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GREAT VALUE HOLIDAY WITH 4 STAR HOTEL AND LIGHT ALL–INCLUSIVE FULL BOARD
If you want to run to the sun this winter, but don't want to end up casseroled, you can't do better than the island of Madeira. Being just 300 miles west of Africa and flush between the latitudes of Casablanca and Marrakesh, you might expect Madeira to be sun–baked and blistering, but instead the pattern of Atlantic trade winds and warm Gulf currents give it a balmy Mediterranean year–round climate with temperatures rarely dipping below 19ºC (66ºF) in January or tipping above 24ºC (76ºF) in October. In other words, Madeira is a Goldilocks island which, regardless of time of year, is perfect for people who like it not too hot, not too cool, but just right.
It's beautiful too, an island of cliffs and cloud forests, slopes and ravines. Storm petrels, chaffinches, firecrests and shearwaters haunt the rugged coastlines or the fennel–scented laurisilva valleys. There is a wild profusion of native blooms including hibiscus, white and blue agapanthus as high as a man, armchair–sized aloe vera, brilliant bird of paradise, weeping bottlebrush, red canna, frangipani, bougainvillea, orchids and forest flame. You might see some of these in a good garden–centre, but not the trees: canary palms like two–storey pineapples, enormous dragon trees, and wooded glades of purple jacaranda, banana and African tulip. Being at the top of a dormant chain of submarine volcanoes, Madeira has a plunging forested interior, with peaks half as high again as anything in Scotland and many hidden valleys and villages. There are some spectacular walking paths, legacy of the Portuguese who cut and built 1,300 miles of water–carrying levadas through rock and over gorges. Some of these are exquisite rambles through an unspoilt Eden, while others feature sheer and vertiginous drops and are not for the faint–hearted.
Madeira is of course most famous for its fortified wine. According to Shakespeare in Richard III, the Duke of Clarence got himself drowned in a vat of the stuff, while Falstaff in Henry IV was prepared to sell his soul for a mere cupful. What we call Madeira cake is in fact an entirely English confection which got its name only because of an 18th century fashion in genteel society for serving it with Madeira wine. Madeira does have its own cake, though, a dark and sticky sponge known as Bolo de Mel, made with almonds, walnuts and molasses. You might like to try it along with other Madeira culinary specialities, such as Bolo do caco (sweet potato flatbread) with fresh limpets, espetada (cubed beef), picado (garlic fried beef) and espada (the weirdly prehistoric–looking black scabbard fish, which definitely tastes better than it looks). There are some optional tours on this holiday, because there are places you might not want to miss, but you can just as easily mooch off and do your own thing too. Either way, we can help make sure your holiday is like Madeira itself, not too much, not too little, but just right.
This tour is organised and operated by Omega Holidays plc ABTA V4782 ATOL 6081