This hotel comes as near perfection as one could reasonably expect: quality and attention to detail, friendly, quietly efficient, but not intrusive service, beautiful gardens and a delightful pool. Every aspect of our stay at the Quinta Jardins do Lago was first class.
This is a relatively small Quinta tucked away in residential streets above the centre of Funchal, high enough to provide a lovely view of the mountains and a peaceful, green retreat from the city bustle, but close enough to allow a brief taxi ride to the main attractions. The hotel also provides a complimentary shuttle service to the centre, which is run by the staff themselves rather than being shared with other hotels. This reflects one of the keys to the success of Quinta Jardins do Lago: it is small enough (c. 40 rooms) to offer a personal and individual service. Staff take a real pride in ensuring that their guests feel like true guests, rather than customers (while of course there is a bill to be paid at the end of the stay!).
The building itself is a smooth combination of the traditional (with the original Quinta as its core) with modern comfort. The bedroom wing where our spacious room was situated has been renovated, with high quality bathrooms and furnishings that seemed new, and in perfect condition, but in keeping with the traditional feel. The wooden panelling has been retained throughout the hotel, perfectly restored.
Breakfast is served in the airy dining room with the option of a verandah and further tables outside in the sub-tropical gardens - a lovely way of starting the day. Again, the small number of guests (although the hotel seems to be full all the time) meant that we were never disappointed in finding table outside. From breakfast, it is a gentle stroll down to the pool, cleverly designed with both a covered and open area, again surrounded by the lush gardens. It seemed to us that most guests simply move from restaurant to pool, to poolside bar (fantastic apple cake, among the varied menu), to balcony and then drift down to dinner - there seemed no need to go anywhere else in Funchal. Well, actually we did have one quibble: despite the civilised atmosphere provided by the hotel, some guests were less than well mannered, indeed fiercely territorial, in their attitude to the sun loungers round the pool. The convention of placing a towel, a hat, or even a single book on a lounger, as a sign of ownership, and then strenuously defending your little kingdom against all comers, even whilst spending hours away from the lounger, did spoil the equable atmosphere - and was the only element that threatened to sour our otherwise idyllic stay. We learned to fight dirty of course, with my husband rushing down to the pool as soon as he woke in the mornings, to claim any free loungers he could find - but others had always been there before him, so we never got the best location. How sad that travellers with the discernment to choose this elegant and refined Quinta, could be so selfish and petty - proving, perhaps, that it truly was human nature that put an end to Adam and Eve's stay in the Garden of Eden.
However, it seems that nothing can disturb the equanimity of Columbus, the 60 year old Galapgos tortoise, who has been resident at Quinta Jardins do Lago since well before most of the paying guests were born - and he has the prospect of another 60 years of life to enjoy these beautiful surroundings. Lucky Columbus!
We did take a couple of trips out - one to view the old fortress a little way down the street, which has fantastic views of Funchal and the port below; and the other to the Botanical gardens, which are a curious mixture, some areas quite neglected and others carefully tended - with an amazing display of cactuses being the highlight for us. But you might want to miss out the "Bird Park", within the Botanical Gardens, which is a forlorn and depressing series of little cages occupied by miserable looking parrots and parakeets, with scarcely a green leaf between them all. On a previous trip to Madeira, we had been to the Palace gardens at Monte, above Funchal (easiest reached by cable car), and I would recommend these instead of the Botanical Gardens (which are still up high, but well below Monte itself).
Ask for a room on the first floor or above (there are only 3 floors), as the ground floor balconies...
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