line - same price.
The main square in Funchal sits behind the Cathedral area. The white washed buildings glisten in the sun. One side of the square is anchored by the Town Hall, whilst the old Jesuit Church and College gaces out to see. The old school buildings are now part of the University of Madeira. We wandered in the Jesuit Church. If you are looking for a view, at the very back
there is a chance to climb to the Tower for a mere 1 Euro. It is a more of a terrace on the roof really, but gives you an opportunity to see the vistas from a different perspective. the buildings of Funchal just continue to rise and rise away from the sea. On the very top of the hill, is a building I had been focussing on all week. The Estadio de Madeira is home to the 2nd club on the isle to play in the Portuguese top flight football league. CD Nacional used to play just past the eastern side of the Old Town, but have now decamped to the top of a mountain. The club moved to the Choupana district in 2,000, when the stadium opened with just one stand holding 2,500. A second has now been added on the other side to increase the capacity to a meagre 5,132, leaving no spectator accomodation behind either of the goals. The stadium area is with a Sports City - training pitches and a youth academy, funnily enough named after none other than CR7 Christiano Ronaldo himself. Nacional are the club of Ronaldo. He played for their youth team for
a couple of seasons, before the guys from sporting came calling and whisked him off to Lisbon. It is possibly just as well he never made the first team - it could have cost Nacional a fortune in lost balls. One of his wayward free kicks could have sailed straight out the ground, down the hill and not stopped until it reached the sea. the bond is still strong though. The tiny CD Nacional headquarters and shop proudly displays a youthful photo of him that occupies all of one window. His dream move to Juventus was possibly inspired by the need to play in black and white stripes - the same colurs as Nacional. It was as well that the Man in the Middle was not present. Nacional were at home on the Sunday and I had obviously been thinking of taking in the game. I looked at the hill and I looked at the hill again. Buses on a Sunday? There is no direct bus. A ground more suited to intrepid adventures and mountain goats. I decided after much thought that a low level game in the Taca de Madeira would suit me fine. It was a good choice.
Nacional drew 0-0 with Setubal in front of a staggering 1,675. It still baffles me how this is financially viable for a club to compete at this level with all the added expenses of the majority of their games being over 600 miles away on the mainland!
Madeira is famous for fortified wine production. The wine is actually heated during the storage process. Whilst there are a number of prodcuers on Madeira, the most famous company is probably Blandys. Their wine house are in central Funchal, although this is largely for the tourist trade these days. The production factory is elsewhere. There are regular tours and tastings, the majority of which are in English. We arrived in time for the 3.30 pm tour and were relieved of our 9.90 Euros. It lasted an hour and was quite informative - running through the history, production and the changing fortunes of the Blandys. As the name suggests, they are of English heritage and the current CEO has the name of Christopher. The tour finished with a couple of tastings. It isn't my cup of tea, but drinkable. We ironically met a couple who reside in the North East premier Seaside Resort.
Small world! We walked back to the hotel along the seafront. The majority of other strollers were those returing to their cruise ships. In the shadow of the remaining liners on the nearside of the port, is a newer addition to the Funchal hotel scene - the CR7 Hotel. It resembles a series of rusted containers and seems totally overwhelmed by the ships next door. On the side is the CR7 Museum - the prescence of Christiano is everywhere. The operation is run by his family I believe and out front as some sort of advert, is a bronze statue of CR7 in his characteristic pose. There are lifelike statues and there are really bad statues. This falls in the latter category. A groups of female German tourists were busy waiting their turn for a photographic shoot with his "likeness". They completed their task by adding a Borussia Dortmund shirt to his wardrobe. We climbed up through the nearby park towards the hotel.
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