In March we booked our first family holiday abroad and crossed one of the goals off my yearly to-do list. We couldn’t have picked a better time to book it. The weeks before were very stressful ones so by the time our holiday came around I could not wait to board that plane and get away from it all.
We flew the day after Luca’s 3rd birthday, in the early hours of the morning. We needn’t have worried about setting alarms as we were all woken by my parents dog, Lyla, having a meltdown as there was a huge thunderstorm, whilst their chocolate lab, Dibble, lay on the rug in front of the fire looking very confused by all the commotion going on at such an ungodly hour.
After a very wet drive to the airport we queued for hours to check in and get through security and by the time we got through to the lounge the last call came to board our plane. So much for eating breakfast at the airport!!! Luckily this bad start to our break didn’t last.
Once we were into the airport lounge and Luca could see the planes on the runway his excitement level went up a notch or two. We had spent a few weeks telling him all about aeroplanes, taking off and landing but I really had no idea how he was going to react when it all actually happened.
I also had no idea how he would behave on the three-hour flight but I am pleased to tell you all he was as good as gold and made me a very proud Mummy. He slept for a lot of the flight too so caught up on some of the sleep he lost from such an early start.
Thankfully there was no messing around in Faro airport and we were through and picking up our hire car in about 30 minutes. After wrestling the car seat into the car (it only took four adults to work it out) we set off on the 40 minute drive to our villa in Castro Marim, Eastern Algarve.
By the time we arrived we were all far too warm, it was very hot all week, averaging about 35 degrees every day and never dropping below 29 degrees, even in the middle of the night. We were also starving after our plans for breakfast were scuppered.
After being shown around our home for the week by the owner we knew we were in for a fabulous week. The villa had 2 different eating areas, a huge lounge and a gorgeous kitchen with everything you could need for cooking. Sleeping arrangements were across 4 lovely big bedrooms with tons of storage and plenty of coat hangers (my pet hate about holidays, not being able to hang all your clothes). Downstairs there was a cinema room with loads of DVD’s to choose from, gym, gaming room with Xbox and a pool table. Safe to say the boys were in heaven.
Once we had all bagged our bedrooms and had got changed into cooler clothes, we headed into the town centre of Castro Marim to find a supermarket (did I mention we were starving?).
After a small domestic we found the supermarket but discovered it was closed for siesta. Rookie mistake. This meant we were forced(!) to a local bar instead to wait for it to reopen. This meant we were also forced to drink some cold beers and eat ice cream. Well they do say start as you mean to go on, right?
Once the supermarket had reopened and we had cleared them out of food and broken the till (seriously, only us), we headed back to the villa for a much-needed dip in the pool.
As you can tell we were all dying to cool off from the heat of the day and start relaxing.
Luca was a little dubious at first but he soon got into the swing of things and before long was pushing us into the pool with little squeals of delight.
We spent a lot of our holiday in and around this pool and Luca very quickly decided that he loved it. Luca has been swimming since he was a tiny baby so he’s never really been afraid of water, however this holiday saw his confidence in the water flourish and he was jumping in, racing us, splashing around and chasing his toys around in no time. He didn’t need or want us near him, preferring to swim off independently and thanks to his Swim Fin we could give him the freedom to do this.
He was also fascinated by his Uncle Frazer diving and had him doing one dive after another.
Frazer then decided that with the help of Luca’s swim fin he could pretend to be a shark which amused all of us.
By the afternoon of the first day we were all fully relaxed and really enjoying ourselves.
We did other things too though apart from relax around the pool.
We started our exploration of our quiet little corner of the Eastern Algarve by visiting Praia Verde beach to let Luca dip his toes in the sea for the first time. We had heard lots of good things about this beach and once we arrived we could see why. The beach was stunning and the sea was so warm that we spent ages in it. It was also nice and shallow which meant we could venture far out and bob about in the waves. Luca absolutely loved it, especially when we spotted some fish swimming around our legs. When we weren’t in the sea we were collecting shells or digging and building in the sand.
We then headed up to the most gorgeous restaurant sat right on the beach for an ice cream, a cocktail or two and to cool off in the shade.
The restaurant was so lovely that we ended up staying the evening and had the most delicious meal I think I’ve ever eaten. The boys ordered a sea bass to share. The waiter brought them some fish to choose from before preparing it at the table once cooked.
Now I’m not a huge fan of fish, in fact I eat very little meat of any kind, but it smelt and looked so divine that I had to have a little forkful. It literally melted in the mouth, it was utterly delicious. We all vowed to come back for another meal before our holiday was over, however we then found out that you have to book weeks in advance to get a table. We had just been very lucky that they could accommodate us that night when we just strolled in straight from the beach! We rounded the day off with another little walk along the beach in the moonlight, it was perfect.
We made the most of our long days spent lazing around the pool, and drinking cocktails made by the boys. I think they missed their calling in life.
We also spotted a stick insect and a cricket just taking a little stroll by the pool.
Most days it was just too hot for Luca by about noon, so we really made the most of the cinema room too. He would go inside and watch a few films with a bowl of popcorn, occasionally falling asleep before coming back out to play once it had cooled down a bit. It was a complete god send for us as it also meant we got a bit of time to ourselves too.
The barbecue was also a welcome addition to our villa and we cooked on it most nights. Ant took the role as head barbecuer (not sure that’s a real word?) very seriously whilst we played around the pool again.
Over our Tuesday night barbecue we decided to get up early on Wednesday to try to go somewhere with Luca before the heat really kicked in.
We settled on visiting Vila Real De Santo Antonio, a harbour town where you can catch the ferry across to Ayamonte in Spain. We had ice cream at a bar whilst watching storks nesting on top of a beautiful old building before walking along the marina front. We spent a while watching the fish swimming around the boats and people canoeing. Luca then started complaining that his feet were hurting so we had to do a little shopping to find new shoes for him. We found him some cute green jelly shoes which he loves and spent the rest of the holiday, in fact the rest of the summer, wearing. He calls them his ‘Obrigado’ (meaning thank you in Portuguese) shoes.
With new shoes on we carried on exploring the town before finding somewhere to eat lunch and shade from the midday sun before heading back home once again to relax and have an early night, ready for our only pre-planned, big day out.
Up bright and early we set off for Zoomarine, a water park with a focus on conservation, an important aspect for me as I’m a huge animal lover. We got there for opening and Luca wanted to go straight on some of the rides. We then changed into our swimming stuff and spent a long time playing in the waves and on the man-made beach, in the pool and the fountains. We also went to see the dolphin show which was great. Luca was completely mesmerised by them and told me he wanted to swim with them too. I have been incredibly lucky to have had the privilege of swimming with these beautiful animals and can’t wait to hopefully fulfill Luca’s wish to do the same one day. We had some more fun in the pools after the dolphin show and visited the dinosaur exhibition, which Luca wasn’t sure of as they all moved around and were a bit too lifelike. By this point we had a very tired little boy on our hands so decided to call it a day and head back home.
Luca slept the way home and then some more. After his mammoth nap and with the rest of us showered and all dressed up, we headed back to Vila Real De Santo Antonio for our tea.
(bad quality photo but the only one I have of us all together from the holiday)
We ate at a restaurant right on the marina front. Luca spent the whole time waving to people in their cars and commenting on whether they were grumpy or nice, depending on if they waved back or not. The overall verdict was that the Portuguese men were much nicer than the woman as more of them waved.
We didn’t get home that evening until around midnight, followed by a little film in the cinema room before bed. This meant our last day consisted of a long lie in followed by more fun in the pool, eating lots of ice creams and the last bits of food we had and generally relaxing some more.
By the early evening we were all getting a little bored so we did go into Castro Marim town centre to have a look around the castle.
It was a little hidden gem and we spent a while exploring it. The views went on for miles and we even walked around the castle walls.
Once Little King Luca had his fill of castle fun we went home for our last supper, to finish packing and to get an early night in preparation for our flight home the next day.
The whole week was pretty perfect and although the heat meant we didn’t get to do some of the things we had initially planned to do, we still had a truly fabulous time.
Our first family holiday was more than we could have hoped for, we made some amazing memories and Luca loved every minute of it.
Now when can I book our next one?