Noel Josephides, MD of Sunvil Holidays, visited Madeira just over a week ago for the first time in 15 years, wanting to see how the island had been affected by the storms of February 20.He says: “I was impressed by how quickly the islanders had sorted out those parts of Funchal that were affected by the storms. Quite honestly, I don’t think visitors would even be aware of what had happened in late February – Funchal looks positively pristine in the spring sunshine and the flowers and foliage are as wonderful as ever.
“Amazingly, some 150,000 cubic metres of rock was brought down to sea level by the swollen rivers during the storm. It’s all been neatly arranged to one side of the harbour, and looks for all the world as if it’s part of a harbour redevelopment scheme. There is talk of making it into a park or Esplanade for visitors to enjoy, but no decision has yet been made; a bit more research is needed to see how the sea currents on that part of the shore are likely to react to a new coastline.”
Josephides’ company has operated to Madeira for 20 years or so and he says it’s notable how the island has updated its image, with its first Michelin-starred restaurant at the Cliff Bay Hotel, an Albert-Roux-trained chef operating across a range of small restaurants in Funchal and elsewhere on the island and its excellent infrastructure of roads and tunnels.These have cut an 8-hour journey around winding mountain roads to just 1.5 hours, door to door, but still offer brilliant vistas to enjoy en route.
“I was particularly impressed with Reid’s Palace”, says Josephides. “It no longer has the slightly stuffy image that it had when I last visited – there were families with young children, gay couples, celebratory gatherings and so on – it’s maintained its Edwardian charm and elegance but is bang-up-to-date. There’s a teen room with PlayStations, music kit, the latest Apple computers and more – sheer bliss for the average teenager (and for their parents!).
“And although Madeira has developed considerably over the past 15 years, it’s avoided the ugly style of development that afflicts so many destinations. We tend to forget how beautiful traditional destinations like Madeira are – very clean, very safe and an ideal holiday destination all round. I shall return – hopefully for longer than a weekend next time.”