Friday, June 03, 2005

Back to reality

Word count: Ask me later

I'm back after a week in Paradise. OK, so Paradise smelled of Ralgex, but Madeira is the hot (well, mild) new destination, apparently. Forget serious Germans with walking boots, forget little old ladies having tea at Reid's Palace (keep your volume up for this link to get the atmosphere); it's The Place for the cool, the stylish and the stressed.

Me and boyf barely qualify as cool or stylish, but we can lay claim to stressed so off we went. Actually, after 20 minutes in the departure lounge for the TAP flight to Funchal, we were feeling pretty young and glam actually, so if you're a thirtysomething feeling like the first flush of youth is past, it's worth the trip to Madeira simply to be thirty years younger than the average holidaymaker. That isn't a criticism of the other passengers (though we witnessed some hair-raising queue-jumping) who, I am sure, could all out-party the two of us any night of the week.

We were going for relaxation and that's what we got, after the slightly scary landing on the airport's rather short runway. We stayed in two hotels: the Quinta da Casa Branca, which is a few minutes walk from the sea at Funchal, and then the Choupana Hills Resort and Spa which, as the name suggests, is 600m above sea level in the hills.

The first has buildings that remind me of upmarket 'terrapins' we used to get at school (I seem to remember the other name for them as 'demountables', not nearly as fun): squat buildings placed at different points in stunning gardens. Actually, they're very upmarket terrapins, full of hardwood and glass and marble. I liked this hotel: we had our own little patio and sunloungers, and the room, though not enormous, was light and airy. The breakfasts were good, too: Spanish omelette, eggs with asparagus, little yoghurt drink pots with passion fruit or berries.

There was no nightlife that we could find: by the time we wanted to eat, maybe 9pm, most of the tourists seemed to be in bed. We enjoyed eating out at a rooftop cafe and also at the Cipriani Italian restaurant, attached to Reid's. But I had to abandon my veggie low-carb diet (always a pain to manage, I'll be honest, even in veggie-friendly London) and load the carbs, to avoid starving. I even allowed myself puddings.

But then we moved 'up the hill' (including a windy, hairpin journey in a taxi) and it was something else entirely... it's a GORGEOUS resort, a destination in itself. From the moment you arrive - two zen-looking receptionists welcoming you with a gingery drink - you can't fail to feel soothed and cocooned...

Right, I am so relaxed thinking of that, that I must sign off for now. Part two follows later...

Lovely link of the day:

This guide to creating the perfect movie heroine made me giggle a lot. So that's where I've been going wrong in not selling my books to Hollywood. Ditsier characters needed. (thanks to Karen Gillespie for the link)

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