Lisa McSorley reports back on a enjoyable family break with husband Eoin, and their children, Lois, 7, and Jimmy, 4.
Why we went
Having been on British holidays for the last few years – while our brood was small but the amount we needed to take was not – we decided that when the youngest turned four it was time to venture further afield. We were in need of some guaranteed sunshine, children’s clubs and well-earned R&R.
So off we went to the airport. The Monarch flight from Luton to Faro took just under four hours, which was easily manageable with two children. Upon arrival at Faro our personal driver, a jolly chap called Jorge, was waiting. The 35-minute journey to the resort was filled with him teaching Jimmy to say ‘obregadu’ (thank you in Portuguese) and other useful phrases.
Designed for luxury, the five-star Vila Vita resort is set in 54 acres of hilly coastline on the edge of the Atlantic, with a large hotel and villas dotted around the hillsides. Architecture is traditionally Portuguese in style, reflecting the country's historic Moorish influence, with snowy white-washed walls and tiled floors. The surrounding gardens are lush with tropical plants and trees, and the air is filled with the gentle splash of ornamental fountains.
It took us a while to get our bearings, but the friendly staff, who whiz around in golf buggies, happily stop to give you a lift if you look lost! Everywhere feels very clean and private and the clientele are very polite and well turned-out. It’s a very peaceful destination, designed to promote pure relaxation and romance.
We stayed in the main hotel in a family suite which had all mod cons, plus a fully-stocked mini bar fridge and a big bowl of fresh fruit. There was also a separate bedroom for the small people which meant we didn’t have to whisper after their bedtime. In addition, the suite had its own private garden terrace.
What we did
Each day, we dropped off Lois and Jimmy at the children’s club – which kept them out of the midday sun, not to mention trouble. The qualified and lovely staff guided them through play with a structured timetable of activities. That left my husband and I free to lounge by the adults-only pool, swim in splash-free turquoise water, eat a leisurely lunch in one of the on-site restaurants or truly relax in the resort’s spa.
The resort has eight swimming pools to choose from, from the quiet adults-only pool surrounded by swinging hammocks and furnished with a handy ‘swim-up’ bar, to the more rambunctious family pool where folk mess around on inflatables and create a splash (both in the pool and out of it!).
The resort’s beach is a stunning sandy cove, where rockpools emerge when the tide is out. It's accessible from the hotel grounds and families with small children tend to congregate here – it’s the one place where the very youngest guests can squeal and shout to their heart's desire without parents worrying about disturbing the hotel’s tranquillity. And what’s more fun than building sandcastles and splashing in waves in the sunshine?
Vila Vita Parc also prides itself as being something of a dream golfing destination, with a 9-hole pitch and putt, and 18-hole putting green and driving range, plus mini golf for younger golfers. There’s also tennis, table tennis, volleyball, yoga, Pilates, diving and deep sea fishing if any of that tickles your fancy.
What we ate
There are eight restaurants to choose from, ranging from the Michelin-starred Ocean fine-dining restaurant, which is adults-only, to The Whale, which serves delicious child-friendly pizza and pasta.
On our first night we ate at the Adega, the hotel’s traditional Portugese restaurant. I had peri peri chicken, very typical of Portugal, and Eoin had the cataplana with prawns and mussels – a recommendation from a fellow guest, which did not disappoint. Strictly speaking The Adega is for ages six and over and Jimmy was perhaps a little young for this particular dining experience. For most of the rest of our stay we opted for an early, more relaxed supper at The Whale.
Our dining highlight was on the last night when we took the hotel’s shuttle bus 2km to the Arté Nautica beach restaurant. Eoin and I enjoyed a bottle of wine while watching the children playing happliy on the beach until the food arrived – it was the most relaxing family meal we’ve had to date!
Why we would go back
For calm and luxury, the Vila Vita scores top marks. We also found that, because the Algarve is Portugal’s most southerly region, the sizzling Mediterranean climate is made more bearable by the breeze from the Atlantic. You can count on sunshine all year round – although the sea was chillier than we expected!
Monarch has cheap flights to Faro available from Birmingham, Manchester, London Gatwick, London Luton, Leeds Bradford and East Midlands. For further information, see www.monarch.co.uk
Tots Too offers a seven-night stay at Vila Vita Parc from £3,999 per family, based on two adults and two children under 12 years staying in two interconnecting deluxe rooms in the main building. Price includes return flights, bed and breakfast accommodation (excluding drinks) and private transfers. For further details, telephone 020 7284 3344 or visit www.totstoo.com
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