We spent a glorious family holiday in The Algarve to celebrate my husband’s BIG birthday (I’m totally sure he won’t mind me sharing that) and were lucky enough to stay in two places; the first being a week with friends. Here is a little look at that first week in Tavira.
Last year was pretty travel heavy, what with my New Year’s Resolution to Just Do Stuff and Paul turning 40. We visited some new places, but decided that in honour of the BIG birthday, we would revisit some old favourites, to allow for opportunities to reflect on holidays past and to see these places with a new perspective, with two littles in tow.
High on the list, and the place for the actual birthday celebrations, was the Algarve. We have been here many times, mainly thanks to our dear dear friends Katie and Mike. Katie first introduced me to Vilamoura back in the day when we were students, when a group of us girls actually received our degree results in 2002 from a payphone in the old town*, followed by a cheeky cocktail or two by the marina.
* Can you even imagine that happening today? And it doesn’t even feel like that long ago. Sigh.
Our heart has never strayed far from The Algarve, and it was almost inevitable we would head there to celebrate Paul’s (big) birthday with our dear friends, only this time with children! How times have changed….Anyhow, we booked this fabulous villa with Jacaranda Holidays who were brilliant.
We chose Tavira as we wanted somewhere a little quieter, away from a lot of the hustle and bustle and business of the Algarve in August. Tavira is a small town in the east of the Algarve, and is one of the less well known destinations, particularly with British tourists.
Only one thing niggled me – the dates we could all get together meant we weren’t going to be over there for Paul’s actual birthday. It would be lovely to celebrate early, but even better if we could be away somewhere for the actual day. So, in true Me style, I sneakily booked an extra four days away for us, in Lagos, where we had had so much fun in our twenties.
Here is the Tavira part of our holiday, where we stayed for a week.
Our villa was AMAZING. I had been slightly concerned about our two families sharing one villa, and how we would avoid getting under each others feet over a whole week, but I needn’t have worried. It was huge! Enough room for each family to have a floor each and then a massive living space, which was a beautiful kitchen/dining/living room.
We spent most of our time in the beautiful gardens, which were rich in colour and scent and surrounded the house. Citrus and fig trees meant we could eat freshly picked fruit still warm from the August sun, it was just divine. And if we weren’t in the gardens, we were in the pool.
A barbecue and a roof terrace meant that after the children were asleep we could cook and eat outside, then watch the sun set over the countryside with the obligatory Superbock and Mateus Rose (yep, for reals. Every night. We are that much of a Portugal cliché). These evenings were perfect for delicious food, good company and long overdue catch ups. It is worth noting here that our monitor (we took our video monitor) worked in every area of the gardens, so we could relax knowing that our children were perfectly ok.
We spent much of our time at Barril Beach which is in the middle of Ilhe de Tavira. The journey to the actual beach is a bit of an adventure, especially for kids, as after parking the car you access the beach by walking over a floating pontoon, where if you are lucky you can see all kinds of wildlife in the water and surrounding banks.
Then after this, the BIG DEAL (well at least in my family) – a miniature train ride!! Tickets are purchased at the small station from a VERY friendly train inspector and as there are two trains working to run to and from the beach the wait is never more than about ten minutes for the next one.
The train is great fun, but if you don’t fancy it there is a foot path that runs alongside the railway so you can walk (or run, if you are so inclined) to the beach. Or, if you are extra crazy, you can race alongside the train while your kids wave from the luxury of the shaded seats. One of us may or may not have done this at least once on our holiday (and it DEFINITELY wasn’t me!).
On arrival at the beach, the resort is very well equipped with shops and a variety of cafes and restaurants, and public easy to access bathroom facilities. The shops have EVERYTHING you may well have forgotten, so no need to stress without that beach towel/sunhat/bucket and spade. It was once a thriving tuna harbour, but all the buildings are now used for resort purposes and the only thing to mark it’s previous industry is the huge ‘anchor graveyard’ which you can look out for when crossing the deck to the beach.
And then, the beach. We went in August, so the peak of all peak times, and we always found a lovely spot. It really is a MASSIVE beach, and if you walk a little way left or right there is plenty of open space.
We decided against hiring sun loungers, as these are way back on the beach (in a small area too, so not too intrusive looking) in favour of setting up camp right near the sea so our littles could enjoy the water easily.
And enjoy it they did!! Well for us, Archie at 3 had the time of his life, running in and out of the waves, jumping around and generally loving every second of it! Theo, at 1 was much more cautious, and I think it took him a few days to work up the courage to try a paddle. He, however was more than happy to spend hours digging and filling up the bucket again and again and again.
Our friends have slightly older children, and the sea was just perfect for them, they spent their time swimming and testing out their water skills, they went in much deeper than I did!!
As for the adults, it was a real treat every day for one of us to do the coffee run, and enjoy coffees, pastries and (occasionally) a glance at a magazine here and there.
We generally left each day before the midday sun hit its peak (it really was CRAZY hot some days) and either went back to the villa for lunch or ate lunch under cover at one of the restaurants at the beach. A couple of the restaurants have small play areas for kids in the shade which helped massively when faced with very hot weather and very hungry children!
Tavira itself is a beautiful little town and really quite different from some of the more obviously touristy resorts along The Algarve. While much of the region is very popular with British holiday makers and the resorts have catered to this, Tavira appears to have made very few changes for the sake of the British tourist, and this I like very much.
Sidenote: I also love some of the other, much more ‘touristy’ towns, like the brash, unapologetic Vilamoura and the slightly bohemian Lagos; they all offer something different. It is just really nice to find yet another different place along the coast.
Tavira town centre is small and easy to negotiate, with some lovely cafes and restaurants lining the beautiful mosaic cobbled streets. One of our favourites is Aqua Sul where they managed to make pasta and pesto one of the most delicious meals I have ever tasted!
Elsewhere, the Chuch of Santa Maria de Castello with its beautiful clock tower is worth a visit, and the 7 arched medieval bridge is a major feature of Tavira. If the heat is bearable (not midday in August but pretty much any other time), it is well worth a wander round this pretty little town, to soak up the beautiful architecture, with beautiful doorways and windows on every street.
So that was our Tavira holiday. Amazing villa, a glorious beach and a lovely little town. Whats not to love?