In 1986 and then again in 1987 I spent some time with my brother in the Algarve in Portugal at a villa in a village called Alcantarilha which was near the beach resort of Armação de Pera a few kilometres west of Albufeira.
I liked the Algarve so much that a few years later, in 1994, I went there again on a family holiday to the resort of Praia de Luz. Not many people had heard of Praia de Luz in 1994 but it has subsequently become notorious for the location of the alleged abduction of Madeleine McCann and where a few English detectives, who probably can’t believe their luck at being assigned to the case, now spend their time on permanent vacation inventing new, ever improbable, leads that keeps them permanently sunning themselves at the expense to the UK tax payer.
Anyway, this is not a post about Madeleine McCann or my irrelevant thoughts on the matter, but instead about my holiday there with my family about twenty years ago.
This was an extended family holiday and turned out to be a quite close to a disaster of almost biblical proportions.
There was my family of four and my sister’s of four (just one missing) and my mum and dad and quite frankly that was just too many people all colliding with each other like shifting tectonic plates and leading to frequent personality collisions and daily running battles. Everybody fell out with everybody at some point during the fortnight and although there were some high spots almost everyone was glad when it was all over!
I remember the arguments most of all – Mum fell out with Lindsay, Mum fell out with…. in actual fact (to cut a long story short) Mum fell out with mostly everyone! We had two apartments, one for eight of us and one for two. We allocated the one for two to my Mum and Dad and I would have been delighted with that but she didn’t share this glee about the accommodation allocation and worried about being left out although to this day I am still confused about what exactly she thought she might be missing out on!
Before I move on to the good stuff about the Algarve I am going to get the bad stuff out of the way straight away.
Lindsay’s son Chris was about fifteen and with raging hormones was really moody for the whole time. Even though it was mid July and about 30° centigrade he insisted on wearing black jeans and a nylon puffer jacket just for the sake of fashion. He also developed a curious habit of leaving the apartment via the bedroom window at odd hours of the day and night so we were never absolutely sure where he was or what he was up to!
My own son, Jonathan, was seven and had reached the peak of food fussiness to the point that every night I had to take him to a bar for a plate of plain rice and a Pingu ice cream – every night! On a positive note I did get to have a couple of beers while I watched him chew his way through a tasteless plate of grain.
Dad had been poorly for about ten years but it was around about now that he seemed to take a serious turn for the worst and it was a challenge for us all to come to terms with a major change in his health and his mobility that we had all previously taken for granted. Looking back on it now it was a tipping point in his life.
Praia de Luz was quite nice, I liked it then, but probably wouldn’t now. It was a modern holiday complex with lots of apartments and a couple of swimming pools. At one I fell out with a barman who didn’t seem to appreciate my cheapskate order for a simple plate of chips for the kids to share and the chlorine in the water sent Sally’s blond hair a curious shade of green. On the positive side we didn’t encounter any abducting perverts but on the other hand we didn’t leave our children in the apartment by themselves whilst we went out to a tapas bar either.
And so we spent a lot of days around the pool and when we weren’t around the hotel terraces we would walk to the beach which even now I remember as being quite stunning. Soft sand and red limestone cliffs and out to sea Atlantic waves that thrashed against the shore and made playing in the sea and at the water’s edge a real delight, much better I have to say than the limpid waters of the Mediterranean.
In the evenings we would walk down to the water’s edge and watch the brightly coloured fishing boats cast off and make their groundhog day journey out to the sea in search of a catch and when they had gone and their lights were twinkling out at sea like stars in the water we walked back along the jetty and enjoyed a pre-dinner snack of grilled sardine (all except Jonathan of course) that was being lovingly prepared on smoking barbecues along the vibrant sea front.
In between the arguments (which was only about 10% of the time, it has to be said) it was wonderful and I will move on to the good bits in the next post.