Often it's difficult to come up with a topic for a place I would like to know more about. This topic came about because someone sent me a recipe to try and to invite them over when I did. Since the recipe was from an island, I thought that I would investigate.
I have also posted the recipe for Chicken Madeira below and asked The Well Seasoned Cook to stop by and show you how to prepare the dish.
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Funchal is the capital of Madeira. It is also where most tourists to the Island find themselves staying. Apart from entertaining its visitors, Funchal is a typical working city. As such it has all the hustle and bustle that any other capital city has. But, do not be dismayed, there are plenty of relaxing things to do and see.
In this article, I will look at just a couple of ideas to make your stay enjoyable. So, if you've never had the opportunity to visit the wonderful island of Madeira, read on. You'll then know what to expect on your first holiday there.
Funchal Seafront Promenade - Enjoy a lazy hour or two.
If you're feeling lazy and just want to let an hour or two slip effortlessly by, you could enjoy a gentle stroll along Funchal seafront promenade.
Starting at the western end of the promenade is the harbour where the luxury cruise liners offload their cargo of passengers.
If you are lucky, a prestigious liner will be docked here. The QE2 has visited on more than one occasion. If not, no worries, just pass along to the marina and have a wander amongst the yachts. Here, the marina side-wall has become a graffiti mural where captains leave a reminder of their visit. Can you spot a logo from your home town?
If you fancy something to eat, there are plenty of specialist seafood restaurants opposite the marina. The aroma of freshly cooked fish fills the air here and often tempts me in to sample the menu.
Walking on, you will pass the Vagrant; a tall-masted schooner once owned by the Beatles, but now serving as a waterfront restaurant. If you dine here, a medley of Beatles' songs will entertain you as you eat. Children of the Sixties will surely love the nostalgia.
Further on you will reach Funchal Old town, the Zona Velha. This area was formally a slum district but it has now been transformed to offer the tourist a number of restaurants in quaint surrounds.
The Fortaleza de Sao Tiago is located beyond the restaurants in the Zona Velha district. This is a yellow-painted fort that formally protected Funchal from attack by pirates. Today, it houses a museum of contemporary art and an upmarket restaurant.
Blandy's Wine Lodge - A taste of Madeira.
"To drink Madeira is to sip history with every glass." Those are the words of Sir Winston Churchill, Britain's war time Prime Minister and a frequent visitor to Madeira island.
And, Madeira wine does indeed have an interesting history.
During the sixteenth century traders from Madeira would set sail for India, China and Japan. Their ships carrying a cargo of wine in huge mahogany or oak barrels.
On one journey, some of the cargo was unsold and returned to Funchal. Assuming the goods were spoiled, the captain of the ship ordered the wine to be tipped overboard. Legend has it that one sailor, thinking that rather a waste, decided to sample some of the liquid before disposing of it. To his surprise, he found it to be of particularly good quality.
Hence, the unique reputation of Madeira wine was born.
For many years, it was believed that the rocking motion of the ships, as they transported their cargo, was responsible for creating this superior wine. Thus, for decades, barrels of wine were sent on a return sea voyage out from Funchal, across the equator and then back again to Funchal Port in order to aid the maturing process. However, this belief, that gently rocking the wine in its wooden cask improved its quality, was found to be false in the late eighteenth century. But, why exactly did transporting the wine by sea considerably improve its quality?
Blandy's Old Wine Lodge has it's premises in the center of Funchal. You can book to go on a 40 minute guided tour around the lodge. Of course, along with many interesting items to view, there will be ample chance to sample some of the produce.
The tours are conducting in various languages and are by appointment only. So, visit the Old Blandy's Wine Lodge and book your tour place early and discover for yourself the real reason behind Madeira wine's unique quality.
Whatever your taste, Funchal has something to accommodate them. So, start planning that holiday now.
Robert James B.Sc (Hons) is the editor of http://www.love-madeira.com the independent Madeira travel guide. He has been a freelance writer for over 30 years and has had many articles published in the trade press.
Now as promised, here is a link to the recipe that was sent to me as well as the Seasoned Cook to demonstrate. Try it, let me know what you think.
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