Robinson Club Quinta da Ria, Algarve
From the moment we arrived at the airy and spacious reception area of the Club Quinta Da Ria in the Algarve, it was clear this was going to be a different sort of holiday.
If the surroundings felt very cool and woody, almost Scandinavian – lots of long, low buildings and verandahs set around a vast outdoor pool – our welcome could not have been warmer.
The club is run by two directors, Dr Olli Oltrogge and Veli Yildirim, who arrived to greet us within a few minutes.
Their presence is not intrusive but the hard work they put in infuses the whole place with a friendly and positive atmosphere.
In the half-enclosed silence, it is possible both to sunbathe, read in the shade and look over the beautiful surrounding countryside. Heaven!
Oili and Velli led us out to a long, poolside terrace at the back of the hotel, from which we could help ourselves to a very welcome light lunch from the various dishes available in the big buffet area.
The range of food here is sensational, with a special fine-dining station in the middle from which, each day, the chef serves with a flourish, beautifully-presented fish and meat delicacies.
There is also plenty of tea and coffee for us Brits. After lunch the five of us headed to our rooms, which are housed in a series of double-height buildings around the complex.
Pool at Robinson Club Quinta da Ria, Algarve
Club Quinta Da Ria was built in a conservation area and the owners have taken their responsibility seriously by harmonising the buildings into the landscape and leaving plenty of wild space for birds and wildlife.
We had two suites, each beautifully designed with movable dividers between the two sleeping areas and with their own individual, brick and wood-built roof terraces, accessed direct from the room.
Up here, in the half-enclosed silence, it is possible both to sunbathe, read in the shade and look over the beautiful surrounding countryside. Heaven!
After dinner, most of the entertainment takes place by the pool, where candlelit tables are set between two bars: one a paying counter with various delicious cocktails – our sons were very keen on the mojitos – the other serving free wine, beer and soft drinks.
On this first night we were regaled by an excellent rock band playing classics such as Johnny B Goode and Highway To Hell, with various guest singers including the lady whose day job is supervising the hotel laundry!
Over the following nights there would be dancing, more singing and an hilarious poolside quiz hosted, as ever, by the effervescent Olli and Veli.
Church of Santiago in Tavira, Algarve
Next morning we caught the regular golf buggy that ferries guests from the front of the hotel down to the beach. On other days we walked because it is only a short distance.
The buggy wound off, on an unmade track, down around the manicured golf course. There were some very serious-looking women competitors teeing off in the distance as we bumped along.
After a few minutes the buggy stopped at the top of a steep dune and we made our way down the slope to a sanded area, high on a sandy terrace, covered in sun-loungers.
A bar in a wooden shack nearby serves hot and cold drinks all day to a low soundtrack of soothing, ambient music. There is plenty of space here for everyone and wonderful views over the coast.
We picked a row of five loungers on a little sheltered platform.
There is a further walk down to the water’s edge and a regular little ferry, only accommodating five or six passengers at a time, will take you across a lagoon that forms when the tide is in, to the long, white sandy beach itself.
We took this little trip three or four times over the following days but our afternoon destination today, after a couple of hours’ sunbathing, was Tavira, several miles away.
Tavira is a very pretty village which dates back to the bronze age. The Gilao river flows through it and is spanned by an impressive, seven-arched bridge of Moorish and Roman origins.
Saturday bazaar at the coastal town of Tavira, Algarve
There are religious festivals here all year and along one wide avenue in the main square, flowers and decorations garlanded a series of archways.
There are also countless restaurants plying for trade.
We chose the newest one, Oskars, with cool grey and white decor, where we tucked into grilled tuna and garlic butter, ratatouille with garlic rice, breaded pork and pints of Mahou beer.
Afterwards we had a look around the beautiful Church of Santa Maria do Castelo, one of an astonishing 37 churches in the area.
By complete contrast, back at the hotel after dinner, we had drinks and danced to classic 70s hits as part of one of Olli and Velli’s spontaneous ‘pool parties’.
This one culminated in an hilarious synchronised leap into the water by many of the guests. We reached our beds very late after a wonderful evening.
A long rest on the beach was followed, next day, by another of the hotel’s regular treats: the afternoon tea, a delicious ritual of home-made pancakes, tea and various pastries.
We then headed for the hotel theatre and watched Freak Show, a lively combination of circus and magic tricks, dancing and high drama, which featured manager Veli on percussion.
A fitting finale from one half of a team who literally keep the friendly heart of the wonderful Club Quinta Da Ria beating away all year long.
A traditional Algarve house in Tavira
Thomson (0871 230 2555/ Thomson.co.uk) offers seven nights at the Robinson Club Quinta da Ria from £1,459pp (four sharing), full board.
Children from £475. Price includes return flights from Birmingham to Faro and transfers.
Portugal tourism: visitportugal.com