Monday, May 14, 2012

Ahhhh the Beach

It almost hurts to write this post. I want to be back in the Algarve so badly!! It was truly beautiful. Like I wrote earlier, not the warmest weather, but gorgeous beach, not crowded and very relaxing. 

We took a train from Lisbon to Albufeira on Tuesday morning. It took about 3 hours. The tickets were so cheap, we sprung for first class.... which meant a slightly bigger seat. But the train car wasn't crowded and we snagged the table area. Charlie thought it was fun and spent his time playing on the ipad, checking out the snack car and going to the bathroom over and over. 
I'd asked the concierge to arrange a car for us from the train station to the hotel and it only took about 15 minutes to get there. Charlie and I walked around the lobby while Brad got us checked in and I could feel the stress melting away. At least until Charlie had a potty accident - but EVEN THEN! It didn't feel as bad because we were checking into paradise - complete with spa-like music piped into the lobby. And we know how much Kara loves her some spa.

Since Brad has stayed at so many Starwoods, he was able to get us a free upgrade and they gave us this awesome two story suite with a big walk out patio. It. Was. Awesome. We somehow still managed to have Charlie in our room, though, since we had a babysitter come and sit downstairs each night while he slept. But it made the sitter situation work out beautifully.

The resort had a kid's club with a Pirate theme, so we just called it Pirate School for short. Charlie was signed up to go on 4 of the days, but actually just went 3. The first morning after breakfast we were walking there and he threw up all over me. Poor kid. So much congestion and then BLECK all over mommy's white tennis skirt. Clearly he was not up to being a pirate. 

It rained that day anyways. He and Brad took a nice long nap together while I walked to the pharmacy in town and then got a massage. I booked one for Brad for later in the day. If rain on vacation says anything to me, it says Get Thee to the Spa!

The rest of the trip was mostly sunny and warm and Charlie had a great time at Pirate School. There was a huge pirate ship playground, a bouncy castle, ride on toys, games, trampoline, you name it. He absolutely loved it and gave the ladies all hugs when we left. We'd take him after breakfast, he'd stay through lunch and then we'd pick him up in the early afternoon to go to the beach.
I'm not going to lie, it was so nice to have a break while knowing Charlie was having fun. Brad and I played tennis together, I got a facial one morning and took a long walk on the beach. It was great. 
There were a couple of outdoor pools, but both were kind of chilly. When we weren't at the beach, we were at the indoor pool, which was heated. That was where Charlie met his good friend Leo, who is from Scotland. Both 3 years old, both tons of energy, both very sweet - they really hit it off. They liked walking around holding hands. :) We played with Leo every day we were at the resort. 

Here are the boys having a lollipop on the beach. Leo is actually wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey! His dad is a pilot and flies to the states periodically. Leo sported quite a few jerseys from U.S. teams while on vacation! Charlie is still talking about his friend Leo. 
The beach was so nice, at the bottom of these huge red cliffs. We would actually take an elevator down to beach level and walk along a wooden plank walkway to get to the sand. Our resort had a really nice beach club with chairs and umbrellas, as well as a restaurant on a deck overlooking the water. I loved eating down there, just listening to the waves crash. 
The water was cold, but Charlie was mainly interested in playing in the sand, looking for shells and running from the waves with Leo. I could easily spend an entire week just sitting on that beach each day. Being by the ocean has a very calming effect on me - even while keeping my 3 year old alive. 
One of the other things I loved about the resort was that we could hire a sitter to come each night after Charlie had gone to sleep (in theory) and there were several restaurants on the resort we could eat at. So we didn't have to go far. 

We had two different sitters - one that worked in the golf shop and one that worked in reception. Both so sweet and would come over and say hi when they saw us out and about during the day.

Brad and I don't typically get so much time alone together with his travel and work schedule, and having that to look forward to each night was so nice. We had some great food, delicious wine and could just take our time over dinner. Such an indulgence when you have a small child! 

I think my favorite was when we went and had the tasting menu. It was several courses with wines to match and we were the only people there that night. Our waiter was lots of fun and brought us all kinds of fun extras to try and we stayed pretty late, talking to him about Portugal and wine over - big surprise - a glass of port. 

By the last day we were all sad to leave. We had one final play with Leo and then packed up and took a car to Faro to catch our flight. The airport was just 30 minutes away and flew directly into Gatwick. So convenient minus the part where Gatwick takes over an hour to get to from West London!

In some ways I wish we'd spent our entire trip down at the beach, just given how much fun we had there and how relaxing it was. I'm glad we saw Lisbon, but it was a learning experience for us about what's reasonable to do with such a young child on vacation and still keep your sanity. 

We never really left the resort, though I understand there are a ton of awesome things to see around the area: vineyards, fishing villages, lookout points, etc. I hope we can go back one day when Charlie is older and can explore with us more. Until then I will be dreaming of this beautiful coastline! 

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