Beautiful madeira, the island of eternal springtime – ktvz

Bowles — known for his travels around North Africa’s wilder corners — ignored them and was enchanted by Madeira. Less than four hours’ flight from London or Paris, Madeira is still popular with seniors but this peaceful, year-round destination 300 miles west of Morocco is increasingly diversifying as new low-cost flights bring in younger visitors.

One of the most scenic is the Levada do Caldeirao Verde, which meanders four miles past leafy glades and plunging ocean views before emerging into a clearing sprinkled by a 300-foot (91 meters) waterfall. Getting tropical at the farmers’ market

Flower sellers dressed in traditional rainbow-hued skirts.

Fish merchants wielding machetes to slice torpedo-sized tuna. Funchal’s Mercado dos Lavradores (farmers’ market) is a spectacle. The fish is fabulous, but fruit is the main attraction.

Just about anything grows here. Island bananas are packed with flavor and there’s a baffling variety of passion fruit; papaya, custard apples and something resembling a phallic pine cone called monstera deliciosa (it tastes like banana crossed with pineapple.) Soaking up the rays on Porto Santo

A couple of hours away by the daily ferry, or 15 minutes by plane, Madeira’s little sister boasts a six-mile stretch of pure golden sand arcing around a bay of crystalline water. The island of 5,000 people buzzes in summer when Madeirans pop over to soak up the rays.

Out of season, there’s little to disturb the landscape of bare conical hills or the sleepy harbor town, where it’s possible to visit the supposed one-time home of Christopher Columbus, who married the governor’s daughter. Eating scabbard fish sandwiches at Snack Bar Coca Cola

Black scabbard fish is Madeira’s favorite seafood. The firm white flesh is served everywhere — often in unlikely combinations with fried bananas. Next door to the market, the marble-fronted Snack Bar Coca Cola serves a legendary sandwich that squeezes scabbard fish marinated with onion and vinegar into a bolo do caco — a typical Madeiran flat loaf.

Madeira’s restaurants are fast building an international gourmet reputation. Il Gallo d’Oro in Funchal’s Cliff Bay hotel picked up its second Michelin star in the 2017 edition and the tire-maker’s guide gave a first star to the glamorous William restaurant in Reid’s hotel.

Among the best is the Casa Velha do Palheiro that started life as a count’s hunting lodge. There’s also the Quinta Jardins do Lago, once home to a British general who guarded the island from Napoleon. Or Quinta do Estreito, high above the fishing town of Camara de Lobos.

There’s Africa among Calheta’s banana plantations; Ireland a few miles along on the grassy clifftops at Ponta do Pargo; cloud-draped peaks that look like Chinese landscape paintings up around Pico Ruivo. Uncovering Funchal’s Flemish connection

Curral das Freiras is a village surrounded by an amphitheater of jagged mountains. The name comes from nuns (freiras) who hid there to escape pillaging pirates. Aside from the dramatic scenery, the little town is renowned for chestnuts gathered from the forested lower slopes.

The best come from single grape varieties, ranging from dryer Sercials and Verdelhos served as aperitifs to the rich Buals and Malmseys — perfect for accompanying the island’s signature molasses cakes. Atmospheric wine lodges scattered around Funchal offer tastings. Roasting over hot coals

Madeira is famed for its wines, but locals also quench their thirst with a potent brew called poncha. It’s traditionally made from aguardente de cana (island rum) with lemon juice and honey, although passionfruit, tangerine or other fruits are sometimes used.

When it’s overcast in Funchal, it’s worth heading north toward Pico do Arieiro. The steep climb means cars struggle to get out of third gear, but the climb is worth it when the road emerges onto a sunlit plateau broken by bare peaks that poke through fluffy white cloud. Views can stretch from the rugged north coast to Funchal in the south. Careering downhill in a basket

Furao means ferret — apparently the nickname of a former owner. The hotel restaurant offers fine dining with an unbeatable view and a creative take on local products. There’s tuna rolled in sesame or quail marinated in sugarcane molasses and Madeira wine.

In 2016, the player opened the first of a series of joint-ventures with the Madeira-based Pestana hotel group. The harbor-side Pestana CR7 Hotel gives guests a taste of his glitzy lifestyle, complete with tailor-made fitness circuit, outdoor Jacuzzi, arsenal of electronic gadgetry and a rooftop infinity pool overlooking Funchal’s spectacular harbor.