The island of Madeira is steeped in romance. Rising almost vertically out of the ocean, 600 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal, it combines a dramatically mountainous inland with an equally dramatic coastline of high cliffs and crashing surf. Flowers bloom everywhere, thriving in its balmy tropical climate.
This same climate gives Madeira an abundance of tropical fruits (there are seven different varieties of passionfruit alone) and the sea provides an equally wide palette of fish and shellfish. You may be surprised at the creative ways Madeira’s chefs combine these two into delicious dishes. To appreciate the variety of fruits and seafood, stop in at the daily market in the capital city of Funchal. Or better yet, dine your way around the island at its most romantic spots.
In an Old Fort
Sip Champagne on the ramparts overlooking the sea, before descending to the dining room of Restaurante Do Forte. You can arrive at the 17th-century Sao Tiago Fortress in a classic Rolls Royce or other in the restaurant’s fleet of antique cars, which will pick you up and return you to your hotel. Or stroll there though the neighboring narrow Rua de Santa Maria, admiring its painted doorways, decorated by local artists.
Beside a Romantic Garden
The Portuguese have a talent for creating the world’s most romantic gardens, and Monte Palace Gardens are a prime example. Tropical greenery and blossoms seem to tumble down through a ravine to a plant-ringed pool with an island. Winding through this lush setting are paths and staircases bordered by walls of magnificent colored tiles. Beside the garden entrance, savor lunch at Pátio das Babosas, where the chef creates dishes whose artistic presentation matches their flavor.
Dine by Design
At Nini Design Center Restaurant in the studio/show room of the internationally known Nini Andrade Silva, you can admire her designs in the gallery before taking a table overlooking the harbor. Choose sea bream carpaccio with crab meat, or scallops in a creamy sauce with caviar and herbed risotto. Presentations are spectacular, as you might expect at a restaurant in the atelier of a preeminent designer.
On a Clifftop
West of Funchal the intimate Estalagem Quinta da Ponta do Sol is reached by an elevator and sky bridge to its cliff-top setting. From the glass-enclosed dining room or a table on the terrace you can look almost straight down into a pretty little village square. Time your reservation for the spectacular sunsets.
Under a Cliff
You’ll ride down to the secret hideaway of Fajã dos Padres, in a vertigo-inducing cable car that descends almost vertically to a narrow shingle beach. Walk through the garden — where the ingredients for your dinner were grown — to a row of tables for two, shaded by palm trees and overlooking the sea. You simply won’t believe the miracles they perform with tuna, so when the server suggests you should begin with that salad, don’t argue. The restaurant is open until 6 p.m., and it’s easy to spend an afternoon over lunch on this little strip of land between the soaring cliff and the sea.
Five Tips to Help Minimize Potential Travel Problems
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