Great Places to Stay
- Reid's Hotel, Madeira
Travel writer Vivien Devlin visits Madeira to stay at the legendary Grand Hotel, Reid's Palace - founded by the Scottish entrepreneur, William Reid in 1891 - where guests escape to a bygone era of elegant sophistication, afternoon tea on the terrace and old fashioned romance.
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Getting There"On the 26th December (1924) we sail for Madeira," George Bernard Shaw notified his great friend and fellow playwright, William Archer. "My wife expects me to return in the middle of February", he continued, "but my private intention is never to come back... "
The journey from England to Madeira for Shaw and his wife Charlotte, on board the liner, the Edinburgh Castle, took around three days. Anchoring in the bay just off Funchal, the ship would have been welcomed by an armada of small boats in which to transport the passengers ashore. Reid's Palace then had its own landing ferry from which guests would climb the steep steps up through the tropical gardens before eventually reaching the luxurious comforts of the hotel drawing rooms for a reviving cup of tea - or more likely a stiff drink in the cocktail bar. This was to be Shaw's home for the next six weeks.
In 2001 the journey time from London to Madeira - (now boasting a recently refurbished airport with an expanded runway and sparkling new and spacious terminal building) - is just over three hours. My partner, Ken, and I flew with TAP, the Portuguese airline and after a most comfortable flight, cosseted with attentive, friendly service, a delicious supper of salad, fish, cheese and desert, together with our first taste of the spicy Portuguese 'tinto' wine, and coffee, we arrived on the "the floating garden of the Atlantic".
At around 8pm the sun was beginning to sink behind the mist-shrouded hills above, as we were driven into the capital, Funchal. Our driver pointed out various places of interest as we came into the town, the marina, botanical gardens, and then he pointed high up to the cliff on the far side of the bay - "That is the Reetz" he declared with great pride in his voice. I was rather puzzled, having never heard of a Ritz Hotel on the island. But then the obvious truth dawned as our sleek black Mercedes swept in through the iron gates and into the palm tree lined drive of Reid's Palace, or according to the local pronunciation, the Reetz.
But while the Ritz has a reputation for standard and service the world over, you may find one in many a major European city. Reid's Palace on the other hand has always been unique and in a class and style of its own."There are many hotels, there are a few good hotels, there is only one Reid's Hotel". Prince Leon of Lignac ( entry in the visitors' Golden Book)
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