Claire Spicer on 08 April 2019
I have a philosophy in life not to look back, or where travel is involved not to return to the same place, historically judging those who do so to be unadventurous or unimaginative. Imagine how surprised I then was to discover a place that I now return to on an annual basis - Madeira, or more precisely Funchal. I can only describe it as a little sanctuary, bubble like from the rest of the world for our brief holiday period. There is nothing particularly amazing about it - it is a rugged, volcanic archipelago off the coast of Portugal, which happens to provide a great holiday for my family.

We swim in the hotel pool (same hotel), we saunter along the promenade into town, down the main street and stop for ice cream and a cheeky beer, whilst listening to the local musical entertainment. We hire a car for a day and explore another little part of the island. If you want history, natural springs, levadas for walking, mountains, it is all here - including a ferry ride to the island of Porto Santo. We have found some fabulous restaurants which we return to each time, where the kids happily eat rare beef, fresh fish and vegetables that they would complain about at home!

The street art on the doors of the main street in the old town always entertain us, as do the street performers. The vibe is very relaxed, unpretentious, weather fairly consistent, food and wine amazing, people really friendly and plenty to keep everyone amused.

The flowers are a favourite of mine - the scent is all around you, with a wide selection of colours and varieties. One year we were there for the annual Flower Festival which was just incredible. The designs and shapes made from petals were incredible. The Mercado dos Lavradores is always a fun way to spend a morning, particularly the fish market where you see the huge fish caught that day and how they are skilfully prepared for sale (open Mon - Sat).

We have done a catamaran trip to see dolphins; botanical gardens, which you reach via cable car; Monte, which is a romantic escape from it all; followed by the iconic Monte toboggan run back down - madness but much fun!

As a treat one year for a special birthday we went to Belmond Reids Palace for afternoon tea which was a fabulous unforgettable experience.

A friend of mine recommended visiting at New Year as they have amazing firework displays, so that's definitely on my list for the future. I can't wait to go back!!!!!