Summer holidays are turning into rather gargantuan European adventures for us.
For the third year in a row, we have bundled most of our earthly possessions into our long suffering Qashqai and made the long trek south to glorious Portugal.
A trip we are now well versed with, and have accomplished via ferry to Spain’s sunny Santander, the last two times in a row.
It adds a little extra excitement to our annual escapades, not that we really need it when visiting the foreign family, who always roll out the red carpet for their vivacious visitors.
Mummy’s Portuguese parents are always eager to lavish their long lost love onto their very own dynamic duo.
So after a good two days’ travel, across land and surprisingly calm sea, we were all pleased to arrive in the quirky little time capsule of Amorosa just a few weeks’ back.
A Butlins cum Center Parcs style seaside resort on the north coast, about an hour’s drive from the outlaws’ normal residence in Vila Nova de Gaia, just outside Porto.
It was here that our week-long beach bum holiday kicked off in earnest and it was trunks on and flip-flops at dawn as we made the most of the sun on our backs and sand between our toes.
Although previously back home, we’d already enjoyed a good few weeks of #Summer2018, it’s always good to feel that Portuguese sunshine on your skin and experience the thrill of some foreign soil.
When we’re Amorosa side, daily trips to the beach are called for, but only until about 12:30pm when it’s time to retreat back to the holiday flat to dodge the midday sun and scorching 30c plus heat most days.
Our shoreline shenanigans always involve digging, football and plenty of paddling but this time we had a new activity to keep us occupied as well.
A brand new boat (blow up dingy) had been dutifully purchased by the Portuguese grandparents this year, so the boys were dying to give it a maiden voyage on the waves as soon as possible.
After inflating it to within an inch of its life it was duly carted off to the beach and primed for action.
The boys were a little apprehensive at first so daddy and Booboo (grandad) took charge of proceedings, launching headlong into the ice cold surf in typical holiday abandon.
With the waves gently lapping and the cowardly young duo now sure that capsizing was no longer on the cards, it wasn’t long before three men in a boat were being steered carefully towards the horizon by the ever watchful Booboo.
I say horizon but it was more like just a few yards out to sea but it was great fun to ‘mess about’ on the water for a bit nonetheless.
After retiring for lunch before the hottest sun hit, it was usually a sure fire bet that you’d find us languishing in the nearby bar – the cooler that cool Cafe Magma – for a large ice cream and even larger ice cold beer.
This year there was also a brand new addition, with the restaurant branching out and opening an extra craft beer outlet, stocked full of Europe’s finest ales, from Erdinger to Delirium and everything in between.
It was a desperate dad’s dream and I enjoyed lingering amongst the bottles and perusing the gorgeous glasses, a few euros burned before being dragged away kicking and screaming by mummy.
In the evenings if not too tired, a trip to the ‘within spitting distance’ from the flat cafe was often on the cards. With the new football season now firmly underway, it was wall-to-wall Portuguese Primeira Liga action most nights.
One particular match involved Benfica, a couple of large beers and a few whiskeys. The eventual result I don’t really recall to be honest…
The only slight downside to our time at the coast was the unfortunate ‘all night banging’ we experienced from the neighbouring town. Much more innocent than it sounds I’m afraid, but it appeared we’d forgotten just how much partying the Portuguese like to do, particularly in the summer months.
Our top floor flat seemed a magnet for the ‘boom boom booming’ sound waves of the constant bass emanating from the locality just up the road.
I like a dance as much as the next dad, but not even a Red Bull and a hundred grand of class A drugs could keep me bopping from 6pm to 10am the next morning – literally.
So as our time at the coast drew to a welcome end, Porto beckoned once again and with a wink and a grin we bid a fond farewell to our ‘Hi-de-Hi!’ digs and repackaged the Nissan all bound for our second home.
Vila Nova De Gaia lies just opposite Porto – the country’s second largest city – across from the picturesque Rio Douro, famous for its abundance of port wine cellars and friendly cafes and bars, where you can pick up a cheap beer and enticing pastry for just a few bargain euros.
And although the grandparents now live on the Gaia side, we always enjoy a mooch around Porto itself, perusing the many intriguing gift shops and taking in the spectacular riverside views for a few hours.
This trip was no different and along with the annual cable car ride, walk across the magnificent Ponte Luis I Bridge and regular ice cream pit stops, this year included a visit to the official Portugal FC store.
A footie fan’s dream it certainly turned out to be with FC Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon strips as far as the eyes could see.
At almost €100 a pop however, we decided we were more than happy with the cheaper ‘replica’ kits we’d managed to pick up on the coast during the previous week.
We had a proper treat in store towards the end of the week anyway. As previously mentioned, with the new football season already in its early stages it just so happened that local team Boavista FC were to host rivals Benfica on the penultimate day of our holiday.
It seemed an opportunity too good to be missed and what with Booboo and Boy 1 both fervent Benfica fans themselves, was a no brainer, nailed on boys only outing.
Three golden tickets were duly snapped up, with Boy 2 preferring to visit the cinema with mummy and Bobo (grandma) to watch the latest Mamma Mia film, and it was off to Estadio do Bessa for an experience never to be forgotten.
The Benfica fans seemed to outnumber Boavista’s about two to one and we were treated to an accomplished performance with the away team running out eventual 0-2 winners, the second goal a particular spectacle of slick, tiki-taka style continental football.
The three of us were on our feet at the end to applaud a truly wonderful display, which we all agreed bettered the Champions League qualifying match between Porto and Roma we’d been lucky enough to witness two years previous.
It was a fitting end to another fantastic vacation and all the was left to do was Tetris-style slot our belongings back into the quivering Qashqai for our return trip to Santander and eventual journey back to Blighty.
This time, in order to break things up a bit, mummy had once again booked us into a more than suitable Novotel just a couple of hours from Santander, to help the onward trek home a little less tortuous for us all.
After a refreshing swim and a few more unnecessary meals, it wasn’t long before we were queuing up in line to board our favoured vessel the Pont-Aven. An overnight sail into Portsmouth ahead of us, which unfortunately wasn’t quite as smooth as our outbound voyage had been.
We were all more than relieved to arrive ‘home sweet home’ around 24 hours’ later, fully Portuguesed and suntan lotioned out for another year.
Before we know it Bobo will be making her annual pilgrimage to the UK once more, but for us, our summer excitement had come to its end.
Obrigado por tudo Portugal, I wonder what next year has in store…