Settling into the Algarve (Before Covid)

It's pretty crazy to think that we have been living in Portugal for 3 months now. Taking part in virtual meet ups and FaceTime calls with my friends, they asked about life in Portugal. Have I been making friends? Am I feeling settled?... Well - I was, until all that was put on hold. We have spent more time here under lockdown, than not - and now our first month feels so long ago.


Wanted to pull together what life in Portugal was looking like for us, pre-lockdown - how our days looked, and how I was throwing myself into what Albufeira (central Algarve) had to offer to us. It's a good sign that I'm anxious to get back to it - to keep building relationships with other moms, for watching my kids interact with other children their age, and for enjoying a coffee and cake as an afternoon treat again!


Seeing as we pulled into town on the 1st of February, and Tommy started work on the 3rd - we hit the ground running. We fit in an epic visit to the Lagos Zoo to celebrate our Caoimhe's 1st birthday on the 2nd, after accepting our moving truck early that morning. Tommy had a heavy first week of work, out the door early each morning for training, and home again around 6:30/7 at night - so its left me navigating our surroundings via the stroller from the get go. We quickly learned that its much easier to get around by car, but we had to find ways we could share the one we had, as Tommys work usually depended on it... we found ways to get creative in a bind, but I also found the long walks also kept me fit (something had to replace our 5 flights of stairs!).



Even before we had arrived, I had been researching and connecting to local moms through facebook, especially the group ‘Loule Moms & Tots.’ In fact, the first week we were in town, I loaded up the kids and met a group of moms for a pizza lunch in the lovely MarShopping Center. (which btw has a fabulous outdoor playground, and an IKEA with a mall entrance - perfect for whipping in for a soft serve treat at the end of shopping, a trick one mom showed me - but pretty sure an IKEA with such easy access can be dangerous). The moms were all so welcoming - giving tips on what brand diapers they buy, to putting me in contact with other moms living closer to me. The rest of February flew by, without the opportunity for me to meet up with them again - and currently, who knows when we can look forward to the next big rendezvous .


I had also been reading about ‘Kids Entertainment Algarve’ run by Zoe Campbell, in particularly the weekly ‘Little Nippers’ playgroups that happen in the central/west Algarve each week. Each Friday, the Little Nippers group takes over the Al-Gharb Coffee Roasters in Albufeira. I checked out the location, and realized it was just about a 40 minute walk from our apartment - seems far, but actually just the right distance to fill an afternoon. I headed out after lunch one day hoping to put the kids to sleep in the stroller, and reach my destination in time for a quiet coffee and reading time before they awoke. I arrived, with two sleeping little ones, and found myself warmly greeted by the owner, Henning, and had the chance to have a chat without anyone needing my attention. My first thoughts were that it felt like a small piece of Berlin in Albufeira, quality coffee, good food (from pancakes to burgers), an open play area with a range of toys, with simple, yet trendy decor. It was lovely to meet him, hear a bit about how they settled in with the coffee business, and was sold on returning that Friday for the playgroup (and for each Friday after).


In fact, it quickly became our routine. Francesco looked forward to seeing some familiar faces each week at Little Nippers, and I really enjoyed getting to know the diverse group of mothers who were congregating as well. Zoe is amazing at what she puts together for the kids each week. Not only does she have an interactive craft planned, but she also loads up a bunch of gross motor toys, tummy time toys, baby dolls, and more for the children to play with and explore. Caoimhe was finding her confidence to start making first steps, so the variety of push toys were right up her alley - and Francesco really looked forward to the yummy treats on offer in Al-Gharb and to playing with the Bobby cars each week.


In fact, it quickly became our routine. Francesco looked forward to seeing some familiar faces each week at Little Nippers, and I really enjoyed getting to know the diverse group of mothers who were congregating as well. Zoe is amazing at what she puts together for the kids each week. Not only does she have an interactive craft planned, but she also loads up a bunch of gross motor toys, tummy time toys, baby dolls, and more for the children to play with and explore. Caoimhe was finding her confidence to start making first steps, so the variety of push toys were right up her alley - and Francesco really looked forward to the yummy treats on offer in Al-Gharb and to playing with the Bobby cars each week.


Both of these groups gave me the chance to connect with a smaller playgroup in Albufeira, with moms that met Wednesdays as well - hosted in the home of the lovely ‘Homemade Happiness’, or in a park, or even at the beach. These ladies have been so welcoming - and it has been so nice to be in a smaller WhatsApp group with nearby moms - giving me that local camaraderie that I needed.


When we weren’t busy with our little social dates and getting to know new friends, Francesco, Caoimhe and I had a lot of time together. I was determined to find a groove in our daily schedule, and experimented with having chilled mornings at home or morning expeditions to a local playground (there were not a lot nearby, so usually included a long walk to and from), naps in the stroller or naps at home... we planned our lunches, and sometimes treated ourselves to a tosta by the beach. By the end of that first month I successfully had my children sleeping at the same time at least 3 times a week (yes! an hour or two for me), found some great little playground spaces, and even snuck in some one on one dates with my boy (while Caoimhe slept in the stroller).



Then there was the time with Tommy - I loved that feeling of a Friday afternoon, tuckered out from our morning play group, waking the kids from naps to head out and catch the sunset and starting our weekend as a family! We got to enjoy the Carnival parade in Armação de Pêra, gorgeous sunsets in Galé, the cobbled streets of Albufeira, and the family friendly bike paths of Vilamoura. We filled our weekends with outside activities, discovering nearby towns and beaches, training for a half marathon we were meant to run in Rome, and looking for an apartment for us to move into from the first of March.


The first month absolutely flew by and we did indeed find a new home (in Alvor, a bit farther away from Albufeira then what we wanted), but that's a story for another day!