We have just returned from a brilliant 9 days in the Algarve. Having split the time between two properties I am going to split the blog to so this part is all about our first week. Just for the record we travelled with our friends that had joined us on the first week of our Italian Adventure last year.
The day arrived and we were booked on a early evening flight from Liverpool with Ryanair. We have always had early morning flights for all the other travel we have done so this was a nice change. Being able to get organised without rushing was very refreshing. The flight went without a hitch as did getting the bags in Faro. All the rental car offices are just a 5 minute walk from the terminal and we were on the road in good time. The only hiccup being that I couldn’t find where the headlamps were and for a good couple of miles I had driven (in the dark) without them on.
After about 45 minutes we arrived outside our Villa and even in the dark we were super impressed. We ran around our massive villa, claiming rooms, marvelling at the space and then opening the patio doors we got first glimpse of our amazing pool area. Ella and my friends daughter literally stripped down to their pants and were straight in the pool, whooping and squealing with delight. The boys were slightly more reserved and waited to dig out their swimming shorts but still equally excited. We were also chuffed that we could crack open a cold bottle of wine !!
After a good nights sleep we woke up and my baby girl was all of a sudden 8 years old. We had sorted balloons and banners the night before so she came downstairs and was really surprised and happy. After opening her gifts we settled in for our first breakfast on the patio. We had asked the villa rental company to do a little shopping for us so enjoyed some fresh watermelon and pastries. We were all in agreement that for the majority of the day we were pretty much staying put.
We did a little more shopping for essentials and then sunbeds, sun-tan lotion, books, swimming were the order of the day. It was bliss.
Later in the afternoon we decided to go check out the local beach, we had been advised it was only a 15/20 minutes walk away so worked out that a quick stroll, dip in the sea and maybe a cold beverage and then we would head back to the villa and get changed for a birthday dinner. Well that was the plan anyway!!!
What went wrong you may ask……..
Well we set off in the direction of the sea, we reached the lighthouse and turned right. I did know that a lot of the beaches around the area were down steps and little bays around the beautiful coastline so we collectively thought we must be so close to getting in the waves. Well not quite, finally, after a 2 hour walk around the cliff tops, climbing up and over rocks, scrambling through bushes (all in flip-flops), running out of water, the little legs in the party getting tired (and therefore a little whingey) we spotted the oasis of Praia de Centianes.
Now don’t get me wrong – the walk was lovely, the views spectacular, we saw beautiful ships sail by and had we been slightly better prepared for it we might not have had such unhappy kiddies. But getting to the beach was worth it.
We had a quick refreshment break and then collectively decided that instead of heading out tonight we would hang out at the beach for a bit and then grab some take out for back at the villa. Ella’s birthday dinner would wait another day. So we dived straight into the surf and cooled down from our epic journey.
Once we headed back we couldn’t believe quite how quick it was to get back. Lesson learnt. However, once we were back at the villa with pizza and more swimming in the pool (not at the same time) we were all in a happy place.
Day 2 and the kiddies requested that we DIDN’T go for a walk today and just enjoy the villa ALL DAY. So we agreed … villa day and then dinner for the little lady later on. So we read, we swam, we chatted and played and had terrific day.
We did make it out for dinner that evening and headed right into the centre and to Martin’s Grill which overlooks the square and from the balcony we had great views down to the beach. The restaurant had plenty of seating and choice and we enjoyed a lovely dinner. The girls going for pasta, the bigger boys all opting for meat and the ladies fish. I ordered the local speciality of sardines and they were gorgeous. So fresh, delicate and salty.
We decided against a desert and would grab a gelato from one of the many shops around the centre. But not before the girls had their hair braids. No sunny holiday would be complete without Ella having her hair done so we had a couple of happy girls and then made even happier by a massive ice cream.
Day 3 was time waterpark time and the kids were raring to go. We had booked the tickets to Aqualand Algarve in advance and taken advantage of a early booking discount. We made a quick packed lunch and headed there pretty much for opening time so we could make the most of it and had a really brilliant time. Read all about it in my review.
That night we had the first BBQ. Stocked up with delights we fired up the grill and had a variety of yummy food. We had a great night with some great music (some may say that was debateable – but all bringing back some special memories) and then entertainment provided by the girls and then a good old dance off. Without question this was our best night, so much fun and we laughed so much.
Day 4 was another chilled day by the pool and followed by BBQ at Chez Deborah. Time to just let the children relax and take things at their own pace. Plus I think we were all keen for a repeat of the previous night.
Day 5 and I needed some more beach action so after our lazy breakfast we threw all our beach gear in the car and drove down to Praia do Carvalho which was above 5 minutes from the villa. There is a small car-park at the top of the cliff and plenty of space nearby. The each is reached down set of steep stairs and then a little tunnel through the cliff top. It feels like a real adventure and that you get a prize at the end. The beach was busy but a real gem of a place.
After setting out our towels, sarongs etc we were keen to get in the sea and we spent the next few hours in and out of the water, playing in the sand, eating donuts and despite the beach being busy it still felt really intimate.
At night we decided to head to the famous Algar Seco area. It is a series of stunning rock formations. There appears to be two sides one with a number of steps down to a sinkhole created in the rocks, it also has a few areas where the brave throw themselves off into the sea below so naturally we stood around and watched for a while. It is really busy around here but due to the beauty it is understandably so.
The west side houses the famous Boneca Cave (The Doll) which through a short passageway you come to the cave which has two eroded arches which form the eyes of the doll. The view that it gives is pretty spectacular so you can see why it is so popular.
There is the Boneca Bar which sits just above the entrance to the cave and would be a great place to stop for either a drink or dinner. We did try for the drink but they were fully booked so if you fancy a bar with an amazing view I would recommend you book.
We then headed back up to the boardwalk which takes about 10/15 minutes from one end to the other but makes walking along the coastline accessible for everyone. We were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset too which kept us there a little longer.
We headed out for dinner that night but decided on a bit of pizza and we headed over to La Mona Lisa restaurant just up from Praia de Centianes. We even managed a bit of star spotting with ex-professional footballer Tim Sherwood getting a take-away (so this kept the boys happy). We all had a lovely pizza and were happy with our choice of venue – plus it was just a quick 5 minute drive back to the villa where we could crack open some vino and play some cards.
Day 6 and our final full day in the villa – we had the usual chilled morning in and around the pool and then headed over to Portimao as we had booked to go on the Santa Bernarda Pirate Ship for a trip around the caves of the area. Read my review here but suffice to say it was a great afternoon, We all thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the scenery was stunning, the caves pretty magical and then the playtime off the side of the boat added to the fun and so would definitely recommend it. The ship was stunning too so a great adventure.
Back on shore and we were starving – most of the restaurants directly around the harbour were a bit samey so a quick look at the smartphone and a nearby restaurant by the name of Dona Barca. We would never have found this without the recommendation – it certainly was not the sort of place you would just stumble across. It was in the old Fish Market, pretty much under the arches of the Ponte Velha bridge over the river and it was great.
I shared a Red Sea Bream with my friend and the rest of the gang opted for steak and it was all great. We got to choose the fish from a display and it was cooked to perfection on a grill. It was cooked on the bone (which bothered my friend a little but not me) and it was just so delicate and delicious. Washed down with a nice glass of Rose. We decided to skip dessert in favour of an ice cream from one of the gelato near the harbour. Good decision plus the girls got to send some of their holiday money on some tat.
We spent the final night back at the villa for more music, dancing, cards and laughter. Pretty much the same as most evenings.
We packed up the next morning and said goodbye to the amazing Villa Deborah. We had had the most perfect week. But the holiday was not over and we had a another couple of days in Ferragudo to enjoy but will cover that in Part 2.