Weary of the endless gloom and biting winds, myself, a couple of friends and assorted children were looking for a change of scene, hopefully a bit of sunshine for February half term. But we didn’t want to travel too far, and worse, we hadn’t booked 6 mths in advance, so flights to all the conventional shorthaul winter sun destinations were booked up or costing a small fortune.
Despite being in a relatively poor bargaining position, we had a comprehensive list of must-haves: accommodation had to be of a high standard with plenty of space, satellite tv etc, access to self catering, but restaurants close by (no drive necessary) an indoor pool, massage and a bit of pampering, tennis, bikes, beach and a good kids club. It was all looking very much along with wishful thinking lines, until we found Monte Da Quinta Club on the Algarve, bagged ourselves some very well priced BA flights to Faro - and suddenly the holiday began to take shape.
We emerged from the plane in the late afternoon into the warm 20C air (unbelievable!), picked up our brand new 8 seater painlessly and within 15 mins arrived at Monte Da Quinta. Things had been going so well, we hoped we wouldn’t be disappointed at the resort, but secretly feared that we may be - it all sounded a tad too good to be true.
Fortunately our fears were unfounded – in fact the resort was even more impressive than we’d anticipated. Stopping off at reception to check in, we could see straight away that this wasn’t one of the huge, sprawling villa resorts found elsewhere on the Algarve and Spain (nothing wrong with that, but a drive to the various facilities wasn’t something we were looking for for this short holiday) - it looked small, walkable, exclusive.
We were quickly shown to our 3 bedroom townhouse – which was huge, decorated in cool, neutral colours with shaker style furniture - very spacious and very well equipped all round. The vast living/dining room had a large dining table, 2 comfy sofas, plenty of armchairs, cd player, large TV with internet, email, playstation, and film access, and a full complement of satellite stations including all UK terrestrial channels. A quick explore of the bedrooms confirmed that 2 of the 3 bedrooms also had their own tvs too, with all of the above. That was one tv per child in our case.
Whilst the children drooled over the televisual provision, we were busy exclaiming over the spacious bedrooms – each with a large ensuite bathroom complete with high quality toiletries, fluffy white towels, bathrobes and slippers. The kitchen was again spacious, contemporary, with very high quality and tasteful crockery, cutlery, saucepans etc, and had just about every gadget you could think of. The fridge and cupboards were stocked with all our immediate essentials too – tea, coffee, milk, water, bread etc. French doors off the living room led to a large patio area with bbq, a pretty little garden and a good sized plunge pool. There was air conditioning/heating in all rooms. We slept soundly and looked forward to exploring the resort the following day.
The flexibility of self catering, the facilities of a hotel
We set out early in the Spring sunshine to explore. The villas and townhouses are all set on the small site (it could indeed be walked around easily) and linked with cobbled pedestrian lanes. There are 2 and 3 bedroom townhouses and larger 3 –5 bedroom villas. All have their own gardens and private pools. The villas are considerably bigger, more private and have a much larger pool and poolside area and garden. One of the best things, as we soon discovered, is that they all benefit from daily hotel-style maid service – beds are changed every day, towels changed (pool towels too), rubbish taken care of and the whole house cleaned and tidied from top to bottom. Not that we’re lazy good for nothings who are averse to a bit of housework – but one of the key gripes of a self catering holiday is that you get the space and flexibility, but the self catering and cleaning element can detract from the hedonistic relaxation of the hold as a whole. This set-up is the best of both worlds in that respect.
Orientating yourself and finding out about key facilities can take up valuable time on many villa holidays. Not so again, with Monte da Quinta. The phone in the villas links directly to the very competent reception, who seem happy to indulge their guests’ every whim – in our case, bike hire for grown ups and children, tennis court bookings, and massage sessions in our own villa. In a way it’s a bit like living in a massive hotel suite – you have all the facilities of a lovely villa, but all the services of the hotel. Just fab.
We soon pitched up at the Clubhouse – the centre of the resort. There’s a very attractive and large pool area, a poolside restaurant/café for lunches and snacks, and a more formal restaurant upstairs. There are children’s menus in all the restaurants and a small, grassy children’s playground and pool. The excellent mini club is to be found here too (see more below), along with the gym and indoor pool/outdoor Jacuzzi.
The resort also has a shopping area with groceries, gourmet food and wine and a very good Italian Trattoria, which also offers take away. Our villa was right opposite this area, so popping out for dinner, or even bringing dinner back home for the children to eat early was entirely stress free.
Something for everyone to do
Having explored, we set about planning and enjoying our days. There’s a lot to do and see in the Algarve, and plenty to do in Monte Da Quinta. We all hired bikes and enjoyed cycling around the resort. Older children and adults could easily cycle down to the nature reserve, beach and even to the tennis courts and other shops which are just outside the resort itself.
The children loved the mini club .It takes children 3-12 yrs, but will look after younger ones, or recruit nannies to give younger ones the attention they need in the club, subject to space. Run by the very organised and friendly Helena and Rosa, the club is a welcoming place. A bright air conditioned room with a good variety of materials- from creative to sporting. There’s a large plasma tv and a wide variety of dvds. The staff are committed and really seem to enjoy spending time with the children – lots of hugs and cuddles. They plan a weekly schedule of activities which includes trips out, along with treasure hunts, tile painting etc, and tailor this to the ages and wishes of the children in the club at any given point.
So, we spent a couple of days just relaxing – with the odd of game of tennis, plenty of lazing in the sun, a few hours in the club for the children, a quick trip to the beach (2.2 km, so a 2 min drive), delicious lunches either at the villa or in the restaurants on site, and plenty of swimming in the stylish, comfortable indoor pool, not to mention a massage each in the villa. It was all just very easy – we could walk from one activity to the other – we had plenty of time to spend with each other, but also plenty of time for individual activities, and there was plenty to do whatever the weather.
Once sufficiently relaxed, we got ourselves out and about. The resort is set in its own grounds on the exclusive Quinta Do Lago - perfectly located to explore not only the rest of the coast and the Eastern Algarve, but inland too. We drove along the coast to Julia’s Beach and ate in the restaurant there (an Algarve legend, highly recommended) and the children even had a splash in the sea after. We drove 15 mins inland to the unspoilt market town of Loule, with its fabulous food market – and returned with some delicious bream which made a slap-up supper later that day. We drove back via the sleepy village of Santa Barbara de Nexe, and through the unspoilt countryside with its colour washed and tiled villas, orange and lemon trees and spring flowers. There’s a lot to explore besides: Faro, Estoi, Tavira, Olhao, Silves are all within easy reach.
An easy 40 min drive along the coast road is Zoomarine – a well laid out attraction with dolphins and seals, a huge aquarium, and a small amusement area. All very nicely done – and the children had a great time, and the grown ups grinned rather than bore it.
We ate out in restaurants in Loule and also in the excellent Galvao – a seafood specialist in Esteval, about a 10 min drive from Monte da Quinta. One of our group knows this area very well and has been coming to this restaurant regularly for nearly 30 years – the same family in charge, the same unobtrusive but excellent service and great food, it’s traditional Portuguese – telly in the corner - but the food is superb. We feasted on crab, sea bass, prawns and fish kebabs for the kids. There are plenty of meat options too. Highly recommended – details at the bottom of this report.
Highly recommended – the ideal family holiday solution
All in all we had a fab time. We are all well travelled, including the children, and this was one of the most upmarket and pleasingly small villa resorts we have visited. We sound a bit smug, I know, and indeed we were – delighted to have discovered Monte da Quinta, as it offers the sought-after yet rare combination of top quality self-catering accommodation with hotel style service and facilities, including a kids club and a wide variety of relaxation and sporting activities. It worked really well for us off season in February, but would work well at any time of the year. It’s a great option for Easter and October, and must be just glorious in summer. Ideal too, in that it works for families of all ages – great for grandparents, parents and children. Younger children will enjoy the pools, gardens and club, older children will be able to have a good degree of independence within the resort. Perfect too if you’re looking to holiday with friends or family, but each want to retain your own space. We’ll definitely be going back to Monte Da Quinta, it’s hard to imagine not enjoying a holiday here.
Price guide: 2 bed townhouse, from £805 to £2485 for a week, 3 bed villa from £1120 to £3290 for a week, 5 bed villa from £1610 to £4130 for a week. Flights and transfers extra. Click here for quotes or to book
Top tips for the region:
Visit: Silves (medieval walled city), Estoi (Roccoco place) Olhau (beach islands with lagoon like water and cubist architecture in Olhao) Tavira – castle and unspoilt town, Loule – unspoilt market town, Faro – walled old town, harbour and plenty of shops and restaurants, Monchique (mountain spa town), Lagos (western Algarve, lovely beaches and town) Sagres – wild beaches and unspoilt town
Galvao, Esteval, Julia’s at Julia’s Beach, between Vale de Lobo and Vale de Garrao
Zoomarine, just beyond Albufeira, off the main coastal road, the 125.
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