First stop in Portugal: Madeira!

My haligonian friend, Sonya, just reminded me to create a new post when she asked if I had ever been to Portugal. I knew exactly what post I’d quickly write up: Madeira, Portugal.

In late March, I had the amazing pleasure and opportunity to travel for work! The 3rd annual European Conference for Scientific Diving was being held in Madeira, Portugal. This was my first time travelling to Portugal, so I made sure to take a few extra days to enjoy myself.

The trip started off on an exciting foot nonetheless, as Funchal airport is one of the most dangerous airports / landing strips in Europe. My dad had warned me about this, as he used to fly into Funchal back in the day when the runway was much shorter. Luckily, I sat beside a really cute British couple who had done the trip plenty of times. The approach to the runway was wild. After passing the airport, we took such a tight turn that I could see only water out of one window and the sky out the other!  Plenty of links to watch here! Needless to say, I landed in Funchal with quite an adrenaline rush. Once I settled into my hotel, I wandered to a local restaurant, sat outside with my book and enjoyed some Madeira wine, red wine and a fish dinner. Bon appetit!

The next couple of days I attended the conference at the Clube Naval do Funchal, which is stretched out along a beautiful rocky shore… giving us plenty of sunshine during coffee breaks. I learned about a variety of scientific diving research occurring all over the world.. from Norway to the Maldives… so interesting!! During the evenings, I enjoyed some local cuisine which included fried corn flour (they love it there), seafood, poncha, Madeira wine, tremoços (perfect snack they serve with drinks; love these!).  

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On the Friday, I ventured into the mountains with a small organized tour group, where I befriended two British couples (average age of 70 perhaps)… gotta make friends when you travel alone! We ventured up to Nun’s Valley to see the view of the small town from above before explore walking around the town. I sat with the couples and enjoyed some roasted chestnuts and Poncha (traditional Madeira alcoholic drink). In the afternoon, I went for a boat dive in Garajau, which is a marine nature reserve. We dove to about 30 m and saw lots of fish and a few groupers, it was awesome! The visibility was pretty good too… and the fish were way nicer than Malta. On the way back to Funchal, a pod of dolphins played in our wake and swam up beside our boat. All with a view of Funchal in the background… perfect ending to the day!

That evening, we went for a traditional Madeira cuisine: Espetada. This is essentially meat cooked on skewers, which are then hung above your table. We also enjoyed passionfruit pudding for dessert and of course, wine. 

The following day did some a lavada walk, which is very common on Madeira. We followed a long, irrigation water way through the mountains and came to a stunning “25 Fountains” destination. Another highlight to the trip.

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Madeira was absolutely beautiful! I would go back in a heart beat… still so much to see and eat… and drink. I brought some Madeira wine back with me as well and I am trying to savor it for as long as possible 🙂

Until next time!

Ciao Ciao,

Rachel

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