Final month of maternity leave - bucket list trip!
We are back (well, have been for a week or so but been enjoying my last week off!) and had a fabulous time on our 2.5 week bucket list trip / maternity-paternity leave handover trip.
It was about 6 months ago that The Husband and I started to talk about what to do for our parental leave overlap month. Australia and New Zealand were on the top of our list - but the flight time with two kids was too much for us. Canada was then next on our list and we contacted some travel agents who were going to help us book everything - but it was going to cost a small fortune that we were not comfortable to pay. This led us to another country, Portugal - Porto and the Douro valley! We ended up choosing this destination for a few reasons: First time that The Husband has been to Portugal; direct flights from Vienna; cheap; and it has been on our bucket list since he read The Cork Boat as a recommendation from the Cs.
Here is a short breakdown of our trip (note: there was a lot more that we could have done, but our key purpose was to relax... that and a lot of car sickness from the kids also reduced the amount of trips we did).
Part 1 - Douro Valley - Sande near Marco de Canaveses / May 6-15
Accomodation: Rented a lovely two bedroom house on a larger property (tip for renting: find one where the hosts are grandparents as they will have all the toys and bikes you would need!). The place was perfect (except for the stairs which the Little M mastered to climb by day 3)
Food: We mostly bought things to cook at local supermarkets and then fell in love with Bolo de Arroz (light and fluffy muffins made out of rice flour) and Pastel de Nata. Mainly we just ate more sweet stuff! One day we were at a shopping center and had nice sandwiches from Companhia - this is a chain and also found it later on in Aveiro.
Activities: Unfortunately the kids were sick a lot in the car so we limited the trips out (we only had a few changes of clothes!) to some nice water areas and parks nearby and the rest of the time we spent on the property visiting their animals and playing in their swimming pool
- Cinfaes - check out the cute playground by the water fountains
- Parque do Ladario - small salamanders and lots of sticks to throw into the water
- Parque de Lazer do Ribeiro de Sampaio - there is a small area to make water holes and a stunning little hike up along the waterfall (toddler and baby in carrier friendly!)
- Leisure Alpendorada Park - interesting feature here was the wheelchair friendly swing!
- Parque de Lazer de Pias
|How to entertain a baby on a plane - thanks to the stewardess on Level airlines|
|Little M discovering our first house|
|Water, water everywhere...|
|The waterfall was a delightful discovery (thanks to M being car sick)|
|Running around in Cinfaes|
|We obviously enjoyed the delicous red wine from the region...|
Part 2 - Aveiro / May 15-23
Accomodation: Airbnb apartment a few minutes walk from the centre of the city
Food: Again, mostly self catered but also had a few nice discoveries listed below and I then also (finally) delved into eating jelly (UK jelly, US jello...) which you get as part of any lunch "menu" as a side dish, and I truly forgot how much I enjoyed it!
- Zeca Aveiro - coffee, wine and sandwiches for the kids while I enjoyed a nice tapas plate. Big bonus - small table with some lego and pens for the kids! Their shop opposite has nice local crafts and they also offer various tours.
- La Mozzarella - Pizzaria- our first family meal out where there was no fussing or crying! Simple pizza but nice and quick service so we could all leave happily.
- BRIGS Brigadeiros & Conservas- an adorable coffee and sweets place right next to an enclosed playground. Little K loved their traditional brigadeiro.
- On one trip to Costa Nova we enjoyed some delicious bread and fries at Bronze
- Little supermarket in Barra - discovered the yummiest schnitzel (yes I know... but remember, The Husband is Austrian!) just find the deli counter by the check out and point to the schnitzel and bread and say "sandwich"
- Ice cream at Sherbet next to the beach
Activities: as we were in a town (and fewer winding roads), it was easier to get out and see some things
- Playgrounds - The Forum (pirate boat), Rossio Garden, Parque Dom Pedro Infante - City Park (at the top near the back you can find it)
- Ship Museum St. Andrew - MUST visit! You can climb on and explore all the areas of this fishing boat. We all (maybe except little M as he was in the carrier) enjoyed walking around, ducking our heads and seeing how they used to sleep, eat and work on this boat. There is a park nearby as well which had a lovely plaground but due to rain we couldn't enjoy it.
- Boat trip along the canals - great entertainment for a three year old
- Saw the salt pans - can probably skip it
- Beach time at Barra beach - we also went to Costa Nova side but it was extremely windy at that time so it wasn't as enjoyable but a cute town to have a little drive through and look at the beach houses
|Playground at The Forum (view from the cafe)|
|First coffee in the morning at Zeca and impressed to find the kids area|
|Definite highlight - exploring the Saint Andrew boat|
|K of course found the Lazy Baby studio where we spent a lot of time playing with the toys|
|A great park and play area for both kids at the City Park|
|Back at Lazy Baby for a slackline class|
|Barra beach (spot the kids)|
|We found it great that all the parks had important information such as who is responsible, nearest shops and hospitals|
|Chilling on the boat ride through the canals - it's a hard life for a toddler...|
It was a lovely trip and we were very happy with the two locations we chose and stayed at. Fortunately we can go back again to explore a bit more so having the two bases and taking our time worked well for us. If you are thinking of a nice family vacation, then go and book a flight to Porto, rent a car (Avoiding Gold Car at all costs!) and just relax in Aveiro with some delicious coffee and sweet treats!
|Final play before boarding - play area at Porto airport|
Ps. you will notice that we never made it to Porto! We had planned to do a day trip when we were in Aveiro but then realised that the kids enjoyed their time at the beach so we decided to just go there again and dig more holes. Hopefully one weekend we will fly back to Porto and do some port wine tasting.
If you want some more links / tips on sites for this area, here are some of my inspirations: (also please join the fab travel group on Facebook Club Bebe Voyage where you can also ask and search for plenty of tips!)