‘Is that a Bond villain’s lair?’
I mused as the massive black BMW narrowly missed where I stood on Funchal’s Avenida do Infante and glided on through the open gates.
No, if it had been Ernst Stavro Blofeld, it would have been a Merc not a Beamer and this was the entrance to Quinta Vigia, Madeira’s Presidential Palace. Although it’s a Portuguese island, Madeira has been an autonomous region with its own elected President since 1976.
The present resident is Alberto Joao Jardim, who has been in power since 1978. This makes him one of the longest running democratically elected leaders anywhere in the world and surprisingly he does not mind Joe Public poking around in his garden one bit, so of course we had to go and take a look.
Quinta Vigia was established with a chapel to Chapel Nossa Senhora das Angústias (Chapel to Our Lady of Sorrow) in 1662, taking its name from the chapel’s builder, Daniel da Costa Quintal. The original chapel was refurbished in the 18th century and was then first incorporated into the 19th Century Mansion of Quinta Vigia and then subsequently into the 1970’s Grand Season Hotel, that is today’s Presidential Palace. It’s the only part of the Presidential Palace open to the public.
The gardens are beautifully landscaped with statues, fountains, aviaries and some stunning flowers.
Further up the Avenida do Infante we found a stretch of Art Deco villas. As we were discovering Funchal has a lot of Art Deco buildings. Unfortunately many of these buildings have at the very least, had their original, and no doubt thoroughly corroded original window frames ripped out and replaced by something rather more modern and durable, but at least this old ruin still had most of its original features.
Having had our fill of of Funchal’s western side we headed back towards the old town, pausing to enjoy Santa Caterina Park with its statue of Christopher Columbus, who settled on the neighbouring island of Porto Santo and married the governor’s daughter.
In the Avenida Arriaga opposite the Municipal Gardens, I came upon a familiar site.
Back in the in the UK Airmail pillar boxes were painted RAF Blue between 1919 and 1939, however I think the blue boxes are for express mail in Portugal.