So here it is – the post I’ve been putting off. There’s just so much to say about our recent holiday that I’ve been finding housework to do rather than contemplate it. But its such a major event in Dexter’s life, it deserves a good write-up – so here we go.
Our holiday began at 2am on Friday 14th October – we drove to Gatwick in Grandad’s car with Dexie fast asleep beside us in his car seat. We thought we’d left plenty of time to clear all the airport formalities but we ended up having to run for the departure lounge! Our meet-and-great service was terrible and the TravelEx girl was desperately flirting with Craig so we were held up before clearing security. Luckily having Dexter with us meant we had speedy-boarding with Easyjet - so we had a few minutes to recover from the airport dash before the plane took off. The flight was largely empty which was excellent news as Dexie got his own seat in-between mummy and daddy – he was amazing and slept virtually the whole flight.
We arrived at the apartment tired, excited, and desperate for a swim. Unfortunately my suitcase broke on the flight so I held everyone up at Faro airport reporting missing items with Lost & Found. The apartment was listed on both Owner’s Direct and HomeAway.co.uk and seemed to show stock photos of other apartments for sale in the complex. Because of this we weren’t 100% sure how they would look in the cold light of day. We weren’t disappointed as they were stunning. The decor was lovely, and the rooms were huge. All of us remarked throughout the holiday that you could quite happily live there. There were also some extra features like a touch screen stove, state-of-the-art air con and all the mod cons you could think of.
My only criticism of the apartments would be the pool. There was some light maintenance needed and it was much too cold for Dexter. As I’m not a strong swimmer, I thought this wouldn’t bother me but it was so hot out there that the pool was essential for cooling off.
We were based in Quarteira – a small beach town that was largely closed for the summer. It was perfect as I didn’t want a busy resort given I’m still carrying my baby-weight. We spent a large chunk of our time relaxing on the beach or having a few beers at the beach-side bar. Dexter coped fantastically with the heat and was perfectly happy in his Koo-di travel cot laying on the beach. This was undoubtably the best thing we packed as it kept him in the shade and allowed him to nap wherever we went.
The worst buy has to be his pushchair. Although the Quinny Buzz 3 is brilliant and everything we want from a pushchair, we bought ours secondhand the wheels were very worn. They only lasted 6 hours in the heat before one burst unexpectedly whilst we were out. Unfortunately the apartments had already let out their only on-site pushchair to another couple so we were screwed. We tried his Mamas and Papas baby carrier but Dexter is really heavy and it was too hot to use this all the time. We ended up popping in a new inner tube (we brought one with us) and tying some rubber gauze around the hole in the tyre – this seemed to do the trick.
Somehow Dexter settled into a routine perfectly. We still gave him a bath every night using his Summer Infant bath seat and this worked perfectly. He was asleep every night by 8pm with no fuss, and woke up at 6am ready for play-time and a bottle. This was brilliant as nanny and grandad could babysit for us and we could grab a taxi into Vilamoura for drinks and food. We hadn’t expected Lynne and Terry to be so generous with their baby-sitting but it was much appreciated as Craig and I really enjoyed having time alone. We ate in some gorgeous restaurants (our favourite was the Mayflower) and talked loads about Dexter and the sort of parents we want to be. It was actually really romantic staring across the marina with a few drinks, and reminded me why I’m so in love with Craig and my little family.
Of course, the whole reason we were in Portugal was to attend the wedding of Alison and Kenny. Kenny is one of daddy’s closest friends and they used to live together back in daddy’s care-free days. Alison’s dad used to own a villa in the Algarve so it’s close to her heart. About 50 of us flew out to be part of their special day which is testament to them being so lovely. When Dexter was born, Alison and Kenny were the first to invite us round for a BBQ. I’ll never forget crying in their garden because Dexie wanted a feed and I was too tired to breastfeed. This BBQ was where Craig and I decided on the name Dexter after quizzing Kenny and Alison’s children Reece, Jay, Jess and Becca. They managed to convince Craig that the name isn’t synonymous with big glasses stuck together with sellotape and being dunked into toilets at school.
The wedding was beautiful. The entire day was spent at an exclusive hotel and we had the run of the entire grounds. The ceremony was held in the shaded garden and was pretty much perfect. The music was provided by an acoustic guitarist that looked like he’d starred in a Whitesnake video but he was excellent. The vicar was really funny and threw in a few jokes throughout the service too. Jess (Alison’s daughter) gave a brilliant reading too which brought a little tear to my eye. If I have a daughter and she grows up to be anywhere near as bubbly, friendly and confident as either Becca or Jess I’d be the proudest mum on the planet. To top it all off, Alison and the girls looked really stunning – it really was an idyllic wedding.
Dexter was supposed to make an appearance at the reception with nanny and grandad but the taxi drivers out there were shocking and failed to turn up. Lynne had already woken Dexter to dress him and felt it would be cruel to take him when he was so sleepy. I was a bit gutted as I’d been raving about him all day and wanted to show him off (but to be honest we were both a little drunk!). Lynne was also going to bring a much-needed pair of flip-flops with her as my feet were ruined in the heels I was wearing. To be honest I picked the worst outfit ever. Everyone else was in maxi dresses and managed to keep cool. I, on the other hand, wore a silk shift dress that showed every lump and bump. It also marked easilyand I was stuck with a water mark from a champagne glass before the ceremony even began. I’ve had to untag myself from a few pictures of me that were posted innocently on Facebook as I can’t bear looking at myself – time to hit that diet and get back into a size 12 I reckon.
Craig was on form as always. He looked really lovely and was really funny after a few drinks. There was some ‘dad dancing’ on the dancefloor and lots of bad jokes. The after-dinner speeches were great with Py (the best man) and Kenny trying to outdo each other with the comedy. It’s really lovely that all Craig’s friends are so close after all these years. Many of them have known each other since secondary school (that’s a good 30 years). They’re a really great bunch of guys and I guess our own wedding will be just as fun if we get everyone drunk enough.
On the last night we took out nanny and grandad for a posh meal to say thanks for coming on holiday with us. It was a really relaxed week with them, and their support was invaluable. They were really lovely company too and we had a few giggles along the way. Dexter is lucky to have such awesome grandparents. As we were waiting for the meet-and-greet service at the airport on the way out to Portugal – mummy overheard nanny Lynne chatting to a lady and heard her say “We don’t see enough of him” (about Dexter). It broke my heart a little bit. We should all see each other much more than we do – hopefully Craig can take Dexter to see his mum and dad more often now he’s in charge of day-time childcare.
So what did we learn about Dexter on holiday? We learnt that he’s an amazingly well-behaved and happy child. He handles change brilliantly and always has a smile for us. His sleeping is much improved and he’s regularly managing 12 hour night-sleeps, with a few naps throughout the day. We can now leave him with babysitters with confidence knowing he won’t fuss throughout the night. This is excellent as it means we can go out for dates more regularly. We’ve also learnt that Dex hates cold water and it’ll take a while for him to enjoy swimming. We’re going to try taking him to the local pool here in Reading as its heated – if that doesn’t work we might have to leave it awhile before trying again. Finally, our little lad will sleep anywhere. The one night he came out with us in the evening he sat in a bar with us whilst Craig watched a Champions League match – the noise was deafening. After this there was a live band and karaoke… Dexter slept through the whole lot!
Craig and I have now promised each other that we’ll go away a least once every year. It’s important for us that Dexter grows up having seen and experienced different places. He needs to realise there’s more to life than ‘home’ so he grows up worldly and responsible. This was a relaxing beach holiday and one spent with family and friends. In the future, when he’s old enough, we’ll take Dexter to places where we can explore the local culture and we can entertain him easily. We’ve spoke about Disney World (my idea of hell but a rite of passage for any child), Safari’s and other clichéd holiday destinations. They’ll need to be lots for him to do so we can fill his days with new experiences. Until he’s old enough to appreciate it, we’ll pick parent-friendly destinations where we can enjoy the peace and quiet. I know Mauritius and the Maldives are high on our list.
As there is so much we want to see and do as a family, it’s unlikely we’ll go back to Portugal. It would have to be somewhere really special for us to visit somewhere twice. As a relaxing beach holiday however, we’d definitely recommend Portugal. It was so family-friendly and the climate was perfect in late September. I really liked the way that the Portuguese seem to really love spending time with their children. They eat late into the night and there were countless buggies past 10pm down on the Marina. The prices are excellent and there are lots of water parks and boat excursions in the peak season. We didn’t do any of these as it wasn’t what we wanted from this holiday but I’ve heard that they’re well worth the money. We stayed at the Cavalo Preto apartments in Quarteira (right next to the beach). These apartments were truly stunning and great value for money given they are a short taxi ride away from the action-packed Marina.
Finally, I know I promised some eye candy for the ladies. So here’s my Craigy! He was separated-at-birth from David Beckham don’t you know!