We had one more opportunity for a holiday while Sam was on maternity leave, and before baby Conway started nursery. A slim window in October just as things were hotting up at work for me.
We wanted somewhere warm and relaxing; a relative lives in Munich – someone to help with childcare would be perfect – but Octoberfest inflated prices and all hotels were beyond expensive. Then a friend recommended Tavira in The Algarve. Warm, by the sea, a nice old town, plenty of good food, national parks. It sounded perfect for a weeklong break.
On Friday we booked EasyJet flights from Gatwick, on Saturday we found our hotel and on Tuesday we flew out. EasyJet as usual were very good to our family, we ate pre-made boiled eggs on the plane and arrived half an hour early in Faro, where we picked up our car rental – a black Fiat 500L. Conway had a Chico baby seat set up in the back.
I have little experience driving on the right. Just one nerve wracking day climbing the hills in Madeira in an old rental with no 3rd gear. After two laps of the car park, and a couple of times smacking the door with my knuckles as I tried to change gear on the wrong side, we were on our way to the hotel. Just a half hour drive down one of Portugal’s tolled and empty freeways.
We chose a place out of town, somewhere that required a rental – it’s a 10 minute drive from Tavira. It ranked highly on Trip Advisor and was affordable. It had looked like they had no availability, but we called ahead, they reshuffled some rooms and we had a place for 8 nights. We could never remember the hotel’s full name.
Nested on a hill, our room looked out over the brown hills of The Algarve, down to the distant sea. At sunrise the sun lifted its head above the horizon and dazzled the restaurant, where breakfast is served.
Breakfast was good for the price; breads, meats, fruit, average coffee and delicious freshly made Portuguese egg tarts (Pastéis de Nata). We mostly ate the tarts. Conway liked the giant raisins, much to his mum’s chagrin.
Our room was a good size, two single beds pushed together making a large and comfortable bed. There was a zingy pink travel cot for Conway. Two doors opened onto a little terracotta balcony and we had a bathroom with a bath – perfect for bathing a 10 month old. Conway explored the tiled floors with zeal, finding the few things he shouldn’t touch, like plug sockets and pens. There was a bidet, and it didn’t take long for Conway to work out how to turn on the tap and push down the plug.
The hotel had a pool and a jacuzzi, and some well hidden benches to admire the view from. The beach bar wasn’t staffed and the hotel was quiet until the weekend, when it filled up for two nights.
Around the grounds we enjoyed the fresh smell of flowering jasmine. Rosemary and fig trees grew about the place and a little water system housed a place for terrapins. At the back there was a sad little farm area with pecked hens, peacocks, sheep and a donkey, under plenty of shade. We showed Conway the farm animals, which he enjoyed until a honking goose made him cry.
After travelling we sought only to chill in the hotel. Tavira could wait until tomorrow. On the veranda we sat with toasted tuna baguettes and cold beer and took in the warmth of our surroundings.
We sat by the pool, songbirds flitted about the trees nearby. A friend has a theory that travel causes babies to make developmental leaps. Conway had been crawling for a while, but on the sun-loungers by the pool he found a new impetus to climb – up and onto, over and down, then onto the next, he leapfrogged each one until he reached a bank of flowers that distracted him. Perhaps it was the weird grass that made him do it, he didn’t like how it felt beneath him, a little crisper than usual, he crawled on his knees, feet held in the air to minimise contact.
We tried the hotel’s restaurant for dinner, which served meals above our expectation. I had cod with almonds, figs and spinach, Samantha had a wild boar stew and Conway played peekaboo with the placemats.