Wining, dining and white-knuckle landings in Madeira




Jack's Flight Club ✈️ Travel News & Inspiration

Bonjour, dear JFC-ers,

We’re picking up right where we left off last week with Gordon’s recommendations. Taiwan now firmly on our list, the news that the country wants to pay visitors to come to the country is only making it more alluring. Maybe we can afford that rooftop pool after all…

Less dear and more Ma-deira, our inbox has been overflowing with all your words (mostly) of reassurance and tips for Flight Finder Andreia, who has been hesitating about booking a trip to the Portuguese island. Read on for a realistic picture of flying into the Pearl of the Atlantic, and all the fascinating sights to keep you going while you grip your armrests and take deep breaths on approach.

You’ll also be relieved to know that our Detour Editor, Katy, safely made it back from a wonderful trip to Georgia before this week's unrest broke out. Sure, there were landslides and pitch-black Soviet commuter trains, but what’s an adventure without a few hurdles? We’ll come back to that one once she’s had time to process it all.

To top it all off, we're running a competition over on our Instagram in celebration of our recent Paris launch! To be immersed in the world of Parisian boulangeries, all you need to do is like the post and tag a friend to be in with a chance of winning.

By this, we mean the prize is a croissant-scented candle.

Bonne chance et bon voyage!



Wining, dining and white-knuckle landings

Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lisbon—just a few of the places our readers mentioned touching down in when they expected to land in Madeira. And yet the vast majority of you said it was all worth the white-knuckle ride. Let’s break it down:

The landing

Pilots flying into Funchal need special training, as the strong winds and mountainous landscape of the Atlantic island can certainly pose a challenge:

“You descend over the sea, and when almost touching the waves, the plane does a sharp turn to line up with the runway. Unnerving, but that's just the beginning. First attempt at landing, the plane was rocking badly, and the pilot changed his mind as we almost touched down. We ascended rapidly with engines roaring and passengers green faced. A nun sitting next to me began chanting the rosary and crossing herself. We circled round, ready for a second attempt 20 minutes later. There was complete silence in the cabin. This attempt was even more of a roller coaster ride…” - Mervyn

It’s common for flights to divert to nearby Porto Santo or one of the Canary Islands when conditions are rough. Any unexpected stops tend to be brief, or sometimes result in an overnight stay until the weather changes. Just cross your fingers it’s on the way home, and you get an extra night away!

“My husband and I flew several years ago. Due to high winds, the plane was diverted to Tenerife. Well looked after in an all-inclusive hotel, and flew into Madeira without incident the next day. Only disappointment was we had a missed a day there.” - Prue

So, there’s no denying it might be a bumpy ride. But JFC-er Gillian’s words offer a good summary of how airlines and their pilots deal with flying in and out of Funchal:

“We learned that the island has been thoroughly mapped for every possible computation of wind current, and they have very strict guidelines which will stop flights arriving or departing at the first sign of difficult conditions. As we experienced, the airlines and airport personnel, as well as the island's hotel and hospitality industries, are well-equipped to deal with the resultant chaos, turning the whole thing into a slick adventure. Only highly trained, top-flight (pardon the pun), experienced pilots are permitted to fly there. So you are in good hands all the way.”

The reasons you stick it out…

Like we heard from JFC-er Gordon in last week’s interview, Madeira’s landscapes and nature are unreal. The island’s levada walks are a firm favourite among you outdoorsy types. These trails follow the path of the 15th century channels that were built to capture rainwater in mountainous regions, and carry it to crop fields.

Nowadays, the levadas also act as paths that’ll guide you through the island’s volcanic terrain. Expect an absolute deluge of waterfalls, lush greenery, and even views from above the clouds.

Just prepare yourself for a leg workout…

“Lovely island as long as you don't mind hills - whichever way you go, it always seems to be uphill!” - Lynne & Martyn

And that goes for when you’re road tripping around the island too:

“Hiring a car and driving up to the mountain tops is an amazing experience. You really feel on top of the world. We booked from a place near our apartment and got a great car for a good rate. By great car, I mean one that has an engine fit for the steep hills, a phone-attachable Sat Nav and a foot operated safety brake.” - Des & Les

Hiring a car is a must (“It kills me that some people go here and don’t hire a car to get around the island and check out all the different landscapes!” - Barney). Without it, you’ll have a harder time reaching quaint old villages like Santana, with its brightly-coloured, thatched-roof houses.

The lava pools in Porto Moniz in the north are an essential stop on your route, too. Perched right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the pools formed naturally around 6,000 years ago, and offer a calm and protected area, where you can bob around at your leisure without being swept out to sea. The water stays pretty warm all year round, but it is salty—so maybe don’t travel with anyone who thinks unsolicited dunking is fun.

The island is well-connected by buses, but half the fun here is taking the scenic routes through volcanic rock formations and along the coastal cliff-side roads. And playing a game of rock, paper, scissors to see who is designated driver next time you pass a vineyard on the wine route!

Short trips to Madeira tend to involve focusing on Funchal, though—and that’s nothing to be sorry about. Put it this way: not one of you who got in touch complained about the food scene, with reader Akhil calling it “insane” (we’ll take it that’s a good thing).

Clearly someone who knows their food, Akhil’s top restaurant tip for Funchal is Kampo by Chef Julio Pereira. The kitchen is the focus here, right in the centre of the room, so you’re in for an experience that is as much about the visual show in the kitchen as it is about a treat for your taste buds.

Unsurprisingly, the iconic Monte Toboggan Run got a couple of mentions too. JFC-er Joel summed up the whole event fairly concisely: “There’s also some blokes that push you down a hill in a wicker basket”. We should point out that they only do it upon request!

However, we also received one great piece of advice for anyone keen to find out what it’s like to be at the mercy of the men in white:

“The iconic Madeira Slide—be very careful, as the queues when we were there in November were 3 hours long. We later learned that it was because there were two cruise ships in.” - Jacqui

Sounds like keeping an eye on CruiseMapper is a handy trick for avoiding the cruise crowds while you’re there! It’s also just kinda fun to see who’s sailing on by.

The alternative

Levadas and toboggan runs aside, we get that anxious fliers might not be ready for the trip. Thankfully, Joel gets it and has some top advice for how to spend your time off:

“You could always stay at home and get some Madeira wine, and that’d probably be as good/better than going. We should all be flying less anyway, so if you’re afraid, maybe you could just reframe that as climate anxiety and people would probably think you’re a really good person, and you’d save some money.”

We can’t argue with that logic. But June (aged 62 ¾) is here with one last-ditch attempt to get us all to Madeira:

“We have just got back from Madeira and had the most fabulous two weeks and one day holiday. The people are so gentle and kind. And the mountains, terrains and botanical gardens are so beautiful…

Is it worth the risk? Definitely so. Madeira has a healing energy, one that I can’t describe, and the reason why people keep going back year in year out. Hence why there are a lot of older clientele who seem oblivious to the hills and mountains when booking their holidays here year in year out!

It was our first time together there and after such a magical holiday it won’t be our last. I trust I can inspire you to go to the magical island of Madeira.


Around The States In 50 Editions: Kentucky

Each week in 2023, we’ll be going on a whirlwind tour of a different randomly selected US state. This week, we’re heading to Kentucky.

Let’s address the elephant in the room right away—or should we say chicken? Kentucky is the home of KFC, but aside from a selfie with the OG restaurant and a whirl round the Sanders Museum, you’ll surely want to look beyond the red and white buckets.

Letting the chicken lead the way isn’t such a bad idea for a road trip along the Fried Chicken Trail. Look out for special Sunday buffets and weekly fried chicken dinners to ensure you get the local experience. Or if you’d rather get all your chicken out of the way in one go, wing your way over to the World Chicken Festival held in London, Kentucky, each September.

Bellies full, hoping never to see another piece of chicken again, take time in Louisville to pay your respects to the man who got you into this mess in the first place - Colonel Sanders. When visiting Cave Hill Cemetery, don’t forget to bring along a sachet or two of ketchup, as has become the customary tribute. Other notable graves include Muhammad Ali and popular Louisville magician, Harry L. Collins. No condiments required there.

All of Louisville’s most intriguing sights tend to verge on somewhat creepy. The Waverly Hills Sanatorium is one for paranormal enthusiasts, while the Pope Lick Trestle Bridge is more than just a funny name. Said to be home to a horned monster with the body of a man and lower torso of a goat, the site has a deadly reputation. Most likely because monster-hunters get themselves into sticky situations, and not because of any actual monsters.

Thankfully, the city’s abandoned mine (aka Mega Cavern) has been repurposed to give locals their thrills in a more controlled way. If you like the thought of a 2-hour zip-lining adventure deep below the city, there’s no better place.

For more traditional caving adventures, you’ll want to head south to Mammoth Cave National Park. It only has the longest known cave system in the world, so no big deal, really. As well as getting lost in underground labyrinths, the park offers miles of hiking trails, rivers ripe for kayaking and fishing, and excellent conditions for a spot of stargazing come nightfall.


Our Pick Of The Clicks

All the important (or silly, or strange) travel news from across the web this week.

Anyone still hanging on to compensation vouchers for flights cancelled during the pandemic might want to check those expiry dates! Airlines like British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and easyJet are all sitting on millions of pounds in unclaimed vouchers, many of which are only good for another 6 months.

London City Airport is going boldly where no UK airport has gone before and scrapping the 100ml liquids rule—in time for the Easter holidays! New 3D scanners will be put in place by the end of March, at which point you can stop downing your bottles of water before security.

It’s the end of an era for Toblerone. Some production of the Duty Free favourite will soon be moved to Slovakia, at which point, it will no longer be considered Swiss enough to bear the distinctive Matterhorn silhouette on its packaging. Thankfully, this shouldn’t affect our airport snacking in any way.

Is the age of the ‘Mileage Run’ dead? Back in the ‘90s and ‘00s, taking extra flights to earn bonus airline miles wasn’t uncommon. Nowadays, the thought seems not only outright luxurious, but also awful for the environment. This week, The Hustle dug right into it to see if elite members are still making those trips.

And finally, what will the new passage discovered inside the Great Pyramid of Giza unveil? Researchers investigating the corridor believe it leads to a seemingly empty room, but they’re holding out hope that they’ll discover the burial chamber of King Khufu.

After 4,500 years, it’s safe to say they may be in de-Nile