I was running out of things to do in the west of Madeira so the next day I decided to visit some attractions near the capital, Funchal, on the south coast. I was going to stay there for five days at the end of my holiday but knew that I wouldn’t have time to see everything. First on my list the Curral das Freiras, a remote village located high in the mountains a few km inland. It didn’t seem far – only 20km – but although the road was good and fast, it almost entirely consisted of dark, smelly tunnels. By the time I arrived at the turn-off for my destination, I was badly in need of fresh air, which the steep mountain road leading to Curral provided. The village was founded by a group of nuns escaping the pirates who used to attack the coast, and indeed you would have to be a very determined assailant to make it all the way there by foot or on horseback.
I made a detour to the Eira do Serrado viewing point on top of a mountain for spectacular views of the mountains and of Curral das Freiras itself, surrounded by towering peaks.
I noticed the abandoned old road, which was now slowly falling away down the mountain-side, and which used to be the main road to the village. It had now been replaced – as almost everywhere on Madeira – by a direct tunnel, but I had already had an overdose of tunnels and I decided to give this one a miss. I couldn’t see how the view could be any better down in the village than it was up on top of the mountain.
My next stop was the Jardim de Palheiro, on the east edge of Funchal. This garden is part of a private estate of an old Madeiran family, that now includes a hotel and golf course. It was surprisingly hard to find, and though pretty, was a little small.
Considering the effort needed to get here, I was a bit disappointed – maybe October is not the best season for the gardens on Madeira. I consoled myself with some tea, cake and my first glass of Madeira in the garden’s café.
After enduring the endless tunnels of the southern highway on the way back, I sat on my sun-lounger in my villa’s garden and was lucky enough to see my first ever complete rainbow. Today I had done everything I had set out to do – but I preferred the unplanned freedom of my exploration of the north coast of the day before.
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