The Unmumsy Mum – A Week in Quinta Da Lago

‘Would I stay in a villa again? 100%, yes’

I have often daydreamed about staying in a villa, wondering how it would feel to wake up and throw open the double doors of the master suite before stepping out onto the balcony to drink in the morning sunshine. Holidays don’t get much better than that, surely?

At 30-years-young, I have stayed in a wide variety of holiday accommodation including hotels, apartments, caravans and cottages but never had my villa dream been realised. Never, that was, until last week when we jetted off for a week in the Algarve to stay in a villa even more beautiful than the one I had been imagining.

It was to be a holiday of several firsts for us as not only were we dipping our toe into the rather splendid world of villa rentals, we were also travelling as part of a larger extended family unit, buddying up with my brother-in-law, his wife and their two boys for our week-long Portuguese adventure. And what an adventure it was.

There is almost too much to say about such a special holiday and it is probably for that reason that I have been sitting for some time staring out of our bedroom window at the dreary, damp scene below (no pool view here, unfortunately), not really sure where to start.

 Perhaps I should start with more about the villa itself which certainly did not disappoint. Upon arrival, the four kids in our party simply stared in open-mouthed amazement and that was before they realised we had a pool to ourselves. The beauty of the villa extended above and beyond how pleasing it was on the eye – though I did fall immediately in love with the double sweeping staircase (I don’t much rate my chances of squeezing one of those into our two-bed-plus-a-box-room semi).

No, the most beautiful thing of all was the privacy. Oh how relaxing it was to have a pool and garden to ourselves and to be able to walk around wearing whatever we fancied. Usually on holiday, whether in a resort abroad or a caravan park in the UK, we spend at least fifty per cent of the day reminding our children not to kick/splash/shout/whinge or do anything that will affect the enjoyment of the other holidaymakers who we are sharing a space with.

At the villa, the only other people our kids ran the risk of splashing and kicking were their cousins and said cousins were more than happy to splash and kick back. There was rarely a moment when at least one of them did not want to be in the pool and although that meant we had to be on high alert pretty much constantly, there were four of us adults to do pool supervision shifts.

One of the most magical outcomes from the private pool access was that our Henry (age 5) ended the week a thousand times more confident with his swimming, going from a boy who was hesitant to go under water to one who couldn’t wait to jump in and race his cousins.

 Though the kids would have been more than happy to stay at the villa all week, we had hired cars and wanted to explore the surrounding Quinta Do Lago area. I’m so glad we did – what a beautiful place! On several occasions we headed down to the Quinta Do Lago lake where we enjoyed lunch at The Shack before taking pedalos out and having a go on the inflatable assault course (at twenty weeks’ pregnant, I had to sit that one out).

We also went to the beach where the adults in our party all had dips in the sea. It was an absolutely beautiful beach but the villa had clearly won the hearts of our children who kept whingeing that they wanted to get back to ‘their’ pool!

We then spent a very hot day at the Aquashow waterpark (no slides for me due to the aforementioned pregnancy, but the others loved it) so by the end of the week felt like we had enjoyed a really good mix of day trips and villa life.

 Perhaps the only drawback to being in a villa rather than a holiday complex of some sort (and it is a small one) is that you are there on a self-catered basis, and although we could have hired in a private chef we felt it was an extravagance too far for us as a group, particularly noting that at least two of our children are suspicious of any food that isn’t beige. We therefore relied on the local Pingo Doce supermarket to provide us with things our children were guaranteed to eat, such as pasta and fish fingers. And crisps. Lots of crisps.

If we are ever to do a villa break again (here’s hoping!) I think we might re-think our flight time as we flew out on a very early flight from our nearest airport and arrived seven hours before we could check in. That said, the on-site team who look after the villas were exceptionally helpful throughout our stay and on that first day went out of their way to make our wait as painless as possible, offering to take care of luggage and even sorting a lunch reservation for us nearby.

We also had the full benefit of the added Tots to Travel touches throughout our stay, with kids’ books, toys, stairgates, booster seats and all the other parenting paraphernalia we could have needed being to hand at the villa.

Would I stay in a villa again? One hundred per cent, yes. Would I holiday with extended family again? One hundred per cent, yes. Would I go to Portugal again? One hundred per cent, yes. Would I like to go on holiday while pregnant again? Not really, to be honest! I’d much rather go back when I can join in with the water-slide fun and the wine-drinking, because a villa as grand as this one deserves a toast on arrival.

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