If you read my previous blog on Porto Santo, I had mistakenly arrived on an island off the coast of Morocco, instead of being on mainland Portugal. Porto Santo does have the name Porto in it, but make sure you check where you are flying so you don’t make the same mistake as I did. I felt like a complete clown, but had to take advantage of this mistake.
I walked out of the airport and there were no taxis into town. The walk would have been around 45 minutes downhill, but I was in no mood. The information booth lady called a taxi for me and it cost me 13 Euros to go a distance of around 5km or so. It seemed too much, but I noticed that the meter started at 5.9 Euros. Perhaps, that is because she called the taxi, but I was in no mood of arguing.
I got to Areia Dourado Hotel which I booked through Booking.com at the airport and checked in immediately. It was a no frill hotel probably between 2 to 3 stars, but I had my own room, private bathroom, balcony, small TV and breakfast for the price of 55 Euros. If it were for two, it would have been a bargain deal. I dropped my stuff off and headed towards the city center immediately, since it was already 7:30pm. I only had a couple more hours of daylight. There was only one main road and the walk was around 25 minutes. The weather was cloudy and it could have rained any moment, but it did not. The good news was that it was not hot nor humid, a great temperature to run outside at 20 degrees. Of course, I did not run.
There was nothing much along the main road. I passed 3 hotels, 4 restaurants and mainly houses and apartments until the center. Talking about the center, don’t expect anything exciting, since it reminded me of a center in a very small town.
To give you a brief background, Porto Santo has a population of around 4500 inhabitants and they have a strange Portuguese accent. She is known as the “Golden Island” due to its dry, sandy landscape and the magnificent golden sandy beach with crystal waters. I do have to agree that the sandy beach looked nice, but the water color was nothing close to the Pacific or the Caribbean. I did not go into the water, but I’m sure the water temperature must have been cold.
I took a stroll to the 50 meter or so dock, where a few people were taking their pre-dinner walk. If not walking, the others were pretty much sitting around having coffee or having a drink at the bar. The lady at the airport told me that the island will be full of people from Madeira and Europe, but it felt more like a Sunday morning at 8am in Paris.
The center was so small that I made a loop in 5 minutes. I decided to go to the supermarket to grab some food for Sunday, expecting nothing to be open on Sundays. The supermarket prices were reasonable, very similar to prices in Paris. I expected to be more expensive, since it was an island. After buying my simple groceries, I went back to the hotel to get online and figure out what to do with my next move.
The hotel was pretty small with a maximum of around 20 rooms. I started asking questions to the reception lady, but she spoke very little English. I communicated to her with my rusty Portuguese or more like Portunol (Portuguese and Spanish mixed), and was amazed how a lady working in tourism barely spoke English. Despite the language barrier, I was able to get all the information.
I went to bed early and went sightseeing the next day. After a mediocre breakfast (at least this one was way better than the hostel breakfast), I went left of the hotel heading towards Ponta da Calheta.
Once again, there was nothing much to see on this side of the island as well. I saw a big mountain on the right hand side called Pico de Ana Ferreira. It looked high, but it was only 283 meters. There was a golf course on the right hand side, but it was up in the hill so I did not have a chance to go that way. There were a bunch of houses, apartments, and a few hotels. I don’t think I saw any restaurants that way.
After walking about 40 minutes, I took a left towards the beach. The beach looked pretty nice with a handful of people only. I noticed that the hotel beach chairs were completely empty. I wondered if the place gets busy during July or August. It was absolutely dead in June!
I walked back towards my hotel, but this time, next to the waves. It was a peaceful and quiet walk, as I reflected my journey for the last month. I passed around 6 people during my 40-minute walk back and had to get ready to get on the 2pm ferry to Madeira Island. I got my backpacks (weighing around 25kg/55 pounds in total) and walked from the hotel to the center called Cidade Vila Baleira. The other night, I made this leisurely walk in around 20 minutes, but this time with the backpacks, it was difficult. I advise not to do the walk with that much weight, since my back was in pain!
There was really not much in the center. It was a Sunday so the locals were just coming out of service around 12:30pm. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Piedade seemed like the main church, while there was a square with benches and a few restaurants. I had to take a breather, so I had lunch at one of the restaurants there. They had the “meal of the day” for 6.5 Euros, which was a piece of meat with veggies on the side. It was nothing spectacular, but everyone seemed to be eating there. Upon taking a few pictures and connecting to the free internet (free internet at the square), I headed towards the ferry terminal.
There was a bus from the center to the ferry terminal, but I was not aware when it would show up, so I went for the 30-minute walk. The walk was pretty difficult with the bags, but the view was magnificent. I saw the ferry dock from a distance and as I got closer, I passed a nice sandy beach, an extension of the entire south coastline and a marina that had some fishing boats. Taxis were zipping past me at over 60 km hour and I was fighting to get there on time, since the boat was leaving at 2pm. I got there at 1:45pm, the last person to board and was exhausted.
The ferry was around 50 meters long, 5 floors high and the view from the outdoor deck was amazing. I was able to see Porto Santo from one corner to the other. There were many levels of seats and the interior of the ferry was well decorated. I sat down in front of the movie screen and watched a movie until the Confederation Cup soccer game came on. Portugal was playing Mexico and all the Portuguese were glued to the TV. At this point, I had no idea that I was heading to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Island.
Visited in June 2017.