Finding Madeira

Devin Meireles is a creative nonfiction writer in his thirties. He was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, where growing up around the Portuguese diaspora had a profound effect on him. Now he volunteers to carry on the culture and give back to the community. In 2022, he published a book to preserve his rich Portuguese ancestry—that was a narrative nonfiction novel about his grandparents’ immigration to Canada. He has a since written articles that have been featured in literary journals, health magazines, and cultural newspapers. Apart from creative writing, he enjoys adding to a collection of tattoos, banknotes and travel stamps. He lives near Lake Ontario with his wife and dog.

Gentle breeze whisking from the ocean coast

Casts a calmness reflecting off the waters abroad

Fresh salted air emanates at its mouth

Running down the pavers on 30 de Janeiro


When I catch a view of Funchal City for the first time, I’m riding in the backseat along the highway. The Via Rápida 1 gives true meaning to the word like nowhere else: rapid. The elevation will have you gliding through the air effortlessly. Perched atop that mountainside, I look down at the bay like how a goshawk sees its target landing. I want to be there.

It was seamless to arrive at the bottom. The streets are laid out so well that transporting around the island proves a smooth transition albeit meandering like a sidewinding snake. We hit the off-ramp and within ten minutes dropped to sea level. My ears pop and crackle while my head spins at the change in altitude. It was merely a half hour from the airport to the city center. And to think—how much longer would that have taken back in the day? Just imagine with a donkey and carriage on the old roads—what a trip!

Everything sinks in when I finally get a grip. I’m here.

Funchal City
Finding Madeira

We step out onto the side of the road. The city sounds submerge my headspace but the nature remains perceptible. I can feel her. Birds caw at leftover food as I observe the scenes along the waterfront: Palm trees stand alongside monuments brimming with history; cruise ships dock where fishing boats used to sling early morning catches; humble street vendors along a charming stroll sell castanhas (roasted chestnuts), knickknacks, and exotic fruits that I’ve never seen nor tasted before.

The Madeirense people and tourists blend together to take it all in. They are blissfully serene. The escarpment with accents of terracotta roof tiles and a cable car loiters in the distance. It’s a wonderful ambiance. She’s beautiful.

Instantly noticeable is the crisp ocean air. It pacifies the traveling jitters. I close my eyes and take a deep breath to let it all in. The salty, mistified air feels good. I can taste it. My lungs soak up the atmosphere as it settles in the pit of my stomach, grounding me to the surroundings. My head falls back and I open my eyes again. How wonderful to see the clear blue sky without obstruction. No smog hovering like some bad company. I thoroughly enjoyed that feeling. My first impression was that it keeps getting better. I patted a palm tree just to make sure that it was real and not a dream. This is it. She’s real.

The vegetation emanates influence. More than the fennel that it was named after. Without question, many species were introduced to the island and cultivated its history, just as much as the architecture that surrounds them. There’s a unique biodiversity with over six hundred years of backstories to be read here. The city has an important history that swayed world events. It already made an impression on me.

As expected, my senses were certainly heightened on vacation but this was different. This was more than just passing through. There was a sense of homecoming. As if I had forgotten the saudade all my life but remembered it at that very moment. Something about it was all familiar. It was clear to me that I had been missing this place. I found what I had been looking for.

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