Hands up if you love hotels?
The clean white corners of the bed linen, the bouncy fresh towels piled in the bathroom, the soaps you have to unwrap as if they’re a gift… oh and what’s that? A robe and slippers! Yes!
This is me everytime I stay in a hotel that is 4 or 5 stars. I love hotels. I love being shocked at the price of water from the mini bar; I love flicking through the TV channels to find only two English language channels (always MTV and CNN!); and I even love picking up the phone and arranging a wake up call for 4 o’clock in the morning. But I’ll get to that later…
First I want to take you back to Madeira, that luscious, tropical Portuguese island in the middle (ish) of the Atlantic where the sun shines 300 days a year and the sea stretches as far as your eye can see. I was there to enjoy and write about Rota das Estrelas, a Portuguese food festival that was hosted by The Cliff Bay, a five star hotel. While I stayed in the hotel’s sister resort, Porto Mare, I had unrestricted access to the facilities in both and I wasted little time enjoying these in both.
My hotel room was generous in size and comfort and thanks to mild March temperatures in Madeira, I slept with my balcony doors open and fell asleep to the hush of palm trees swaying. When I woke I stepped outside – eating a banana from the complimentary fruit basket – and wondered if it would be warm enough to use the swimming pool I was looking down on. I didn’t need to worry; there was a heated indoor poor just two floors beneath me.
At breakfast I joined my colleagues and thought they were joking when they said they’d just got yoghurt from the “Low Calorie Corner”, but they weren’t and I thought what a nice touch that was. As much as I love hotel breakfast buffets, they can easily mean I double my daily calorie intake before I’ve even left the hotel. Just as well because lunches were equally as tasty at the Cliff Bay…
Aside from an array of restaurants – including my favourite sea front bar at the foot of the impressive jut of rock that gives Cliff Bay it’s name – more swimming pools than I could count and two well-equipped fitness centres, I was lucky enough to “test” the Spa at Cliff Bay with an 80 minute Face, Back & Scalp Treatment. Essentially a facial and massage, I emerged from the treatment room feeling about ten years younger than when I walked in and I looked perhaps a few months younger too! It’s worth sharing that I noticed that the spa treatments on offer were considerably cheaper (€69-109) than other luxury hotel spas I’ve visited though the quality and rich experience wasn’t at all diluted. If anything, this was one of the best treatments I’ve had. Cliff Bay also offer special spa suite packages too that were priced very reasonably.
Speaking of which, regular shuttle buses took us to and from the Cliff Bay and when it was time to explore Funchal – more on that soon! – the bus also took us right into the centre of town, dropping us off opposite the famous Mercado dos Lavradores.
A gentle word of advice, both hotels are more catered towards couples or family travel as opposed to a girlie holiday or get away with friends. That’s not to say you wouldn’t enjoy staying here if you were in a group, but these are relaxing hotels and guests are more inclined to read books in the hotel gardens than they are beer pong by the pool, if you catch my drift! It’s certainly true that the hotel isn’t without its charm or character. In fact, I would say the opposite is true as I spent one morning discovering the exotic orchid garden in Porto Mare, topped only by the seaviews on offer just a few steps away. I also enjoyed watching the kestrel and his keeper take on the task of keeping pigeons away from the breakfast terrace in the most impressive way!
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise how special the Cliff Bay and Porto Bay hotels were. Here you have resort style hotels in a city location, with incredible, soothing seaviews. If you’re the kind of girl who can’t pick between a city break and a beach holiday… Madeira and either of these two hotels solve this lovely problem for you.
And so it was with a heavy heart that I had to phone up for a 4am wake up call to catch my early morning flight off the island. I trundled to the lobby with eyes still half shut and expected little in the way of a goodbye. Instead I got a warm handshake and was escorted to my taxi.
“We hope to see you again soon!” The night-time receptionist called after me.
Man, I love hotels…