We spent Christmas on Madeira!

Since our vacation on Tenerife in 2019, we haven't been travelling apart from a few short trips in Denmark or Germany. So when there seemed to be a small window of opportunity in the Corona situation, we grabbed all our gear and our friend Anna - check out her Instagram - and left the cold and miserable European mainland for a more exotic destination: Madeira!


Similar to the Canary Islands, Madeira is of volcanic origin in the Atlantic ocean. It is further north and away from the mainland with a more humid climate which has given it the name "Europe's Hawaii".
We often joke about visiting Hawaii and have never been to humid-warm destinations before, so once the idea of going to Madeira hit us, it didn't leave again.







Anna is by now an experienced co-traveller of ours as she's been with us both in Porto and in England. The advantage of travelling with yet another photographer is yet another model for photographer-in-action shots!








It appears we're not the worst travel buddies - even if she is dependent on Jonathan's driving skills.


The driving has certainly been an activity in itself, and even though we're getting good at it (meaning: Jonathan is getting good at driving and Judith is getting better at not believing everyone will die) after driven in Greece and on Tenerife, it still is an experience after the mostly straight, flat, wide roads in Denmark.

We rented a car that we thought would fit because it wasn't the biggest but still somehow powerful, but during our stay we discovered another very important attribute a car should posess on Madeira: a small turning circle.

Our car did not have a small turning circle.


Overall, the condition of the roads was not horrible and most roads were asphalted. They're just not wide and pretty steep. Going-only-in-first-gear-steep. With tight corners and either cars parking on both sides or a mountain cliff. When all this is said, drivers on Madeira were acommodating and patient, always making room and not rushing us at all.



An absolutely new experience for us was constantly driving in and out of clouds and the weather changes that comes with those. There aren't many ways around the island, so you either have to drive the highway around or take a smaller road across and over.



Apart from driving on narrow, steep roads through the clouds, one should be okay with driving through tunnels - cause there's a lot of them. Especially when taking the highway around the island, one will be more inside of tunnels than outside.

Most tunnels were modern and well lit like the first photo, but we encountered a few that looked like the one in the second photo: rough, uncovered rock walls, dripping water, simple lightning. We weren't quite sure whether these were particularly old tunnels, or rather newer tunnels that weren't finished yet but already open for drive-through.



Sadly, we didn't see a lot of wildlife on Madeira apart from geckos, an exciting spider and some cool birds of prey. However, there were plenty of domestic or half-feral pets and we obviously had to say hi to all of them!











As you can see, the weather has been shifty and definetely not as nice and constant as on Tenerife. We did get some wind and even four nights in a row with thunderstorms. Even for Madeiran winters it was a bit wet, and it was sad we coudn't try out the popular Natural Swimming Pools in Porto Moniz as they closed because of huge waves. (We found a calm beach on the opposite side of the island in Machico to go for a swim instead.)




Especially in the second half of our trip, we regularly had rain - even though that might also just have been connected to us literally driving into the rain cloud cause fog makes for cool photos. However, the temperatures were still around 17-20°C.



Food-wise, Madeira had a few surprises in store for us. Some national dishes from Protugal we knew from our trip to Porto. Back then, we made lots of judging jokes targeted at francesinha, but none of us actually dared to try them. This time around, Jonathan was brave enough to dig in - and underestimating the sheer amount of calories that this dish comes with also ordered a batch of fries. He learned better.


The topic of surprise was one, that is very dear to us Germans: bread. Cause the bread options on Madeira actually weren't as terrible as one might expect! And the biggest surprise of it: bolo do caco.

Bolo do caco is made with a form of flatbread containing sweet potatoes that is used for sandwiches but also served as a starter in a traditional basket with plenty of garlic butter. We all love bread, we all love garlic, we lived off bolo do caco.


Even though we experienced Christmas on Tenerife before, it was still weird to experience Christmas enthusiasm at around 20°C - especially as these tropical islands seem to be very fond of fairy lights. Colorful fairy lights. Where Danish Christmas decorations mainly go with white lights, maaaaybe a bit of red and green, the Spanish and Portuguese not only go all in with all the colors, but also crazy blinking patterns.



Funchal puts up simple Christmas lights along seemingly every road and way in the city, which actually was very pretty:



There will be more posts and photos about certain spots and activities on Madeira that we will link to further down.







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Written by: Judith, Jonathan M. Hethey tagged with blog, travel, madeira, christmas