In April of this year I decided that it was high time myself and my husband had another sun holiday. We hadn't holidayed abroad for a few years due to the two eldest children going to college and the genuine lack of funds that entailed. We didn't mind missing out on the sun for these years, but earlier this year we decided that as the youngest boy would be venturing off to college in September 2016 this was as good a time as any to have that long overdue week in the sun.
So what do we look for? Prior to this we holidayed in the Canary Islands and Southern Spain. We always took the package holidays and enjoyed the fun in the sun to the maximum. This year however I wanted something entirely different. Perhaps age was catching up with me, or more realistically I think I just needed to unwind and switch off from the rat race and so wanted somewhere peaceful and laid back. So where to go?
We both spent a number of nights researching our needs and finally came up with the Hotel Torre Velha, located in central Algarve, Portugal. A small family run hotel outside Albuferia and with small beaches nearby, it sounded perfect. And so it was booked!
After a family wedding in Bristol, England, on August 7th, husband and I flew to Faro where we were transported immediately the one hour journey to Hotel Torre Velha. It was late on Sunday night/Monday morning when we arrived. Sylvia was there to welcome us at 1am and showed us to our room. We were exhausted and took just a short while to have a look around. The heat was intense....I loved it! The bedroom was very basic (we'd known this prior to booking) but I was impressed. I purposefully booked this 2 star hotel as I wanted to experience some real Portugese hospitality. A great night's sleep was had and we awoke at 9am. Perfect timing for breakfast in the Algarve. Our first breakfast of it's kind. This breakfast was included in our booking so I was going to enjoy.
Breakfast was a continental one. Again this was purposefully booked. I didn't want a full Irish every day for a week whilst in the sun. The breakfast proved perfect. Sitting by the window in the very quaint, beautiful, picturesqe restaurant, we enjoyed a selection of cereals, juice, breads, cheese and coffee. It was hearty in every way and set us up for our first day in the sun!
And so it was back to the bedroom (which had everything we needed and more) to dawn the bikini for the first time in a few years. Ach, sure no one will know me here I thought, so here's to it!
Of we went with our books and to the pool we did go. I hadn't felt this relaxed in a long time. There was just 20 sun loungers and a great mix of people lying there. To my delight every single person had a book in hand. What a sight. We were right at home. Shortly before mid-day I sat by the pool to dip the feet, still reading my book. I was speaking to hubby when a lady came over and said, 'that's a Derry accent I hear'. I said, 'near enough, it's Donegal, Muff to be precise'. She laughed and pointed to her family who live in Muff! What a small world. And it turns out one of them even work alongside my husband. So much for escaping everyone. It was lovely though chatting to someone from home.
At lunchtime we walked to the nearby beach (a small beach in a beautiful cove setting) and enjoyed some time in the sea. Well my husband enjoyed a swim in the sea whilst I enjoyed sunbathing on a cliff edge. Could life get any better I thought?
We then went to the beach restaurant and enjoyed a delightful lunch looking over the cove and a little (maybe a large) jug of sangria. And so our holiday was well and truly underway.
As the week went by we enjoyed simple days lounging by the pool and reading. We would take breaks and walk to the little nearby beaches and soak up the sun. We always ended up by the poolside of Hotel Torre Velha with our books to hand.
I only brought one novel with me as I was sure that would suffice. By day two it was finished (such was the relaxation I was enjoying). Fortunately this wonderful little hotel had an amazing little library of books where the visitors would leave and borrow books as needed. So my book was left on the shelf for someone else to enjoy and I borrowed another. By day four, this one was returned and another borrowed. And so it continued.
Throughout the week I was enthralled by the reading of all the hotel visitors. Only once did I see a kindle. Everyone was reading hard copies. It was as if this little hotel was destined for us this year. Husband embarked on his second novel as I embarked on my third.
By evening we enjoyed the most delightful meals in this fantastic quaint little restaurant. The setting was picture perfect.
On three nights we did venture into Old Town Albuferia where we discovered a treasure of a traditional little pub, The Sangria Bar; it's on the lane between the old town square leading towards the steps and the tunnel. Here we met the lovely young barman Wilson and his equally lovely uncle. His uncle makes the most spectacular Caipirinha. They are true traditional Portuguese and they made us feel most welcome on each night. They even hugged us on our last night and wished us well. We shall definitely return.
Old Town Albuferia was a delight to experience on these three nights but nothing beat the peace and tranquility that we experienced at all other times at Hotel Torre Velha. Marta, Maria, Sylvia and all the other staff were just a delight to meet and were the perfect hosts all week.
This location proved the sanctuary that myself and my husband craved for so long and were unaware of the craving. It allowed us the time to unwind from the real world, experience an entirely different culture and yet enjoy life to the fullest. We met some amazing people, especially the lovely Darren and Maria from Wales, and yet were allowed to enjoy some time for ourselves. As holidays go, this was pretty much perfect. I think seeing everyone with a book in hand at all times on every day just made it that little bit more special for me.
This was one holiday I won't forget in a hurry and it really was the perfect escape that we needed.