24-Hour Room Service: Reid's Palace Madeira

For a hotel that is almost always full you rarely see your fellow guests at Reid's. Perhaps everyone is seduced by the comfy old-world sofas in their rooms, the Atlantic view from every balcony, or the many hidden benches in the dense tropical garden outside. Around the three swimming pools (two salt, one freshwater), a few well-preserved bodies lie recumbent under enormous hats. In the cocktail bar you may find the dance instructor refreshing a couple's foxtrot for tonight's dinner dance, but that's about it.

People come to Reid's to relax. When Rita Hayworth married the Aly Khan in 1949 they sought privacy at Reid's. Sandy Shaw hid here at the height of "Puppet On A String" fame. Winston Churchill retreated to the hotel to lick his wounds after losing office.

Opened in 1891 on what was then a rather bleak promontory to the south of Madeira's capital Funchal, Reid's very quickly established itself as the place to stay en route to the African colonies. Its proud boast was "Unequalled sea-bathing. No Rain. No Dust". Reid's was then taken up by the 1960s jetset.

LOCATION

Reid's Palace, Estrada Monumental 139, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal (00 351 291 71 70 30; www.reidspalace.com). Reid's is 1.5km west of the city centre and 24km from Funchal airport.

From international airport: 25/30 minutes in rush hour, 20 minutes the rest of the time. A taxi will set you back around ¿€30 (£21) each way.

COMFORTABLE?

Whether you're in the original 1891 building or the new wing (circa 1960) the sofas are just as deep, the beds just as massive and the television/DVD player still rises up from the bottom of the bed at the flick of a switch like a James Bond gizmo. Antiques and bureaux are scattered around like set dressing.

Freebies: Reid's own toiletries are provided in Bristol Blue bottles. It would be a hard heart that did not pocket the lot. Soft drinks from the minibar are also complimentary.

Keeping in touch: internet access is fast and free in reception, where two booths have terminals. If you have a laptop you can access the €5 (£3.60) per hour WiFi connection.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms start at €365 (£261), inclusive of breakfast.

I'm not paying that: the nearby five-star Pestana Carlton (00 351 291 23 9500; www.pestana.com) has double rooms from €116 (£83) including breakfast.

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