We stayed in family-friendly villa in Gale in Portugal’s Algarve. Here’s our review
It doesn’t seem all that long ago since we were writing about a visit to Portugal’s Algarve – probably because it wasn’t.
In fact, our last family holiday overseas was to the beautiful and inviting region and we enjoyed it so much, we returned just a few months later.
This time, we opted for a villa near Gale, a small town not too far from Albufeira. We’d toyed with the idea of villa holiday for some time but this was our first time as a trio staying in one.
After trawling through the major villa holiday sites we found a bargain on James Villas. It had twice as many bedrooms as we needed, but, just nine days before flying, it was an absolute steal.
There was another first as we flew from Doncaster-Sheffield Airport (or Robin Hood Airport as they like to call it), which is just over an hour’s drive from our house.
The small airport combined with great flight times and meet-and-greet parking from HolidayExtras.com meant we were in our holiday accommodation just seven hours after leaving our home in East Yorkshire.
Location, location, location
Our research into Gale was minimal at best, so there was some trepidation but we were very lucky.
The location of Vila Henriques is fantastic, especially for those who, like us, were keen to avoid having to hire a car. First port of call was the supermarket to stock up on essentials such as water, sun cream and wine.
It took less than five minutes to walk to the nearest branch of Apolonia, which had everything you could ask for.
A host of restaurants and bars are within easy walking distance of the villa, with two of them located overlooking nearby beaches – including the lovely Praia do Manuel Lourenco, which boasts a cracking seafood restaurant.
A little further away, was Restaurant Evaristo. This was about 20 minutes on foot from our villa but, having been their previously about a decade previously, we returned to rekindle the memories.
Evaristo, again overlooking a beach, has a strong reputation and booking in advance is essential. There are no menus, customers can choose from that day’s selection of fish, shellfish or meat. Don’t be daunted, though – staff are friendly and very helpful.
A joyful lunch
The real jewel in the area’s culinary crown, however, was much closer to home, though it took some finding.
Vila Joya is a restaurant with two Michelin stars but they don’t tend to shout about themselves. They don’t have to.
Passersby might not even know its there. The restaurant and boutique hotel sits in a secure gated forecourt, with “Vila Joya” modestly written on the outside wall. We only found out about it after a search for nearby restaurants on Trip Advisor.
Knowing little about the venue, we plucked up the courage to press the buzzer to open the gate and ventured inside to make a reservation. They were able to fit us in for lunch a few days later and it proved to be the highlight of the holiday.
The set menu is four courses but, with “surprises” from the genius head chef along the way, it ended up being about nine. Lunch lasted three and a half hours.
It was a real treat for the grown-ups but equally special for Kasper, our seven-year-old son, too. He chose steak and chips for his lunch but was also treated to the extra special smaller dishes – and loved almost all of them.
Splash not cash
We justified the extravagant lunch by tightening the purse strings at times – we enjoyed a barbecue at our villa on a couple of occasions to keep costs down.
Our own pool meant we didn’t have to leave our temporary home to find fun, we just had to brave the initial step into the water. While the air temperature was a pleasant 24C, the water took a little getting used to.
Kasper led the way and made the most of his new waterproof camera to capture some subaquatic memories.
We quickly appreciated the advantages of choosing a well-located villa, in that it really opens up your options. Things like how much you eat out, how far you travel to find activities and how much you spend are all up to you.
This trip has confirmed villa holidays are for us and we’re already planning our next one.