In one months time me, my boyfriend and our German Shepherd, Loki are travelling to Spain for one week. We have rented a house by a lake in the very north of Spain. The plan is to spend lots of time lying by the pool and walking the dog in the surrounding forests. No big plans, no high expectation. Still I cannot help but approach this holiday with some trepidation. Because evidence from the last two trips I have made with my boyfriend suggests that our holidays are cursed. Or is it only our attempts at visiting Madeira that are bound to go awry, as my chosen title rather optimistically suggests?

In February 2010 I was looking for a good holiday destination. I wanted something that combined sunshine and warm weather with beautiful nature. I settled on Madeira which seemed perfect. The more I read about the island, the more excited I became. I bought a guide book as well as the Sunflower guide to walking in Madeira, which details more than 100 of the island’s famous Levada walks. I filled the Sunflower Guide with PostIts, giving each potential walk a rating and short description. Me and my boyfriend spent a lot of money on expensive hiking boots, a compass, flashlights (for tunnels) and other equipment.

Then disaster struck in form of Eyjafjallajökull, the now infamous Icelandic volcano with an unpronounceable name. The second eruption of ash began a few days before our departure and I followed the situation in a state of dread. On the morning of our departure I woke up and immediately rushed to my computer to find that both Brussels and Funchal airports were operating normally. I only calmed down as the airplane took to the air. But my relief was pre-mature. I had started scanning the sea below for signs of the green jewel of an island when an announcement was made. Funchal airport had closed and we were unable to land. Instead the plane would continue to Grand Canaria, where we would assess the situation. Utter disappointment mingled with relief. We were not going to Madeira but at least we had not turned back to Brussels. Perhaps the airport would open and we could fly to Madeira after all?

As the plane descended towards Grand Canaria my stomach became heavy at the sight of the barren land below, which brought to mind something left by a giant dog on its morning walk. The rest of the day was not much better. We landed around 10.00 and another hour passed before we received any information. Then we were told that we had a choice: we could either stay in Grand Canaria or fly back to Brussels. Returning to the greyness of Belgium was just too bleak a prospect, so we decided to stay. We spent several hours in the airport, understandably since the tour operator needed to find us new hotels, and by the time we reached the hotel it was 16.00 and we were hungry and exhausted.

The holiday was not a disaster. The hotel was amazing, the pool beautiful and the food good. We did some nice drives into the centre of the island and saw the famous Mas Palomas sand dunes. But disapointment gnawed at me throughout the week. At the bottom of my suitcase a carefully assembled array of useful PostIts began curling along the edges of an abandoned book…

But I did not give up on my dream of visting Madeira. Read more in the next post