Or when one of her 6 year old monkeys would look at her as he walked out of school, ask her if she’d had a good day and wrap his arms around her. Or when his twin brother would ask if he could climb into bed with her in the morning and would snuggle up to her and tell her he loved her.
So the girl who had found herself all grown up with four children, decided one half term, when they had nothing planned and Daddy was going away on a business trip, that what was needed was an adventure. A hastily planned and booked trip with the sudden realization there was a dog to consider. And a good friend who made it all possible by offering to look after the dog just as it seemed the adventure was going to be over before it started.
And so the girl and her boys found themselves on a flight to Portugal. A flight that would take just under 3 hours from Gatwick. Easy compared to previous flights to far-flung destinations. Easy is not a word the girl often used to describe life with all these boys. Noisy? Definitely. Rude? Absolutely. Chaotic? Undoubtedly. “Are they all yours?” “Wow, you’ve got your hands full”, the theme tune to her life.
Though chaos may reign in large families, the organizational skills of those in charge of these madhouses is something to behold. Recently watching a young couple with their first, very new baby, finding it necessary to both be in the ladies toilets together to change the baby’s nappy, the girl had smiled a rue smile. She remembered holding one twin under her arm, whilst attempting to change the other’s nappy using a combination of teeth and elbows. As well as being resourceful, mega multi-tasking is commonplace in these families. Cooking a meal, while simultaneously helping two children with different pieces of homework, unloading the overworked and groaning washing machine and dealing with the other two children fighting (over who said what to who about what before the other one had said something else that had upset the first one which eventually resulted in a broken collarbone), is just a normal day. Daily joys like these make going on holiday with four children, only two days after deciding to go on holiday, seem like a walk in the park. Actually a walk in the park often involves far more cajoling and whinging. “Boys, guess what? We’re going to Portugal the day after tomorrow,” was unsurprisingly met with less resistance than ‘Boys, let’s go for a walk in the park.”
Said organisation involved:
- Booking valet parking at Gatwick – a bus from an offsite car park with 4 kids and luggage, with only one full sized person, is a fools game. We used Maple Manor Parking.
- Pre-booking taxi to meet us at Faro and take us to the apartment complex in Vilamoura – one adult and 4 kids means you don’t want to be faced with only having taxis that seat 4 people at the airport. Yellowfish transfers were well priced, on time and I’d recommend them to anyone going to the Algarve.
- Emailing the hotel to make sure they know to stand by because a tornado is incoming.
- Packing very quickly, while trying to remember what you really want to wear when it’s 19-21 degrees. Not that hot really. Is it actually warm enough to swim? Why can’t I remember what 21 degrees feels like??
- Looking in the fridge and regretting that very comprehensive supermarket shop to stock up for half term. Followed by hastily moving almost the entire contents of the fridge to the freezer.
Where we stayed:
The days of last minute holidays, particularly cheap ones, are no more. Or certainly they are no more in school holidays when travelling with 4 children. Finding hotels or apartments that can accommodate larger families is always tricky. Even more so when only one adult is travelling. The very last minute internet searches and calls to travel agencies confirmed that our choices were extremely limited. But thankfully BA came up trumps and their option was cheaper than anything some of the traditionally cheaper tour operators had available.
So, we found ourselves at Pinhal da Marina in Vilamoura on a half board basis. I had read Trip Advisor reviews so knew what to expect. The décor was as dated as anticipated. And our 3 bedroom apartment was dark and offered little to no sunlight to dry damp swimming things. However, it was sufficiently big enough for 4 children to play hide and seek with a large degree of success. They found it genuinely difficult to locate each other, which allowed me some reading time! The staff were all friendly, helpful and kind. Breakfast was nice and the boys enjoyed eating as though they are generally underfed. Personally, I like eggs or porridge for breakfast and found it a bit bread heavy, but I knew in advance it didn’t include any hot food so couldn’t complain. The dinner menu was varied enough for us all to eat something different each night and the boys were happy, which made life infinitely easier for me. The main attraction with Pinhal da Marina for me and my very active boys were the sporting facilities available. Which included basketball, football, tennis, beach volleyball, table tennis, boules and table football. And of course swimming pools. Very cold pools. But pools nonetheless.
So the girl and her 4 boys arrived home. In one piece. With just a fairly substantial lump on one boy’s head and a twisted ankle for the girl. Not bad for this particular family. Home and straight into pumpkin carving and Halloween outfit sourcing. Because whilst Portgual was ‘cool’, Halloween is better, because you get loads of sweets. Well that was worthwhile then!