Street Photography in Madeira
I visited Madeira in late April with Soven, Martin (both great photographers) and Martin’s lovely wife Dawn. This is a great time of year to visit the island as the sun was lovely and warm but not too hot to be able to walk up all the steep hills! Also, being spring, the island was in full bloom and we even caught the beginning of the annual Flower Festival.
If you are booking a seat on the flight go for the right hand side when travelling from the UK to enjoy the best of the views when you land (the rest of the flight is pretty boring so make sure you have entertainment!).
We stayed here – a great airbandb that was clean, comfy and spacious and incredibly central (about 2 minutes walk to La Vie shopping centre which has a great supermarket in the basement). It was also pretty quiet at night.
The Farmers’ Market
The Mercado dos Lavradores is not the cheapest option for buying fresh fruit, herbs and souvenirs but well worth a look at least for the beautiful displays and great people watching. Don’t accept the much-offered tasters unless you’re comfortable and confident in then walking away or buying, as you’ll soon be expertly persuaded to fill a bag!
The plants, bulbs and seeds seemed better value and are sold by assistants in traditional Madeiran dress.
The fish market is amazing. If you can handle the smell of fresh fish then it’s jaw dropping to see the size of the steaks being deftly butchered and the beautiful colours of all the smaller fish and seafood on display. The fish market seemed to close earlier on that the rest of the market so I would say the earlier the better for your visit.
The Cable Car
This is a great way to see Funchal from high up with minimal effort. We took the first cable car up to Monte and enjoyed a walk around the church, bought some cold ciders cheaply from a corner shop and sat in the sun watching the toboggans being unloaded. The toboggans are a very well known tradition – we watched them hurtle down the hill at great speed but didn’t give it a try this time!
We then took a short walk to the other cable car which takes a different route over to the Botanical Gardens. The cafe bar he was great with lovely food at brilliant prices and wonderful views over the town and harbour. We enjoyed wandering down through the different areas of the garden. The succulents and the turtles were my favourite bits! When we got to the bottom we had lost energy to walk all the way back up in the heat. Even though we had tickets for the return on the cable cars we hopped in a taxi back down to town (10Euros, shared with another couple so only 2.5Euros each).
Food and Drink
There are SO MANY great places to eat in Funchal. On the first night we walked up the steep hill to towards the Lido area and found it quite pricey with a long long looooong wait for anything at all. The rest of the time we ate down near the Old Town and had a much better experience! I would recommend trying the Black Scabbard fish with banana (an odd sounding but actually a great combo!) and the local fish stew was really good too. We also ate at Madcuba which had great slow cooked Cuban meats and veg with rice and black beans. I stuck to beer but the Mojitos were by all accounts amazing and only 4Euros each so we stayed her quite a while!
We ran out of time to eat on the Rua de Santa Maria street in Old Town. Famous for its painted doors and bustling atmosphere there were so many delicious looking options from all around the world.
Sunrise Mountain Tour
If you can tolerate getting up ridiculously early then you should consider doing a sunrise tour. We booked this one, which picked us up at our accommodation at 5.40am then took us up the steep winding road to Pico Abiero (easy to recognise as it has the huge “golf ball” at the top). It was still almost dark when we arrived but after carefully navigating a path to the rocky outcrop at the east of the peak we joined all the other sun (or rather Instagram) worshippers. We watched as the sky worked it’s way through all it’s different colours and the sun popped up over the horizon. After plenty of photos it was back to the van for breakfast and much welcome coffee. It was very chilly at that time in the morning so wrap up warm!
Part way down the mountains our driver dropped us off with instructions to follow the Levada route through Paradise Valley (an easy, level 50 minute traverse). This was such an amazing experience. We followed the little stream through lush forests and amazingly scented flowers and the only sounds were the birds singing and the occasional rustle of a lizard scuttling out the way. We made friends with the French couple who had also been with us in the van and even did a little portrait shoot for them!
The Photography Studio
We found the Museu de Fotografia da Madeira totally by chance and it was such a good discovery! A beautifully organised and presented exhibition of Funchal’s old portrait studio. This couldn’t have been a better museum for a group of photographers on holiday! We loved seeing the props, back drops, photographic and developing equipment and then the finished results. It was incredible value for the 3 Euro entry fee and definitely worth a visit.
The Flower Festival
We were lucky to visit during the annual Flower Festival. The harbour area was decorated in beautiful, bright displays. Pink and yellow huts sell local delicacies and crafts alongside the fresh flower art and swirling dancers. It was a nice atmosphere in the sun and we enjoyed wandering through it. We only caught the beginning of the festival but it looked like there were exciting stages being built and decorated for live music and partying.
All in all Madeira was a totally dreamy place to visit. We all felt so welcomed by everyone we met. It has a laid back, relaxed vibe and the most polite motorists we’d ever seen! Even in the tourist spots the prices were much lower than the UK and I loved that many of the eateries mainly focussed on traditional food and drink. They seem a proud island and very rightly so. I’m already planning to go back with Sam and the kids and explore more of this amazing island!