Splashpacker Travel Blog 25 – First days in Funchal on Madeira during COVID-19

Triangle house in the botanical garden in Funchal
The triangle house of Madeira. The photo was taken in the Botanical Garden of Funchal.

So here I am, on the road again! Chronologically, the Splashpacker travel blog might get a bit confusing. During the lockdown in Spain because of COVID-19, I started travel blogging again about my travels from 2,5 years ago. After the Maldives, I went 3 times to Sri Lanka, Kuala Lumpur, stayed twice with my friend in Singapore, returned to the Philippines & Thailand. Yes, because  I fell in love at that time (once again, due to that I did not stick to my plans) I spent too much money on flights to Sri Lanka and stopped blogging. After that I returned to Gran Canaria and worked front office in resorts. And still, now, I have so much to catch up on!

Let´s get back to the now: travel to Funchal on Madeira!

Later on, I will fill this gap, but for now, let´s say we are at travel blog 25! Also, I started a YouTube channel and I still would like to finish the never-ending story of the book, Safety Stop, which is about working in 7 different countries (mainly as a scuba diving instructor) and losing my parents of cancer. So, there´s much to do. But let´s get back to my travels now, and I start with my first days in Funchal on Madeira Island. I will include my visit to the Botanical Gardens & Monte Palace Garden in the next post, otherwise, the post became too long!

 

Many gardens in Funchal: this is Catharina Park
So happy to return to Funchal on Madeira, 6 months later! (photo taken in Santa Catarina Park)

 

Visiting the gardens in Funchal & my travels to Madeira, from just before COVID-19, finally continues

So, at the beginning of March and just before the coronavirus started, I went to Porto Santo Island to scuba dive, but I did not have the time to travel Madeira. Except for a quick cable car trip to Monte Palace Garden and back, but I couldn´t enter the park because I needed to catch my flight. I really wanted to go back to explore Madeira, and after the COVID-19 delay, I´m finally able to return to Madeira! I was so happy, the whole coronavirus crisis soon faded to the background of my mind!! Madeira is a very safe destination to travel to because they require tourists to do a check, either 72 hours before entering Madeira or upon arrival, free of charge. The latter is what I chose to do.

 

COVID-19 test upon arrival on Madeira Island airport
The COVID-19 coronavirus test upon arrival on the airport in Madeira

Covid-19 coronavirus check upon arrival on the airport of Funchal, Madeira Island

Maybe it was due to arriving from the Canary Islands with a small plane from Binter Canarias, but I was outside the airport, COVID-19 tested and with my luggage, in about 10 minutes. You feel very welcome if you travel to Madeira because there´s a lot of staff taking care of you at the airport and it´s very well organised. There are two different lines with arrows you can follow, depending on if you already have test results from back home, or choose to do the check on the airport. I followed the ´COVID-19 test upon arrival´ line. My first encounter was a girl handing out a small bottle of water and a banana. after that my QR code from the questionary was scanned, and I was sent to a lady in a little constructed room who did my test. The testing itself was a bit uncomfortable, they go pretty deep in both nostrils and the throat swab almost made me vomit, but it was very quick and it´s so good they do this!

 

Receiving water & a banana upon arriving to Madeira during COVID-19
I received water & a banana upon arriving. Madeira is doing everything to welcome tourists and promote herself as a safe destination during the coronavirus
coronavirus testing during my travel to Madeira Island
The testing upon arrival is well organised at the airport of Madeira.

 

Arriving in Funchal, quarantine in my hotel room whilst waiting for the COVID-19 test results.

I booked a shared airport transfer shuttle for only €7,- with madeira island tours. Nobody else was booked on the transfer so within no-time I arrived at the Sirius Hotel. I received a discount as Genius booking.com member and only paid €81,- for 3 nights including breakfast. And here I experienced my first huge blooper of this travel. The room was supposed to have a bathtub and a balcony. And I did have a shower, and a window (I thought). So I was a bit disappointed about this, especially because I needed to be in quarantine for 12 hours. I called the reception, but the lady told me she couldn´t move me into another room until the next day.

In the accommodation, I was one of those guests that used to annoy me when I worked in the front office myself!

I understand it was complicated for her because she needed to wait for my test results of course and following the strict COVID-19 rules. But I felt I did not have the room I booked, so I complained once again and also to booking.com, telling everyone I did not have the correct room because I did not even have a balcony as stated in my confirmation. Then, when it started to get dark, I realised the bathroom light didn´t work and I called once again to the reception. I still can´t believe I was one of those guests myself, continuing to bother the reception, which used to frustrate me like crazy when I worked front office!

 

Back in Funchal after the COVID-19 lockdown
6 months later I´m finally back in Funchal. View from Sirius Hotel rooftop

 

Waiting for COVID-19 corona test results and being an annoying guest in my travel accommodation in Funchal

The lady in the reception didn´t know what to do, because she couldn´t send a technician to my room before I receive my COVID -19 test results. She explained to me how the light works, and I felt like she thought that I am stupid or something! Her English was not great and there was some miscommunication going on here and only later I realised why she probably thought I´m making all excuses to get a room with a bathtub, she probably did not believe me about the bathroom light. Beside of this, the room was perfect and clean as well. So when I finally stopped fighting with what was, I used the flashlight on my cellphone in the bathroom and decided to go to sleep. I wanted to close the window, to prevent any mosquitos from coming in, and then, really, I realised the window was a door to a balcony. I felt soooooo stupid!

 

My room whilst in quarantine on Madeira Island
My first room in Sirius Hotel in Funchal on Madeira Island

Embarrassing travel bloopers, and not only on Madeira island

Ok, there was no bath but I made big issues about not getting the right room and the only difference was that I had a shower instead of a bath, so it was not a big deal at all. The next morning I apologised to the lady at the reception and she did give me another room! After this embarrassing incident, I actually had a great stay at Sirius hotel. My aunty and I were chatting on WhatsApp and we had the biggest laugh about it afterwards: the poor lady in the reception! The lady must have thought that either I am very stupid confusing a balcony door with a window, or that I was making up things to get a room with a bath and be extremely smelly! And it´s not the first time for me to experience embarrassing bloopers on the road!

 

in the cable car in Funchal on Madeira
So happy to be back in Funchal. In the cable car between the botanical gardens (next post)

More travel bloopers from my past, in the times before COVID-19 existed

I never forget that I was doing a workout with the big pilates Swiss ball in the gym on the Maldives (where I worked that time) when I ripped my trousers. The General Manager of the resort was for a VERY long time on the running band, and I couldn´t get up because half of my ´bottom´ was suddenly naked (exactly then I had a thong underneath!). Never before did I have such muscle pain in the days that followed because I kept doing exercises while lying on my back!

And after the Maldives, something similar in New Zealand…

Also, that time in New Zealand when I worked as a promo girl at some kind of elegant dinner-show and needed to assist the guests to their tables. I bought shoes with high heals last minute (this was part of our required uniform, and I was travelling with a backpack), but soon realised they were too big. So I put toilet paper in the nose of the shoe and yes, you can imagine what happened. I slipped whilst walking down the carpet, my shoe came off and all the toilet paper rolled out as well because it somehow became attached to my toes. I just attract that kind of stupid things, so the balcony door vs window was not as bad in comparison. These stories are in safety stop book by the way!

 

My balcony door in Funchal
The famous door which looked like a window

 

Back to Madeira: negative COVID-19 test results & ready to explore Funchal!

But, back to Madeira. I saw, just before falling in sleep, that I received negative coronavirus test results. So the next morning I could explore! I first went for a city walk through Funchal. The flower festival was going on, but the driver from the airport transfer already told me that it was very limited due to COVID-19. Usually, this event happens in the springtime and includes a big parade. Due to coronavirus, it was rescheduled to the end of September and the only thing going on really was a flower exhibition and some concerts in the evening. I did enjoy Funchal by just soaking up the vibes, enjoying a coffee with a nice Madeiran pastry, doing some last-minute shopping, sightseeing, visiting the cathedral and walking through the parks!

 

Madeira Flower Festival 2020 was rescheduled due to COVID-19
Festa da Flor, or Madeira Flower Festival was rescheduled due to coronavirus. It was not that big of an event
Festa da Flor en Funchal, Madeira, flower festival 2020
One of the exhibitions of the Madeira Flower Festival

Santa Catarina Park in Funchal on Madeira: breathing in fresh air!

Then I found Santa Catarina Park and spend a couple of hours there. On the Canary Islands, I needed to wear my facemask everywhere, even for an outside walk in nature. So it was very nice to take off the mask in the park and to just breath in fresh air and flower smells! Santa Catarina Park is a beautiful park with nice views of Funchal, there´s a little pond with a fountain, nice flowers, trees, a little chapel and the cotton trees were in blossom! There were some swans walking around and in general, it was just very peaceful. And I felt so free, to be able to take off the facemask! Because of the Canary Islands, I had become so used to it, that I did not even realised I was the only one wearing a facemask in the park! When I realised this, I happily took it off! Freedom!

 

Taking off the COVID-19 facemask in the park of Funchal
So happy to take off the facemask and breath in nature!

 

Santa Catarina Park in Funchal on Madeira
Santa Catarina Park in Funchal
A little pond with fountain in Santa Catarina Park on Madeira
Enjoying the fresh air in Santa Catarina Park!

Why I like the city of Funchal on Madeira Island

Usually, I am not really a city person. But I do like Funchal! Because there are many parks, flowers everywhere, the people are relaxed, there is a nice waterfront where the cruise boats usually arrive & depart, an old part of town with lots of history, a farmers market, little fruits stalls through town and many old heritage buildings like churches, cathedrals and museums. You can also go for whale & dolphin watching from Funchal (from €25,- by catamaran or €45,- by sea safaris). But I decided to use my time to go back to the cable car and to see the Botanical Garden as well as Monte Palace Gardens, the ones I couldn´t enter because I needed to go to the airport, last March!

 

Many herritage buildings in Funchal on Madeira
Strolling through Funchal on Madeira Island

 

Santa Catarina Park with Funchal city in the background
Santa Catarina Park gives a nice view over Funchal city

More to come about Funchal & travel information about travelling Madeira Island during COVID-19

I already wrote all the text about my visits by cable car and public bus to the two gardens in Funchal, but this post is getting too long! So stay tuned for the next post. If you don´t want to miss any of them, you can subscribe to my mailing list below. I´ll give you a little preview about those beautiful gardens with this video on my YouTube channel:

 

 

The next post will include a lot of practical information for if you like to travel to Madeira yourself and visit those gardens. After this, I will also share my experience & information about day tours & Levada walks on Madeira Island, and last but not least my experience scuba diving in the Garajau marine reserve. Safe travels & stay healthy!

 

the cotton tree was in blossom on Madeira Island
Enjoying the flowers of the cotton tree!
flower & view of Funchal in Santa Catarina Park
Stay tuned for more updates & information about the flower island, Madeira!

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