13 Aug 2015 5253
PortoBay Hotels & Resorts

“Porto Santa Maria is my home”

Have you ever had the feeling, after coming back from a holiday, that you wished you could have stayed in the place you had just visited ?? Have you ever wished to go permanently on vacation, stay in a seaside hotel and enjoy the location’s temperate climate ?? Derek West has all of this and much more at the Porto Santa Maria - a hotel that is just like home for him.

Derek West has travelled around the world quite a lot, sometimes on business, other times for pleasure, and in every single place he visited he asked himself: "would I live here?”. But "there was always something that wasn’t right”.

After his retirement he travelled a few times to the island of Madeira on board one of the many cruise ships that dock in port of Funchal - right in front of the Porto Santa Maria hotel, in the old part of the city. "I read about those people who live on board ships and decided to give it a go”, he says, "but it wasn’t for me. Too crowded !! We’re talking about 3000 passengers and 80 beach beds !! It’s like being in a sort of prison with not much room for exercising”.

Derek West went over his list of pros and cons. He found out that, as far as Madeira was concerned, the pros far outweighed the cons and decided to give the island a chance.

He came back and took a room at the Porto Santa Maria hotel, which he leaves only twice a year for a whole week... He has been living here since March of last year and has no plans to leave anytime soon !!

“There is no law against going on vacation all year round”

Three years ago he decided to sell his farm and gave everything he had to his brothers and sisters. "It was their inheritance, they just got it a bit sooner than expected”, says Derek.

Life was not always easy for Derek West. He was born in London in 1940, at the beginning of World War II. "I went through hard times”, he recalls, "food was rationed, and the first time I ate a banana I was already 10 years old. When I was seven, eight years old, I used to get an orange as a Christmas gift. Now we get five or six of them in a single glass !!”

After a whole life dedicated to his work, he decided this was the time to reward himself: "I am getting to the end of my life, so I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest !!”

He admits he may have been "inspired” by the Duke of Argyll’s infamous divorce. "His wife got a fortune from the divorce and moved into the Dorchester Hotel - London’s most expensive - , rented a suite and lived there for the rest of her life”, he recalls, jokingly adding "and I thought: what a wonderful idea !!”

Derek West admits that this is a sort of plan that is not within everyone’s reach. "A lot of people understand my choice, but they simply cannot do the same, it’s just too expensive”.

Explaining this plan to friends and family was also not an easy job. "They don’t understand. One of my friends, a businessman who travels a lot, asked me how on earth could I live in a hotel?” His answer: "There is no law against going on vacation”.

Part of the family

Wearing shorts and sandals and with his face tanned by the sun, Derek is usually found at the pool bar enjoying a glass of water and ice, which he already knows how to order in Portuguese. "It’s a struggle”, he admits, saying that he can understand the language and is already able to speak a few sentences.

He knows all of the hotel’s staff and has even gotten invitations for weddings. "They treat me like an uncle”, he explains, and he tells us that he usually commemorates some of the hotel staff’s birthdays. In January, the staff also join him in his own birthday celebration. On Christmas, the Porto Santa Maria "family” is also not forgotten.
He knows some of the hotel’s frequent guests. They are always surprised to see him. "As soon as they find me they ask: ‘You’re still here?’”

His family from the United Kingdom has visited him several times in his "new home”. "My sister is coming in October, she had already visited me last year. My nephew came in June, my brother-in-law and my niece were here in January and they are always happy to come here”, he tells. "The only reason they don’t come more often is because the hotel is always full !!” he adds, laughing.

He enjoys the company of his family and also some friends who have surprised him by visiting him in Madeira - but for Derek West, the Porto Santa Maria is now his home. He says he doesn’t miss his original home, where winters are harsh and not very good for his arthritis and blood circulation problems. Besides, he also doesn’t have to worry about going shopping or repairs. "If the television breaks down, someone will fix it”, he says. "Back home, in England, I was always repairing things.” He points out that he is "better off here than at home.”

“There is nothing bad about Madeira”

Derek has more or less settled into a routine. He wakes up early, reads the newspapers, has breakfast, then returns to his room to rest for a while longer. He justifies himself by saying that "there is not much I can do early in the morning”. Afterwards he does some crosswords, takes a shower and sits in his balcony looking at the sea. By half past noon, it is time for exercising in the pool - he does so half an hour every day, in the outdoor pool during the summer and in the indoor pool during the winter. Afterwards, it is time for lunch, another period of rest, checking emails, watching television… "it’s not like I have a lot of work to do around the house”, he says, pointing out that "this is a place for resting. As far as I’m concerned, this is paradise !!”

But he doesn’t spend all his time at the Porto Santa Maria - he has been all over the island. He knows Funchal, Porto Moniz and Paul do Mar particularly well – places where he usually takes his visiting relatives - but he also knows his way around Câmara de Lobos, its Cabo Girão viewpoint, and even Porto Santo . ..

Derek has warmed to the local climate, the quality of life, and the hospitality of the locals. He has no doubts when he says that "there nothing bad about Madeira”. "It is a charming place !!”

And that is what he tells guests of the Porto Santa Maria hotel. "Is this your first time here? I’m sure you’ll be back”, he says, adding that he hasn’t met anybody that did not like the island. He later corrects himself by telling the story of a Glasgow couple who said they were not enjoying their stay. "They told me: this is not like Benidorm”. "Madeira is not that kind of place”, he reassured.
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