Eight adults. Four toddlers. One villa. Lizzie Murphy discovers how to enjoy the Algarve with young families.
Everyone thought we were mad to go away for a week with three other couples and their under-twos in one villa.
“It’ll be chaos,” my mum warned. I was inclined to agree, although I had put all the negative scenarios I had thought of – the screaming, the fighting, the lack of sleep (and that was just the adults) – to the back of my mind.
Instead I pictured sunshine and blue skies, happy children splashing about in the pool and relaxing evenings barbecuing and drinking sangria in the garden. Surprisingly, the reality wasn’t actually too far from my imagination.
Our home for the week, booked through Huddersfield-based holiday company Villa Parade, was Casa Maravilha in the rural Portuguese village of San Bartolomeu Da Messines, about 14 miles north of Albufeira.
The grand four-bedroom red house is visible on the horizon as you enter the village. Set in large impressive gardens, the gated villa has an outdoor pool, perfect for a cool dip in hot weather. The toddlers loved splashing about and playing with the inflatables.
Next to the pool is a covered barbecue area, which is great for al-fresco cooking and dining. We spent many happy evenings cooking on the built-in barbecue and chatting around the large wooden table which comfortably sat all eight adults.
The villa itself is spacious with four good-sized bedrooms, two of which are en-suite, a large kitchen and a big living area. It didn’t feel cramped even when we had a couple of rainy days.
My husband and I had always enjoyed going on holiday with friends before we had a baby last year.
And when a few of our friends had babies at the same time, we thought it might be fun to try a holiday with a new dimension.
Spreading the cost of the villa between us made it a very reasonably-priced holiday. We were all a bit apprehensive about having so many toddlers in one house but we found going on holiday with other children of a similar age to our 16-month-old actually made things easier. They all ate and slept at similar times and also enjoyed doing the same activities so they kept each other entertained. The adults also had fun. Each couple took it in turns to go out for meals in the evening while the others babysat.
The villa is about 15 minutes from the historic city of Silves, 20 minutes from Albufeira and about 35 minutes from Vilamoura. During the day, there is an abundance of beautiful beaches within a 30-40 minute drive so we had the best of both worlds – a place to stay in the country and days at the seaside.
Other family-friendly attractions include three water parks, Lagos Zoo and Zoomarine, a cross between a water park and a zoo. For those without young children in tow there are a number of wine tasting tours and golf courses in the area plus plenty of restaurants and nightlife.
It’s a little more difficult to find activities to keep little ones entertained in the rain in the Algarve, which is geared towards dry weather. There are public indoor swimming pools and several shopping malls, including one near Albufeira, which would keep you dry.
We decided to brave the elements and head to Silves, stopping at various cafés for refreshment and shelter.
The town is the former capital of the Algarve and is thought to have been founded during the times of Roman domination, when the region was part of the Lusitania province. Set above the banks of the Rio Arade, it boasts one of the best-preserved castles in the region.
With red-stone walls and winding backstreets on a hillside, there are great views over the town and surrounding countryside.
Villa Parade has over 550 properties, including over 100 in Portugal. The owners of our villa, who also have another house in Odelouca, near Silves, live next door to Casa Maravilha.
Lucky guests are treated to their delicious baking. We received a huge chocolate and coconut cake as well as the Portuguese speciality pork bread and a delicious custard dessert made by their grandchildren.
The house is spotless.
Prices for Villa Parade’s properties start from £449. There are extra charges for cots, stair gates and high chairs if you have babies or toddlers.
There are daily flights to Faro from Leeds Bradford Airport and parking costs at the airport start from £4.27 per day for a two-week stay over the summer.
Villa Parade has over 550 exclusive villas and holiday apartments across the Mediterranean and Florida, with new resorts in Turkey, the South of France, Costa Blanca and Santorini.
Prices start from £449.
To pre-book on-site car parking at Leeds Bradford Airport visit www.leedsbradfordairport.co.uk. Prices start from £4.27 per day for a two-week stay over the summer. If you book Fast Track at the same time prices start from just £1.50 per person. This enables you to gain swift access through to security.