By Amanda Bown
At over 100 years old, Reid's Palace in Funchal, Madeira, has enough old world charm to appeal to the traditional guest, while still appealing to a younger crowd. The amenities are modern, and the entire staff are as attentive as you'd wish. You can't fail to be impressed by the Palace's stunning coastal and cliff-edged location; the sound of the waves is audible wherever you are in the hotel. Interiors are grand and old-school in parts, with an overall classical feel. You'll find grand pianos at various places, just waiting for someone to jump on and start a song. We were particularly impressed with the traditional afternoon tea served from the terrace - the selection of cakes and treats is enough to tempt anyone from their sun loungers. The odd water sprinkler from the huge sub-tropical gardens surrounding the palace brings even more refreshment from the sun, along with the sounds of joyous birdsong. The spa is large and, unusually, full of natural daylight. We found this rather refreshing and a departure from the usual spa look of darkness and candlelight. All treatment rooms have a private terrace with an ocean view, complete with French windows and white curtains which shimmer in the sea breeze. This means your treatment is done to the actual sounds of the sea's crashing waves - not a CD of them playing in the background. We had the Signature Spa Treatment (140 for 75 minutes) which uses natural, indigenous ingredients, such as aloe vera, camphor, grape seed oils and jasmine. Stretches of the legs combined with pressure point touches allow you to unwind and relax. Massage on the back, neck, shoulders and stomach brings a lighter and more indulgent feel to the treatment, and we found ourselves sinking in to the treatment couch. Pressure points were also used on the head, which really does soothe an overactive mind, and any worries away. Reid's Palace also offers day programmes, from Glamour To Go (375 for three hours and 50 minutes) where Aromatherapy Associates and La Prairie fuse together for a magical treatment, or Nourish The Whole (190 for one hour and 35 minutes) where the body from head to toe is treated to some TLC. The spa also has sauna and steam rooms, ideal pre-treatment as it starts the relaxation process. For the romantic folk, moonlight dinners can be booked outside in the most romantic settings, from cliff-topped, to remote garden corners - you'll even have your own violinist playing for you. Four courses of delicious food, wine and champagne costs 350 per person. In all of Reid's restaurants live music is provided by grand pianos, making you feel like you've stepped back in time to the '40s. Reid's Palace also offer guests a weekly dinner gala, black-tie only, where romance, champagne and dancing shimmer together throughout the night.
The barefoot walk A rather innovative project up in the hills is the barefoot walk at Hotel Jardim Atlantico, located in the south west coast of Madeira, at 480 meters above sea level. Its 800m pathway is made with 17 different elements from the natural archipelago of Madeira. Some elements are soft on the feet such as clay and gold sand. Others such as pine needles, rocks and bark provide your feet with a challenge. If you're a city dweller who isn't used to slipping off your shoes and walking around barefoot, this is the place for you. Not only does it stimulate the cardiovascular system and improve blood circulation, but you also begin to unwind, relax, laugh and sometimes cry out in pain (and really enjoy it too!) while you walk in the peaceful reforestation. Getting back to nature is a key theme in the island of Madeira, where lush vegetation prevails and exotic flowers bloom year-round. The central area is volcanic in origin, although it's been several million years since its last eruption. At 16 miles wide and 35 miles long, it's worth getting out and about to see the stunning scenery, and Madeira boasts an excellent year-round climate. Just five kilometres off shore, the ocean floor reaches depths of more than 3,000m, and you can often spot whales and dolphins. It's worth going on an organised boat trip, where local experts can show-off their knowledge and know-how.
Getting there Reid's Palace starts from 273 per room per night including breakfast, use of the spa's sauna and steam rooms, table tennis, and all pools, towels, and sun loungers. Also see The Spa at Choupana Hills located high in the hills overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Elemis treatment are on offer, while stylish bungalows with private terraces and lush tropical surroundings makes for a complete retreat from the world. See www.elegantresorts.com and www.madeiraislands.travel for further info.See more spa hotels on handbag.com Bare or bikini? Handbag.com has the definitive guide to spa etiquette!