Categories
Places to visit

Why Madeira is a great Family holiday Destination and things to do there!

Madeira is a Portuguese hidden gem which is often overlooked by travellers. Madeira is a beautiful island located of the northwest coast of Africa. 

No matter where you are on the island you will always enjoy stunning views. Madeira is swept with mountains, valleys, rolling lush green hills and banana trees galore.

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We have enjoyed two amazing family holidays to Madeira and will be returning again in the future.

Madeira is a perfect place for a family holiday even from the offset the plane journey had families and Madeiran people returning home not the loads of drunken stag and hen dos loitering the aisles like you get when travelling to places like the Canary Islands. 

We flew with Easy Jet the no thrills airline which I would recommend, as travelling with children can be expensive, so choosing a cheaper airline will save you money. We have flown with Easy Jet a lot and have never had any issues and always had pleasant flights with them. 

We didn’t pay for any hold luggage and took a hand luggage bag each so we kept the cost down, we bought a bottle of sun cream from the airport. Not only did this save money but it saved time on dropping the bags in and then waiting at the baggage reclaim to pick up your cases.

As we do on all our holidays we hired a car from Europcar at the airport, as we love to explore and travel. We wanted to see as much of the island as we could in our short stay. We have used other car rental companies in the past but have always received the best service from Europcar.

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Lucky for us Dino has family in Madeira so we were staying at his amazing Aunties house however there are lots of hotels and guest houses located around the Island and in Funchal, the capital of Madeira.

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As soon as we arrived we sat down on the veranda and gazed upon the view of the hills all around and the distant sea.

My children set about lizard hunting the little scaly creatures were hiding everywhere and darting across the walls. My girls were fascinated and were running around after them trying to catch one. When they had no luck they decided to feed the lizards and got the plastic top of a Pringles lid and started putting dead ants in it. 

When they put it on the side, in my haste I told the girls that the lizards wouldn’t come and eat the ants from their makeshift feeder but to my surprise a little lizard popped his head out of the plants and crept over and started lapping up the ants.

After a lot of perseverance they finally managed to catch a few lizards.

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Things to Do in Madeira

Cable car and Basket Ride

Madeira is famous for the basket ride and since we had told the girls about this and shown them the pictures before we left they could not wait to go on it. With the kids barely containing their excitement we headed off to find the ride. 

The basket rides starts off at Monte which is at the start of the mountains so you have 3 options to get there, 

1. Get a pricey cab, 

2. Drive up there but then you are faced with the problem of walking back up the very long steep hill which is near impossible to climb as an adult, let alone if you have children and 

3. Park in the car park in the center of Funchal and take the cable car to the top of the hill and then get the basket ride back down. The basket ride doesn’t go all the way back to the centre but then you can choose a 15 – 20 minute downhill walk or a taxi or the new tuk-tuks. Of course we opted for the 3rd option.

We got our tickets for the cable car and waited in line watching as the carts came round at a crawling pace as people hurled themselves into the slow moving cart. When are turn came we were lucky that we could all fit into the cart together as there was 7 of us. We all managed to get in and be seated in time for it to begin its accent to the top of the hill. 

I am not going to lie I was very scared on the cable car, especially when it goes over the support poles and it bumps along but I have to admit it was well worth it for the spectacular views of the island and seeing the excitement on the girls faces, they absolutely loved it.

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When you get off the cable car there is a beautiful church that you can go inside for free and admire the beauty of it, you can even climb the stairs to the very top and look out over the landscape with far reaching views over the land all the way to the glistening sea.

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Located at the top is Monte Botanical gardens which there is a charge to get into and sadly we couldn’t afford to do everything so had to give this a miss but maybe next time we will get to visit it.

On the way to the basket ride we passed a local guy selling strawberries in a plastic cup with cream and a finger biscuit from the back of his car. I think it was €2 a cup, we were a bit unsure as they were all just loaded in the back of his old rusty car, despite the doubts we gave them a try. The strawberries turned out to be the best we had ever tasted they were so sweet and juicy we scoffed the lot and went back for more.

We made our way to the basket ride as the girls could not wait any longer. The ride is very popular and with a lot of cruise ships stopping at the island and the coaches ferrying all the people up from the port to go on the ride there was a lot of people. The queue went down quite quickly but everyone enjoyed watching others in front of them going off down the hill in the basket and there was a nice atmosphere.

When we were there we saw a wedding party come out the church and go down on the baskets to the reception at the bottom of the hill.

All the men that work on the ride wear white outfits with, blue jackets and straw hats and the baskets are reinforced wicker baskets with a bench inside mounted on wooden slats and pull strings at either side for steering. When it was our turn we had two baskets to fit us all in Dino and I was in one with Alexa on my lap, Lia on his and his little cousin squeezed in the middle of us and in the other was my mum, Sophia and Bella.

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Once we were all in the men gave a good push then ran as fast as they could to push us off down the hill, once we had gathered up speed they jumped on the back then just used one leg to push, to keep us ploughing down the hill. The ride was a lot faster than I thought it was going to be. I will never forget the smile that was on Alexa’s face it was from ear to ear she was beaming with joy. We were all laughing and enjoying ourselves the whole way down it was an amazing experience.

The Pirate Ship

The girls had spotted the pirate ship (a replica Christopher columbus ship) in Funchal marina and they really wanted to go on it , Sophia and I wanted to see dolphins anyway so we decided to take a trip on it. All the staff were dressed up in pirate outfits and got into character, they had a parrot which you could have on your shoulder, Lia was the only one brave enough to hold it. There is also meant to be a dog that rides on board but unfortunately he was at the vets the day we went.

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Once everyone was on board we set sail and the boat took us out away from the coast in search of dolphins. One of the guys was high up on the mast in the lookout tower with his binoculars searching for dolphins. We were all watching out over the vast calm blue ocean with the mountains of Madeira in the background surrounded in a wisp of cloud. 

All of a sudden there was a shout from the guy up the mast and we were off the boat going as fast as it could until we reached the mammals they had spotted. Now to me they looked like dolphins but to the trained professionals running the boat they were actually a type of whale and I forget now what type they were but nevertheless it was amazing to watch them breaking in and out of the water around the boat.

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After we had finished watching the whales the boat took us on a tour of the stunning coastline, then stopped for a spot of swimming, none of us were brave enough to get in as the water was cold. After that we were all given some Madeira honey cake and a glass of Maderia wine (juice for the children of course) and then headed back. 

On the journey back Lia handed the pirate her rubbish and he kissed her hand and to this day she still remembers and talks about it as soon as anyone even mentions Madeira.

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Star Gazing

When you look at activities to do in Madeira stargazing does not really come up and there is not much information on it. However, it is one of the most amazing things to do and every time we have been to watch the stars there has not been a single other sole around. It is mesmerising with the amount of stars in the sky, it is my favourite activity to do in Madeira.

We headed to the top of Pico Do Arieiro which is 1810 meters above sea level and we stop at the last viewpoint before reaching the very top where there is a few street lights and a very big government telescope. 

From there the sky is lined with stars, it was like someone had split a pot of glitter all over a sheet of black paper, you can even see the Milky Way. 

When we go we all wrap ourselves up in blankets and wear warm clothes as it is very cold up there, then we either lie across the bonnet of the car or sit on it but remember if it is a rental car you have be careful not to scratch it. I have even lied down on the road in front of our parked car to gaze up at the sky.  We were all lucky the last time we went because as soon as we stepped out of the car the biggest brightest shooting star shot across the sky like a firework. It was an amazing experience for the kids to have and one they won’t forget.

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Beaches

Madeira has mainly rocky beaches across the island however there are two man made sandy beaches which are located in Calheta and Machico. Both beaches are great for children to swim in as they are enclosed with stone walls so the water is a lot calmer and excellent for a bit of snorkelling. We found that both the beach were not that busy when we were there not like the beaches you find in some other European holiday destinations or even the UK on a rare hot day when everyone flocks to the beach.

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Machico

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Calheta

If however you do want to experience the long white sandy beaches with crystal blue waters, then just a 2 hour boat trip away is the island of Porto Santo and the beaches there are breathtaking. We didn’t manage to take the kids there but Dino and I have done this trip about 9 years ago before having children. The trip from Madeira to Porto Santo is a bit rough and from personal experience and from everyone else’s who has done the trip, it can make you feel a bit queasy but strangely enough the trip back from Porto Santo to Madeira is fine. Apart from its beautiful Caribbean looking beaches, Porto Santo offers a big go kart track and also a lovely town with coffee shops and restaurants.

Natural Rock Pools

As well as the sandy beaches Porto Moniz offers amazing natural rock pools that you can swim in as well as a man-made swimming pool. When we visited the sea was a bit rough but there were still a few hardy souls swimming in these beautiful rock pools. There is also lovely restaurants that you can sit and watch the sea from.

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Faial

If you are looking for a quieter beaches with beautiful views across the Island then Faial is a lovely spot. It only has one restaurant and a small park but a nice little rock pool cove for swimming or snorkeling but be careful as the steps leading down to it are very slippery. You can also follow the road and admire waterfalls trickling water down from the mountains into the streams. There is also a big go kart circuit there that you can do arrive and drive.

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The Glass viewing platform

In Carbo Girao you can walk out on the glass viewing platform which is a mere 580 meters above sea level and wonder down at the sea crashing into the cliffs below. As most adults would, we edged our way onto the platform and slowly went further and further on to it to take a look. 

Not the kids though they walked straight on to it, walking around and looking down at everything below them. They then all sat down watching the lizards running on the cliff below and following them around the glass, they were not even the slightest bit bothered that we were all standing on a glass platform hanging off a cliff edge some 580 meters up. If you can bring yourself to stand on it the view is amazing and well worth conquering your fear. There is also a lovely coffee shop and souvenir shops.

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Traditional House

If you are out and about the traditional houses are worth a visit. They are smart little triangle houses with thatched roofs that used to be the traditional Maderian house many years ago. They are now turned into shops for tourists to visit. There is a gift shop, a flower shop and one that sells food and shots of Poncha (the traditional Madeira drink). The kids liked the houses as in a way they do look like big dolls houses and they are great for having your photo taken next to.

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Sun Set

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Ponta del sol (point of the sun) is the best town in Madeira to watch the sunset. There is a great restaurant on the beach and another one built into the side of the cliff both overlooking the horizon. There is also stunning views and a walkway going out into the sea so you can look back at the rocky shore. We sat for a good few hours at the restaurant watching the sun set drinking beers will the kids played with the rocks.

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Visit Madeira

When choosing a family holiday destination Madeira should not be overlooked as for a small island there is so many activities to do there. Madeira has more mountain peaks to explore than the one I mentioned above, lots of guided walks, there is a place called the 25 fountains (25 Fontes Falls) which is a group of waterfalls located near Porto Moniz, hopefully we will get to do the walks when the children our a little bit older. Madeira enjoys great weather most of the year however no matter how warmer day it is if you are going up into the mountains take warm close as the temperature up there can drop dramatically.

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There is also a water park, casino and amazing restaurants all serving delicious local produce cooked to perfection wherever you go on the island. One of the

favourite meals there is ‘Espetada’ which is chunks of steak that have been skewered sometimes by a flavoured stick then hung in front of you for you to pull off.

In Funchal there is the famous local fish market, although the smell is very strong it is worth having a look on market days as you see lots of fish and get a sense of the size of the fish. We have even seen the remains of a shark head in there, this is not for everyone but if you can stomach it, it is worth a visit.

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Throughout the summer in Madeira there is always a festival of some sort going on and also there is a weekly fireworks display down on the harbour as companies compete to win the contract for the world renowned New Years Eve fireworks. 

The Madeiran people are all so welcoming and very big on family we often got stopped in the streets and complimented on how beautiful the girls are. We cannot wait to get back to this beautiful Island.

We are lucky and only needed to book flights to Madeira as we had family to stay with so we always book our flights with Easy Jet directly but if you are looking for a hotel as well we have used onthebeach.com a few times for holidays and have always found some good deals on there especially if purchasing flights and hotel together. You can also search hotels separately using Booking.com that I have used a lot in the past as well.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Why you should visit Porlock Weir

Our road trip to France

Sea Vs Air Travel with Kids

The Un-spoilt natural wonder of Kilve

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


Categories
Parenting Advice

A Poem for An Amazing Mum

Mum you will always be by my side,

With the unconditional love that you provide,

Millions of kisses you have showered upon me,

To your family you are a true devotee,

You are my saviour through dark times,

That is why I love you longtime.

Categories
Product Reviews

The Pyjama Factory Review

My girls are over the moon with their new pyjamas that they were gifted from The Pyjama Factory.

The Pyjama Factory have a huge range of kids pyjamas on their website that it took my girls ages to decide on the Pyjama’s they wanted as they liked so many of their designs. They were really spoilt for choice but after some decision making finally settled on a pair each.

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Bella loves Cats so when she saw the grumpy cat pyjamas she feel in love with them and knew they were the ones she wanted. Despite only being 10 years old she is very tall for her age so it was great to see that their kids pyjamas go up to age 12-13 years old. She has been feeling a bit under the weather recently so being able to chill in her new comfy pyjamas has helped her feel a bit better.

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Bless she is still feeling a bit under the weather hence the sad face

Lia loves football so she was excited to find pyjamas that pretty much sum up her life at the moment, ‘eat, sleep, football, repeat’. She is very happy with her pyjamas and now wears them every night and has been putting getting in to them as soon as she gets home from school.

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Alexa picked the french bulldog pyjamas with the saying ‘I’m not listening’ which suits her down to a tee as she is so cute but never listens, she does look adorable in these though. 

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I have bought pyjamas from the pyjama factory before and have now been gifted pyjamas to review and both times the service I have received from them has been excellent. Their website is easy to use and navigate round, they communicate well through email to keep you updated on the progress of your order and their dispatch and delivery times are super quick.

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The Pyjamas I bought from The Pyjama Factory before.

The pyjamas themselves are very good quality, the designs are great and the fabrics are soft and comfortable. My girls certainly love wearing them and their prices are very reasonable. They are also easy to wash and so far have kept their softness and not faded at all from washing.

As well as children’s pyjamas they also have adult pyjamas so you can kit out the whole family with their comfy pyjamas. I would highly recommend using The Pyjama Factory next time you are looking for a set of PJ’s. 

Website https://www.pyjamas.com/

Instagram www.instagram.com/thepyjamafactory

Categories
Inspirational People

Interview with Children’s Publisher Justin Davis of Blue Falcon Publishing

I am excited to share with you all an interview with Justin Davis of Blue Falcon Publishing who some of you may know published my first children’s book ‘Pete the Cheeky Parakeet’.

He is here to share with you an insight into children’s book publishing and how Blue Falcon Publishing can help authors get their children’s stories out into the world.

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Tell us a bit about you and how you got started in the children’s publishing industry?

“My desire to write is very much rooted in my love of reading and writing a book is something that had been on ‘life’s list’ for many years!

Wanting to pass this love of books onto my children, I started to play with the idea of writing a children’s story. After completing a writing course, and after much coffee drinking and many screwed up pieces of A4, Escape from Nettle Farm (in its first incarnation) was complete! It then went through many painful re-writes and edits to get to the stage where I was ready to say, ‘Finished!’

I wanted to write something that would be fun and exciting for parents to read to children, or for children to read independently.  I was delighted with the feedback – Escape from Nettle Farm was a finalist in the 2017 People’s Book Prize and received the Red Ribbon Award in the 2016 Wishing Shelf Book Awards. It was also reviewed by American magazine Story Monsters Inc – ‘Written well, and paced perfectly to keep young readers engaged.’

I had more books to share with the world, but my publishing experience hadn’t been brilliant. I wanted a publisher who gave a fair deal for the author (lower prices, good royalty rates, advertising post publication, etc.) I couldn’t find one, so I created one!

I published my second book through Blue Falcon – My Bunny, a rhyming picture book that was a finalist in the 2017 Wishing Shelf Awards. The process was so much better, and I decided I wanted to help other authors on their journey. I have since appointed a marketing director and we are currently working with 5 other authors. I have also just released Spy Danger, the second in the series to Escape from Nettle Farm – all since March this year!”

Can you tell us a bit more about Blue Falcon Publishing?

“Blue Falcon Publishing are a small, independent company based in Northamptonshire whose focus is the publishing of children’s fiction books to encourage precious family time reading. We are passionate about bringing together enchanting stories with phenomenal illustrations to inspire imaginations and encourage a love of books that will last a lifetime!”

What is the difference between Blue Falcon Publishing and traditional publishing and what can you offer authors?

“Our vision for the company is to give our authors the best possible experience. We offer contracts on a partnership basis, which means we occupy the space between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Put simply, the main difference between us and a traditional publishers is that as the author, you bear some of the financial risk of publishing your book. The reward for this is a fast, effective and professional service with very generous royalty shares – far higher than you would enjoy with a traditional publishing contract.”

What makes Blue Falcon Publishing stand out from other children’s publishers?

“We are working hard to build an exceptional brand reputation, and we take customer service very seriously. We believe that a satisfied customer is the best business plan of all, so we want our clients to be delighted with their experience. Another aspect of this is the quality of our books. We are selective about what we publish. We are not a self-publisher, and we seek reward and recognition for each title we take to print. To work with you we need to believe in your manuscript as much as you do.”

What are you looking for in the authors that come to you?

“We are looking for talented, self-motivated children’s authors who are ready to invest in their own success and make their dreams of becoming a published author a reality. If you think you have what it takes, you can find lots of information at www.bluefalconpublishing.co.uk or alternatively, email us at submissions@bluefalconpublishing.co.uk.”

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What I have received from my service with Blue Falcon Publishing

The service and knowledge that I received from Blue Falcon Publishing was well worth the fee they charged. They have been amazing from start to finish helping me every step of the way and have always been on hand to ask any questions that I had. They also arranged for the very talented Stephanie Jayne to do the wonderful illustrations for my book ‘Pete the Cheeky Parakeet’.

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Their service hasn’t stopped there either since my book was published in October they still keep me up-to-date on the sales process of my book and what they have been doing behind the scenes to help promote it. They have also been on hand to help me with marketing ideas and to contact local schools and shops on my behalf if needed.

Why not take a look at my other posts on inspirational people –

Interview with award winning glass engraver Steven Lee

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought

Categories
Parenting Advice

I Miss The Hugs

Last night we were all watching a film together and I was laying on the sofa when my youngest came and snuggled up with me and I ended up falling asleep. That is until she found my phone and started taking selfies of us (little monkey).

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Snuggling up to her on the sofa made me realise how much I miss the days when they were younger, when they would all be fighting to snuggle up to me. I used to barely be able to see the TV through the sea of kids that had engulfed me but I never minded I usually end up falling asleep cuddling all three of them anyway.

Now they all sit as far away from each other as they can and only when it is cold do we snuggle under the blanket together, my youngest is still willing to give me a hug but the other two are harder to persuade. They also are more interested in watching their tablets now than the TV. 

The only times they want to hug me is when it is time to go to bed and they know hugs are like Kryptonite to me as they weaken me down. Child are very clever and mine have figured out that I can never resist a hug from them and by giving me a hug it delays bedtime for a couple of minutes.

They also use hugs when I ask them to do something. I will say “go pick your coat up of the floor”, “ok, but I want to give you a hug first”, they say as they wrap their little arms around me. Then it becomes so hard to peel them off me to get them to do what I asked when I don’t want to let the hug end.

To receive true long snuggles with my girls they either have to be ill or extremely tired and then only a mum hug will do. Which I am always straight on hand to offer however at the same time I can’t really enjoy the snuggles as I don’t like to see them ill and if they are tired I feel bad keeping them up so late.

I do so miss when they were small, I miss their new baby smell, smooth cheek’s and their squishable chunky baby thighs. I miss their little curly hairs and most of all I miss curling up with them on the sofa after a long day.

I also miss taking them to the park and pushing them on the swing for hours. Our nearest park now is next to the house so they take themselves there and play with all their friends from our street, so me coming along is not cool.

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I did once go in and offer to push them on the basket swing and there was 5-6 kids piling on this swing at a time and after about 5 mins of pushing I was spent and I had to make a quick retreat back inside. Although we still do go to the park together and play football and push them on the swings these are only on outings and not at the everyday park trips.

When I look back to their younger years I have no regrets about the time we spend together although I had to work full time the hours I did get to spend with them were well spend and I do have so many fond memories of them being small. I know I hear it all the time but honestly they grow up so quickly. It only seems like yesterday that we did everything together and went to the park almost daily now they just don’t need me as much and at times it feels weird.

However it does make me appreciate family time that little bit more and the hugs that I do get as I don’t know how many years I have left of snuggles and of us all going out together as a family before I lose them to going out with friends instead.

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Categories
Places to visit

English Heritage annual passes are they worth it?

One Sunday morning a few years ago we were searching for somewhere to go for the day when my husband came across Porchester Castle in Hampshire so we jumped in the car and headed off there.

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When we arrived we paid our entrance fee whilst turning down offers of signing up for the annual membership with English Heritage. We hadn’t even got past the ticket office so I didn’t want to pay for a whole year until I had at least been inside. After politely declining the offer and just paying for the day they said that if we did change our minds before we leave and signed up we would get back what we paid that day off the price of the membership.

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Well after an amazing day at Porchester Castle that was it we were hooked before we left we took out the family annual passes. Not only are they good value for money but they also encourage you to get out and explore new places. I always find annual passes are a bit like buffets you want to make sure you get your monies worth but instead of leaving with an uncomfortably full belly you enjoy a great day and leave with knowledge of the past.

The English Heritage put a lot of effort and pride into the upkeep of all their historical buildings and really bring history to life. All of their sites that we have visited are family friendly and were always full of activities to keep the children occupied. They also host events and activities at their sites throughout the year.

There is so much to learn and explore for the whole family that I would recommend a day out to one of the English Heritage sites and if you enjoy yourself it is so worth investing in annual membership.

In one year’s worth of annual passes we visited the following places and I have listed the prices of what we would have paid without the annual passes –

Porchester Castle – £19.80 with gift aid

Stonehenge x 3 – £50.20 x 3 with gift aid

Dover Castle – £55.00 with gift aid

Charles Darwin’s Down House – £34.40 with gift aid

Total we would have paid – £259.80

Annual membership for 2 adults and up to 12 children (the family gate price is only for 3 children) – £99.00

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To conclude English Heritage annual membership is so worth it, it will save you money in the long run and it will also encourage you to get out more and explore our nation’s history.

For more information on Membership take a look here at the English Heritage site and take a look at their locations throughout Britain here.

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This post contains affiliated links.

Categories
Places to visit

West Bay, Dorset, UK

We recently visited the wondrous beach of West Bay, set on the beautiful Dorset coastline. If you are looking for places to visit in Dorset I would recommend checking out West Bay, there is so much to do you can easily spend the whole day there and if you are on holiday there is lots to keep you busy.

West Bay is a popular beach so it is well worth leaving that bit early to grab a parking space. We have been there before after 11am and struggled to find a space to park and then have got there another day before 10am and had our pick of spaces but within the hour the car park was full. With parking at the bargain price of only £2 for the whole day it is worth arriving early.

Children’s play park

Right next to the car park is the most amazing play park for all ages even adults. The sign on the gate clearly states the park is for everyone from ages 0 yrs to 99 yrs. I definitely enjoyed playing in the park with the girls letting my inner child free.

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There are so many cool things to play with and keep the children busy for hours. It is a brilliant park with so many different climbing apparatus. 

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There are climbing frames, swings, trampolines and much much more. There is so much to do at the park we nearly all forgot about visiting the beach.

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The Beach

To get to the beach you have to climb up the pebbled hill which is a slow climb as for every step forward you slid back two, but it is a good laugh trying to run your way to the top and the kids enjoyed trying to get to the top first.

Once at the top you get a lovely view of the beach with a band of blissful sand at the bottom of the pebbles leading into the sea with the beautiful golden cliffs as an imposing backdrop.

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The sea is great for swimming or paddling in and there are always lots of children enjoying the foaming waves. The beach is quite safe for children and you can easily keep an eye on the kids. There is space to fly kites, play football and build sand castles, the sea is clean and so inviting although cold.

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When we were on the beach there was a shoal of white bait fish swimming near the shore and loads of them were washed up along the beach. All along the shore line were these bright simmering little fish we tried to put some back into the sea but it was too late for some. The fisherman on the beach told me that they washed up on the beach because they were being chased by mackerel and to escape headed to far into shore.

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Food

When your tummies start to rumble there are so many amazing food places to choose from. Around the canal there are lots of quaint food huts selling fast food and ice cream. We have had the most amazing battered calamari from the fish and chip hut and the kids had perfect sized meals at reasonable prices.

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The last time I visited West Bay I didn’t have any cash on me and the hut didn’t take card and the cash machine in the arcade had run out of money so we headed to the cafe the other side of the road. There are three cafes this side selling Cornish pasties, sausage rolls and freshly made sandwiches and they did take card. 

The kids enjoyed sausage rolls and I enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich. Once you have finished lunch it is time to embark on a hunt for ice cream. I have to say that the ice cream in West Bay is out of this world. I had a mango ripple soft scoop ice cream and it was so delicious, there are 30 different flavours to choose from all looking so delicious.

The kids meals were very reasonably priced and the portion size of the meals were just right for the girls. Dino and I had the cod and chips and the battered calamari which was amazing. It was the first time I tried it and I loved it, I have had some more calamari since but unfortunately it was not as good as the one I had at the food shack.

When you get your food if you are not eating in you can sit on one of the benches or the wall looking out over the idyllic canal where a dozen seagulls laying wait for  their next scrap of food to be dropped. 

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Cliff Walks

There are two great cliff walks on either side of the beach one is short but very, very steep and the other is quite a long walk but not so steep. If you are going to walk up the longer cliff it is worth making sure you have some water with you as it is a bit of a walk especially when you have children. 

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Once we made it to the top there was a caravan park and a big field full of daisies at the top where we all lied down for a while and sun bathed. 

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From the top we were rewarded with a stunning view over West Bay. We could see the beach that we had come from and then another beach down the other side of the cliff. It is a lovely place to sit for a while and enjoy taking in the views and the fresh air.

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The other cliff walk is so steep and very hard to walk up at points it is easier to crawl up on all fours, especially for the children. It is advised though not to let the children go to far ahead as when you get to the top there are no barriers and a very steep drop off the cliff not to mention that there has been a few rock slides recently. 

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After the grueling climb to the top once again you are rewarded with far reaching views of West Bay and can stay there just looking over the bay and taking it all in. The climb down was just as hard and in part the kids had to go down on their bottoms.

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Crabbing

When you walk around the marina you will see loads of people pitching up around the high walls casting their crabbing nets into the water. If you don’t have a crabbing net you can buy them from the shop for a few pounds. If you wanted to purchase one before you go if you click here i have found the same net that I bought on Amazon for the same great price (affiliated link).

We didn’t have any bait but were kindly gifted some from one of the other family’s crabbing. If bringing your own bait the crabs eat anything from fish remains to bacon, I am told. If you have never been crabbing before you really should give it a try it is great fun and the kids will enjoy catching the crabs and will enjoy looking and observing the crabs up close.

We ended up catching a crab, eel and we were even given a shrimp by another family as they had more crabs in their bucket and were worried that it would be eaten by them.

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When it is busy on the crabbing wall it is like a little community everyone talking, exchanging tips and the kids all showing each other their catches. People walk around and look into everyone buckets and have a chat about what they have caught.

Boat rides, canoeing and more

From the marina you can take a trip out to sea on the high speed boat ride that crashes around the waves giving people a thrill ride. I have not yet done this myself but have watched the boats doing high speed figure of 8’s around the sea.

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There were lots of signs offering fishing trips from the marina and wakeboarding. On the canal opposite the marina they offer canoeing lessons on the calmer water.

To see more activities in West bay and customer reviews you can take a look at Trip Advisor where you can also book ahead (affiliated link).

Shops

The little corner shop has lots of pretty little trinkets and souvenirs as well as buckets spades and all the equipment you will need for crabbing. 

Near the car park is a little courtyard with a little market selling beautiful artistic pieces and antiques. Round the marina there is usually a van parked up selling beautiful pictures taken around West Bay.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Lyme Regis

Why you should visit Dunster in Somerset

Why you should visit Porlock Weir in Somerset

The Wonders of Wookey Hole

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Children's Crafts and Activities

Rainy Day Fun!

We all moan when we see that the rain has been forecasted for the day, especially when we have little ones to keep amused and stop from going stir crazy indoors.

However there is so much fun to be had when the rains come and the kids can enjoy getting out in the rain, even if only for a short while. Most of us have welly boots just lying around so why not dust them off and put them to the test.

In my household the girls get excited by the rain and if they are playing out when it starts to rain they never want to come in.

Their favourite thing to do in the rain is strip down to their underwear and dance around in the rain. Obviously we only do this in the garden and not down the street, although given the chance they probably would dance naked down the street.

I have the towels ready for them at the back door and watch as they run in and out seeing who can stay dancing in the rain the longest. They are always in fits of laughter and really enjoy themselves. My brother and I used to do this when we were kids so it brings back fond memories watching my girls do it too.

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Once they have had enough I wrap them in a towel and put them in a warm bath and sometimes they even get a hot chocolate too.

My children can never resist a puddle as soon as it rains they are wanting to go out and find the biggest puddle they can splash in. I am happy for them to go out and get soaking wet and muddy as clothes can be washed and they can warm up in the bath afterwards however if we are on our way to school or on our way out somewhere then you hear me begging them to stay away from puddles. Any other time though I am encouraging them to go in and splash around.

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They all have welly boots which keeps their feet dry, unless they find a puddle deep enough for the water to come in over the top and that has happened a few times. 

They have been in puddles that have come up to their knees before and both Bella and Lia have fallen over and ended up sitting in the puddle but it is all part of the fun and they still laugh about these times now.

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A great activity when you have little ones, which I have done in the past, is when the rain stops and the ground is still damp to go on a worm walk. This is where you go out and see how many worms, snails and slugs you can find. To add some numeracy and literacy to the activity you can take a pen and paper and get them to tally up how many you can find (you can tell I used to be a childminder, always thinking about the learning outcomes).

So next time the rain starts to fall don’t despair grab your Welly’s and rain jacket and set off on a rainy day adventure. If you are worried about your children getting wet you can get the all in one rain suits which means your child will have no excuse not to jump around in those puddles.

If you enjoyed reading this post why not also read my post –

The Benefits of Nature and Ways to get out and Enjoy it

The Fun that can be had in open spaces

The Benefits of Pond Dipping

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Children's Crafts and Activities

For the love of Hama Beads!

Hama beads are always a favourite in our house, we all love them and have spent hours creating new masterpieces, me included.

In fact at one point I was more obsessed than the kids.

I was constantly looking for new Hama Bead ideas and Hama Bead patterns on Pintrest then trying to recreate them.

For anyone not familiar with them, Hama Beads, they are small hollow round beads that you place on a peg board in a pattern and once you have finished you place the ironing paper over the top and iron, this then fuses the beads together leaving you with your finished masterpiece.

Hama Beads are easy to use; I have even had 3 year old’s who have put the Hama beads on to the peg boards, when I was child minding. Obviously the ironing part is an adult only job.

They are great for kids as they help develop fine motor skills and in older children develop knowledge of patterns and allow them to be creative.

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We started off with an individual pack each, which contained a few coloured beads, ironing paper, a small peg board and pictured instructions of that one thing to make. The girls loved them so much that I invested in more and more Hama beads and we went from following the patterns to free styling.

We have used the shaped peg boards, which gives you the outline then you use the different colour pegs to make your design, we have also used the big square peg board to make our own designs.

I have bought so many packs of Hama beads from the huge mixed tubes to the individual packs which come in a huge variety of colours, they even have neon, glittery and even stripped beads.

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We ended up with so many Hama Beads creations I didn’t know what to do with them. That is when I had the thought of making them into fridge magnets. I bought some little round craft magnets and a small pot of superglue and set about gluing the magnets on the back.

I also bought some key ring chains and put some of the smaller Hama Bead creations on to them as key rings, this however is quite fiddly to get them on.

If you make them into fridge magnets or key rings they can be given away as gifts. We have given a lot away as gifts, just to try and reduce our horde.

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Last year the girls made all their teachers Hama bead bookmarks with ribbon tied through the bottom and then wrapped them in tissue paper. Bella even made me a bookmark which I still use to this day.

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I know there are a lot of cheaper options of beads instead of the Hama beads but I would be wary of these. We have used the cheaper beads in the past and to make your design on the peg board they are fine but they are a lot harder to iron.

There is nothing worse than being handed a creation that a child has spent so long on to it then get ruined in the ironing stage. I find the cheaper beads don’t melt as well and when you think they are melted and go to remove the paper and some are stuck to it which pulls them away from the design. Sometimes you can get them back in but other times they have been completely ruined which has caused a lot of tears.

I always make sure our creations are completely melted and fused together and once cooled down I then remove them from the peg board. Then to ensure they are super strong I also iron then on the reverse side too.

I have also on some of our designs used Mod Podge to coat over the finished product just to give it a bit extra strength.

Hama beads are can be used as seasonal crafts we have made Halloween and Christmas creations and even made baubles for the Christmas tree out of Hama Beads.  The girls have also made birthday fridge magnets for family members and my girls have even started accosting visitors to buy some of their creations off of them and actually succeeding.

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Hama beads are a great activity for all the family and can keep the children amused for ages.

Word of advice though ensure your children don’t bring them over to you once they have finished putting them on the peg board as if they drop them or tip them up there will be a lot of tears not to mention beads everywhere. I learned this the hard way.

If you enjoyed reading my post why not take a look at my other post –

Window Sticker Activity for Children

Children’s Halloween Craft Ideas

Rock Painting

Rainy Day Children’s Crafts and Activities

How to Make a Pom-Pom Rug

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Places to visit

What to do in 4 days in the Algarve

Recently my finance and I went on our first ever holiday away without our children. Since having Bella 9 years ago we had never been away for longer than 1 night and even that was very rare, so the chance for us to go to the Algarve for 4 days together we both jumped at it. 

Instead of getting each other Christmas presents we put the money together to buy a well deserved holiday for us both. As I work full time, Dino works away from home Monday to Friday night and then we have the kids to look after and house work to be done, you can imagine we don’t really see each other very much.

This was going to be the longest we had ever spent in each other’s company in a very long time.

We were both looking forward to just relaxing and taking things easy on holiday, lazing by the pool or the beach and taking in the sun.

In reality our holiday turned out nothing like we had envisaged, we didn’t once relax by the pool or lie on the beach. In fact our holiday was so busy and action packed it turned out to be our best holiday ever.   

Thinking about it now we are both active people so relaxing all day was not really our cup of tea and I am sure we would have got bored. We turned in to travellers for the 4 days and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

We always hire a car when we go on holiday as you get to see so much more of the area rather than staying in one place and relying on taxis to ferry you about which can be expensive. We used Europcar in the Algarve and we have used them before on previous holidays and had good service. We were given a nice fairly new and very clean Renault Megane and when we handed the car back to Europcar we had clocked up a huge 411km in just 4 days.

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Our Algarve Activities:

Dirt Buggy’s

One of the activities we participated in was the dirt buggy tour around the country hills in Loule with a company called Buggy Safari which you can find on TripAdvisor. When we arrived the ladies running the tour were very friendly and spoke Englishl. They gave us a quick briefing and got us to fill out forms. 

They told us before we set of that half way through the tour they stop so the drivers can swap over. I am not a confident driver back home when driving on the left side of the road so the thought of driving an open dirt buggy around unfamiliar roads on the other side of the road was out of the question I was happy to let Dino drive us round, especially as we forgot to get any travel insurance before we left. 

Dino and the ladies running the tour persuade me to fill in the form anyway just in case I changed my mind and did want to drive.

We were strapped into the seats given our huge goggles to shield our eyes from the dirt and mud and off we set. The dirt tracks were very rocky but surprisingly the buggy was very comfortable and you did not feel the bumps. We were at the back of the group so we bore the brunt of the dirt flying around. Lucky for us it had not rained for a few days so the track was quite dry as the guides had warned us that when it rains people come back from there tours covered in mud from head to toe.

We were taken all round the countryside up and down steep hills, Dino enjoying driving the dirt buggy even with the wonky steering that he had to fight with to keep in a straight line and I enjoyed sitting back and enjoying the view with the wind blowing through my hair.

Eventually we stopped at a lovely local pub in a quiet little village of Tor for a drink. The village itself was so quiet it was like a ghost town with not a sole around until we reached the pub where there were a few locals relaxing with a beer. After having a rest stop and a drink we were off to hit the road again. 

That’s when our guide said it was my turn to drive and Dino was egging me on to drive. I was really nervous but knew if I didn’t drive the rest of the way I would be regretting it, so I plucked up the courage and off we set. The buggies were parked one behind the other and before we had even set of I nearly went into the back of the buggy in front as I was looking behind to see if any cars were coming and didn’t notice him stop. After that little hiccup we were off and within minutes my fears had melted away and adrenaline taken over. 

I was constantly fighting with the steering wheel to keep the buggy in a straight line and the breaks were a little stiff. Despite the difficulties driving the dirt buggy it was exhilarating; with the wind blowing straight onto our face and the dust that was flying around it felt that we were going very fast. If the speedo was working in the buggy I could have told you the speed that we were doing by either way it felt fast to me. We survived the next part of the trip with me driving and for once Dino got to sit back and enjoy the views. We drove over big rocks and down really steep hills that had a huge drop off at the edge. 

Unfortunately because it had rained so much the week before we arrived in the Algarve the river was too deep for us to cross in the buggies as they normally do but we still came across some big puddles we had to get through without getting to muddy.

When we arrived back and got out of the buggy we all started laughing at each other as it was the first time we had noticed just how dusty we all were. From head to toe we were covered in orange dust, I looked the worst as with my pale skin I looked like I had streaky fake tan all over me. We shook ourselves as clean as we could still laughing and ecstatic over the amazing experience we had just and watched the dust fly out of clothing on every shake. The trip was a bit pricey at 120 euros for a 2 person buggy but the experience was well worth the cost.

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Kayaking

I had seen pictures of the rocks and caves round the Algarve and wanted to do a boat trip out to see them, Dino wasn’t so keen on the idea of going on a boat but as we looked through the leaflets at the hotel we came across Kayaking trips around the coast of Lagos. We both jumped at the idea and set off to Lagos to book the trip. Dino had been in a canoe before but I had never done anything like this and it was going to be a completely new experience and another activity off the bucket list.

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There were loads of excursion companies offering trips around the caves but after looking at the leaflets and the TripAdvisor reviews we decided on a company called Days of Adventure and booked our tickets which were 35 euros each and went down to the meeting point to get on the boats.

At the start of the trip we jumped on to a normal boat that carries us out to sea from the marina with the kayaks on board, once we had reached the point at the begging of the caves we were loaded into the kayaks and pushed off a special ramp at the back of the boat and into the sea. Having never been in a kayak before I was surprised at how buoyant they were, I was worried that once I started moving trying to paddle the kayak would rock and we would fall in.

As it was the very beginning of April the sea was cold and at first the splashes of cold water on your legs as you paddled made you jump every time but after a couple of minutes paddling and working up a sweat the cold splashes were a welcome feeling.

Paddling was quite easy and we managed to get into a routine and were able to glide through the water and keep up with the guide and the other 4 kayaks in our group. 

The guide stopped us at points of interest and explained some history of the beaches and rock formations. The guides were all friendly and a real good laugh. As we went around they pointed out ancient rock formations that the old fisherman had named after the object they looked like and after the guides pointed it out you could really see the object in the rocks. Some of these formations were ‘The Portuguse Titanic’ where there was a rock shaped like a boat with another rock to the side shaped like an iceberg, ‘The French kiss’ this is a rock that looked like 2 people kissing, ‘Skull cave’ where what looked like a skull carved into the recess of the rocks, there were many more that we visited on the trip.

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Our guide also took us through cave openings that were just big enough for the kayak to squeeze through really putting our new found skills to the test. 

We all came out unscathed and got to wonder at the inside of these amazing caves carved into the rocks over millions of years. Inside the cave, the temperature was so cool and the water as cold as ice glowing a deep blue in the shade of the cave.

Once our tour had finished we headed back to the boat where we were pulled aboard and told that the boat would stop here for a while for people to go swimming. 

Having already felt the water I knew it was going to be cold but didn’t want to miss the experience of jumping into the sea from the boat. I made my way to the front of the boat where I saw some of the other passengers mainly the younger ones jumping off into the sea and happily swimming off. That was it I had to jump I couldn’t be the only one on the boat that had not been swimming so after sitting on the edge for what must have been about 5 minutes trying to pluck up the courage I finally though it is now or never and I jumped.

The coldness of the water pieced through my body, as soon as my feet hit the water I regretted the decision and started flailing around. The shock of the cold meant I was struggling to breathe and not being the strongest of swimmers I did start to panic a bit, I scorned myself for not jumping off the other end of the boat by the steps then I could have easily got back on board or at least had something to hold on to until I calmed myself down. 

Instead in my panic state I now had to try and swim to the other end of the boat before being able to get back on board. I was really struggling until I heard the Dino call to me asking if I was ok with a slight hint of worry in his voice. Hearing his voice helped me to calm down and I was able to begin the slow swim round to the other side. Still slowly panicking, once at the side of the boat the guide was leaning over the side unaware of my predicament, he proceeded to wind me up, saying that he could see a fin sticking out of the water behind me and it was getting closer.  For a moment I forgot about the cold icy water around me and when he had finished with his fin in the water joke I was a lot calmer and managed to swim round to the other side of the boat and climb back on board. I quickly wrapped myself up in a towel and looked up but Dino had gone I rushed to the side of the boat to see him casually swimming along.

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone visiting the Algarve it is a great experience, just be warned the sea is freezing so make sure you put it into consideration before jumping in. If however you did not want to do the kayaking but wanted to still do the trip there are loads of other boat tours available from the port. 

The company we went with ‘Days of Adventure’ also gave us discount vouchers for 2 local restaurants located in Lagos. We went to the orangery restaurant, the staff were very friendly and the food was fabulous which was well needed after all the hard work of kayaking.

Silves

We took the day to look around the historic town of Silves, which is rich in history and full of beautiful old buildings. I do love the old Portuguese Architecture it is always so grand with beautiful detail. 

In the centre of town is the imposing Silves Castle (Castelo De Silves), which is stood high up on the hill where it can be seen for miles. This Moorish stronghold has been used to defend the town in both the 12th and 13th Centuries. With its impressive stone built walls and amazing 360-degree viewpoint it is easy to see how it has stood the test of time and helped to defend the city.

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Inside the Castle are remnants of houses that were once situated within, mainly as excavated foundations now. The entry cost for the Castle De Silves is a very reasonable 3.80 euros each and this also includes entry to the town’s museum. 

Round the castle there is a beautiful landscape garden with blossom and orange trees and a lovely water feature built around a restaurant. The restaurant is a great place to stop for a spot of lunch or even just for a quick drink.

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 After visiting the castle we went down to the archaeological museum (Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Silves) which is built around an excavated 12th-13th Century well. 

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Inside the museum there are plenty of artefacts to look at and you are allowed to take photos of all the exhibits as long as you do not use a flash.  The well itself is fascinating it is around 20 meters deep and made out of Silves sandstone.

Around the town of Silves there are some lovely little cafes and local bars serving Portuguese cuisine.  When we visited, there were a lot of tourists around but I do mean tourists who have come to enjoy the culture not holiday makers who are there for the sun and the booze. Slives was a very peaceful town with a lovely friendly atmosphere. Everywhere you looked there was beautiful architecture in the old buildings and churches.

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There were loads of stalks flying around the town and they had nests everywhere from the rooftops to the ruins of a house, too pylons. It was the first time I had ever seen a Stork, I did have to google them to find out what they were.

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Also when we were in the gardens of Silves Castle we saw a chameleon walk really slow from the bushes across the path and up the tree. He was a beautiful creature with really big looking eyes.

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Largos

 After we finished our kayaking tour and had lunch at a local restaurant we took to the streets of Largos to do some exploring of the town. Largos is also a historic town but unlike Silves it is a popular holiday makers destination so there are a lot more bars and restaurants with nearly everyone we meet being able to speak English. There were quite a few holiday makers in Lagos but as we went off season the town was still peaceful, I can imagine it being quite busy in the summer with the bars and restaurants very full.

Largos still boasts its historic walled old town with historic buildings and beautiful churches.

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There was a market along the promenade when we visited offering clothes, bags, ceramics and gifts. There was also a main shopping parade with lots of well known and local shops so great if you would like to do a bit of shopping whilst on holiday. There is also a cliff walk you can take around Largos, although we didn’t get time to visit.

Portimao

We stayed in Portimao in Vitors Plazza a lovely purpose built hotel with outdoor and indoor swimming pool (not that we even went in it). Our room was a good size with a large balcony and the room was very clean and looked newly decorated. We enjoyed watching spectacular sunrises from the balcony with the sun shining through the palm trees.

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The nearest beach to us was a 5 minute drive from the hotel and had a wooden promenade spanning the width of the beach. With quaint little restaurants serving delicious local food, the beach was made up of beautiful white sand and deep blue ocean with the cliffs in the distance. We went down to the beach every night and watched the sun set then stopped at the restaurants for dinner. After we had finished we left under the starry night sky.

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Praia da Rocha in Portimao

About a 10 minute drive from our hotel was Praia da Rocha (meaning beach of rocks) as the name suggests this is where you can walk along the rock formations and into some of the caves made from erosion. The beach is picturesque with its golden sands, blue waters and the limestone rocks. We spent some time walking along the beach into the caves and through small archways carved into the rocks. The tide was out when we visited so we were able to fully explore the rocks.

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Once we had finished we headed up to the top where we were greeted by cafes and restaurants where we spend the time resting in the sunshine looking out onto the ocean.

Faro

Faro was the last town we visited, as the airport is in Faro we spent the day there before catching our late flight home. We started off in the new part of town where we ended up walking around the biggest shopping centre I have been too. 

There was lots of well known shops like Zara, Addidas, Lacoste, Levis and so on anyone who loves to shop should definitely visit the Forum Algarve shopping centre. As we had travelled light with only hand luggage we were limited to what we could buy but enjoyed pondering around the shops anyway. 

When it got to lunch time we headed up to the food court and were hit with so much choice. There was the usual Macdonalds and KFC but we didn’t come to Portugal to eat English food so we picked a Portuguese restaurant chain and picked what we wanted from the pictures at the side. I ordered a frango deluxe salad and I have to say it was the best salad I have ever had. The salad came with orange, fennel seeds, balsamic vinegar, salad and chicken. We also had freshly squeezed lemonade with chopped mint, this was the most refreshing drink I have ever had, it was so nice we got one each to take away as well. Even in a food court fast food restaurant the food was still amazing it is hard to find anywhere in the Algarve that doesn’t serve good fresh food.

We had a walk around this part of town and saw the dried up beds of the mudflats and salt water lagoons where there were small fishing boats that had been stranded.

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After we had finished exploring this part of town we headed to Faro old town to explore yet more Portuguese historic architecture. Faro old town is a very scenic town especially with the old walled part, with medieval cobbled streets and beautiful buildings, it also boasts a marina.

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Faro has a very Portuguese feel with a few tourists visiting and not holiday makers so there is a very relaxed atmosphere. There are still a lot of restaurants dotted around selling authentic Portuguese cuisine and with more of a Portuguese vibe and once again serving delicious food. What a great end to our holiday in the Algarve.

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We only had 4 short days if we had longer there is a lot more activities that you can do Viator has a great selection of excursions on the Algarve.

Why not also read my other posts –

Why Madeira is a great family holiday destination

Our France Road Trip

Sea Vs Air travel

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.