Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: restaurants

Madeira 20 – 27 January 2024

Hotel Cocktail

Hotel Cocktail

This is a return visit to Funchal for us – we spent a week at Reid’s Palace in June 2010 and hardly left the hotel – our intention this time is an expectation to see a little more of the island.  We did make an intermediate visit a few years ago when travelling on Cunard when we were moored in the bay ready for the fireworks on New Year’s Day 2012 – which were pretty fantastic and included setting an adjacent hillside alight.

As a result of an unbelievable offer this time we are staying at Hotel Porto Santa Maria which is adjacent to the Old Town of Funchal and only just above sea level.  With the main aim of seeing some sun during what has been a grey winter at home with a lot of rain.  The hotel is part of the Porto Bay group which also own Cliff Bay, adjacent to Reid’s Palace at the other end of town and other locations.  The central part of the hotel is of some vintage and has been sympathetically extended.  I do not believe it is full during our time here and certainly at breakfast they could manage the demand, although there were hints that sometimes a wait might be needed.  The hotel is well maintained, the staff were generally excellent and the other occupants to whom we spoke did seem to be repeat visitors – which in itself speaks highly of the place.

immediately outside the hotel and running  parallel to the sea – but one street back – is a completely pedestrianised street with restaurants on both sides – one end leading into the fort and the other end the centre of the town.  Most evenings we eat at one of the restaurants.  We had a good meal at the restaurant in the Fort itself – which can arrange special trips in some vintage cars they maintain.  Another night we ate in an Indian restaurant as well as a couple of others – all of a good standard and there were several more which I have no doubt could achieve equally good standards.

We had booked one night at a fado – which is not native to the island but has migrated here from the mainland.  Our choice was Restaurante Sabor a Fado – you come out of the hotel and it is the first fado you reach.  A small family run place – and the family do the singing as well!  The place was packed and whilst we might not understand a word of the singing the emotion was much to the fore.  There is at least one other fado a little further up the same road – so somewhere to go next time we visit.

We also booked dinner one evening at Reid’s Palace where they have rebranded or upgraded their main restaurant – Williams.  We had the tasting menu and wines and as might be expected from a Belmond restaurant was absolutely top class.  We took taxis both ways as there is a steep hill between the two hotels.  Reid’s has another restaurant – Ristorante Villa Cipriani which we sampled on our previous visit, but not this time.

Camara de Lobos

Camara de Lobos

Our hotel had a list of the visiting cruise ships which berth close to the hotel and the numbers on board have a huge impact on the usage of the open top buses and the cable car.  Many take the cable car to Monte and then return (half way) by the wicker toboggans.  We did this on our previous visit and whilst I would be happy to repeat the experience there are always new things to do.  We decided this time to take one of the open top bus routes (there are several) and it is best to choose a day when there are not numerous cruise ships in the port!  There are at least three open top tours and ours took us to Camara de Lobos – the neighbouring fishing port.  We stayed on – the vehicle was well loaded as there were cruise ships in port and we did not want to get stuck and unable to return – but they are supposed to operate as hop on and off – we did not see many people doing that.

We had one day out of Funchal – prior to departure we had booked two tours – one on foot sampling food in Funchal and a second to visit wineries.  The first was cancelled and I will make a separate post about our other day out.

Overall an excellent week away.  I suspect there remains much which can be done in Madeira which we have not covered and at some point we will return.



South America – 6 – Brazil – Rio de Janeiro

Wednesday 6 December to Friday 8 December 2017

Wednesday is a travelling day.  A coach collects us and once again we travel by road across the border as we will be taking a domestic flight within Brazil from Iguaza to the capital Rio de Janeiro.  Obviously this simplifies the security arrangements somewhat.  In Brazil the airport is one side of the city and our hotel is on the seafront at Copacabana so we get our first taste of the local traffic which is pretty dense and so progress is far from rapid.  Our destination is the Porto Bay Hotel.

Disappointingly our bathroom has a leak – probably from the air conditioning unit – with water running down the bathroom wall.  We report this as we leave  the hotel to go out for dinner.  Having looked for something local we dine at Alfaia.  The menu is based around cod with eggs and potatoes in various forms!  So simple but nice.  We had been warned by our guide that typically the arrangement is to serve essentially a double portion and to share.  If one orders a main course each you get enough for four to eat unless you specifically go for a small version!  Turns out to be plenty!  Jackie has the local tart to finish, guessing slightly from the descriptions but we are able to advise other fellow travellers who have chosen the same restaurant

Unlike Buenos Aires Jackie feels a little uncomfortable and we walk back to the hotel along the beach front.  There is no sign of any overt threat – merely a feeling of unease.  On our return we are told the leak has been fixed – a speedy inspection shows two things – the water is still coming down the wall and the ceiling hatch into the space above has been removed and not replaced with various displaced insects lying around!  We are not “amused” by this and we arrange to repack our cases so that we can be moved to another room tomorrow whilst we are out.

Thursday is a busy touring day.  In the morning we do the tour to the Christ the Redeemer Statue.  This is reached via a nice little railway – the Corcovado Rack Railway.  No doubt that it is a very large statue and we are very lucky in that the views down onto the city are excellent as it is clear today.  The statue opened in 1931 and underwent restoration work in 2010.  The railway dates back a lot further to 1884 under steam haulage; the current electric traction was implemented in 1980 but continued the use of three phase AC supply which dates back to 1910, surprisingly at only 800v 60 Hz.  There are two overhead wires, unlike other AC systems.  This is our third cog railway in just over a year – Mount Washington and Budapest being the others!

Photographs of the statue and the railway are here.

Our coach then proceeds to take us past both Ipanema and Copacabana beaches stopping briefly at the latter.  Just a few photos of Copacabana beach are here including looking up at Sugarloaf mountain.

After lunch we head to the heights of Sugarloaf mountain – two cable cars are needed to reach the top.  The Sugarloaf name derives from the cone shape applied to sugar at the end of the refining process to enable shipment.  This continued until the end of the 19th Century when granulated and cubes started to predominate.  The current cable cars are third generation from 2009 – the originals came into use in 1912 and they were replaced in 1972.  One example of each of the earlier versions is retained and included in the photos which are here.

Returning to the hotel we have been moved to a room without a leak and we are a few floors further up – to a slightly smaller room!  So much for the upgrade that had been suggested.  Not at all well handled by the staff on the front desk – an offer of an upgrade is made – but by then we are already “unpacked” again.  At least there is no leak.

In the evening we go for a rodizo – the Brazilian version of a mixed grill if you like.  The Churrascaria Palace is undergoing refurbishment during our visit and did not look impressive internally – until we saw the food.  A superb salad bar and then the meat just keeps coming.  Huge ribs being wheeled around on a trolley, slices of other beef, some Aberdeen Angus, spicy sausage and ever more.  All excellent.  They give you a pair of tongs and we do not understand why – until they slice meat off the main joint and you latch on to it with the tongs before they finish slicing.  Also some decent wine – but the meat is definitely the star.

As we have not been sleeping too well we decide not to do very much on Friday – the weather is not bright (at times the statute disappears into the cloud), it rains on and off (we have already been soaked at least once in Buenos Aires) so we spend the day reading and listening.  In the last couple of days I have been unable to send emails from my main account on my phone – yahoo is rejecting them from accessing the smtp relay.  I decide to contact plusnet and ask them to setup the email I have never used since moving back to them as ISP.  This is all organised using the online chat arrangement – half a world away – and the guy on support is envious of our warm weather!  I can then configure my phone to use the plusnet smtp; I can send emails again!  Must remember to sort it out properly once I am home and can talk to people.  [PS Once home I found Yahoo to be the cause as it had “upgraded” and you cannot talk to anyone – took far too long to resolve].

We do wander out in the evening to eat (the hotel breakfast is actually good but we have been by others told that the dinner is not outstanding).  We wander a little way in the other direction to the previous two nights to a middle Eastern style restaurant, Amir.  This provides some variety and a lighter meal than last night!  Time to repack.  This tour has been quite a bit different from those we normally take in that there have been no communal meals and with a lot of the travel in airplanes and not on the ground the group have not had much contact time.  We have also not partaken of some of the optional trips, so have spent more time apart from the main group.

Paphos Cyprus

Sunday 26 March to Monday 3 April 2017

A cheap week away in the sunshine.  There will be this post on the holiday and then two more – one on our trip to the Troodos Mountain and another on our visit to the Archaeological Park in Paphos.

The holiday is cheap because we travelling on Air Miles (or Avios Points as they are known these days) reflecting a pay back for our trip to Australia.  We have merely paid the taxes and the flights are “free”.  Jackie has been to Cyprus previously with Veronica and stayed at the Annabel, so she should know her way around and where we need to go.

We are not staying at the Annabel but across the road and round the corner in the Anemi which is a little less expensive.  But first we have to get there and Elephant who are supplying our hire car are not waiting for us.  A lady from another company enables us to make a phone call and they turn up with the car and we are off.  It is now after 10 and we know the hotel locks up at 11.  We make it!  We do take a wrong turn as the final part is a paved area and it is not obvious it is a road to take.  The sat nav then takes us round in a circle to get us to the right place!

The area around the pool is in reasonable order and from the outside it is clear that some rooms in the hotel have been refurbished as the external windows have been changed – and it is equally obvious that the refurbishment work has not yet reached our end of the hotel.  It is therefore a little old and a little worn but the owners are obviously re-investing as the funds become available.  We are there for B&B only and we have a small kitchen area as it is an apart-hotel.  Towards the end of our stay we do establish that the main restaurant can serve a decent evening meal (and entertainment).

To Jackie the biggest surprise is that we can walk out of the hotel and along on to the main strip and there is a profusion of restaurants from which we need to make a choice most days.  Although she had been here before she was staying on half board terms and when she left the hotel the coach did not go along the front and so she was unaware of all the restaurants that exist.

A fish restaurant is selected for the first night and a Chinese for later in the week.  We have also booked St Georges which has been mentioned in the Sunday Times recently as being very good.  One lunchtime we eat in the beachfront cafe of the Almyra which is one of the very upmarket hotels.  All good places to eat.  Lot of seafood of course!

On Tuesday we are heading to the Troodos Mountains (which is a separate post) and on Friday 31 March we drove along the coast to Limassol which is a big port and the weather is wet, so when we get there it does not look terribly attractive, nor do we fancy wandering around in the rain!  Some photos taken along the coast road are here.  We head back towards Paphos and then find Melanda beach where Jackie found some prawns in the restaurant:

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday are days spent doing very little – mainly finding different places to lie in the sun by the pool and absorb the sun.  We also do some observing of the local cat population.  The photos around Paphos are here.

During the week we wander along the front at Paphos and have a drink in a few of the many bars.  However it is not until nearly the end of the week that we find that there is a further group of restaurants right along at the far end by the castle – we did not go that far initially.  Also in the bit of town close to us we have a look at some of the other hotels and apartments to investigate possibilities for future visits.  A number of these have not opened up yet for 2017 and at least one is being redecorated in readiness for the main season.  So in the full season the choice would be almost mind bending – we had difficulty choosing from the selection that was open!

Generally pleasantly warm it is only the end of March.  A nice rest and not too expensive.  1976 miles by air for the single journey, so in total over 4000 miles covered this week.  There are other sights and other places to go, so we may well return to Cyprus in the future.