A love letter to Madeira

A love letter to Madeira

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

Dear Madeira,

I can’t believe it’s been many long months since we’ve last been together. The days without your incredibly bright and sunny nature are torturous and the cold nights away from your rocky shores are nothing short of a nightmare. Oh, how I wish we could be together again. Do you remember what fun we had? 

To spend another day frolicking in the lava pools at Porto Moniz would be completely magical. I’ll never forget what a grand time we had when I stood on the wall in the lava pool and the mighty Atlantic Ocean waves crashed over me and swept me into the icy cold pool, over and over again. The thrill of being engulfed in something so powerful is an experience I won’t soon forget. 

Do you miss me too, Madeira? Surely you remember the time I hiked for hours on end from the Pico do Arieiro to the Pico Ruivo mountain. The sheer number of stairs almost killed me and I could hardly walk for several days afterward, but it was so worth it. To see the sweeping valleys, the towering mountains and the ocean gleaming in the distance was truly something to behold. I just couldn’t get enough of your incredible beauty. Though my legs pained me, I once again ventured out on a hike along the historic levadas to get to the 25 waterfalls. Some waterfalls delicately trickled down the rocks, while others powerfully flowed from higher up. What a sight! The essence of your natural allure knows no boundaries. 

As if the surrounding charm of nature isn’t enough to draw me in, the people you call your own couldn’t be more welcoming and wonderful. The local market was full of smiling faces, all encouraging me to sample traditional cuisine and beverages. The poncha drink that everyone seemed to be consuming was nothing short of amazing and nearly knocked me flat out, but it was just so dang tasty! When I combined that with bolo de caco sandwiches, I was truly in for a treat. Sometimes the best food isn’t found in a Michelin star restaurant, but rather it is lovingly made and sold at a food stand. 

As if hiking and lava pool swimming wasn’t exhilarating enough, you also offered a different kind of thrill. Tobogganing down a tar road while two men pulled me in a wicker basket was one of the most interesting ways I’ve ever traveled from one point to another. What a tradition to carry on from the 1850s! The greased wooden runners are certainly an invention that helped people move down the incredibly steep streets you call your own in Funchal. While I can’t imagine this trend will catch on as a primary mode of transportation, it was most definitely an experience to remember. 

Madeira, I think I knew I was truly in love with you on New Year’s Eve. That night, as the city lights of Funchal glowed in the inky darkness, you lit up the midnight sky with fireworks all around the city and I fell hard. For eight magical minutes, I was completely enthralled with the scene that surrounded me while I stood, dumbfounded, on the hotel roof. It’s not every day that you get to experience something new for the first time, and when you do, it’s incredibly memorable. To be there with you in that moment is a time in my life I will never forget. An average fireworks show is a good time. A fireworks show with you was a riot of colors in the sky, originating from 30 points around the amphitheater that is Funchal. Experiencing this with you was pure wonder. 

My dearest Madeira, don’t ever change. You are absolutely perfect the way you are, from your glorious mountains to your epic shorelines.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish we could be together. The distance is killing me, but the thought that one day we may be reunited gets me out of bed in the morning. Until we meet in Portugal again. 

Xoxo Jessica 

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