I have always wanted to go on vacation with my mother to Greece. As a young woman she visited the beautiful islands and has always spoke fondly of her getaway. But, while looking into vacation options, we decided Greece would have to wait until my sister could join us. For one thing our window for a week away was the wrong time of year, a bit too cool to have relaxed evenings on a terrace and, while you can find a flight to Athens, it is still a 4 – 8 hour boat trip thereafter to any of the more picturesque islands, it just wasn’t in the cards this time around. So that trip will still happen and with a bit of luck and planning maybe we can have my sister and her boys join.
With Greece out of the running for a place to visit I searched my own list of places I want to visit. The criteria, not too warm or too cold, not too far of a flight considering we are only going for maximum a week, somewhere beautiful and ‘authentic’ meaning I was not interested in staying for a week at an all inclusive resort where you don’t leave the actual hotel premises. While these can be very relaxing, we were looking for a bit more of an experience than just excellent weather and a beach to hang out on. After a bit of googling we quickly decided on Madeira. Already on my list but within a few minutes even after other suggestions it was decided! The flower island, the always spring time island.
I had heard of Madeira wine before, what I thought then was mostly used for cooking. It is a fortified wine on the sweet spectrum of wines although there is quite a variation in sweetness depending on the grape variety and aging duration. I had also heard of Madeira from a song called ” Have Some Madeira, M’dear” the first time hearing this song was a Dutch cover but a bit of an internet search it turns out it was originally in English by Flanders and Swann and has more famously been covered by the Limeliters. Click here to see a hilarious and rather inappropriate video which makes me laugh any time I watch it. Yes, I think I listened to it 50 times before going to the island of Madeira.
On to the trip! Madeira is known for its beautiful flowers and is now known to me for the many, many elderly folk. I personally brought the average age down by a few decades anywhere we went. Which was surprising considering all of the hills to walk up and down. Their main export, aside from Madeira, is bananas. The island is filled with banana and other tropical fruit plantations. Since it is a volcanic island the soil is very fertile and they use terraces to grow pretty much everything. Passionfruit are very well known but in Madeira (honestly I am sure it is not only Madeiran but since I have not seen these fruits anywhere else I can think for now that they are Madeiran) they have banana passionfruit, tomato passionfruit, orange passionfruit and the list goes on. Walking through the tourist market hall you can sample and buy these expensive and odd fruits.
Bananas and passion fruits are combined with many or the local specialities like scabbard fish and banana. Other favorites on the island are meat skewers stews. My favorite meal of the trip was quite a walk uphill from our apartment to a restaurant known for their Madieran (less tourist) food. Stews with beans and rice!
The most notable part of the food experience was the famed Poncha, the local cocktail. Made with sugar cane rum, lemon juice and honey is the classic. Use passion fruit juice or mint or just granulated sugar instead of honey to change it up a bit.