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Thursday, 25 April 2019

Why I didn’t like Madeira

It’s simple: the vibe of the island was off.
Only 2 hours by plane from the Azores, yet antagonistically different.
Leaving the Azores, on my way to Madeira
I’m not only talking about the weather – it’s as if light had taken refuge in the middle of the Atlantic, while darkness had taken over the island off the African coast.
Rocha do Navio, Madeira
The beauty of Madeira is indisputable, but to me, it takes so much more than spectacular scenery to make me love a place.
Praia do Garajau, Madeira

It’s commercial
Everything is organised on the island – too organised. There are signs for everything and you can’t get lost, even if you try.
The streets of Ponta Do Sol, the hottest place on Madeira
It is laudable that they managed to set up an infrastructure at such high standards, but it is a real curse for the naturally-wild character of Madeira.
Ponta Do Sol overview, Madeira
In the end, you reap what you sow. We have seen very strange tourists there – I can’t call ‘travellers’ people cursing at cows, taking advantage of your good intentions and then leaving you hanging, or simply people who came to Madeira because they knew that they needn’t leave their comfort zones. Everything is within reach.
Cute cows of Ponta do Pargo, Madeira

It’s super-crowded
You can hardly go anywhere on the island without company, even off-season.
I remember that we woke up really early to trek to Ponta de São Lourenço. When we got to the parking lot, there were barely any free spots. The trail was swarming with people. What’s the joy in pushing your way through hundreds of other people when there are MANY other beautiful places in the world that are practically deserted?   
Ponta de São Lourenço, Madeira
I am very surprised that we summited Pico Ruivo and were the only ones there for a good 20 minutes.
Pico Ruivo, Madeira
It’s very easy to get even to the remotest of places on Madeira and I believe that it was a marketing mistake of the authorities – exchanging the soul of the island for tourism popularity (thus, money).

Food isn’t what it’s cracked up to be
I really don’t know what kind of experiences people reviewing restaurants across Madeira have previously had when joints ranked 4.5+ on Google were mediocre.
Bananas were good. Brisa was good, but I liked Kima of the Azores more. I had two great meals – a Cuban and an Argentinean dinner, and one memorable dessert. And I liked a tea house. That’s about it. You must look if you want something special on your plate.   

Mass tourism is flourishing there
…and I don’t mean that in a good way: it’s actually ruining the island’s atmosphere. Buses full of retired people are driven all around Madeira. I had some time to listen to what the guides were saying – I do understand a little German – at Ponta do Pargo. It’s not that their intentions were not good, but they were simply taking people from one spot to another – that’s not actually travelling, not when there is no actual experience to connect you to the places that you’re visiting. Money is everything for most of the big tourism operators and few of them are actually committed to seeing their customers as more than bank accounts.
Walking to Ponta do Pargo, Madeira
  
People are not as friendly as on mainland or on the Azores
With a few exceptions – mainly met on our last night on the island.
The locals seem to be always in a hurry and detached, but not in a good way.
I believe that the many people having retired there, out of frustrations or simply pleasure, added to the cold attitude of the Madeirans. They may have lost their identity.
We also met a lot of foreigners working on the island – it is a bizarre mix of nationalities and not all expats are light-hearted. A Byelorussian who was our waiter one evening had very bad things to say about his restaurant’s competitors, while putting the place we were dining at on a pedestal.
Coconut cake at A Confeitaria; Funchal, Madeira

It is not the only example and it left me with a sour aftertaste.
No wonder that the energies of the island are so dark if it is filled with such attitudes.

So, what did I do to try and enjoy Madeira as much as I could?
I ate chocolate!   
Chocolate helped me on Madeira