Madeira. I remember a small, white handkerchief with pink embroidered flowers sewn into one corner. “Here,” said Paul, “for you. From Madeira.” I was thirteen. Paul, brown haired, brown eyed with a calm, wistful expression was my first boyfriend. We saw ‘Grease’ together and ‘Abba, The Movie’. Went ice skating and roller skating. Exciting times. He’d just been on holiday to Madeira. With the impulsiveness of a thirteen year old I let go of Paul a few weeks later but I still have the handkerchief and a hankering for Madeira, a small island off the coast of Portugal.
In my dreams I have a blurred image of sharp, blue seas, dolphins waving, varnished wooden sail boats lazing into shore. In my dreams as I lie on the golden sand my freckles and pink skin tone have gone to be replaced by the smooth colour of warm tea as I stretch out under the sun with an imagined sylph like figure watching dolphins jump past and fish nibbling my toes. I wander around Funchal and get lost among old yellow buildings, look up at dazzling emerald green countryside with volcanic mountains bearing down above me.
Yet what do I really know about Madeira apart from – oh isn’t there a cake named after it? Madeira cake indeed. Further research and I find that the cake is named after Madeira wine. Friends visit and acquaintances recommend the place but still I haven’t been. Other islands have lured me sooner; Tenerife, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tahiti. Yet this small island sits in the Atlantic Ocean to the north west of the Canaries, waiting for my visit.
What have I been missing? I glimpse pictures of those blue seas and golden beaches on web pages and in magazines. Mountains shrouded in mists. Stunning images of Europe’s first underwater nature reserve off the Garajau coastline. Another site offers breath taking mountain views though Laurissilva forests. I delve further because – what is a Laurissilva tree? I discover it is laurel. A forest of laurel. Sifting through articles with lists of things to do I am tempted by water skiing, surfing, diving, fishing, whaling and dolphin spotting.
How have I missed this? Why have I gone to other islands only to realise Madeira has it all a short flight away. I see myself and the children pottering happily through rock pools, diving into the sea salt swimming pool at Lido, myself and my husband riding the cable cars at Funchal and strolling through streets steeped in history and bright buildings full of character. The tourist board tells me that the island is bathed in a tidal wave of festivals throughout the year, culminating in fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Oh it seems that everyone has been, declared it breath taking, glorious, but me. Even Christopher Columbus stayed here for a few years and well, why wouldn’t he?
This post is an entry for the #Flying100 Family Holiday Challenge, celebrating how flying allows us to make memories and ‘be there’, in association with #Flying100. Find out more at http://bit.ly/flying100