Travel to the Island of Madeira – Episode 447 Transcript

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transcript of Travel to the Island of Madeira – Episode 447

Chris: Amateur Traveler episode 447. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about seafood and hiking and wine as we go to the island of Madeira.

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Chris: This episode of Amateur Traveler is sponsored by Trippy.com, which is a leading travel community filled with experienced travelers who can answer your travel questions. Great answers, great people. Check out Trippy.com next time you plan a trip.

This episode is also sponsored by DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. These beautiful and informative guidebooks are my guidebook of choice. Learn more about DK Travel Guides at DK.com.

Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. We’ll hear from both of our sponsors later on, but first, let’s hear about the island of Madeira.

INTERVIEW

Chris: I’d to welcome to the show Jurgen Abrahamson, who is a tour guide from Jurgen Nordic and is coming to talk to us about Madeira. Jurgen, welcome to the show.

Jurgen: Thank you.

Chris: And I think I completely blew the name of the island that we’re talking about. Where are we talking about?

Jurgen: We’re talking about Madeira.

Chris: Which is where? Put it on a map for us.

Jurgen: It’s about 600 kilometers west of African coast, about the same height as Casa Blanca. And it’s 800 kilometers from Portugal, so it’s in the Atlantic Sea.

Chris: Okay. And you’re measuring it from Portugal not just because that’s the nearest European country, but because it is part of Portugal.

Jurgen: Yes, that’s correct.

Chris: Portuguese, and I didn’t catch, it’s a Portuguese autonomous region, so it’s a Portuguese possession.

Jurgen: Yes, it is, but they are self-governed.

Chris: Right, okay. Excellent. And why should someone go to Madeira?

Jurgen: Someone should go to Madeira because of the activities you can do here. It’s a perfect island for tourists that is interested in activities. Many different things like walking in the hay in the mountains and walking in the countryside and also cycling and so on.

Chris: Okay.

Jurgen: And also because of the climate and the weather.

Chris: Because we’re down there in the tropics.

Jurgen: Not really, but…

Chris: Not quite, okay.

Jurgen: It’s really nice climate all year round. It differs only a few degrees Celsius from Winter to Summer, so it’s perfect for the activities that you can do here.

Chris: And we talk about it as an island. There’s one major island, and there’s a few out islands, but you’re really recommending for an itinerary that we go to the major island of Madeira.

Jurgen: Yes. There are actually a few different islands in the group, but Madeira is the biggest one. Calling it the biggest one is maybe a bit too much. It’s quite a small island, but it’s so diverse in activities, so that’s why you should go here.

Chris: A small island I was seeing was about 57 kilometers, about 35 miles along the longest dimension.

Jurgen: Yes, that’s correct. Fifty-seven kilometers from east to west and 20 kilometers from north to south. So that evens up to about 800 square kilometers.

Chris: And I got the impression from just pictures that I’ve seen is that it’s a volcanic island. I mean, it’s got some mountains on it.

Jurgen: Yes, it is, absolutely. It was created about 20 million years ago in volcanic activities.

Chris: And where would you recommend that we stay? Should we home-base in one place since we’re talking about an area relatively small?

Jurgen: Yeah, I think so. I would recommend a person that comes here to stay in Funchal, the major city, because it’s so easy to get around the island and it’s so easy to access from Funchal. So I would recommend anyone to come here to stay in Funchal.

Chris: Then getting around the island, how are we going to do that?

Jurgen: There is a number of ways. You could easily rent a car and drive yourself because the infrastructure is really, really good nowadays. They have been putting a lot of money in this in tunnels and roads and bridges. So it’s very easy to go around the island by car, but you could also go by bus. They have a really good bus net.

Chris: Okay, excellent. So our itinerary, what are you going to recommend? We fly in I’m assuming rather than taking the slow boat there, and we arrive in the major city. Then what should we do the next day?

Jurgen: I think you should spend like one or two days in Funchal just exploring the city, and then one or two days traveling the island. I prefer to do it with my own car. It’s easier to access the points that you really want to see. And then going out from Funchal on excursions and walks for like two or three days, that would be a good week I think.

Chris: Okay, let’s get a little more detail then. In Funchal, what should we see? What should we do? And what should we eat?

Jurgen: In Funchal I think you should go to a place called Monte. The city of Funchal is like an amphitheater. It’s quite hilly. Not that high hills, but . . .

Chris: Well, are there any flat parts of the island?

Jurgen: Not really.

Chris: Okay, that’s what I was seeing.

Jurgen: Yeah. Actually, there’s a high plateau called Paul de Serra. It’s about 1,300 meters high, and there’s an area that’s quite flat. But that’s the only flat part of the island. They actually had some thoughts about putting the airport there, but as soon as you go there you understand why they didn’t do it. Because it’s really bad weather up there. The city and the island has a long history, so there are lots of things to do. I would suggest to go to Monte. It’s a place up on the hillside where they have a really nice church, and they also have some quintas as they call this. That’s the Portuguese word for estate, where some really famous people, historic people always stayed in the quintas.

Chris: And you can’t drop a line like really historic people and then not give us a little more information.

Jurgen: Yeah, okay. The last emperor of Austria/Hungary, Charles II, he was in exile after the first World War, and he moved to Funchal and moved into one of the quintas. We also have like Winston Churchill was here in 1950s.

Chris: But not in exile.

Jurgen: Not in exile. He was actually . . .

Chris: He was, politically, on the outside by that point.

Jurgen: Yes, he was. It was in the years between when he wasn’t Prime Minister because he lost the elections in 1946 and then he won the elections in 1951, so this was 1950 when he was out. And then, I think you should go to the Botanical Garden. It’s a really nice garden in one of the quintas. One of the famous people from Madeira is William Reed. He built the Reeds Palace Hotel, one of the more luxurious hotels in Funchal. And that was actually their private home.

Chris: And you mentioned the Botanical Gardens. The plants that I’m seeing in the pictures that I looked at, we say this is either tropical or sub-tropical, but I mean, a lot of very beautiful flowers and a lot of not so much European looking things I would say.

Jurgen: No, that’s correct. The good thing about the Botanical Garden is it started as a private garden for the Reeds family, and then the city of Funchal took it over in 1952. In 1960, they opened it up for the public. It’s a gathering of 2,500 flowers and plants from all around the world. Mainly from countries that have some sort of connection to Madeira and Portugal, so they are flowers and plants from Africa, from South America, from Europe, from China, from all over the world. And it’s a really, really nice place to walk around. I mean, I’m not specifically interested in flowers, but even for me it’s a really nice place to go.

Chris: Excellent. As we mentioned, this episode of Amateur Traveler is sponsored in part by DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. And DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, as I’ve been mentioning on this show are one of my favorite guide book series. If you’re not familiar with the DK Eyewitness guides, I suggest you go to your local bookstore, assuming they still have one of those near you, and pick one up. And I say pick one up because even just holding these guides, they are a well-made guide on a very high quality stock paper, I really like even just the feel of the guidebooks. And then open it up and see the wonderful pictures and diagrams that I’ve been talking about.

I mentioned last week, for instance, on the episode on Cambria the kind of things they have in the Australia guide about Cambria including, for instance, museum guides, and that’s pretty typical for any major museum that you have your typically going to have a floor plan in the guidebook that highlights some of the major attractions. So check out the Eyewitness Guides, and I think you’ll understand why I like them, and why I have 20 of them on my bookshelf. Go to DK.com.

And then where to?

Jurgen: I think you should take a tour in the old town. There are some really nice places there. Lots of restaurants and lots of historical buildings to see. There’s a cathedral from the 15th century that’s really nice. A lot of historical buildings from that era.

Chris: Okay. And not so much for touring, but just enjoying the beauty of the city, is that what we’re doing at this point?

Jurgen: Yeah, I think so, but I mean, mixed with the old historical buildings is touristic things like shops, souvenirs, and stuff like that. So, it’s all blended in Funchal.

Chris: And how much tourism does Madeira get? It gets rather a lot doesn’t it?

Jurgen: Yeah, it does. About one-and-a-half million a year, one-and-a-half million tourist, yeah. And half of them, they come here they spend one or two, maybe three weeks in a hotel, and they tour the island and so on. But they also have a lot of visitors from cruise ships. They have a big harbor, and the biggest period, the most hectic period for cruise ships is actually New Years.

Chris: Oh really? Interesting.

Jurgen: Yeah, they have a really, really big firework at New Years. They actually are in the Guinness Book of Records from 2006, 2007 I think when they broke the record.

Chris: For total display or length?

Jurgen: Yeah, total display.

Chris: Destructive power, or whatever one gets in . . .

Jurgen: Yeah. That’s right.

Chris: Interesting.

Jurgen: They actually built the harbor, or did some modification of the harbor, so they can take on even more cruise ships.

Chris: And I don’t know the cruise industry in Europe as well. Are they cruising just out to Madeira and back, or is it part of a larger cruise usually?

Jurgen: It’s usually part of a larger cruise. They come here from here, like, the Azores or from Canary Islands or from the Mediterranean. And then they come here, they moor here for like one day. They come in the morning, stay for one or maybe two days, and then in the evening they leave, and they go somewhere else like to the Azores or to Canary Islands or something. So this is just one stop on the cruise.

Chris: Oay. The only question that you didn’t answer is there any particular thing we should be eating or drinking while we’re in Funchal?

Jurgen: Yes, absolutely. They have some typical dishes for Madeira. So the first one is a dish called espada, in Portuguese, and that’s the Black Scabbard fish. It’s a long fish with white meat in it. It’s usually cooked together with banana. It doesn’t sound that good, but it is really, really good actually.

Chris: Okay. And was there traditionally a lot of fishing in Madeira? I mean, it didn’t look like a place where there was a lot of farming, or at least not a lot of agriculture in terms of planting of fields.

Jurgen: You’re right and you’re wrong, because there is kind of lot of agricultural areas as well. But there’s also a lot of fishing, actually. Mainly for tuna and for this scabbard fish, and some other fishes as well.

Chris: Okay.

Jurgen: But the espada or the scabbard fish is very popular in Madeira, all over the island. And the other thing you should also eat is espetada. The name is similar, but they are quite different. This is barbecue on beef, and then you eat it together with potatoes and salad and some garlic bread and it is really, really good.

Chris: Excellent, sounds wonderful.

Jurgen: And then of course to that you should drink some Madeira wine. That’s the typical one. It’s famous all over the world.

Chris: Oh sure, I’m saying no agriculture, and I’ve already heard of the wine. Okay, yeah. You are too kind to me.

Jurgen: And then also there’s poncha, it’s a traditional drink that they make here in Madeira. It’s made from sugar cane rum, and you take sugar cane rum together with lemon juice and honey, mix it together in a special way with a special tool that they use here. And then you drink it. It’s quite strong, but it’s really, really good.

Chris: Excellent. And then I think you were getting ready to head us out into the country side.

Jurgen: Yes, one of the good things about Madeira is it’s so different from, the south side where Funchal is and the north side, it’s much more wild and harder to get to and rough on the north side. So I would really recommend to go to the north side as well. And nowadays, when the infrastructure is so good, and the roads and tunnels are built, it’s very easy to get to the north side. Before the second World War there were lots of the villages on the north side that you couldn’t actually access by road; you had to go by boat. But now it’s really easy to go there. So that’s one thing that you have to do when you go to Madeira, go the north side of the island. And also, go to the high plateau that I mentioned before.

Chris: And we’re going to the north side of the island, and what would you recommend a good day first things to do on the north side of the island? We should go where and do what?

Jurgen: I would recommend to go to a small village called Porto Moniz. It’s on the northwest side where you have some really nice restaurants, some fish and seafood restaurants. And you also have some natural pools with sea water that you can swim in if the weather is good. But the weather is seldom that good this time of year anyway.

Chris: That brings up the question of when is the best time to go to Madeira?

Jurgen: I would say the best time to go to Madeira is September, October maybe.

Chris: Okay. From a weather point of view, not as many fireworks then?

Jurgen: No, unfortunately not. But you can see that on YouTube if you like.

Chris: So the shoulder seasons, either in the Fall or in the Spring?

Jurgen: Yeah, I would say that.

Chris: Okay.

Jurgen: I would also recommend to go there in the summer. I don’t understand really why people don’t go, especially from the Nordic countries, that they don’t go to Madeira in the summertime, because it’s really nice in the summer time. And it doesn’t get that hot.

Chris: We see some of the same thing here where people won’t go down as much into the Caribbean, for instance, which is kind of our equivalent of Madeira. Madeira is to Europe as the Caribbean is to the United States, and mainly because they have the hot weather, and they’re looking for more of the warm weather in the winter when things are so cold. And the same thing, too, when you go to the tropics in the summertime, sometimes it’s more pleasant because it’s less hot. More trade winds and things like that, yeah.

Jurgen: Exactly, yeah.

Chris: We’ll take a break here to mention that our other sponsor is, again, Trippy.com, which is an online travel community where you can get your travel questions answered or answer those for other people. One of the core values of Trippy is authenticity. As they say, be yourself, the more you share into Trippy, the more you’ll get out of it. Real avatar, bio, and profile is the easy place to start. Next, let your background and experience shine through your questions and answers. If you work for an awesome travel company that’s cool, just be open about it. Here’s to keeping it real. And we’re encouraging you to keep it real and to come over to Trippy for the question of the week. And our question of the week at Trippy.com is what are the most unexpectedly good countries for wine? Give us your answer at Trippy.com. You can find that question by going to AmateurTraveler.com/Trippy3. And we’ll read some of the answers on next weeks show. And if you stay tuned for later in this show we’ll read some of the answers from last weeks question.

And you mentioned hiking, and it certainly looked like a place where there were a number of good hikes. Do you have favorites?

Jurgen: My high point was the walk between two of the highest peaks on Madeira. The highest peak is actually not more than 1,862 meters, that’s about 6,000 feet, but it’s a good walk there, and you really feel that you have had a really good workout if you walk between the peaks. So that was a high point for me.

Chris: And the two peaks names are?

Jurgen: Pico Ruvio is the highest peak, 1,862 meters high, and Pico do Arieiro is like 18 meters high.

Chris: And then how long is that walk? Is that an all day thing?

Jurgen: It’s an all day thing, yeah. It’s only like 13 or 14 kilometers, but it’s downhill and uphill and downhill and uphill all of the time, so it’s quite a workout.

Chris: And then the one thing that I saw that you have mentioned is the Levadas.

Jurgen: Yes. The Levadas are the water channels. They started to build them in the 15th century, just when they arrived to the island, and they were the Portuguese then. There were some people here before that, but the Portuguese were the ones who really started to use the island for agricultural reasons. And the Levadas, they started to build them in the 15th century, and they also built these paths that you can walk on to maintain the Levadas. These paths are excellent for walking, for hiking, so tourists use them all of the time. And it’s really nice walks alongside the Levadas.

Chris: And since the water tends to flow relatively level, I’m assuming if we’re walking on the Levadas we have a relatively, I mean, it’s obviously inclined, but not a steep incline.

Jurgen: No, absolutely, that’s correct. It’s a really easy walk most of the time, anyway. And you have lots of time just to look at the scenery and the nice views, because it’s always a nice view from the Levadas.

Chris: And any particular one that you would say is the best example if we wanted to walk along one of the Levadas?

Jurgen: Yeah, I would recommend the Levada called Ribeiro Frio. It is from the high plateau, and you walked along the Levada for like 13 kilometers. It’s a good walk for three or four hours or something, and you end up in a city called Porto da Cruz on the north side of the island. Along the Levada you have some really beautiful views of the valley and the north coast.

Chris: Excellent. And you mentioned other activities besides hiking. What sort of things were you thinking of?

Jurgen: Oh, lots of things. You can take sailboats and see the island from the sea. That’s recommendable, that’s something you should do. You can go on a boat trip dolphin and whale watching. You can go horseback riding. you can take a jeep safari. There’s a lot of things you can do.

Chris: And then I was also seeing that scuba and surfing are getting more popular.

Jurgen: Absolutely. There are some places that are really good for surfing, kite surfing, and all of that. And also scuba diving. But the sea is really deep outside here, the island. We have like 2000 meters depth. It’s not many places where you can actually do scuba diving in a good way. There are some scuba diving, and also some wrecks to scuba dive at.

Chris: What is going to surprise me when I come to Madeira?

Jurgen: The biggest surprise for me is the weather. It changes so fast on Madeira. You can have sunshine in the morning, and then two hours later you have heavy rains, and then two hours later you have sunshine again. And that’s normal, and it’s also that in different parts of the island you have different weathers at the same time. So mentioning the high plateau, you can go from the south side and you have beautiful sunny day, 25 degrees, and you got to the high plateau and you don’t see anything because the fog is so thick you see like 10 meters. And then you go down on the north side of the island and you have some heavy rains and stormy weather. And then go back through the tunnel to Funchal on the south side and it’s the sun again.

Chris: Now, does that make the south side then the leeward side of the island?

Jurgen: Yes, it does.

Chris: Interesting. If I picked up a guidebook on Madeira, are they going to recommend that I do something that you’re not recommending because it’s not worth the time?

Jurgen: Yeah, I think there are some things that is in the guide book that I think is a waste of time. There is a replica of the Jesus, the Christ statue from Rio de Janeiro . . .

Chris: Oh sure.

Jurgen: . . . 20 meters high in a place called Garajau, right outside Funchal. I think that’s a waste of time, because it’s better to go to Rio de Janeiro to see the real thing instead. And then the guide books write a whole lot about this small fishing village called Câmara de Lobos, and I think they hype it too much; it’s not that good really. It’s a small place. It’s actually known for two things. One thing is the fisherman fishing espada, the scabbard fish that I mentioned before, and the other thing is that Winston Churchill in 1950, he sat there and painted some landscapes for, like, one afternoon, and then he went back to his hotel in Funchal. And that’s it. So I think that’s a bit of a waste of time.

Chris: And what’s the one spot on Madeira that you can’t understand why more people don’t go there?

Jurgen: I would say São Vicente, it’s a really small village on the north side, and it’s in the middle of a really narrow ravine. It’s a really small place, but it’s very nice place to go to. There’s not much to do there, just admire the nature, the hillsides, and the mountains around. But it’s very beautiful.

Chris: Find a cafe and park yourself and enjoy the view.

Jurgen: Exactly.

Chris: Okay. Excellent. Any recommendations on where one stay or recommendations on restaurants?

Jurgen: As I mentioned before, I would suggest that you stay in Funchal somewhere. And I would suggest that you find a good hotel in the center of the town or in the old town, because then you can easily do both things when I say go out on these excursions or these walks on the hillside or the country side. And then you go back to your city hotel and have that opportunity with all of the restaurants and stuff like that. So I would recommend that.

Chris: Okay. Excellent. And no particular restaurant that’s a favorite?

Jurgen: In the old town there are lots of restaurants, really good restaurants. I would suggest a restaurant called The Jango. It’s in a street called Rua de Santa Maria, it’s the oldest street in Funchal. That’s a really good one, I think.

Chris: Okay. Excellent. Now how long have you been in Madeira?

Jurgen: I’ve been here like two months. We came in the beginning of October.

Chris: I didn’t ask, but what led you to Madeira?

Jurgen: I’m here for work.

Chris: As a guide?

Jurgen: I was assigned as a guide. So I was assigned Madeira, but I wasn’t unhappy. I was really happy to go there, because I’ve never been here before.

Chris: Excellent. Who’s the most memorable local you’ve met?

Jurgen: I went on a car trip on the north side, and then I stopped at this really small, very, very local restaurant in a small place called Boaventura and met this restaurant owner who didn’t speak more than like five words in English, and I don’t speak more than five words in Portuguese, so we couldn’t really speak with each other. But it was so nice, and it was such a good experience to meet this guy. He was so friendly; it was a really nice experience to do that.

Chris: Okay. Excellent. And I’m gathering from the fact that you speak no more than five words of Portuguese that, especially with the number of tourists they get, that’s not a problem getting around in Madeira?

Jurgen: No, absolutely. That’s one of the big upsides actually. Most of the people, except for this restaurant owner in Boaventura, they speak really good English.

Chris: Sure, especially I would assume in Funchal, for instance.

Jurgen: Yes, yes. But that goes for everyone like bus drivers, taxi drivers, restaurants, hotels, and everywhere. I would suggest that’s because the British has been here for so long.

Chris: Right, right. Well before I get to my last say four questions, anything else we should know before we go to Madeira?

Jurgen: Because of the language, they speak so good English and so many people work in the tourist business, so they are really keen on having good service, and they really do. They have very good service here. And a good selection of hotels and restaurants as well. It’s hard to find a really bad one.

Chris: So last questions, wrapping this up, you’re standing in the prettiest spot in Madeira. Where are you standing and what are you looking at?

Jurgen: I’m actually standing on top of Pico Ruvio, 1,862 meters above sea level. That was something really, really nice. It was fantastic. You can see the highest peaks around you, and you can see the roughness of the nature there because it doesn’t really grow much there. But it’s a really nice view, on all sides actually.

Chris: One thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in Madeira.”

Jurgen: I would say the weather again. Because we do guided tours together with a local bus driver, and then we jump up on the bus and we start chatting with them, and then we pick up the first guest, and then the rain starts. It was sunny like five minutes ago, and then the rain starts, and then they laugh and say, “Only in Madeira.” That’s what people think of Madeira.

Chris: Excellent. And finish this sentence, you really know you’re in Madeira when what?

Jurgen: When you’re having a really nice meal eating espadada and finishing that off with a good drink of poncha, then you know you’re in Madeira.

Chris: And if you had to summarize Madeira in just three words, what three words would you use?

Jurgen: Beautiful scenery, good food, and good service.

Chris: I think that’s six words, but thanks so much for coming on the Amateur Traveler and telling us more about your new found love for Madeira.

Jurgen: Thank you, that was my pleasure. Thank you.

NEWS

Chris: We have one news item this week. Just in case you thought it was a good idea to joke about bombs in airports, a Venezuelan surgeon has agreed to pay more than $89,000 for the cost of his joke that shut down parts of Miami International Airport for several hours. I’m guessing that you already knew that it’s a bad idea to joke with a gate agent that you have C-4 plastic explosives in your luggage. Check out a link to that story on the show notes at AmateurTraveler.com.

COMMUNITY

Our Trippy question of the week last week was, “What is your favorite capital city you’ve ever traveled to?” The most highly rated answer came from Cat B. from Brooklyn. “I love, love, love Yangon, London, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, and Bangkok, but I have to say my favorite is and will probably always be Paris or Budapest. Both just totally visual, cultural, and gastronomic delights.”

I think my favorite answer was from Ross from Colorado who said, “I travel in Central and South America a lot, and capital cities in these areas are usually a little hairy. That being said, I love Madrid. It was beautiful, friendly, and delicious. I also asked my wife to marry me there, so we have many memories. I am sure there are much better capitals, but that’s the one for me. I have been to all of the major capitals in Europe, also, so that’s says a lot for Madrid. Jamon jamon jamon jamon Sangria. That’s a key for a great time in Madrid.” If you want to put in your two sense, go to AmateurTraveler.com/trippy2.

If, after you’re listening to Amateur Traveler, you have time for another podcast and you’re a fan of comics, may I suggest Because Comics by Mike Christensen, who is my son and former editor for this show.

CLOSING

With that, we’re going to end this episode of Amateur Traveler. The transcript of this episode is sponsored by JWayTravel.com. Also remember our sponsors Trippy.com and DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. If you have any questions send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at AmateurTraveler.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @Chris2X, and as always thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

 

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by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

One Response to “Travel to the Island of Madeira – Episode 447 Transcript”

Penny

Says:

Madeira is such an intriguing place … thanks for such an in-depth interview with Jurgen. He sure knows his stuff!

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