The old man sits on the veranda of the imposing manor house and looks up at the mighty cedars that have placed themselves like two watchtowers in front of the lush banana trees. He has dressed up a bit, because she loves it when he wears a suit and who could refuse her this wish. Of course, he ordered a Gin Tonic, which is now ceremonially mixed into the right proportion before his eyes. „Isn’t it wonderful here?“ he whispers more to himself, because in his right hand lies the golden Montblanc, which reflects on life for him. They have been coming here for many years now, so that the Quinta da Casa Branca has become part of their history.
On the one hand, there is the historic Manor House with its massive fireplace, the imposing Dining Room and the magnificent veranda, which makes every evening a romantic event. Then there is the Casa da Quinta Bar, where they laughed a lot and had one or two discussions that she always won in the end. And, of course, the botanical garden with its 260 different species of plants, which envelops this property like a little paradise and carries memories that won’t let him go.
The 43 rooms are timeless and skilfully designed by the architect Joao Favila Menezes, so that in the past they simply walked from the terrace to the park to visit one of the two beautiful pools. Today, he enjoys the view from the balcony of his premium room, which, with 55 square meters, offers every comfort one could wish for. She has always loved the large bathroom in white marble to make herself beautiful in her own realm, for him. As if she had ever needed it, he thinks to himself today and makes a little note with his Montblanc pen.
Today they have a gym, with such fashionable things as indoor cycling or spinning. There is even a Jacuzzi and a sauna for cooler days at Quinta da Casa Branca, but he likes to leave that to the other guests, because their common space is the beautiful outdoor pool, which has been placed right in the middle of the banana terraces. In the past, they often walked with the gardeners among the perennials to follow the path of the water, which here flows down the slope in small waterways called levadas. With a smile he observes a small group of guests, curious and interested in following their beloved ritual. He remembers how she used to pester the gardeners with questions, only to end up taking a nap on her garden lounger.
He puts the Montblanc aside and reaches for the card, which is marked with his name, just like every morning and evening. There are such wonderful dishes as the smoked tuna with passion fruit vinaigrette or the crispy duck breast with blackcurrant sauce, which he is particularly fond of. When it came to dessert, they always agreed: it had to be the Banana Tart, served after 15 minutes in the oven, warm and creamy, and so delicious with a glass of Madeira wine. Each evening is like a small opera in three acts, leaving plenty of time for discovery and conversation.
He is in a hurry this morning, because a day full of natural wonders and memories is on the program. Breakfast almost gets in his way, but how could he do without his Eggs Benedict, salmon or fresh bread with spread? In order to lose as little time as possible, he has brought his backpack for today’s excursion and immediately sets off for the end of the island, to Ponta de Sao Lourenco, where he wants to hike around the 6 km long coastal section to Morro do Furado. Madeira presents itself here from its barren, volcanic side and lets the steep coast meet the sea directly.
Again and again, views open up that take your breath away, so that he has to struggle for air not only because of the many steps. Don’t go too close to the abyss, he hears her calling, but the voice is simply carried away by the wind. He treats himself to a small beer at the Casa do Sardinho and soon sets off on his way back, because he still has a lot to do. With a smile he has to think of his blue notebook, which will be overflowing with impressions tonight. His next stop leads him to the lookout point at Eira do Serrado, where one looks deep down to the small village in the valley of nuns, which is almost crushed by the mighty mountain ridges of Madeira’s highest peak. Admittedly, this had always been her magical place, because she loved this mountain world so much, even though she could no longer take on the famous hike to Pico Ruivo. He was drawn back to the sea, to Camara de Lobos, probably the most typical fishing village in Madeira. The colorful boats here create an impressive contrast to the black-burning ocean and the green slopes of banana trees. The boats are much too small to carry a person out into the open sea, he hears her voice and has to smile involuntarily. They are feeder boats, he always says, because of course you can’t catch tuna in these bathtubs. It’s time to lock up for today and so he goes back to the old town of Funchal to experience one last little adventure.
With the cable car of the Teleférico do Funchal you get up to the mountain village Monte, from where the capital of the island lies at our feet. The view from the beautifully situated church of Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Monte is a place for dreamers and connoisseurs and at the same time the starting point for the wildest descent in all of Madeira. He has always dismissed the traditional ride in a basket sled as tourist fun, but in the end, she has won every time, being pulled and pushed down towards the old town by two carreiros. This time he didn’t make a face when he sat down and looked into the confident eyes of his two pilots, who can ride down the track in their sleep. It is ready to go, he gives the signal to start and hears one last time her whooping and cheering as they go around the corners and curbs of the narrow streets of Funchal at high speed.
„The Gin Tonic as always with Hendrick’s“ the polite waiter asks and already knows the answer. He is back at his regular place on the veranda of the Manor House, which the Leacock family built in the late 1940s, and looks back on the day. „Did you like it, my dear?“ he asks her, in his dry, unagitated way that sometimes drove her to despair. But the place next to him is empty. She left him long ago, but her spirit lives on for him in all these wonderful places. The old man sits on the porch and writes in his blue notebook: „If only you could have seen me today”.
This article was written at the invitation of the Hotel Quinta da Casa Branca in Funchal. The story is fictitious, but it was inspired by a guest who will be sitting on the veranda of the Manor House again today to write something down in his blue notebook.