Island Travel Interviews, European Islands, Take 1

Photo Credit- Pixabay

Hello again! This week we are going to travel to Europe to explore some more islands. Sandra from Tripper will fill us in on Flores Island (Azores) and Emma from Journey of a Nomadic Family is going to tell us about Madiera. Do you remember that Portugal is on my bucket list? Now, when I finally get there, I have added these two islands to the docket.

Let’s start with Sandra and Flores Island…

Name and Blog Name/URL

My name is Sandra and I blog about cultural travel to offbeat destinations at Tripper (www.tripper.pt)

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Flores island in the Azores, my homeland. It’s the westernmost part of Europe, just a little lump in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with a population of 4000 people, and one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see in your life.

Photo Credit- Tripper

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

If you’re up to some real islander life, forever! But if you’re just passing by 3 to 5 days should be enough to really soak it all in.

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Travels to This Island?

I lived there until I was 16, then moved to another island, then moved to Lisbon at 18. When you’re that young and live in such a remote and isolated place, you want to see what is out there in the world so your home island is the last thing on your mind. When people asked me how the island was, my answers were always pretty bland as if it wasn’t that big of a deal that an island with 4000 people on it looked remarkably like a smaller version of Ireland. People were amazed at this description, I thought it felt too much like home. And what’s fun about it?

Of course, now that I’m a bit older, I remember my childhood living in an indescribable beautiful place where time is slow and islanders have mastered the art of letting go for centuries. I will probably never live that close to the ocean again but sometimes I miss the daily sound of those waves hitting against the rocks. How do I put this into words…? Your mind wanders. You see that immensity of ocean around you, and you can’t help but go into some kind of meditation mode. And that’s common to all the people I’ve met who travelled there. The best way to see the island is to contemplate it in silence, because you feel so small and so part of it all, that there is nothing you could say to make that moment better.

Photo Credit- Tripper

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Hiking and canyoning are the two top activities. Can I consider eating an activity? If yes, eating. The Azoreans (and I guess all the Portuguese) like to see their visitors well fed, so they will always cook more than what you need to eat, even in restaurants. And then you can hike afterwards, just in case you feel too guilty.

Since you are already here, hop on to the neighboring island of Corvo. It’s about 45 minutes away by boat (or 10, if you choose to fly) and it’s the smallest island in the Azores, with a very tiny village, pirate folk tales, and around 400 people. It’s also my dad’s homeland which I visited every summer, so I can’t betray my DNA and talk about one island without talking about the other.

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

Por-do-Sol (sunset, in Portuguese) on the west coast of the island. Typical dishes, mouth-watering desserts, and a spectacular view (with the bonus of the most beautiful sunset you have ever seen, if you drop by for dinner). My favorite dish is fried sausage with taro root. The taro root is very popular in the Azores, it looks like a brownish potato and I understand if you feel reluctant to try it since it’s not the most attractive thing you’ve ever seen. You can switch to local sweet potatoes, all is good.

What Surprised You About this Island?

You won’t believe how much there is to see in such a small place! I returned to the island this summer, after six years, and I had forgotten about so many places! We took a tour around the island and I think we stopped for sightseeing over thirty times. It’s insane! And most of these places are unreachable so imagine nature in its wildest form. Well, and in the Azores the weather is always a surprise, hence the “letting go” lifestyle.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

Visa, money and language is the same as in Portugal (so Schengen visa, euro as currency, and Portuguese). Most of us have family in the US and Canada, so the majority of the Azoreans will speak English. In Flores, in particular, some people might speak a little French since there used to be a French military base in the island between the 1960’s and the 1990’s. Azores Airlines has regular flights from Europe and North America to the bigger islands (Sao Miguel is the biggest) and from there you can take the connecting flight to Flores. My best advice, is to try and book everything through the Azores Airlines (which is the local company). It’s a bit easier to figure out everything flight-wise.

When in the island you can rent a car to drive around and see the sights, although if you’re a big fan of outdoor activities you can also walk around a lot. I’ve done my share of hiking around the island and it’s an amazing experience.

Photo Credit- Tripper

My favorite accommodation recommendation is Aldeia da Cuada but they’re so famous that you have to book a long time in advance. It’s an old abandoned village, super secluded and peaceful, that people left behind when they immigrated to the US. Little by little the current owners bought the houses, refurbished them and started their business. Right now it’s a fully functional village, each house is named after the previous owner (kind of like an homage to the people who lived there) and they are decorated as an old typical country house. It’s beautiful! There are other options across the island, including two hotels in Santa Cruz das Flores, the town with the airport.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

They can read all about it here: http://www.tripper.pt/travel/portugal/what-to-do-in-the-azores-part-8-flores-island

 

And now for Madeira and Emma…

Name and Blog Name/URL

Hi, I am Emma and I am one fifth of Journey Of A Nomadic Family. Our blog can be found at: www.journeyofanomadicfamily.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

We have just spent 30 days in Madeira; an island in the mid-Atlantic which belongs to Portugal. It is just south-east of the Arzores Islands and level with Marrakesh, Morocco.

Photo Credit- Journey of a Nomadic Family

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

The beauty of Madeira is that you could spend as little as three days on this island or thirty plus. There’s lots to do but it does help if you have an interest in the natural world.

Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Travels to This Island?

My favourite memory from staying on this island is the PR1 hike that leaves Pico Areerio and heads to Pico Ruivo. It is a very challenging circular hike of 15km that underlates heavily around the mountainsides, through tunnels, over rock slides, up lots of steps and through the clouds. We made it back just in time before it got dark and we appeared at 1800 metres, hiking up through the clouds to see the sun just sitting on the clouds. It was a very special moment filled with equal amounts of relief and awe.

Photo Credit- Journey of a Nomadic Family

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Madeira provides everything from coach tours to rock-climbing and beach holidays to 4×4 adventures. You could hire a car and go off the beaten track to explore the rock pools at Prainhas (a little known secret if you can find them) or you could have a tour around a winery. You can discover the black sands at Seixal or sit on the yellow sands of Calhetta. Why not stand on the Cabo girao skywalk and look through the glass to the waves below. If you fancy a spot of history, head over to the old town of Funchal to the see the 17th century forte and the old painted doors. No trip to Madeira is complete without a ride on their Teleferico cable cars and a must see is the Tropical Gardens of Monte Palace.

Photo Credit- Journey of a Nomadic Family

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

As a vegan, my best meal out was to a restaurant in Funchal called Olives. It sits high above a shopping centre with a sun terrace looking out onto Funchal and the ocean. The food is divine and the service is perfect. My recommendation is the beetroot with walnut cheese for starter. If you’ve got room the desserts are delicious. There is also a meat menu and a vegetarian menu.

Photo Credit- Journey of a Nomadic Family

What Surprised You About this Island?

For a small island there is a HUGE amount to do and I feel as if we didn’t even scratch the service. I really recommend that you hire a car – with a decent engine because those roads can be steep – and get out and explore the inlets and different areas.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

We flew with Easyjet but my husband (who still works in London some days) also flew with Norwegian Air and British Airways. Easyjet flights are cheap but you’re required to pay extra for baggage. The flight is three and half to four hours long from London Gatwick. A shorter route is to fly to and from Lisbon in Portugal.
We rented a house through AirBNB as this gave us greater choice and value for money. There are loads of options though and hotels and house rentals are plentiful.

The language spoken is Portuguese however with long tying links to South Africa and the UK, a large number of people speak good English.

Being part of Portugal, Madeira’s currency is euros. We used cash machines to withdraw money and got a very favourable rate of exchange. The majority of businesses accept card payment but there’s the odd one that doesn’t.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article? 

http://journeyofanomadicfamily.com/ Search for ‘Madeira’.

 

Aren’t the pictures amazing?!?!? Want to add these islands to your list? Here’s a pin 🙂

Photo Credit- Pixabay

*Please note this post contains affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

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