Why don’t we stop for one more drink? he said. My spontaneous side kicked in and said, yes! Let the kiddos frolic way too late, as the sun sets over the ocean in Portugal…when will we be in this moment again?
Jeff and I just got back from date night where we chatted about the trip over some drinks and tacos. He was saying, how much fun was that trip?! We agreed it tops the list, even among the trips we’ve taken just as a couple. I’ve decided traveling with small kids is kinda like childbirth. You really only remember the amazing parts, not the crappy painful parts. So you’ll do it over and over and over again. (What’s wrong with us??!) Already I’m scheming about the next adventure with these little crazies!
I have to share one of my secrets with you: Norwegian Air. They fly Dreamliner jets (think brand new, more leg room, big seats, giant windows, personal screens, on-demand wine - err, I mean, snack bar :) to Europe, for a fraction of the cost. Save your $$ for the best hotels, right?! We flew direct from Oakland to London Gatwick (10 hours). I swear the trick to these long international flights is getting an overnight flight on the way over. We prepped the kids in advance. They were in PJs, blankies in hand. Our seats even had extra floor space and an airplane bassinett so Lola could sleep (if your babe is under 20 pounds, be sure to request one way in advance) and Ella could settle in on the floor if necessary. I know, I know - don't judge. The germs down there. But it worked out; we all got a few hours of sleep here and there.
After a layover in London, we arrived in Portugal at 1:00pm our time (9pm Portugal time). Since we’d sorta skipped our nights’ sleep on the plane, we were all tired and ready for bed. We all slept from 10pm-8am! Woke up to a warm, tropical air, the sun shining bright…feeling refreshed, accomplished (WE FREAKING MADE IT), and excited to be in Portugal. After a few fresh croissants, drove about an hour down the highway to Alvor, in Portugal’s Algarve region, to meet Jeff’s brother, my sister-in-law, and my cutie pie nephew for a few days on the beach!
I have only the best things to say about our six days in the Algarve. The kids were in heaven, and so were we. Our hotel, Pestana Alvor South Beach, was just perfect for us, and pretty fab too. It was twenty steps to a glorious beach, right on the Alvor boardwalk, within walking distance to the cutest little European beach town you’ve ever seen, spectacular rock formations, and some really quaint oceanside restaurants. We made use of our spacious outdoor balcony after the kiddos went to bed for some chatting and wine-drinking.
The people in Portugal are exceptionally welcoming of kiddos - everyone seems to love babies, always giving our girls special treatment and attention. Every morning we’d wander down to the massive breakfast spread (umm…hello, hot croissants and freshly-squeezed mimosas, I’ll take five of each, thanks) and the kids were kissed by the bartender and given little watermelon slices. It’s been quite traumatic for them to return to the brutal real world that is our house (wha?? dry cheerios and bruised bananas?).
It was bliss, but let’s get real. Between our two families, there had to be at least fifty-six times where all three kiddos were either whining or crying at the same time. Luckily we all had some good sangria in our systems and were able to laugh at them (parenting is all about laughing at your kids, not laughing with them). By the end of most every dinner, there were always less than half of us left at the table. But then some meals were really special, and everyone behaved perfectly!
Oh and our boat ride is definitely worth mentioning. My SIL and BIL convinced us to come along with them for a little private ocean cruise. The boat was a bit more - quaint? - than any of us expected. Ella quickly spotted the bathroom and HAD to give it a try (SHUDDER). Jeff you’ve got that one. Before we knew it, I was fighting off the motion of the ocean and Ella was jumping onto the Captain’s big hairy back for a little ocean swim. Even better, he brought chips, warm rose, beer, and cold pizza from his restaurant. I think it took us all some time but we eventually adjusted to the…comforts of the little cruise. A memorable afternoon for sure, followed by a sunset dinner in the charming little town of Alvor. We were sticky and salty, but happy, and we will probably laugh about this night for years!
A highlight from Portugal definitely includes the little side trips to Lagos and Sagres. Some days just are heavenly, you know? Exploring Sagres was one of those days. We drove about an hour to this incredible fortress right on the ocean cliff. Ella was so fascinated by the massive cannons and little peep holes in the stone wall, for spotting enemies out in the ocean. Both girls loved the open space to run around. At lunch we stumbled upon this restaurant on the beach where we could eat and watch the surfers (with the breeze the weather was A+++)…always a nice reward when you find the *perfect* lunch spot after dragging two hangry kids around all morning in the heat. I was happy as a clam with my chilled glass of rose and fresh seafood platter. The day was capped off with three solid hours poolside back at the hotel, and a night time stroll into Alvor for the yummiest Italian dinner (and let’s be honest, some shopping too).