Reid's Palace

Madeira


By Gloria Tessler, March 15, 2012
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The 120-year-old Reid's Palace is the most celebrated hotel on the island. Built on a cliff overlooking the bay of Funchal, it is filled with memorabilia: photographs of prominent visitors, such as Sir Winston Churchill, who came here to recover from the ravages of war.

It has a quintessentially English colonial spirit. In the lobby, 1920s posters still advertise the Union Castle for luxury travel to England. Afternoon tea on the terrace is accompanied by live piano music. There is blue Delft china in the showcases and a shop, The Orient Express, sells the story of the Titanic. There are art nouveau murals, white cane chairs in the balconies and a two-acre sweep of sub-tropical gardens - flowering all year with hanging vines, geraniums, hibiscus, bougainvillea and rhododendron - leading down from the swimming pool into the discreetly hidden, and aromatic, spa. There is a bright and modern playroom with computers and a karaoke disco, with a Matisse on the wall.

The hotel is a labyrinth of lounges and restaurants, including the famous Villa Cipriani. Much of the décor retains its original style, despite refurbishment. The garden room downstairs is pure blue and white art nouveau.

It is owned by the Orient Express, but its English roots come from William Reid, who arrived in Funchal at the age of 14, made his fortune and bought it in 1887.

Churchill's elegant presidential suite is just as it was. One of his landscape paintings greets you as you enter. He probably mused over it on his black and white tiled balcony, sitting on a white cane chair, puffing on a cigar with a glass of Madeira wine. You can stay there for a cool £2,000 a night, but there are cheaper rooms at £225 from January to March 31.

Rates: £225; Tel: 0845 077 2222

    Last updated: 11:55am, March 15 2012