When an email popped into my inbox a while ago asking if we would like to travel to Portugal to check out a brand new hotel that was due to open in June 2016, we of course said yes. We decided that we would travel in August, for four nights, as a lovely treat in the middle of the summer holidays. Although of course it was a long way for essentially a long weekend with three small children, we thought it would be an amazing adventure, and our little people are quite used to travelling now anyway.
The MacDonald Monchique Resort & Spa is a five star resort in a relatively undiscovered area of The Algarve. Jon and I have been to Portugal twice before, before having the children, both times staying in a lovely resort called Vilamoura, but we were really looking forward to going somewhere that was a little bit more rural. The hotel isn’t by the coast, the nearest being about twenty minutes drive way, but the beach is still easily accessible if you fancy a few trips there.
We flew out on the Thursday lunchtime from West Midlands Airport, which we will definitely fly from again as it was so easy. Our nearest airport is Stansted, so most of the time we will fly from there or Heathrow, but West Midlands was so convenient and quick as it is much smaller than the others. By the time we arrived in Portugal it was late afternoon, we breezed through Faro airport and soon were on an air conditioned bus heading towards Monchique, which is about 40 minutes away. As we neared the hotel, we were taken aback by just how beautiful the area was, as we climbed further and further into the mountainous woodland.
We were greeted with this view. The resort is literally set back in the mountains and is an incredible structure, it reminded me of something that would be on Grand Designs- a modern designed building made with loads of glass and steel, it was incredibly sleek and stylish.
We were shown to our suite and the first thing that we saw was this view. Wow. It was one of the most breathtaking views have seen, if you look into the distance you will see the coastline. We were in the main block A of three, where the majority of restaurants were, but block C was considered the family block.
We were staying in a stunning suite, with a separate sitting area and fully equipped kitchenette. The terrace was large and as I mentioned above had the most beautiful views.
The room was stylish, modern and the girls had a pull out sofa bed in the living area.
Although it was late afternoon by the time we arrived, we immediately went to have an explore. We found the hotel a little confusing to navigate at first, it is all set on different levels, which wouldn’t have been a problem were we just using the stairs, but because we had a buggy it meant having to take a few different lifts to get to certain destinations. However once you get the hang of it, it’s quick and easy to get around. The resort has two pools, the main one above, which was stunning, and the family pool as well which is on the other side of the hotel.
This is a photo of the family pool, which was at the bottom of the resort (as it has different levels) and again has a beautiful view of the mountains. The family pool is also next to a fantastic kids playground. We split our time between here and the main pool depending on how we were feeling.
We had a late dinner in one of the hotel’s six restaurants, O Mercado Culinário, which serves a variety of national and international dishes, before heading up to bed for an early night. Not before watching the sunset behind the mountains though. I had the most delicious pork dish, which was genuinely probably some of most delicious pork I have ever eaten.
The next morning we woke up after a great sleep on a ridiculously comfy big bed, and headed straight for the pool after we had finished our breakfast. (Pancakes of course, when on holiday and all that!)
Out of the two pools we definitely preferred the family pool, which although was noisier was so much quieter in terms of the amount of people than the main pool. We stayed here for most of the day, also having hot dogs for lunch at the Agua pool bar.
He really enjoyed having a little splash about in the pool in-between sleeps. I was wondering how he would be on holiday now he is out of the ‘sleep most of the day’ newborn thing, but he coped with the heat really well. We just made sure he had lots of shade and at the pool we made a make shift nest for him out of towels so he could lie there and not be in his buggy all day.
The pool tired him out, I guess it is quite an intense experience for a young baby, and he fell asleep while still in the water!
We try and keep to the same routine on holiday when it comes to naps if we can. The children do go to bed a lot later but we find that a couple of hours afternoon siesta in the room really sorts them out. Mads doesn’t sleep but LL has a nap. While we were there by coincidence our baby boy napped at the same time so Jon and Mads went out swimming while I lay on the terrace and read my book – bliss!
On Friday evening we went to the hotel’s pizza restaurant Pizzaria da Serra. It’s set apart from the main hotel building in Block C and we found it more casual than the other restaurants.
The most delicious bruschetta with ham. Pizzaria da Serra was definitely our favourite of the restaurants there, although the food was delicious in all of them. I think it was because the girls love pizza the most and the atmosphere was the most relaxed.
You can’t beat a pizza. These ones were absolutely delicious and the girls enjoyed them a lot.
All dressed up for dinner in their ‘a little bit matchy’ clothes.
All around the resort are the most amazing views, but it is all very safe for children and I never once felt nervous about them running around.
There were so many little areas to take photos- the resort grounds were just absolutely stunning.
I love this photo of us. I really think it is important to make sure we take photos one on one with all of them as well as together.
We woke up on Saturday morning and decided to explore a little place called Caldas. The whole Monchique area is famous for its spring water and supposedly the waters are meant to have healing properties. Caldas is a charming little spa town (when I say town it’s more like a little village) with a lovely cobbled square. We found this crazy little shop and a man sat outside painting these rocks.
Caldas is such a beautiful place and is only about twenty minutes walk from the hotel.
You can walk up a little gorge path (it’s quite hilly) and find some natural spring water fountains- the girls loved exploring and filling their bottles with water, we told them it was magical water because it used to be said that it has healing properties.
Later that afternoon we went to the pool again for a bit before coming back to our room, having a nap and getting ready for dinner. We were supposed to be going to the resort’s a la carte restaurant Mon-Chic that evening, which was beautifully stylish in decor and had the most delicious sounding menu, but in all honesty we decided that it probably wasn’t right for three young children. I will talk about this below, but one thing we thought was that the hotel was trying to be perfect for both families and people wanting a sophisticated adults only environment, and sometimes I think the balance wasn’t quite right.
I love this photo of my funny bald boy. He’s just so smiley and happy all the time.
Instead we decided to go back to Pizzaria da Serra, where we could relax, sit outside and enjoy a game of minions Top Trumps for the millionth time. 😉
I love this photo of these two. She really is the best big sister that either of them could ask for.
Best of friends. Apart from when they squabble non stop. 😉
I love the fact that on holiday there is such a slower, relaxed more pace of life and I can take more photos of them with my big camera, it often collects dust at home at the moment.
I think he is going to have the travel bug like the rest of the family. He was such a good boy all holiday.
This photo makes me laugh for some reason. We got into a routine where we would go for dinner, take some photos and then go to the resort’s Mezzanine Bar for an after dinner cocktail. (or juice if you are three and five!)
This photo also makes me laugh. It’s so hard to photograph all three. Someone inevitably is pulling a face.
I have another post to write about our lovely holiday (and loads more photos!) but I just wanted to touch upon what I said above about the resort and its family friendliness. The hotel is obviously brand new and therefore I don’t think it is has completely got into it’s groove yet. It is a five star hotel and I know in my experience that sometimes five stars in different countries don’t always match the quality of five star hotels in the UK. The MacDonald Monchique definitely does- the resort is stunning, the rooms perfect, with incredible facilities and a first class spa which we didn’t try as we were there with the children of course. The staff were just fantastic, with every single one spending time chatting to the girls, helping us whenever they could and the service was second to none. It really is beautiful and the location is just stunning.
The hotel also has a kids club, which we didn’t use, but I did go in and have a look at it and it looked to be great. There were lots of lovely little touches for kids, from a welcome pack with a hat, a t shirt and pens (so you could colour the hat and t-shirt) for the girls, and a bib for babies. The kids club staff also came round at breakfast time with jigsaws for them and other little touches. In that respects it was really family friendly. The facilities for children were also great too, with a dedicated kids pool and a good playground.
When I say all this, on paper it sounds perfect, but I also feel like the resort was ever so slightly struggling to find a balance of who they were catering for. There were a lot of older couples there as well and sometimes in the restaurants (bar the pizza one which was more relaxed) we would feel a little edgy that we didn’t disturb anyone’s meal, but then I don’t know if that is because that is just what we are like and we care about making sure they are on their best behaviour. Our children are generally well behaved and very well travelled, but of course they are children and inevitably they make noise. The guests actually couldn’t have been nicer (we did have one old couple who turned their noses up once as we sat down and glared at me when I smiled at them, but you get one of those wherever you go!) and we had a couple of lovely people come up and say how well behaved they were, but I have to be honest and say that sometimes we felt that the hotel wasn’t sure whether it was catering for adults only or for families.
That said this isn’t really a negative thing. We enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t too overpowering and catered towards children, I think you go away for different reasons and sometimes you want full on family friendly fun, and sometimes you don’t. Macdonald Monchique isn’t a package holiday, full of tour operators kind of place, that said there were lots of families there, and when we were down at the family pool we couldn’t have felt more relaxed. I think the hotel will eventually find it’s feet as to who it is trying to target and we would definitely take our children there again, plus it would be great for older children too. I just wanted to point that out as I want to make sure my review is an honest opinion.
It really is one of the most beautiful places we have stayed and I will talk more about it in my next post but here is a little video of our time in Portugal…
NB We were invited to stay at the MacDonald Monchique Resort & Spa. All content and opinions are entirely my own.