I’ve been meaning to write this for ages: my ultimate Funchal, Madeira travel guide. Madeira is a gorgeous island in Portugal and Funchal is its much-underrated capital. It’s one of the few places I keep returning to year after year. I first went for guaranteed winter sun in February and I’ve been back not just for the sun, but for the beautiful scenery, culture and food.
Funchal as a city is amazing and probably not at all what you’d expect. Sweeping boulevards, a harbour to stroll down, flowers everywhere. What more do you want? An airport that you land in over the sea and feel like you’re about to die? Got that covered, too.
It’s also deceptively large – almost an optical illusion, in that you can think something is fairly close by but actually takes ages to walk to because of the steep roads. It’s got some of the prettiest architecture I’ve seen, but never feels built up because you can always see the sea.
We gorged on udon noodles until we could hardly walk round the gardens in Takamatsu, Japan. This is obviously an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
Takamatsu isn’t somewhere we’d ever heard of. We’ve actually never heard of anyone going there. But it was on our way back from an incredible long weekend on the art island of Naoshima and our friend Tom was in charge of our lives and knew we would like it so off we went.
We had a day trip to Himeji Castle, Japan as part of our two-week trip in January. It’s considered Japan’s most beautiful castle, towering over the city with its pure white facade and silvery grey tiles. Its exterior has a real castle-based wow factor. Like lots of this sort of thing in Japan, it’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site and official National Treasure.
We also saw loads of cats.
As part of our fantastic trip in January, we had a day of deer and Buddha in Nara, Japan. We did this day trip from where we were staying in Kobe. Nara’s Todaiji Temple is one of Japan’s most famous temples, home to a ginormous 15-metre high bronze Buddha. But Nara is most famous for its tame, free-roaming deer, whose cuteness has made the city a popular tourist destination.
You can follow a pilgrimage route to the temple via loads of cute Bambis. And if that doesn’t sound like a good day out to you, we’re no longer friends.
One day in Kobe, Japan is not enough to view everything this floral, coastal and mountainous city has to offer. But here’s a few things you absolutely have to see and do (and of course, eat). We cover the Shin-Kobe ropeway, Kobe Nunobiki herb gardens, Kitano (European-style area), Nankinmachi (Kobe’s Chinatown), Flower Road, shopping and Kobe port harbour at night.
Naoshima art island, Japan, is an off-the-beaten path destination perfect for a second visit to Japan. Sculptures, installations and modern art galleries are everywhere. It’s thoroughly immersive, completely different and somewhere we will never forget.
We stayed in Naoshima for a long weekend, which felt about right. It was part of our Japan trip that lasted for two weeks in January (#Japanuary). This is the first post in our series on Japan. We’re lucky enough to have friends there so get a local’s unique insight into the country when we go. Hopefully this should make for some good blog posts for (all three of) our readers, too.