At Reid’s Palace – coral and cream pillars, chequerboard-tile floor, tinkling piano – you could be in the Twenties. Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw or any other of the hotel’s celebrated guests might stroll in at any minute, take a seat at their usual table and probably order their usual cocktail, too. The Avista is, by contrast, distinctly 2020s: a plate-glass and steel restaurant overlooking a garden in which cane sofas with funky cushions are hidden away under russet canvas awnings. I am tempted to say that this is like a microcosm of Madeira past and Madeira present. But the truth about this far southerly outpost of Portuguese culture in the middle of the Atlantic is not so simple.
Madeira has changed quite a bit in the two decades since I was last here. However, it has not gone, nor is it going, in the direction of Dubai, Marrakech or some other smart-set hip spot.
They want more young people to come, certainly, but they would prefer to see them in Lycra shorts and old trainers rather than strapless dresses and high heels. Madeira in 2021 is set on re-inventing itself as a