The potential for holiday relaxation did not look good. Baby Lily, 12 months old, woke up five or six times a night, fond of teething problems.
She contributed to the unbearable pain she was just experiencing and looked like a small drunken, haphazard, staggering without any concern for her physical safety.
Despite my fantasy of lying on a lounger, head in a novel, our equally energetic four-year-old Grace insisted that we spend every minute in the pool.
Pine Cliffs, pictured, is a resort located on a spectacular stretch of coast in the Algarve, just outside of Albufeira
In the meantime, my husband muttered worryingly about “quiet time” on the golf course.
So we go to the Pine Cliffs resort – located on a spectacular stretch of coast in the Algarve, just outside of Albufeira, just a 30-minute drive from Faro airport – an extensive collection of luxury apartments, hotel rooms and villas.
The words “chic” and “peaceful” do not do it justice. It’s just a shame that the Brookbanks and vacances don’t quite manage the same atmosphere.
We arrive in an elegantly tiled lobby with subtle tinkling fountains, and bump into a group of women walking through Chanel slippers, my husband working under the weight of our suitcases and carrier bags with baby wipes and coloring pens.
Once in our room I bring the girls in swimsuits and sunhats while he enjoys a big beer by the pool. During our nine-day break, the words cerveja grande were alarmingly often said and he discovered the local bitter almond liqueur, Amarguinha, in record time.
Despite the bad opportunities in the beginning, we have managed to have one of our easiest and most beautiful vacations ever.
Partly because there is so much to do for children in Pine Cliffs: nine swimming pools, a bouncy castle, trampoline, swings and a slide, toy sports cars for racing, two large wooden pirate ships, a basketball court, face painting, bird and lizard shows, tennis courts, mini golf and more.
There is also a cooking course for children, where Grace and I have a lot of fun making delicious Torta de Amêndoa, a kind of almond bread served with ice cream. Later this summer there will be a children’s football academy with former Premier League football players John Barnes, Wes Brown and Joe Cole, who would certainly earn bragging points if the school started again in September.
One of the nine pools at Pine Cliffs. There is also a bouncy castle, a trampoline, swings and a slide
It becomes clear that Grace is a loser on mini golf and scores two hole-in-ones on her first go, shamelessly kicking her father. The two soon walk around the driving range and let me roam the avenues of the resort, each lined with huge pine trees, with Lily asleep in her buggy.
This may all sound like a kid’s club for words – but don’t fear. Adults who are used to nice hotels will also be perfectly at home here. One evening while I was washing Lily’s hair with the free hotel shampoo, my husband informs me that the exclusive Byredo products that I collected cost quite a penny in Selfridges.
In addition to this splendor, Pine Cliffs is a huge place, with so many swimming and dining options (11 restaurants), our favorite is O Pescador for its delicious spaghetti vongole. There is also a fantastic buffet in the O Grill restaurant.
The rarest beast, it’s a buffet that doesn’t taste like a buffet. We demolished grilled squid, steaks and jumbo shrimp every night before the slender bottle of Amarguinha is opened again.
Tennis lessons at Pine Cliffs are on site at the Annabel Croft Academy
You certainly do not feel surrounded by screaming babies, because the crying children of other people are undoubtedly. We see many families who have traveled on the dreamy vacation essential – a grandparent who likes to step in with an occasional spot of table tennis for the pool.
And there is enough for the average glamorous grandma or grandpa to do if they don’t have baby service.
We even notice that we have breakfast with former Strictly star Len Goodman, who looks toned and bronzed every day with his family.
There is a golf course with nine holes. Challenging visitors want to try the Devil’s Parlor, the infernal feature hole built over a canyon that requires a 215-meter shot to reach the green.
Tennis lessons are given at the Annabel Croft Academy on site and of course there is the wonderful Serenity spa. I spend a pleasant morning in something that looks like a large Terry’s Chocolate Orange – scrubbed in fresh orange oil mixed with sand. I am completely dyed with deep brown chocolate-like carob paste before being lowered into a massage bed with warm water. Luck.
Pine Cliffs is a vast collection of luxury apartments, hotel rooms and villas
We venture out of the resort only a handful of times. Once on the beautiful beach of Falésia, just below the hotel, accessible via a panoramic glass elevator and a short walk along a wooden walkway and rust-colored gorge, so striking that it is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.
But although there are some very chi-chi families in the Portuguese resort – small children wear Missoni swimsuits and there is a clear predominance of young Jagos and Allegras by the pool – there is generally a happy collegial atmosphere among the parents of the little kids.
It is all helped by the rather impeccably dressed, beige uniformed employees, who magically appear at the exact moment that you need something.
If only I could take one of them home.