A few weeks later I was astounded and incredibly excited in equal measure when I got an email to say that I’d won!
Sadly the dates didn’t work for Andy work wise as he was heading to Spain a few days later on a boy’s golfing holiday and with Jack having just started school, we decided that I would go with my mum, dad and sister on an ‘old skool’ family holiday and it was just bliss!
The flight from Manchester to Faro with Ryanair was effortless and it was a real novelty to sit in the air for a few hours without having to entertain little people with stickers, snacks and eye-spy! Instead I read chapter after chapter of my book and had a little doze which certainly set the tone for the few days ahead.
Upon arrival at Faro Airport we picked up our hire car and set off on the 45 minute journey to the VidaMar Resort. It’s an area that we hadn’t been too before so I was excited to see what it had to offer.
The VidaMar Resort Hotel & Villas is a five star resort in a relatively unspoilt area of the Algarve. Overlooking the beautiful Salgados beach, Salgados golf course and Lagoa dos Salgados nature reserve, it really is in a perfect location along the coast.
There’s a multitude of accommodation on offer at VidaMar including ‘sea view’ rooms & suites, ‘resort view’ rooms, ‘nature view’ rooms and ‘pool view’ rooms in the main hotel. In addition to this, VidaMar also has a selection of spacious villa-townhouses with a choice of 2, 3 or 4 en-suite bedrooms just a short walking distance from the hotel.
We stayed in a 3-bedroomed villa located next to the golf course. Modern, light and airy, the villa was incredibly spacious but as with a lot of new-builds it did have a slightly soulless feel to it. In part I think this was down to the slightly strange arrangement of the furniture (e.g. the TV was on the other side of the room to the sofa) and I also don’t think there was enough comfortable seating to cater for 6 adults had we filled the villa. However on the flip side, if the kids had been with us, there would have been ample space for them to run around and they would have loved the oversized foot stool that I’m sure has been used as a launch board for many a little person!
Located over two floors, the ground floor consisted of a well equipped kitchen, a dining area and an enormous living area with full-width sliding doors leading onto the terrace and private pool area. The outdoor area was really lovely with plenty of sun-loungers, a small salt-water pool and a dining table for eating al fresco. It also had a very clever moveable sunshade on tracks to block the sun if needed.
The three spacious bedrooms upstairs were all ensuite with lots of wardrobe space, and had incredibly comfortable beds ensuring that we slept well for the duration of our stay. The back two bedrooms, including the master bedroom, also had sliding doors leading out onto a balcony which was a lovely sunny spot in the early evening.
There were just a couple of things that would have concerned me had the children been holidaying with us. Firstly, there are two large freestanding mirrors in the living area and secondly the safety hazard of the stairs, particularly down to the underground car park, as the top of the stairs is flush with the floor level and completely open down one side. However, I believe family kit packs are available to purchase, which include essential items such as stair gates to give you that extra piece of mind on your holiday.
With the resort facilities a short walk away, we spent the majority of our day in the communal pool area; after-all, I do love a spot of people watching!
Surrounded by a vast number of palm trees, at the heart of the resort are the swimming pools. There’s an outdoor 70 metre pool, a shallow children’s pool and another pool that hosts the ‘Tiki Bar’, a swim up bar with underwater seating.
I’m pretty hardy but I have to admit that the chilliness of the main pool (it was freeeeeezing!!), meant that we only ventured into it once, but I guess that’s what you get for holidaying in October! To be honest, once you were in (and numb) it was actually really nice, especially as it was empty, but it was a real battle walking down the steps!
Thankfully there’s a towel-man (i’m pretty sure that’s not his proper title!) who’s on hand all day for you to swap your towels when you fancy, so you don’t have to lie on a wet towel. I know this isn’t great for the environment, but it’s a godsend when you’ve been swimming in a baltic pool and want to warm up quickly!
If you fancy sunbathing in a slightly more secluded area during the day, the VidaMar Resort Hotel has recently introduced their Bali Beds.
Isolated, comfortable and romantic, these Indonesian inspired 4 poster beds are ideal for sunbathing as a couple and offer uninterrupted sea views in a private setting. There are a number of packages you can choose from when hiring the beds, from the basic package that includes access to the Bali Beds and a bottle of bubbly. to the premium package that includes a daily paper, a body sun kit, replacement water, fruit juice and mini pastries, wine, cocktails, snacks and a selection of sushi.
At VidaMar, you can dine at four restaurants enjoying everything from sumptuous buffets at the Ocean Restaurant, popular Portuguese dishes such as Cataplana or charcoal grilled fish at Sabor a Mar (this was actually closed during our stay), homemade pizzas, pastas and regional Italian cuisine at Mamma Mia and Japanese fusion and tastes of the Orient at Koi Sushi Restaurant. In addition, there’s also the Tiki Pool Bar that serves up a mean smoothie and the Sunset Snack-bar that offers a yummy lunch menu.
Sadly we didn’t try any of the restaurants in the evenings as Koi was closed on the evening that we wanted to go, but I have heard brilliant things about it and when we return I will definitely be sampling their sushi. Also as our stay was relatively short, the majority of our days were spent relaxing ‘on site’, so it was lovely to venture slightly further afield in the evening and dine ‘off-site’.
Jack and Phoebs obviously didn’t accompany us on this trip, but had they been there, Jack would have had a ball at the Aquatica Kids Club. Aimed at children aged 4 to 11, and free to all guests, the Aquatica Kids Club is staffed by a team of professionals who are specialised in children’s activities. These are organised for and adapted to various ages, and combine play and educational aspects. From crafts and face-painting to pool games and archery, all the children taking part seemed to be having a jolly old time and it’s a brilliant offering if you want to make the most of the experiences VidaMar Resorts has to offer, in the knowledge that your kids are having fun and being well looked after.
For older kids, there’s poolside table tennis, a pool table and a small football pitch that played host to a daily ‘dads and lads’ game.
A selection of children’s essentials are also available at the hotel, including high chairs and stair-gates for the villas and children’s menus are available in a few of the restaurants. A babysitting service is also currently available upon request.
For those seeking some peace and solitude, the Atlantic Health Club and Spa is located in the basement of the hotel. As we were only there for a weekend, we didn’t venture into the spa area, but you can enjoy a collection of body and facial treatments, relax by the indoor pool or enjoy the sauna and steam room. There’s also a fitness room available, although as in most hotels it’s on the small side and seasonal fitness classes are organised.
Once you step out of the hotel grounds and follow the boardwalk for a few minutes, you will arrive at the incredible seven kilometre long Salgados Beach where there are sun loungers and umbrellas available for rental and a beach snack bar.
Jen and I went for a run every morning along the boardwalk and it was just beautiful! We worked out a short route that incorporated a run along the boardwalk / beach, and a quick stop at the local supermarket on the way home so we could stock up on delicious breakfast pastries to undo all of our good work!
Our long weekend at the VidaMar Resort was just enough time to get a good feel for the hotel and the surrounding area and it is definitely somewhere I would happily head back to with the kids in tow. It’s a contemporary family-friendly resort, in a great location with some brilliant restaurants nearby if you did want to venture ‘off-site’ in the evening.
I can highly recommend dining at Arte Nautica, a lovely beach restaurant on Armação de Pêra beach. Armação de Pêra itself is a bit of a concrete jungle but the Arte Nautica is slightly out of the main town and is definitely worth a visit.
You can book a stay at VidaMar Resort Villas through Oliver’s Travels (0800 1337999, www.oliverstravels.com). For a 3-night stay based on an occupancy of six people, prices start from £509.67. For further information on VidaMar Resorts please click here.
Disclosure: We were invited to stay at the VidaMar Resort Villas by Oliver’s Travels. All words, content and opinions are entirely my own.