In the second installment of her grand tour of Europe en famille (read the first here), guest contributor and boutique travel expert Rachael reflects on her week at exclusive Vale do Lobo, favourite haunt of golfing Brits in the sunny Algarve.
It’s Eldorado, said DH in wonder as the electronic gate pulled back to reveal our villa. Week 2 of our summer adventure did indeed have a golden aura as we were staying in Dunas Douradas, near Vale Do Lobo in the Algarve. Our home for the week was Casa Magdalena, found on holidaylettings.co.uk. We were there with my parents and my brother, his wife and baby daughter (aged 10 months).
Vale do Lobo is an odd place. It’s choc-a-bloc with luxury villas, golf courses, tennis courts and gourmet restaurants. It’s also almost exclusively British. Priding myself on enjoying more, ahem, ‘authentic’ holiday experiences, I should have hated it, but try as I might I couldn’t.
The Casa was very nice. Not amazing, take-your-breath away stunning, but nice. If you wanted to nit-pick, I think the interiors could benefit from a bit of a refresh. Then again, rustic Portugese has never really been my thing. However, the garden and pool were absolutely beautiful, with lovely planting and very comfortable loungers and outdoor eating areas. We were all grateful for the outdoor eating as my niece was doing baby-led weaning. For us, the set-up was perfect – we could tumble out of the villa into the pool, enjoy some sunbathing while the little ones napped, and walk 5 minutes along the boardwalk to the wide sandy beach when we wanted a change of scene.
We didn’t play any golf. Or any tennis. We did eat at a couple of excellent restaurants, including Parilla Natural – a South American steakhouse (when in Portugal…) in an oasis-like setting. We also spent some time on the beautiful beach – the boardwalk running along it was perfect for soothing tired babies to sleep. Of course having lugged half the house down to the beach, DD1 decided the playground was the place to be, so off we went to the Dunas Douradas Country Club.
We also ventured into Vale do Lobo itself. It’s really a collection of lovely restaurants around a square, and we installed ourselves in a ice cream shop / creperie and watched the world go by. DD1 had a spectacular meltdown when we declined her request for a third scoop of ice cream – one of those occasions when you wonder if it is worth doing ‘nice things’ with a toddler as they always result in tears when the ‘nice thing’ finishes…
Anyway, it was a lovely week, with absolutely perfect weather, great company, and a good villa. Authentic Portugal it isn’t, but you can see why Brits return year after year. Next stop, the Swiss mountains….