ortugal occupies the far western part of the Iberian Peninsula, right next door to Spain, as you undoubtedly know. But it also occupies a small mountainous island a mere 400 miles off the northwest coast of Africa, an island that lies somewhat south of the famous city of Casablanca in the African country of Morocco.
This is the island of Madeira, famed for its red wine, its spectacular scenery, its hospitality and its gentle climate. Anchored in the waters of the Gulf Stream, Madeira enjoys mild winters and easy summers that make it a perfect year round vacation destination that is visited every year by about one million tourists. It is also currently the second richest region in Portugal, after Lisbon, with a GDP per capita of 104% of the European average
Madeira is a quiet place, with a definite emphasis on attracting mature guests (though the younger crowd is beginning to make its influence felt). In Switzerland it is called “Doldies” — a combination of “Dad and Oldies”. It is not a place to visit if you crave glittering cities, a fast pace and a gazillion things to do around every corner.
This does not mean that Madeira is boring, or that there is a lack of things to do and see there. Especially in recent years the capital city of Funchal has begun to see a definite increase in nightclubs and pubs where younger folks like to hang out, and it also has a casino and other fun places. Just not in the quantity of, say, a Las Vegas or a Monte Carlo.
Locations with amusment parks may offer you thrills on a roller coaster, for instance, but they don’t offer a white-knuckle tobaggan ride down a steep street in a wicker basket, which is how the locals used to get from the top of the town of Monte to the bottom. (Presumably they had to walk back up.) Today you can take that ride yourself on special toboggans steered by “toboggan drivers” — and you don’t have to walk back up.
What can be more fun than that?
There are really so many things to do in Madeira, in fact, that time will seem to fly if you choose action over lazing the days away. You can explore the island on foot, by horseback, via tour bus — or the easy way: by sitting in a passenger gondola lift (Funchal Passenger Ropeway), that transports people from the lower section of the city to the suburb of Monte. You’ll get a bird’s eye view as it rises up the sides of a mountain to the breathtaking beauty of Monte. The Monte Station is situated near Monte Palace Tropical Garden — a must see — at Caminho das Babosas and can receive up to 800 passengers per hour. And if you’re so inclined, you can ride that toboggan back down.
One of the favorite hiking routes is following the “levadas”, which are water channels that run along the contours of the island transporting water from the north side to the south side, and from rivers to the ridges. There are over 1,350 miles (2,170 km) of levadas and they provide a remarkable network of walking paths. Some provide easy and relaxing walks through beautiful countryside, but others are narrow, crumbling ledges where a slip could result in serious injury or death, so choose your path wisely. You will find stunning views along the way, plenty of cold water to keep you cool, and lots of birds to watch: bring your binoculars and your camera.
There is also a wealth of cultural, sporting or leisure activities on Madeira. Some of the favorite annual events include: the Carnival, the Flower Festival and Wine Festival, as well as New Year celebrations.
Especially between June and September, the deep sea fishing is world class. There are two fine golf courses, scuba diving is interesting, or you can go shopping in the many little shops for the exquisite lace, embroidery and linens made famous there.
Funchal, which has been the capital of Madeira for more than five centuries, is a bustling old-fashioned city of about 112,000 souls that is struggling to become modern without losing its soul. Standards there are high, from the top class accommodations to the sophisticated restaurants. The small marina attracts the well-heeled and is lined with shops and cafés to tempt you. The town has much to offer culture-vultures, too; museums, art galleries and beautiful gardens, while walkers and dreamers will enjoy the surrounding countryside and stunning coastal walks.
Perhaps one indication of the popularity of this island is that there are many timeshare resorts on the island.
Situated on the oceanfront within 10 minutes’ walk of Funchal’s Old Town, The Royal Savoy opened in April 2002 as the newest addition to the century-old Madeira Royal Savoy Hotel. The Royal was built specifically as a vacation ownership property, with members/owners becoming part of the Royal Savoy Vacation Club.
Built at a cost of some €40 million, this timeshare complex consists of 162 Apartments of which there are 101 Studios, 41 One-bedrooms units and 20 Two-bedroom suites.
The junior suites (efficiency units) have their own kitchenette, sofa bed, refrigerator bar, cable and interactive flat screen TV, DVD player, Internet (extra fee), electronic room safe and a full bathroom with separate shower, hairdryer, bathrobes and special Molton Brown guest amenities. (Privacy for two, but can sleep up to four persons)
The one-bedroom apartments boast a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom and walk-in closet, a separate living area with a sofa bed, kitchen, refrigerator bar, interactive cable, flat screen TV, Internet, DVD surround sound system, an electronic room safe and 2 or 3 bathrooms with separate shower, hair dryer, bathrobes and an extra special selection of Molton Brown guest amenities. (Sleeps four)
The two-bedroom apartments boast all of the above amenities and are ideal for family holidays. These luxury apartments are in excess of 125m2 with two full bathrooms, both en-suite. The living and dining area and the separate kitchen are spacious.
The resort’s numerous amenities include a 24 Hour Reception, Health Centre with Beauty Salon, Massage, Gym, Sauna, 2 Indoor Swimming Pools, 2 Outdoor Swimming Pools, Children’s Splash Pool, Daily Maid Service, Laundry & Dry Cleaning Service, 3 Restaurants, Library, Piano Room, Tennis Courts, Golf Driving Nets, Shuffleboard Lane, Crazy Golf, Giant Chess Set, Children’s Playground, Snooker Table, Outdoor Table Tennis, Private Beach, Parking, Babysitting/Child Care, Lift, Bar, cafe and Internet Access.
It is also convenient to all Funchal’s activities and sights, such as the Wicker Toboggan Sled Ride, Workers’ Market (Mercado dos Lavradores), Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro, and Avenida do Mar.
All in all, you’d be hard pressed to find a lovelier, friendlier and more relaxing place to vacation than the island of Madeira and the Royal Savoy Resort!
Some Web sites you may want to visit for more information:
- http://www.madeiraroyalsavoy.com/ — The Royal Savoy’s website
- http://www.madeira-web.com/ –The complete tourist guide to Madeira
- http://www.madeira-island.com/ –An excellent guide, with message boards
- http://www.madeira-fishing.com/ –Fishing on Madeira
- http://www.visitmadeira.pt –Another official guide to Madeira
- http://www.madeira-web.com/PagesUK/night-uk.html –Nightlife in Funchal
“On the Road” is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
The purpose of “On the Road” is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. Premier quality. However, these resorts are not usually the only timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out— enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
Readers are encouraged to contribute their own stories and photos. Email [email protected] and put “On the Road” in the Subject line so we’ll know what it’s about.