Magical Madeira and Vibrant Vila Porto Mare!

Karen Ward on 27 October 2013

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This fantastic hotel in Funchal faces the sea and promenade. We stayed in The Residence in a beautiful, spacious 2-bedroomed apartment with 2 bathrooms and wonderful sea views from both balconies.

There are 5 pools altogether. The huge outdoor free-form pool with palm trees all around, is set in beautiful gardens, with plenty of sunbeds. The indoor pool next to the spa, is absolutely stunning! This was definitely my favourite. It is a large heated freeform pool with loungers around, and, you can swim outside to the lovely little pool and Jacuzzi. The other indoor pool next door at the Eden Mar has lanes and a sliding roof which was opened when it was warm and sunny, and this also had a Jacuzzi. You can also use the outdoor pool at the Eden Mar.

Our days were spent at the hotel, sunbathing, swimming, playing mini-golf, table tennis, or sampling the spa treatments. The gym is also a good feature if you're feeling in the mood and you can also play tennis. We have stayed here with our family too and the little ones enjoyed the play room, the outdoor playground and the children's outdoor pool. There are also good quality golf courses nearby.

The local supermarket is only a 5-minute walk. The bars at the hotel offer happy hours, low-key, good entertainment, and all with a great atmosphere. The restaurants offer a wide choice. The Atlantida restaurant overlooks the pool, and the buffets here are fabulous. Sitting on the terrace at breakfast is a wonderful way to start the day. We sampled the lunches, sangria, and coffee at the pool bar! You can have a drink on your lounger or on the pool bar terrace. Lovely way to while away an hour or two!

Our favourite eatery at the hotel was the Restaurant Med. The standard of food, the service, and the ambience was really fantastic. The Il Basilico Italian restaurant down by the promenade is another classy option, with tables outside. Great food! The hotel held a barbecue evening on the pool terrace. The food was fabulous, as was the entertainment. All in all, a lovely evening, in a beautiful setting.

We went into Funchal which is only a short taxi ride away (or a nice stroll) and visited the fish market, which also has beautiful flowers, fruit, vegetables, crafts and trinkets. Funchal has a wide range of shops and it's great to wander the tree-lined, mosaic-paved streets, see the Cathedral in the Square, sample the little cafes or spy the cruise ships in port. You can take boat trips from the marina. We have taken a catamaran trip before and saw Madeira from a different point of view!

If you're wanting even more shops a visit to 'Madeira Shopping' indoor mall is only a taxi ride away. The tour at the Old Blandy Wine Lodge is another great option. The Monte Palace Gardens high above Funchal are a real treat and the Chinese and Japanese influence add an exotic touch.

The Monte Toboggan is a must for any visitor and is really exhilarating! Try and keep your eyes open! Very different from the cable car ride up, although this is also a definite must with fantastic views over Funchal!

We've also hired a car before and heading west the little villages like Camaro de Lobos are so picturesque. If you have a head for heights then look down from Cabo Girao, one of the world's highest cliffs! The plateau Paul da Serra was a real surprise and almost had an eerie feel to it. On another drive we saw the wonderful little A-framed houses on the way to Santana. Spectacular views abound!

We had a fantastic buffet meal by the pool at Reid's Palace Hotel, with live music. A magical evening followed by fireworks over Funchal, which occur every Saturday in June, due to the Atlantic Festival. The view from the cocktail bar over Funchal is magnificent! We also had a fabulous gastronomic experience at the Cliff Bay's Il Gallo D'Oro Michelin star restaurant. We couldn't stop talking about it!

Walking and beautiful levadas are what Madeira is well-known for, and you will not be spoilt for choice. Our next trip to Madeira is already planned. We still have so much to do there, and can't wait to go back!

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