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Picked Regency Cliff hotel as reviews were good and it certainly didn't disappoint. Relatively small and very friendly. Good location on sea front with easy shuttle or fast and frequent bus access to centre of Funchal. Room was huge, very well appointed and very quiet and comfortable. Hotel food was disappointing although - as vegetarians - we'd expected that in Madeira. However there were several very good restaurants within walking distance of hotel with good vege selection (Casa Italia and Sabor Indian Restaurant were especially good). Funchal is a very nice city, the old town in particular. We'd chosen Madeira for the Gardens and the hill and lavada walking. The Blandy Garden to the East of the town was beautiful and the Gardens at Monte were also impressive but the Botanical gardens in town were slightly disappointing. The cable car ride from the Botanical Gardens to Monte is spectacular though - more impressive than the more expensive Old Town to Monte cable car.
We ended up going on a couple of organised walks with Madeira Explorers (booked through the Thomson hotel rep) as the floods in February had damaged many of the lavadas and made going it alone a bit risky! We did the Lakes of Madeira lavada walk, which was lovely - and the Peaks walk between Madeira's 3 highest mountain peaks which was astonishingly beautiful, with jaw dropping scenery wherever you looked.
The walks were undoubtedly the highlight of the holiday but it's certainly not somewhere you'd go for a lively night life - we were surprised by just how old most of the holidaymakers were, at times Madeira felt like a huge Saga holiday camp!
The other thing worth mentioning is that our one week holiday was forcibly extended by three days due to the volcanic ash cloud and I cannot speak highly enough of the way Thomson dealt with the crisis. All their affected customers (around 600 people on the day we were due to leave) were found places in good hotels with all accomodation, breakfast and evening meals covered by Thomsons.
The Regency Cliff is a superb hotel and has a nice relaxed atmosphere. Most visitors seemed to disappear during the day and returned to the hotel mid afternoon therefore we had the pool to ourselves quite a lot, which is just as well because the pool is quite small. We found that the pool bar wasn't manned all the time, therefore, if you want a drink or meal you might have to wait 5 or 10 minutes for service....but it's woth waiting for because the food is top class. The hotel also had a 3 or 4 night meal deal at a reduced rate on offer, however we opted to dine out most nights...recommend Pedra & Sal (turn left outside the hotel, take the next road on the left and follow the road round and you'll find a small selction of restaurants including Pedra's).
The nightlife was a bit too low key for our taste, but if you fancy some entertainment then I would recommend Thomsons Casino trip. You get a a five star meal with a show and then dancing afterwards. We also went on the Taste of Funchal trip too, although in retrospect we should have made our own arrangements for the cable car and toboggan ride as we would have liked to have spent some time in Monte rather than going on to the Embroidery Factory and Fish and Flower market which were part of the tour.
Funchal is definitely very pretty and so green, but ensure that you've got comfy shoes because if you walk any distance your bound to find a steep hill crosses you path.
All in all we enjoyed our holiday and have no hesitation in recommending the Regency Cliff if all you want from your holiday is some rest and relaxation, however, if you want a bit more going on of a night time you might want to consider a larger hotel with a bit more in-house entertainment.
I understand Thomson may not be using this hotel next year. They would be very foolish to drop it. It is a hotel which really tries to please its guests and not take them for granted. This is the only hotel I ever have stayed in where the manager (a woman, naturally) lays on a cocktail party for guests and takes the trouble to speak to EACH ONE personally. I cannot fault this hotel. It's location makes it ideal for older travellers, close to shops and public transport without having to hike up a hill. The staff are superb, friendly and helpful. The evening entertainment (violinist serenading us at dinner, local folk dancing group who were great fun, and a pianist/singer) added to our enjoyment but might not appeal to younger travellers. We did Thomson's three tour package which we thoroughly enjoyed.
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