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.
Andrew I very much look forward to more on the Algarve. It sounds like your Mom and Dad got the best luck in accommodations from my vantage point. My recollections of moody 15 year old and fussy young eaters makes me want to crawl out a window. 🙂
Most of the disagreements are easily understood and analysed but I have never understood the accommodation dispute. It was only for sleeping in after all!
Hard to know what goes on in the parents minds 🙂 likely thought you were having fabulous times without her…in your dreams.
I am going on holiday with my children and grandchildren this year and I have course made sure that I have my own separate accommodation. It may not work out exactly as planned of course….
I think you are very wise Andrew:) Is this for the big birthday?
It is indeed – 50 +10!
Wonderful! Happy birthday!
Reblogged this on All But Good Articles and commented:
To borrow a line that best describes family holidays, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
Makes me smile: erupting hormones, diverse personalities, cramped quarters and great weather. But,ah, the memories…
That’s what it is all about! That and continuing to accumulate some more…
Good to read about a ‘normal’ family holiday. Most start well and three days in, trouble can start.
You should have been at our place at Christmas…
You cannot beat a good family disagreement!
I can’t wait to read more about Portugal. It has to be a beautiful place to experience.
I was in Praia de Luz the week before Madeleine disappeared, poor little scrap. I’d never been before and was there for a quick look at the resort, which was a favourite of a workmate. I liked it well enough but have never been back since. It was such a shock to hear the news. How will they ever live it down?
As you say – ‘poor little scrap’. It’s a grim lesson to take great care with our children!