Children are full of surprises. Take my daughter, for example, who is scared of almost everything, except, it would seem, six foot albino pythons, whom she’ll happily drape around her young neck like a jaunty scarf.
As I sat cowering in the audience at the reptile show, praying the man with the menagerie wouldn’t come anywhere near me with his cold-blooded critters, my six-year-old couldn’t wait to pet the chameleon and stroke the Komodo dragon.
We were at one of the shows put on by the Vidamar Resort Algarve during our week-long stay and my daughter, like all the other children in the audience, loved it. ‘‘The snake tickles’’, she chuckled. ‘‘He’s cuddly.’’ Like I said, full of surprises.
The five-star Vidamar Resort is a relatively new kid on the Algarve’s block, having opened just over a year ago, and though it may still be in its infancy it really excels where it matters - good old-fashioned customer care.
This was in evidence right from the off, when in my haste to check out the stunning private beach at our hotel I had stupidly, and recklessly, forgotten to apply insect repellant.
It was early evening and we were keen to explore our surroundings, so walked the short distance from the hotel along the elevated boardwalk to the beautiful Salgados beach.
Sitting on the cooling sands, looking at the gin-clear sea and the lavender and orange skies as the sun began to set, a swarm of opportunistic mosquitos decided to munch on the exposed, pastey limbs of this dopey new arrival from Northern Ireland. By morning my skin was a violent speckled red, and as pock-marked as an acne-addled adolescent’s.
I asked the girl at the hotel’s kiosk if she had any creams to help ease my epic pain. She looked crestfallen because she didn’t, but offered to bring some ointment she had at home into the hotel for me the next day. What a lovely gesture, above and beyond the call of duty, I was overwhelmed by this level of helpfulness and genuinely really touched by her kindness.
Situated about a 10 minute drive from the busy resort of Albufeira, and about a 45 minute drive from Faro Airport, Vidamar Algarve is a sprawling, modern complex, situated next to not only the aforementioned beach, but also a very impressive looking golf course, and the Lagoa dos Salgados nature reserve.
It’s a cool and contemporary building, with free Wi-Fi and a wonderful children’s club. The reception area boasts huge floor-to-ceiling windows and comfortable couches, but best of all is the welcome from the staff which is as warm as the Iberian climate.
The decor throughout is minimalist and muted; sandy tones echoing the colours of the nearby beach, and it’s spotlessly clean. I noticed a lady vacuuming with a hoover attached to her back, sort of like a Ghostbuster, minus the jumpsuits and ectoplasm.
We had a room on the fourth floor, with sliding doors onto a balcony, and great views overlooking the pools and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
When travelling with children and their copious amount of paraphernalia, space is always a desire, and we weren’t disappointed. Ceiling height wardrobes provided plenty of storage space for all their accoutrements.
The room had a huge comfortable bed, a sofa bed, flatscreen LCD television and a very modern open-plan bathroom area, with one of the best showers ever. Again, each day I marvelled at how fastidiously it had been cleaned and tidied by the chambermaids.
The resort caters to all culinary tastes, with four top quality restaurants - a Japanese, an Italian, a traditional Portuguese fish restaurant and a buffet.
On our first night we chose the Ocean Buffet. A smiling, friendly waitress took my children by the hand and led them to our table.
In some eating establishments children are merely tolerated, but here they were indulged and made to feel special, a really nice touch. There was a plentiful array of tasty and well presented food on offer, and should you happen to overindulge, there’s a small, but well-equipped gym on site, to burn off the extra pounds.
In the morning after a decadent three-course breakfast (I particularly loved the pumpkin jam with croissants), it was time to check out the pool amenities.
For my six-year-old daughter it was like Charlie’s first glimpse of the Chocolate Factory, with not one, but three pools - one really huge one for adults and confident child swimmers, a small paddling pool for little ones and a heated chill out pool with a really cool swim-to bar.
We quickly settled into a happy routine of breakfast, then lounging or swimming followed by a spot of sightseeing and dinner.
Car hire can be arranged through the hotel and was very reasonable, and the roads around the Algarve weren’t that busy (or scary).
We visited a number of lovely towns on the western Algarve including Tavira, which like most of the towns in this region of Portugal, was rebuilt in the 18th century after an earthquake in 1755 and retains fine period buildings constructed on both sides of the River Gilao and linked by a memorable arched bridge, earning it the nickname Venice of the Algarve.
Lagos, a walled town, with some fantastic restaurants and great beaches, was another highlight, as was the pretty-as-a-picture town of Alvor.
After our travels, it was wonderful to return ‘home’ to the hotel, to lounge in the spa or have a drink in the Gin Bar. And my little snake charmer, couldn’t wait to have another cuddle with her new pal ‘Fluffy’ the python.