FX Excursions

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Romantic Madeira for Couples

by Barbara Rogers

Jun 9, 2018

© Stillman Rogers

Destinations / Europe

It’s hard to imagine a more romantic getaway than the Portuguese island of Madeira. Rising almost straight out of the Atlantic and closer to Casablanca than Portugal’s own capital of Lisbon, its location gives it tropical vegetation and springtime weather almost year-round. Flowers bloom everywhere (the main city of Funchal has three major public gardens) and in April the streets are canopied with purple jacarandas.


Portugal, Madeira, Calheta, Savoy Sacchaum Hotel © Stillman Rogers

Savoy Sacchaum Hotel. Photo: Stillman Rogers


Funchal is a relaxed and lively center, but we chose the sleepy little town of Calheta, about 45 minutes west, where we could step onto our balcony at the elegant Hotel Savoy Saccharum and look directly out over the sea. Only an occasional little fishing boat (probably on its way back from catching our dinner) broke the blue sea between the row of sun chairs directly below us and the horizon.


We could easily have spent several days just luxuriating here. The key card to our superior suite also gained us access to the spa, a wondrously relaxing place where we could easily while away an afternoon in the sauna, Turkish bath,

Portugal, Madeira, Funchal, Monte, Jardim Tropical Monte Palace, Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Jose Berardo

Jardim Tropical Monte Palace. Photo: Stillman Rogers

Jacuzzi, ice fountain, sensorial showers, Halotherapy room, heated indoor pool or just lazing about in the soothing atmosphere. No electronic “spa music” here, just a heavenly peace and quiet.


More lively were the terraces that rise in layer after layer of swimming pools (one reserved for adults), sun decks, cafes and a terrace restaurant overlooking an infinity pool (and beyond that the infinity of the ocean). Our lunch there was as good as the view, with sweet roasted limpets, local tuna and fresh tropical fruits for dessert.


Lunch another day combined the favorite local fish with tropical fruits in a surprising dish: scabbard fish roasted with fresh pineapple and bananas, at Babosas Village Restaurant, high above Funchal and reached by a cable car. Just outside the door was the most romantic garden we have ever lost ourselves in. Monte Palace Garden tumbles down a steep ravine of soaring tropical trees and blooming shrubs, retained by stone walls decorated in murals made of azulejos, the colored tiles for which Portugal is famed. A red arched bridge and Tori gate give the feel of a Japanese garden in places, and the trees open to reveal views down onto an artful pond with an island. With the winding paths, the shaded benches and the art scattered throughout the garden, it’s easy to spend an afternoon strolling here.


Portugal, Madeira, Funchal, Monte, Jardim Tropical Monte Palace, Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Jose Berardo

Portugal, Madeira, Funchal, Monte, Jardim Tropical Monte Palace, Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Jose Berardo. Photo: Stillman Rogers


It’s just as easy to spend an afternoon over lunch at the island’s most romantic dining spot. Tables at Fajã dos Padres sit in a single row along a narrow shingle beach, lightly shaded by a fringe of trees. Overhead is a soaring cliff, and along the narrow shelf at its base is a lush garden of fruits and vegetables served at the restaurant. The only way to get there by land is on an almost vertical cable car from the top of the cliff. It’s a world away from everywhere, and the food is divine.


Azores Airlines and TAP Air Portugal both fly to Madeira, connecting through the Azores or Lisbon.


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