When I was younger, Portugal was our family holiday destination au choixe. Call us creatures of habit, but the most adventurous we’d get when choosing a villa was whether to be close or far to Carvoeiro (the first, second, third and I think fourth family summer holiday we ever did – complete with the most adorable housekeeper called Maria, who taught my twin sister and I to say ‘Bomdia, Maria’ – and therefore the one with the greatest sentimental attachment).
Interestingly I also have a strong memory of throwing dad’s swimming trunks in the pool then hiding behind the sofa and laughing, and also an incident involving a washing machine and a flood that was very definitely my sister’s fault, not mine. But we don’t speak of that anymore.
This was a long time ago – back when you could sit on the rooftop cafe at Faro airport to watch planes landing. Which I did, not because I harbour some secret fascination with planes (although I do slightly agree with Pheobe from Friends when she marvels at the many thousand bags of peanuts floating through the sky), but because Grandma would generally fly out to meet us for the second half of the holiday, and dad & I would go to the airport to pick her up while mum and Laura made the villa perfect in anticipation of Grandma’s arrival.
Carvoeiro was wonderful. It had the most amazing ice cream shop with hand-made waffle cones, and a restaurant that overlooked some Tiger-Lily-esque rocks that we called Steak Liliput. For a long time, I really thought that was the name of the restaurant. Turns out, it was actually the name of the dish Laura & I would always order, aka steak, egg and fries for little people. It would always come with a couple of Portuguese sweets, and when Laura & I got cold one time, the owners gave us their jackets, which acted more like dressing gowns, we were so tiny.
As we got older, mum and dad clearly felt it was OK to move around a bit more, so we ventured to other places, like Albufeira (aka doughnut beach – there was a doughnut shop on the road down to the beach where we would alway stop. Interesting how all these memories seem to be food-related…!), and Alvor.
One night when we were maybe around nine years old, I remember driving to Portimao to eat at a fish restaurant that overlooked the marina. I can’t remember what we ate – dad probably had those giant prawn things that stare at you with all their eyeballs and whiskers, so I probably spent most of the meal maneuvering the red wine bottle so I didn’t have to make prawn eye-contact. Either that or sulking under the table because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. Apparently that was a favourite move of mine. The memorable part was the drive home, on which dad got completely and utterly lost, and stoically refused to stop and ask for directions. Tempers were pretty frazzled in the front of the car, whilst Laura & I quite unceremoniously got the giggles over a road sign directing us to ‘Brownie Corner’. To this day, I know I can get a laugh out of my sister using those two words. Simple pleasures.
Anyway. My point is, that was the only time I’d visited Portimao. In the dark, giggling hysterically whilst being furiously shushed and swatted by mum who was trying to keep dad sane (no easy task with identical twin girls, I imagine). So when a new beach club invited me out to spend three days in Portimao, I didn’t think twice – I booked a Monarch return to Faro, and headed to Blanco Beach Club.
Blanco Beach Club is maybe the second or third beach club I’ve ever heard of in Portugal, but that hasn’t stopped them attracting international DJ sets like Serge Devant and Roger Sanchez. The all-white (clue is in the name) club is just off the beach, and has an air of exlusivity as soon as you arrive. There’s a choice of regular beds, VIP beds (each has its own jacuzzi), ‘fire pits’ which are more like sofas around a coffee table, or bean bags. Everything is super luxe – I think the salad I consistenly ordered (gluten-free isn’t really a big thing yet in Portugal, I discovered) was 17 Euros, and beds seemed to be 1,500 Euros and up. There is a restaurant launch on the cards to supplement the all-day pool snack menu, which is mainly pizza, sushi, and deserts. We stayed at a NAU hotel.
Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates flights to Faro from Birmingham, Leeds Bradford, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £47 one way (£98 return).
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