Madeira, a perfect destination…
…with or without kids…
Madeira was the first real trip with our Twins. It was at the beginning of November 2016 when Liam and Santiago were 5 months old.
It was already their 5th and 6th flights, but the previous ones were at 3 months to visit Mark’s family and shortly after to visit my family.
In our family I am the Princess but I’m also the one that is organizing all our travel (and I actually love it). To be honest, Madeira wasn’t at the top of my list of places to visit, I choose it more by exclusion than anything else: I decided I wanted to take only 6 months maternity leave from work, and I wanted to have a proper break before to come back to work. The first idea was to go at the beginning of October.
At the beginning of October there are still many Mediterranean destinations that are warm enough to be on the beach and to have a splash, but at the end of the month it starts to be a challenge…on top of that Mark didn’t want to have too long a flight… so Caribbean islands or the Maldives were out of the list.
After asking Google many times and in many different ways I started to be interested in Madeira, at the beginning I wasn’t so sure because the weather can be really unpredictable but I took the risk and booked.
Never a decision was better: we have had one of our best weeks in that first few months of parenthood, the weather was also amazing all the time.
We stayed on the Island for 9 days and as I like to explore I booked 3 different places to stay to see more without spending too much time in the car…not that Madeira is so big but anyway!
We booked not far enough in advance, so when I looked to book a car I couldn’t find anything really good in price and the difference from a small economy car and a medium size was double in price, so I went for the economy car…you can see from the picture below that we have had to be magicians to fit it all in…it was ridiculous, but we were on holiday, so no complaints.
The first place where we stayed was Porto Moniz at the hotel Aqua Natura…it isn’t a luxury hotel but its location is amazing. It is right in front of a natural swimming pool and the second room we had was on the far left side of the hotel that has the ocean just in front…it was marvellous, I couldn’t stop taking video and at night I was leaving the balcony windows open so I could hear the wave noise really strongly.
The first night they gave us a room beside the restaurant, that is really handy if your kids fall asleep early and you want to have dinner there (we actually have done this at breakfast time, leaving the audio monitor in the room) but it is also noisier and I was worried the boys could wake up so I asked to be moved. The second room was not only quieter but also bigger. The hotel in general is lovely and breakfast was really good. As the boys at that time were still sleeping in the carrycot while not at home, we didn’t need to ask for a cot.
The natural swimming pools are amazing, but be aware that if the ocean gets really agitated then staff will ask you to leave the area around the poo, but it is amazing to see the ocean filling the swimming pool and the area.
After Porto Moniz we moved to another unbeatable place: Faja dos Padres, it definitely isn’t a place for everybody but it is truly unique
Originally this place was a farm and they still grow all sorts of exotic fruit, but now the houses have been transformed and they rent them out…well what is so special… what’s special is that this little group of houses are at the bottom of an enormous cliff and to reach them you need to use a cable car, yes exactly what you picture in your head, a 300m ride suspended in the air to reach your accommodation.
Of course you have to leave your car at the top of the cliff; there are only 2 ways to get to faja dos padres, one is by boat, and the other is the cable car or, when the cable car needs repaired, a prehistorical lift anchored to the cliff gets revived…and of course what happen one night? The cable car broke down…we were waiting at the bottom with Liam and Santiago in the pram in their carrycot when one person from the staff came to tell us that we needed to use the lift instead.
What’s the problem you ask? The problem is that there are millions of steps to get to the lift and millions of steps when you go out of it…it doesn’t really go top to bottom, it is more halfway!!! But we were on holiday and the boys were not so heavy yet, so we went back to the house left the pram and strapped them in the ergo babys! What an adventure…and last but not least the lift doesn’t have a light inside, so when we came back we discovered we would have a ride by starlight (there is at least a window), we felt like Indian Jones!
The place is really fascinating, the houses are quite rustic (so ask yourself if you like that), and as it is in the middle of an uncontaminated area there are insects and small animals around. Our house had a good size kitchen, a small living room, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a lovely patio a bit higher than the ground level overlooking the ocean.
In the evening sitting on the patio was magical, we felt like we were completely isolated from the world.
The other thing that makes you feel like you are on an abandoned island is that the cable car closes at 6pm, people that are booked in the houses can call at any time the cable car operator that in 15-20 min. will arrive to let you use it.
External people and also most of the staff leave at 6pm. If you want you can prebook dinner and the restaurant will pack everything for you and you can eat on your patio to the sound of the sea.
HOT TIP: breakfast is served at the restaurant that is 10 minutes walking from some of the houses, so keep this in mind
There isn’t really a beach (well there is, but it is difficult to access/walk because it has big pebbles) but there is a pier with stairs to help you to access the ocean and also some space with sunbeds and umbrellas which are all quite dated.
What to say…faja dos padres it isn’t a place for princesses, and it isn’t the easiest with babies or toddlers, but if you like to get off the beaten path you will enjoy it for sure!
Each of the places where we stayed in Maderia was somehow special, for the last 2 nights we moved to Hotel Albatros, really close to the airport.
I chose it enchanted from the pictures of the swimming pool at the bottom of a cliff. It is a 5 star hotel, and the staff were really lovely and tried to help in any way. The room was big with a lovely balcony overlooking the ocean.
Breakfast was plenty and varied, and there was no noise coming from the airport.
Despite all of this I wouldn’t rate it 5 star, apart from the staff, but this is my opinion.
The swimming pool at the bottom of the cliff was really great, definitely challenging going down the tiny stairs with a baby in the carrier, but then we had it almost only for us. The swimming pool is built organically against the cliff and gets filled by the sea, but there is also the possibility to swim directly into the ocean.
There are plenty of places and hidden gems to visit in Madeira to cover a week: Funchal is a really pretty small city and very enjoyable to walk through, cabo girao it is a lovely panoramic spot, a little bit touristic, but worth the visit, and of course the natural swimming pool at Porto Moniz.
We would have liked to see more things in Madeira, but as a first trip with Liam and Santiago we were happy enough to take it easy, we decided to not venture with the many walks available, but I would definitely try them next time.
There are also many opportunities to eat out; during this trip I didn’t want to book too many restaurants because I wasn’t sure how the boys would have been. The best restaurant we tried was Uva at the hotel de Vine.
The hotel and the restaurant have a great design, I would happily stay there next time. The restaurant is on the rooftop overlooking Funchal and the atmosphere is sophisticated. At the beginning we were concerned to go with the boys, but we managed to have them sleeping in the Joolz Geo lay flat cots before to enter and for most of the meal.
Overall I would really enjoy to go back to Madeira when Liam and Santiago will be around 4-5 to be able to do some of the walking and explore more, in the meantime I already recommended it to few friends with small kids! Have you ever been?