State of emergency lifted: the first week after.

Our Madeira holiday home has stunning flowers in the garden

The State of Emergency has been lifted now. Since last week, we have a little bit fewer restrictions, making our lives a little easier. But we are far from back to normal, though I keep saying that our lives here are still very relaxed compared to many countries in Europe, or even worldwide. The number of new covid-19 infections has been limited to 4 over the last two weeks, and these four were directly connected to the irresponsible Câmara de Lobos brothers I have written about earlier. Also, the new cases were already in quarantine, so the spreading has been successfully avoided. Still…

It ain’t over…


It ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Strange expression. As a Dutchman I was curious to know where this expression comes from, only to find out that there are German roots to it. It may refer to the ‘Ring der Niebelungen’, the famous opera by Wagner, where in the last part of it, the ‘Götterdämmerung’, the ‘twilight of the Gods’, the Valkyrie Brunhilde sings the finale. A soprano,  usually a bit overweight. The rest of the story behind the expression can be easily found in Wikipedia.

Anyway. It is not over. Of course, I am talking about the restrictions to our personal lives, brought on by the cursed virus that has had us in its grip for a couple of months now.  Though we have not suffered personally, we know of others who have, who still do, and there will be a great deal more who will suffer in the months to come.

Head and feet!

The state of emergency, declared by the Portuguese government, has been lifted for a week now. In its place came the state of exception, which puts back several responsibilities into the hands of the regional government. With the new rules, we could now get our extremities looked after: an overdue hair cut and our feet are taken care of, as a combination of years and quarantine kilos make reaching for our toenails a struggle. We were curious about the measures the hairdresser and the pedicure had taken to protect themselves. For starters, you can’t just go there and wait for your turn. It is compulsory to make an appointment, and only the people who are actually being helped are allowed in the shop. To our big surprise, when we called first thing on Monday after the state of emergency was lifted, we could have an appointment late Tuesday already. Another surprised was thas São, the lady who usually takes care of our haircut, had taken over the shop. We think that is a good thing, as she already was the one taking the real workload. She was wearing gloves, a mouth mask and a sort of removable windscreen. She admitted it was afar from comfortable, but she was very pleased she could resume her business. She told us to come in more often, now that she is the owner. As we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, we could tell her that we certainly will!

The pedicure was dressed equally uncomfortably, but her agenda was chock a Block as well, so she won’t complain. Everyone in the shop agreed that we are far better of staying on the island, as the overcrowded Netherlands is not too safe for us now, coming from an almost corona free island.

São in her battle dress. Less restrictions means a hair cut!
Ariete is no longer. It's São now. Congratulations!

Yay! To the dentist!

Next, it was time for Noud’s long-overdue dentist appointment. He had cancelled the former one before Christmas because he had a slight cold, and when he started thinking of a new appointment, corona came and put paid to that. But now, with the new and lighter rules, the dentists are allowed to take non-emergency appointments.

use máscara

So off to Funchal, where we haven’t been since the outbreak of the virus. The motorway and the express roads on the island are still blissfully quiet. The lifting of the state of emergency brought a change to the matrix panels. During the state of emergency, it said: fique em casa, stay at home. Now, they say ‘use máscara’. No, that does not mean you have to use eye make-up. It does mean you have to use a mouth mask whenever you are in a public space or in a bus. I found most people did. Even to the point of being ridiculous, wearing a mask outside, far away from other people. We have made it a habit to start wearing them when we are queuing for a shop or actually inside. Outside we prefer fresh air, and an ample distance reduces the risk to zero.

use máscara. The state of emergency is lifted, but it is still very quiet on the motorway.
blissfully quiet roads

easy parking, empty gardens

Arriving in Funchal, we found a parking spot on the Avenida do Mar, impossible under normal circumstances. While Noud went to see the dentist, I sat down with my e-reader in the Municipal Gardens nearby, which were almost deserted. It would have been blissfully quiet, if not for a very loud construction site just outside the garden.

Our red convertible parket at the Avenida do Mar. Since the state of emergency was lifted, Noud ca go to his dentist.
An almost empty Avenida Arriaga. The Jacarandas are in flower, beautiful as ever.
Very noisy in a very empty garden

You have to know that Noud hates dentists. With a vengeance. But since he found Doutor Duarte he is less reluctant. He has a good sense of humour and he has – so far – managed to take care of Noud’s teeth without hurting him. Another incentive is that Duarte is quite nice, and not too bad looking either. More is the pity that Noud’s greatest incentive was taken from him as found his dentist unrecognisable. Wearing a pair of white coveralls of water-repellent material, two mouth masks on top of one another plus a plexiglass windscreen, the poor man must have been sweating like crazy. To make things worse, he was not allowed to use the recirculating air conditioner as it would send the virus – in the unlikely case it would be present – going around and around in the practice And worse is to come: these aren’t even the correct coveralls. The ‘real thing’ arriving only next week. He took good care of Noud’s non-emergency appointment, which turned out to be an almost-emergency after all. And he told Noud to not come back too soon, as working like thus wrapped up is not very pleasant. Hopefully, in a week or eight, things might have turned a little bit easier. As always, Noud was so relieved to leave the dental practice that he forgot to take what would have been a very interesting picture of the dentist in full covid-19 regalia.

Another improvement after the state of emergency was lifted, is the reopening of the shopping malls and of smaller non-essential shops. Of course, if a non-essential shop has been closed long enough, it automatically becomes essential. So we went to the DIY-shop ‘AKI’  while we were in Funchal anyway because of the dentist, where only a small cue of some 6 people was waiting. Madeira Cash, a food discount, had a very clever solution to keep track of the limited number of customers allowed in at one time: they had bank-card shaped cards made with numbers on it. A lady handed them out to everyone coming in, after disinfecting them, of course, and in you go. Once all the cards are gone, no-one goes in until someone comes out and returns his card. Clever, and you are always sure that the maximum number of customer in the shop is never exceeded. The ‘Bazar do Povo’, a shop in downtown Funchal where you can get anything you can think of, had a one-way traffic routing in place. No queue waiting, and overall it felt safe and people tried to keep their distance. Mouth masks are compulsory for customers and staff. The medical effect may be limited with these simple masks, often self –made, but it looks like it keeps people more aware of the state of things.

Porto Santo beach finally open

Another thing has been reversed: the ridiculous closure of the beach in Porto Santo. It was very unwise to keep the beach closed, as Porto Santo had been without corona cases for some time now, and if authorities forbid things unnecessarily,  it will be difficult for measures to be taken seriously. Anyway, as of today, the Porto Santo beach is open to the public again, as long as distancing is taken into account. On a huge beach like the Porto Santo one, with no tourists coming in yet, keeping your distance is a doddle. Hopefully, the bathing complexes on Madeira will follow soon.

airlines resuming service

Of course, people are getting impatient. We have already seen some reckless behaviour in the streets of Funchal. Unfortunately, it seems there are more beggars about, without any protection, and, even worse, more drunks that congregate in the parks. But even the government has started to think about how to get the economy going again. And not a day too early where people’s livelihoods are concerned, though it still may be too early where health is concerned.  Meanwhile, Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines and Edelweiss have announced to resume their flights to Madeira in June, though under the current quarantine rule of Madeira (14 days compulsory quarantine upon arrival) we do wonder if there will by anyone aboard. But things change rapidly, so we’ll wait and see what happens. For now, we can only say that corona-wise, things are gradually improving, and if everything continues like in the last couple of weeks, Madeira may be once more corona free in the not too distant future. Still, clever arrangements must be made to keep it that way.

We have taken our own first steps back to ‘normal’ although real normalcy may still be a long ways off. We have ordered – quite illegally – some bottles of our favourite Poncha. There is only one bar in our vicinity we go to for Poncha. They happen to make the best Poncha in West-Madeira, and they have been forced to close for many weeks now. Though there is a rumour that small bars ad restaurants may open on May 18th, it hasn’t been confirmed, so we thought we should give ourselves a treat and have them make a little money and order some bottles. The first bottle was taken care of quickly. Nectar of the gods, I swear. The second bottle was shared with friends. Since recently, we have taken up the habit of seeing our Dutch friends Jaap-Willem and Yvon once a week, usually on Thursday, which we named Corona Thursday since. Only the one couple, keeping the necessary distance. Great fun, something to look forward to, and as a bonus exchanging plants and cuttings for our gardens. Yesterday, we even did a walk together. It was good to be out and about a little, have a walk and a talk and have some Poncha’s together.

Poncha! Nectar of the gods! There are fewer restrictions, but we still need a cunning plan to get poncha
our friends on Corona Thursday

Clean house!

Finally, Maria, who cleans our house on a regular basis, agreed to pick up regular cleaning again. We vacate the house when she is here, so she doesn’t need to wear the uncomfortable mouth mask all the time. Especially doing physical work it makes one gasp for air. If you are unlucky enough to wear glasses, like me, you know that the thing is a nuisance, wise though it may be to wear one.

After this week’s visit to Funchal, though, we did decide we won’t go back there anytime soon if we don’t have to. Too much behaviour like nothing is the matter and, honestly,  we still have no problem with staying at home most of the time. We enjoy the garden, as we see flowers we never saw in our garden, as we wouldn’t be here by now under normal circumstances. As we won’t be leaving the island before somewhere in August –  if at all this year – we have been able to set up a nursery for the garden. We have put planters and pots on the terrace meant as a parking space, trying out new ways of automatically watering. We always thought the parking lot looked a bit forbidding, but the new flowering planters do a lot to improve the overall look of it. The house gets small improvements as well, little things that we never came around to do, but now, with plenty of time on our hands, we can take care of.

We never see it like this: the proteia
a nursery for the garden
The new planters

Of course, it is a pity we can’t go sailing Heerenleed this year. But at present, there really is hardly any incentive for us to fly to the Netherlands, even if we could. There are too many restrictions in place where yachting is concerned to make for reasonable cruising, and by the time there may be reasonably safe travelling possibilities, it will be very late in the season. Too late to launch Heerenleed and go anywhere. If we go back North this year, it will be to start spring 2021 maintenance early, to not lose much time preparing for next year’s season. And it will be to see our friends and family there.

We will simply make the most of the summer in our house. Madeira has a lot to offer, more so now that some restrictions have been lifted. Hopefully, we can pick up walking with our bunch of friends soon, and even go for sundowners in Paúl do Mar or a nice Poncha at Bar Formiga. Whatever happens, we’ll be fine here. Much better off than in the Netherlands, or any other country in north-west Europe.

Nélia at Bar Formiga makes the best poncha in the area. The state of emergency has been lifted, but she can't open the bar yet.
Bar de Pedra in Paúl de Mar: the best place for sundowners.

Meanwhile, stay safe, stay healthy and be responsible!

Because it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.


By Peter Groen

Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1949. He has a history in PR and copywriting. Now, part time resident of the Island of Madeira of over 10 years, he writes about Madeira, its culture, its overwhelming nature, its food and drink, and about everything concerning travel to and on this beautiful island.


  1. A lovely read Peter. Can’t wait to get back to our adopted island and that glorious weather. Having said that it has been better than usual here in the UK and we are heading for summer and not the dark long winter evenings. Mind, Michael but a damper on it yesterday saying only 39 days to the longest day! Glass half empty I think . That Poncha sounds mouthwatering. best wishes Jan

    1. Thanks, Jan. As I explained in one of my below responses, they are working on it, but it certainly will be a while. The recipe for Poncha is already available on the Dutch version of this website, I will translate it for you and put it here as well. That way, you can make your own and pretend to be here, for as long as you need to. About the weather: the last couple of days were chilly and wet, so enjoy your UK weather while it lasts. Stay Safe, Peter

      1. Oooh Poncha recipe sounds great thank you I have not touched any alcohol during the lockdown but I would break my sobriety for a Poncha lol x

  2. I feel things in u.k will go on a long long time yet !! Mike Sheffield Yorkshire England

    1. Like in our home country the Netherlands, Mike. Latest speeches by your PM made me think the UK government has collectively gone berserk, which does not add any confidence that you will soon be in the clear. Having said that, the Dutch government is seemingly doing a good job, but in our overcrowded country, it will also be a while before some form of normalcy will return. Our government is speaking of a one-and-a-half-meter-distance-society, which is supposedly the ‘new normal’. I think that is quite unacceptable as normal, and I sincerely hope a cure or a vaccine is found that will allow is to really return to normal.

  3. Best Poncha on the Island is the Poncha bar at Serra D’Agua, easy road lots of parking

    1. Not quite, Joanne. The Taberna da Poncha is a lovely spot, not much frequented by tourists – which adds to its charm – and they make a decent Poncha. But there are others. Our local Bar Formiga makes the best Poncha in west-Madeira. If you would like to try different Ponchas, drive on to São Vicente. Opposite the Bombeiros (fire brigade) is a Poncha bar that makes Poncha out of many exotic fruits. Our fav is the Poncha de Pitanga, when the Pitangas are ripe, which is in spring. You must try that one too.

  4. Very interesting reading, oh, how it makes us yearn to be back in Madeira. Of, course, in UK we still have to worry about our feet,hair,teeth,etc., for how long, no one knows.Keep happy, with or without the Poncha .Maggie

    1. Thank you, Maggie!
      You are not alone in yearning to come back to our corner of paradise. I am afraid it will be a while yet. Still, there is a document circulating that formulates a possible road back to normalcy, created by the regional government and the health authorities. I have not seen it yet, but it does indicate that everyone does all that’s possible to accelerate – within the safety limits – the return of guests to the island. The bars have been given permission to reopen as from the 18th, so our Poncha supply is secure once more.

  5. Hi we got to Funchal forum area yesterday it was like doing a tour of the island after two months at home had takeaway café highlights of the day hope you and Nelio are doing well hopefully c u soon for poncha take care #ficcaemmcasa

  6. As always this article is greatly appreciated. We mirror you sentiments better here than the mess on the UK. Good to get your perspective on Funchal we have not been there since late February no intention of heading there we have all we need locally, looking forward to meeting up soon

    1. Indeed, if there is no need to go to Funchal, we won’t go for the time being. As for meeting up: we’ll try and get us some decent Poncha. I am sure you are dying for it by now.

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