We're going to the Algarve with the WAGs
Forget that secluded villa. A summer holiday at a golf resort may offer just the kind of fun your family really desires. Kate Simon heads for the Algarve
Sunday 20 January 2008
We're taking a tip from the WAGs; we're going on holiday to a golf resort on the Algarve. We might even see a few of them down by the pool because we hear David Seaman and Paul Scholes are among the football stars who own villas here at Parque da Floresta.
We know we've arrived in the right place – our villa is pastel green with interiors inspired by Furniture Village. But who cares if we don't share the same taste as the WAGs; we can't fault their knowledge about how to have fun, because there's plenty to entertain our party of two young families on this holiday housing estate.
So when we tire of lounging around our private pool, there's golf, tennis, bowls, a gym and spa, children's clubs, a playground and games area and two huge communal swimming pools to keep us occupied. And when we've exhausted those possibilities the resort can arrange micro-gliding, sailing and horse-riding, too. Plus there are bars and restaurants to hang out in. You can keep your secluded retreats; we like the family-friendly distractions on offer at this self-catering villa.
Top of our little boys' wish list is some professional football coaching led by former Birmingham City player Mark McCarrick. The three-day programme is aimed at boys and girls aged four to 16 years old, and Mark bridges the age and gender gaps with aplomb, offering hints and encouragement to his budding Ronaldos. And to preserve the happy holiday memory, they all get a medal and a photo with the man at a special buffet dinner.
The football lessons are a popular choice with us adults, too, because we get three mornings off to make excursions to the golf course, gym and spa. Our occasional golfer enjoys his morning on the green, reporting back that his nine-hole game over hilly terrain gave him a pleasant workout. Our fitness fanatic rates the gym, which he praises for its state-of-the-art equipment and helpful personal trainers.
But the mums mark down the spa. The treatments get a tick, but we're not so impressed by the spartan feel of the bathing and sauna suite with its plastic loungers, the close proximity of treatment rooms to the noisy reception, or the lack of cosseting and ambiance in the relaxation room. It's a surprise the WAGs haven't complained.
A big hit with both families, though, is the communal pool. There's a deep one for adults and a shallow one for kids, where friendships are easy to make. We camp next to the latter on comfortable sunbeds shaded by vast parasols, conveniently in sight of both the pool and the adjacent playground.
Convenient describes this facility. It has a poolside restaurant serving food that you wouldn't write home about but is perfectly palatable and served by friendly staff. And there's a shop handily stocked with pool toys we forgot to buy, newspapers to keep abreast of events in the outside world, and, crucially, ice lollies. Why, we could spend every afternoon of the holiday here.
Which is why we must get out. We're in one of the most beautiful parts of Portugal and it begs to be explored. For just beyond the gates of this British enclave is some of the western Algarve's most attractive coastline. From Luz to Sagres, these wild shores offer secluded coves, wide windswept bays and fishing villages that have embraced tourism but largely not been ravaged by development, even if they do get crowded with visitors in the summer months.
Our nearest is Salema, a five-minute drive away, which clusters around a generous stretch of sand. Building sandcastles would be the main activity here were it not for the culinary diversions offered by two notable restaurants, Boia, which serves fish with a sea view, and Buzio, which compensates for its poor location behind the square with excellent meat and fish cooked churrasco style, seared on a giant grill and served on hanging skewers. Who knows, you might even spot a WAG at the next table.
Further browsing For more family holiday ideas go to independent.co.uk/travel
How to get there
Kate Simon stayed at Parque da Floresta Golf and Leisure Resort as a guest of James Villa Holidays (0800 074 0177; jamesvillas.co.uk). In July, a week's stay in a two-bedroom town house starts at £809 for four sharing; the same deal in a three-bedroom Best of James villa with private pool costs £1,359 for six sharing. Most activities cost extra. Flights cost from £109 per person. Book by 4 February to get free car hire on holidays taken between 1 April and 31 October.
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