FUNCHAL IN MADEIRA is famed for its glorious gardens, which can be visited by members of the public. Actually, the whole city is filled with so many flowering plants and trees that it is almost like a huge garden. Nevertheless, we decided to see one of the gardens for which the city is known. We chose the Palheiro Gardens, which are located about 500 metres above sea level.
To reach the gardens, we took local bus number 37 from the Pingo, a square near the Mercatos Lavradores. While waiting for the bus to depart, we began chatting with another passenger, a lady who spoke English with a Germanic accent, who last visited the Palheiro 18 years ago. It turned out that she is from Lichtenstein. As far as I can recall, she is the first person from that tiny country next to Switzerland with whom I have ever spoken.
The bus trip up to the Palheiro is spectacular. The road winds ever upwards along the edges of deep ravines. As the road ascends, there are many dramatic views of Funchal and its bay.
The gardens are well-tended and are laid out in a seemingly informal way, in the English garden style. The gardens flourish on slopes overlooking the city far below and a golf course nearby. I do not know enough about trees and flowers, but suffice it to say that the place provides a colourful feast for the eyes.
The Palheiro gardens are laid out in the former estate of the wealthy Count of Carvalhal. The place was purchased in 1885 by the Blandys, a family of British entrepreneurs, bankers, makers of Madeira wine, and merchants who have been important in the development of Madeira’s economy. Part of the gardens retain features laid out by the Count in the 18th century, but much of the rest of the grounds have been developed since then.
Being at about 500 metres, the garden is noticeably cooler than in the centre of Funchal. In fact, during our visit, we were close to the clouds and occasionally felt the moisture contained within them. I am pleased that we visited the Palheiro, but feel that given the profusion of lovely plants all around Funchal, I wonder whether visiting gardens like this one is a ‘must do’ activity unless you have a special interest in gardens and gardening.
The journey between Funchal and Palheiro and my first meeting with a person from Lichtenstein enhanced my trip to the gardens.