The Algarve (southern Portugal) – Vacation Week 1

Sintra

Welcome to Portugal! Please be sure to hold tightly to all of your belongings at all times – even when they are squirmy.

Sintra

Our plan was fairly simple: take almost three weeks off in December and explore the southern Iberian peninsula. I was excited but a little pesimisstic. How would the kids adjust to the time zone? How would they handle the strange food? Being on the road so much? Living in hotels?

Surprise! They were the best travelers of all of us, I think. They explored everywhere we went – sometimes so much so that I was scared out of my mind. But we learned an awful lot about each other and how different travel is with little kids.

Sintra

Sintra

We landed in Lisbon after a short 6-hour flight from Boston. Six hours may not seem short as you’re reading this, but I found myself wishing it was longer. The flight left at 6:40pm, which was far too early to coax anyone to sleep. The kids managed to get about an hour total, and the rest of us got none at all. That meant that we were completely bleary-eyed and cranky the first day. A real shame given that we spent it in Sintra, a beautiful little town northwest of Lisbon. It will have to be revisited under better conditions.

Sintra

The kids became obsessed with fountains on this trip. Every place we went, they had to search for one, and then examine it closely to see how it functioned. And dip fingers in. Luckily there were fountains basically everywhere. We even started dealing with tantrums by saying, “Hey, let’s go see if they have any fountains here.”

Sintra

A little shopping. Actually this is the bulk of the shopping we did. I had high hopes of picking up a few curiosities for our house, but the time just didn’t present itself. Next trip, I guess!

Sintra

Mina finally dropped in the afternoon. I was carrying her on my shoulders and suddenly felt her bobbing around up there. I pulled her down and found that she’d fallen asleep sitting up! Luckily Grandpa was happy to carry her. He’s rather taken with the wee beastie.

Sintra

We prowled all over this big garden. Linus doesn’t let giant steps stop him.

Sintra

Sintra

Sintra

Sintra

Sintra

Sintra

Sintra’s roads were fairly alarming – particularly given that we were driving a minivan. Here I am trying to stay on the sidewalk and away from the cars. We actually saw full-size tour buses traveling these streets. It makes your heart stop a little bit.

Sintra

Settling into the hotel. We brought a final selection of toys to keep the kids busy. Mina has learned to run TV remotes, and of course Linus was mainly interested in the HVAC systems.

We got extremely lucky with our accommodations – lucky to have the ability to stay in such great places.

Four Seasons Fairways Almancil, Portugal

Ria Formosa Natural Park, Olhao

The weather, as you can see, was perfect – mostly mid-60s by the afternoon. That meant we spent most of our days strolling around. Here we were at a nature preserve.

Ria Formosa natural park, Olhao

Mina’s running so hard both feet are off the ground!

Ria Formosa natural park, Olhao

Checking out Portuguese ducks.

Ria Formosa natural park, Olhao

Ria Formosa natural park, Olhao

The walkway Linus is on leads to an old tidal mill. You can imagine how excited he was to get inside and see all of the wheels.

Ria Formosa natural park, Olhao: tide mill

Ria Formosa natural park, Olhao: tide mill

Ria Formosa natural park, Olhao: tide mill

Ria Formosa natural park, Olhao: tide mill

Olhao

Here’s a major difference between traveling as a couple and traveling with kids: you have to stop by every playground you find. Luckily slides and swings are pretty universal. There were a few occasions when Linus tried to communicate with another kid (or vice versa). They were all fairly undeterred by the language barrier. I guess “No, I was playing here first” can be universally communicated with body language.

Olhao marina

Faro

We encountered quite a few nativity scenes – one of the fun parts of traveling during Christmas. Linus was pleased to discover that many of them included a windmill or watermill. This particular one was inside a fire station. They let you just wander in off the street and check it out.

Faro, Portugal

Speaking of wandering, Mina loved roaming the streets. Often she did her happy-floppy walk, which I guess is sort of a dance?

Faro, Portugal

Here are the kids inside a museum. I was a basketcase every time we did something like this – I was convinced they’d destroy a priceless antique. They were great, though. A little rambunctious, but pretty well behaved. I did find that exploring museums and sites with them caused me to see things differently. You notice details that you never would have seen before – sometimes because they’re down at kid-level, and sometimes because it’s an area of fascination for them. Gears and turning things for Linus, cats for Mina.

Faro, Portugal: Museu municipal

Faro, Portugal: Museu municipal

Roman mosaic. Grandpa was pretty excited about it. We told him that he should really go to Ostia next.

Faro, Portugal: Museu municipal

Faro, Portugal: Museu municipal

Faro, Portugal: Museu municipal

Faro, Portugal: Museu municipal

Faro, Portugal: Museu municipal

Faro, Portugal: Museu municipal

Well, while they did great as I said, sometimes it was easier to just extract them. Here I’ve taken the kids and left the museum. We sat outside watching cats and eating digestive biscuits. Not a bad way to pass half an hour.

Faro, Portugal

The kids spent more time lying on streets, sidwalks, and floors than I really would have liked. By the end of the visit her jacket was basically grey. But I suppose it helped their immune systems (can you believe no one got even a cold while we were away?!), and they seemed to enjoy it (except when they were down there because of a tantrum).

Faro, Portugal

Faro, Portugal

Lounging at lunch. That’s my wine in the foreground!

Faro, Portugal: Sampling cataplana at Taberna Modesto

Meals were a bit of a struggle, I must admit. Both Portuguese and Spanish like to take their time at meals, and we wanted to do the same. The kids weren’t having it. We brought lots of toys, but there were quite a few embarrassing incidents, and one broken plate.

Faro, Portugal: Sampling cataplana at Taberna Modesto

This is a photo Mina took when she discovered Yen’s camera on the ground under the table.

Faro, Portugal: Sampling cataplana at Taberna Modesto

Typical Portuguese food: tons of different seafood backed together in a big pot with a tomato-based broth and the softest potatoes you’ll ever eat outside of Peru. The kids loved it, actually. Linus in particular is very into cockles. Too bad they’re so hard to come by here.

Faro, Portugal: Sampling cataplana at Taberna Modesto

Faro, Portugal

This photo was taken a half mile from our hotel. It claims to be the longest wooden bridge in Europe. I can’t confirm this. But I can confirm that if you walk all the way down it, you’ll come to a large dune and then the Atlantic. Grandma and Grandpa started or ended most days here.

Quinta do Lago beach, near Four Seasons Fairways

Have trucks, will travel!

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Lagos

When you tell people you’re going to the Algarve, they invariably tell you take a boat tour. We weren’t able to do that (imagine Mina trapped on a small boat for 90 minutes; echoes of The Bounty, I’m sure), but we did visit the beaches and were rather stunned by the beauty (and winded by the climb).

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

These kids! They certainly got tired and asked to be carried a fair amount, but I was incredibly impressed by how much walking and climbing they did.

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

Grandma actually asked to have her photo taken! Wish we’d managed to get them to pose for a few more.

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

Mina terrorized all of the cats she found. Poor things.

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

This was taken right before the cat broke into a flat-out run.

Lagos, Portugal: Ponta da Piedade

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Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

After a very delicious lunch right by the water, we ventured onto a beach. And we learned an important lesson: always pack a spare set of clothes. I turned the kids pant-legs up and took off their shoes and socks, but Linus went all in.

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Can’t wait for the kids to be old enough for us to do something like this!

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Mina explored the caves while Linus explored the tide pools. She does love enclosed spaces.

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

I gave up eventually and took off his pants, letting him roam in his underwear.

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

As much as we hate Florida, we’ve decided a mini-break in February is probably in order. We’ve got a Southwest credit to use, so we might as well. Then we can go into the water all he likes.

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Back up the stairs. Bothe kids climbed the entire way on their own!

Lagos, Portugal: Camilo beach

Back at the hotel, the kids checked out the fan on our balcony.

Almancil, Portugal: Four Seasons Fairways

Here’s our view from the same. Too bad the pool wasn’t heated.

Almancil, Portugal: Four Seasons Fairways

Later the kids stripped down for some ice cream.

Silves

There are storks everywhere on the Iberian peninsula! Apparently they’re very social animals and always nest in large groups.

Silves, Portugal

Silves, Portugal

Linus does not like churches. He says they’re “a little bit scary.” He’s right, really – the imagery is kind of disturbing. I guess it’s meant to instill fear and piety. It certainly handled the former for him.

Silves, Portugal: Cathedral

About to collect a stick, I think.

Silves, Portugal

Oh, my poor heart! Happy that the kids are tenatious enough to climb all over castle walls, but my god… I actually didn’t sleep well for most of the vacation because I’d close my eyes at night and see a child running into the street or over the side of a wall. I’m not good at relaxing, I guess.

Silves, Portugal: Castelo

Silves, Portugal: Castelo

Silves, Portugal: Castelo

Silves, Portugal: Castelo

Silves, Portugal: Castelo

Silves, Portugal

Mina is still teeny for her age. She’s been walking for a year now (as you know), but she still surprises people when they first see her dashing around. I honestly don’t know how she manages stairs higher than her own knee.

Silves, Portugal

Maybe it’s her intense exercise routine, including all these deep squats. I have become obsessed with squatting as a cure for my chronic hip pain. Luckily my two trainers remind me frequently throughout the day that I need to practice.

Silves, Portugal

Silves, Portugal

Silves, Portugal

Estoi

Yen found us a little Roman villa to explore. It turned out to have rather famous fish mosaics. With little spiral-shaped designs that delighted Linus.

Estoi: Roman ruins at Milreu

Estoi: Roman ruins at Milreu

Mina… Well, she liked the sticks.

Estoi: Roman ruins at Milreu

Albufeira

The kids loved this beach. Shells everywhere and lots of rocks to chuck. We were lucky it was there, as I ended up abandoning lunch to take them for a walk after Mina smashed a plate.

Albufeira, Portugal: Pescadores beach

Albufeira, Portugal: Pescadores beach

Sand castle nativity scene! Linus asked me, “Should we make on like that?” Sure…

Albufeira, Portugal: Pescadores beach

Here I am trying to keep the kids distracted while we wait for food.

Albufeira, Portugal: Cafe Oceano

Worth waiting for!

Albufeira, Portugal: Cafe Oceano

Albufeira, Portugal: Pescadores beach

Albufeira, Portugal: Pescadores beach

Albufeira, Portugal: Pescadores beach

Albufeira, Portugal: Pescadores beach

Tavira

Tavira, Portugal

Tavira, Portugal

Tavira, Portugal

Tavira, Portugal

Here’s Grandpa headed up to check out the view of the town from the old castle walls. Grandma is below, studying the plants. Of course!

Tavira, Portugal: Castelo

Linus enjoyed the view too.

Tavira, Portugal: Castelo

Tavira, Portugal: Castelo

Tavira, Portugal: Castelo

Tavira, Portugal: Castelo

Mina chased this cat all over the place.

Tavira, Portugal

It finally ducked into a church for safety. Poor thing – it was the same church we were headed toward! It finally gave in and let Mina pet it a bit. Or at least touch.

The walls of most churches in this region are decorated with tiles.

Tavira, Portugal: Ingreja da Misericordia

Mina is incredibly helpful at managing my accessories.

Tavira, Portugal

Tavira, Portugal: Roman bridge

Santa Luzia

This particular town is known for octopus fishing. I’m not generally a huge fan of octopus – if it’s cooked poorly, it just feels like a tire. The people of this town, though, know what they’re doing. It was so tender it was more like mushrooms than anything else. Plus the signage at our restaurant was adorable.

No, Grandpa didn’t have any.

Santa Luzia: restaurante Polvo & Companhia

After lunch, we headed to the beach. Mina expressed her lack of enthusiasm.

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Everyone perked up when we discovered that this particular beach has a little train that runs from the parking area to the water.

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

 

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

I had no idea this was happening behind me.

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

The beach was really nice too – very long and smooth. Of course we’d brought extra clothes.

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Extra clothes were a good idea because shortly after this video was taken, Linus got tackled by a huge wave and was wet head to toe.

Not sure of this is art or a memorial, but it was pretty amazing.

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

Santa Luzia: Praia do Barril

And that was our last day in the Algarve. The next morning, we packed up everything and headed for Sevilla.