So our second summer holiday was looming. We needed to get planning but we had no real idea where we fancied. We decided that as it seems so hard to find child friendly accommodation (that suits us as parents as well) why not look for the right accommodation and then plan the rest of the holiday around that (as opposed to setting our hearts on a destination and then searching!).
We started our search (as usual) with Tots to Travel and Baby Friendly Bolt holes (http://www.babyfriendlyboltholes.co.uk). On this occasion we couldn’t find anything with Tots to Travel that suited in terms of what it offered and where it was but that was also in our price range (I often have this issue! I’m always on the search for 5* without the price tag!). Baby friendly bolt holes, although a much less slick operation, had some nice looking accomodation and we settled on the Quinta das Achadas. The Quinta is set slightly in land from the beaches of the Algarve but in my view this is what makes it so special. If I’m honest the Algarve is not really my ideal holiday destination – feels a bit too Brits on tour. That said, the Quinta is everything I love in family friendly accommodation – the optional communal meals for adults (cue Jill and Julio serving delicious local food on the roof terrace with far too much wine!), the delicious breakfasts (served at your own table outside your accommodation), the amazing swimming pool, hot tub, the animals, the field of toys…the list goes on. The Quinta feels so far removed from the rest of the Algarve and that was one of main reasons for liking it! My only slight criticism was the standard of accommodation (we stayed in the Jasmine villa)- not up to the Cantina in Italy (see earlier blog) and the baby/toddler equipment (in the accommodation) was very minimal. Oh and no dishwasher! I feel a dishwasher is important on a self catering holiday – I don’t wash up at home so I don’t really like doing it on holiday! On the plus side it was very cool (owing to the thick stone walls) and the black out shutters allowed for some good sleep! Loads of well stocked supermarkets nearby and on the whole very reasonably priced (wine was particularly cheap!).
I digress….so we came on to booking our flights. Even with the budget airlines, they were seriously pricy to Faro (a nice 40 min drive from the Quinta). We needed to think outside the box. We decided, after some research, to fly into Lisbon. The flights were considerably cheaper and we’d get to see Lisbon on either end of the holiday (a win win situation!). Google maps told us the drive would take around 2hrs 50 (and this was about right – although we did stop half way at a service station for a break and a trip to the playground).
So that part was easy to sort. What was more challenging was finding some child friendly accommodation in Lisbon. Why is it so hard to find child friendly accommodation in city locations? Air B and B didn’t have anything suitable. There is a serious gap in the market here. After hours of googling we found the lisbonaire apartments.
These incredible apartments are not only centrally located they also have parking (ok so basement parking where you have to take a lift in your car!). They also, crucially, provide cots, prams and a selection of toys.We stayed in two separate apartments and its worth noting that one had stairs (no stair gate provided) – you’d need to clarify with reception which apartments do and don’t have stairs. Lisbon is a wonderful city and we’d definitely return. Ok, so its not totally pram friendly but with a baby sling and or a rucksack carrier it would be easy to navigate with young children via the tram network and on foot but it is only 20 minutes from the airport so a great option for a family friendly city break (with pretty good weather all year around I think).
Now to return to the flights. This time we flew from Luton. We booked a drop and collect parking option (the kind where you drop the car at the terminal and they return with it when you call them). It was reasonably priced and incredibly easy with a child in tow.The journey was easy enough (we’re getting used to travelling with young children). This time we checked in our daughter’s cybex sirona car seat. On arrival in Lisbon we found our hire car only to discover that the car seat was broken!! The airline (a well known Irish budget airline!) denied all knowledge of breaking the seat and blamed the baggage handlers. The result was, we were left in Lisbon airport with a toddler, a hire car and no car seat. Thankfully our hire car company came to our rescue and provided another one. We still had the issue of how we’d get back from Luton to Alcester (near Stratford upon Avon) without a carseat. Thankfully we were able to order another one to a nearby Mothercare (thank goodness for the internet!).
Back to the holiday. We had a lovely few days in Lisbon. On our first day (at the start of our holiday) we all enjoyed the Pasteis de Nata- deliciously soft, sweet custard tarts at Pasteis de Belem.
Be prepared for a wait. Apparently the cafe turns out 16,000 tarts a day so there could be a queue! We got there around 10am and managed to find a table fairly easily. Our daughter loved the hustle and bustle and the custard tarts went down a treat! We burnt of some of the extra calories by strolling around Belem and visiting the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower (where we also had a picnic). We set off from here south to the Algarve.
After a week on the Algarve (I’ll say more about that in a moment) we returned to Lisbon. On this occasion we arrived mid morning (having left immediately after breakfast) and in need of some lunch we searched for a roof top terrace (we’re partial to a good view). After some googling we decided to try and find the Park Roof top terrace
It is really hard to find! We found the street but couldn’t locate the building. That was until my husband realised it was on top of a multi-story car park! We took the lift up (still very dubious!) and eventually stumbled upon the most idyllic roof top terrace. The food was delicious and our daughter loved her fresh strawberry juice! The views were spectacular!
Back to the Algarve…most of the days were spent soaking up the rays at the Quinta. The pool area was divine – why would you want to go anywhere else!?! We also enjoyed feeding the animals and playing with all the lovely toys. We did venture out most days to one of the nearby beaches. Jill and Julio had plenty of great suggestions.
My husband isn’t really a sun worshipper so we always try and balance some sun and pool time with some culture and day trips. For me, some of the towns on the Algarve lacked authenticity – take for example Alvor. To get down to the seafront (which is nice) you’ll have to first drive past loads of high rise hotels and loads of pubs advertising full English breakfasts! Once you do this you will find some nice and very reasonably priced fish restaurants. We enjoyed a trip up to Alte – up in the mountains and hardly any tourists in sight! There was a nice little play park in the carpark and a supermarket. We took a picnic and enjoyed the view down by the river (Fonte Grande) – loads of shady benches made it a nice spot during the heat of the day.
The nearest town to the Quinta is Lagos – we enjoyed an early evening stroll and dinner in the town. You’ll find loads of child friendly restaurants with a range of different dishes on offer. There are also some great squares for children to play in (including some with water fountains etc).
We’d certainly return to Portugal. Great food and reasonably priced. Most importantly the Portuguese are very welcoming and wonderful with children.