There are a lot of flight deals lately to Lisbon and Madeira and I think that having a reason to travel, in addition to beaches, shopping and nightlife, is a motivation and an excitement. I personally think like this about travels and I always wanted to visit Madeira to follow the steps of Winston Churchill and especially his paintings.
In November 1949, Churchill telegraphed Bryce Nairn, the British consul in Madeira, and enquired about “warm, paintable, bathable, comfortable, flowery, hotels etc. We are revolving plans. Keep all secret.” His intention was to spend a few weeks there to recoup; to work on The Hinge of Fate, fourth volume of his war memoirs; and, of course, to paint. He was in Madeira for the New Year of 1950 accompanied by Clementine, his daughter Diana, his literary assistant Bill Deakin, secretaries Jill Sturdee and Elizabeth Gilliatt, and two Special Branch detectives. But his vacation was cut short by Prime Minister Attlee’s announcement of a General Election to be held on February 23rd. He departed for London on January 12th, although Clementine stayed on in Madeira—he telegraphed her on the 16th, “Hope all has been pleasant, here nothing but toil and moil.”
Madeira offers many historic sites to the determined Churchillian…
• The Madeira Wine Lodge: Located in the capital of Funchal, in a 17th Century Franciscan Monastery. Home to the largest Madeira producer, The Madeira Wine Company (Blandy’s, Leacock’s, Miles etc.). In the wine museum are letters from wellknown people, including three from Churchill, expressing thanks for gifts of wine.
• Reid’s Hotel: Owned by the Blandy wine family and located in Funchal, Reid’s is recognized as one of the great hotels of the world. As we would expect from someone “easily satisfied with the best,” this was the Hotel Churchill chose for his painting holiday in 1950. A committed Churchillian would want to stay in the Churchill Suite, although there is one little drawback: the price is 1,700 euros ($2,000/£1200) per night, not including breakfast. Ornately beautiful, its bathrooms in rose-pink marble, Reid’s is truly a beautiful retreat.
• Camara de Lobos is is a small coastal town where Churchill painted. Practicing good marketing, the owners affixed a plaque on the wall of the “Churchill Restaurante,” which shows exactly where he worked. Plans are said to be underway to build a hotel, but the name has not been chosen. This writer will chance a guess at the eventual title: “The Churchill Hotel”!
• Cabo Girao: At 580 meters, this is the highest sea cliff in Europe. A small photographic museum is located at the site and the largest photograph is one of Churchill painting at Camara de Lobos, Detective Sergreant Eddie Murray adjusting his umbrella
Madeira is a favorite holiday spot for Europeans but not for North Americans. This is a good time for the people of the New World to rediscover this idyllic spot in the Old.