Our most recent adventure took us by plane to one of the few European destinations unreachable by airstream, to the ‘Sunny Island’ of Madeira – ‘The Hawaii of Europe.’
Madeiran born pinup model and tiki enthusiast Carla Lopes Marques (aka Coco Lopes) and partner Martin ‘McTiki’ McDermott have been well known faces on the UK ‘rockin’ and tiki scenes, returning to Carla’s birthplace to open the first tiki bar on the island. Pukiki bar is based in the lovely area of Calheta and is inspired by the historical links between Hawaii and Madeira, which is often referred to as the ‘Hawaii of Europe’ due to the similar climate and volcanic origins.
In 1878 Madeira was in serious economic trouble due to the failing grape harvest. Hawaii by contrast was in need of labourers for its growing sugar industry. As Madeira already had a long history in sugar production, it was the perfect place to source the experienced labour it needed and Hawaiian King, Kamehameha, offered land and better working conditions plus free passage for workers and their families. After settling in Hawaii, Madeirans were given the name Pukiki that means Portuguese in Hawaiian.
The Pukiki brought with them not only experience in sugar cane production but also their culture and music, including the Ukulele which is typically associated with Hawaii but is actually the Portuguese instrument known as ‘machete’!
While mid-century ‘tiki’ style has been a long time trend on the 1940s and 50s scene, tiki has become a bit of a buzzword of late and we have seen a recent resurgence in mainstream culture, with the growing number of commercial tiki bars springing up across UK and European cities, including chains such as Lola Lo.
Martin and Carla however, have a real personal passion for tiki and their knowledge of rum and experience in the art of cocktail making, really shine through. Both perfectionists, their cocktails are only made with fresh juices, squeezed everyday by the couple along with their ‘dried’ fruit garnishes, also lovingly created by their own hands every week. Paying homage to 1930s and 40s classics from Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber, with drinks such as the Mai Tai, they have also created their own menu of inspirational cocktails including the ‘Atlantic Pearl’. I particularly loved their ‘Ukulele’ sharer for four people, complete with 4 long straws laid out as the Ukulele strings. Just brilliant! As experienced graphic designers, the couple’s artistic skills and flair have also been put to great use in the bar’s decor with a wonderful attention to detail.
So, with the history of Madeiran sugar cane production and the rum tiki cocktails at Pukiki, it seemed only fitting to take a visit to the local rum distillery ‘Engenhos da Calheta’. You can at times, actually see the locally grown sugar cane being brought in, take a tour and see the old equipment that is still used today in the production of the local white rum ‘Aguardente’. You can then sample the local Madeiran rum drink, ‘Poncha’ and savour a piece of the best Madeira cake on the Island, a great alternative to ‘afternoon tea’ for sure!
Madeira is also famous for its wicker and it was a pleasure to visit the ‘Wicker Village’, where you could find practically anything you could think of made in wicker – including an entire wicker zoo of animals and a somewhat random longboat, amongst some very cool mid-century style furniture with hairpin legs and retro 50s style wicker handbags. It was amazing to see the old craftsmen and women at work and we managed to catch a view of a wicker bag in actual production. It would have been rude not to take one home; Carla owns a few as it turns out!
Talking of wicker, another must do vintage tradition is the ride you can take down the mountain side in a wicker sleigh, steered by two men dressed in traditional white attire with vintage style straw boaters! The Monte Toboggan Ride was originally a means of transport down to the capital, Funchal, for people living in the higher region of Monte; the sledges first appearing around 1850. The guys push you down the mountain road in your wicker sledge, using their rubber soled shoes as brakes! At speeds of up to 48 km/hour… a little scary perhaps but pretty good fun nevertheless!
One real surprise while exploring Madeira was the old Art Deco (1933) cinema, nestled on the hillside above Ponta Do Sol. Seemingly derelict and unused, it was good to find out that there are still occasional events hosted at the cinema including the Madeira Micro Film Festival. Its golden days were during the silent film era, when audiences would come from across the island and even arrive by boat to witness the spectacle of the cinema and view the latest films including those of Charlie Chaplin. It became not only a place to watch films but also a meeting place for high society gatherings and parties. It is such a pity that there have not been the investment opportunities needed to restore the cinema back to its former glory.
Madeira is a truly beautiful tropical island, as our vintage travel poster boasts, full of wonderful scenery and the most picturesque spots. With a pinup model to hand and the perfect tropical location, it seemed only right to shoot Miss Bamboo’s new ranges for spring and summer! The collection is all made in the UK from vintage patterns or with patterns created from original 1940s and 50s dresses. You can check out the new season from March including two styles of 1940s/50s Hawaiian sarongs and new 50s sundress and bolero sets at www.missbamboo.co.uk.