Jemma Beedie and her family visited You and the Sea in Ericeira, Portugal...
For our first post-lockdown holiday as a family, we chose to return to Portugal. Bursting with great food, weather, and culture, it was a natural choice. Portugal is also famously welcoming to children, with many services offering priority lines for those with young ones in tow (or in utero!).
My husband wanted to surf and as my only stipulation was that we should be able to avoid cleaning and cooking, Ericeira emerged as the perfect destination. You and the Sea Hotel is a novel concept, a unit of studio to three-bed apartments with hotel facilities and services. It offers the perfect compromise between self-catering and what you’d usually expect of a hotel: room service, daily cleaning, and a reception able to advise on the local area.
Our family of three opted for a one-bed flat with terrace. Each apartment comes with a kitchenette, complete with pod coffee machine, oven, induction hob, dishwasher, washing machine, fridge, freezer and all the utensils you need for simple meals. While I didn’t want to spend any time cooking for us adults, having kitchen access meant that we could cater to our slightly picky 3-year-old eater.
Having this space to ourselves became even more important when, a couple of days into our stay, our daughter came down with chickenpox. It can take between 10 and 21 days from exposure to eruption, which is why we had no idea it was a possibility. Coming down with chickenpox on holiday is unlucky, but it turns out not all that uncommon.
The helpful receptionists were able to arrange a medical team to attend us in the hotel, preferable to trying to find a local doctor’s surgery in many ways: the amount of time it would take, explaining the issue in English when the local language is Portuguese, and also the not-inconsiderable risk of taking a highly-contagious child to a space where there might be vulnerable people with low immune systems.
Once we had the information, taking care of our daughter was a breeze. I gave her daily soothing baths in the flat’s huge bathtub, kept fruity ice-lollies on hand to keep her fluid intake up, and thanks to the huge living space in the flat we were able to play plenty of games. Thank goodness for Five Minute Mum!
By the time my daughter was allowed out of isolation, no longer contagious, my husband and all our friends had long gone home (please do not fly while chickenpox is contagious as it is extremely dangerous to pregnant people and adults without immunity).
On the first day out, she spent nine hours in the pool. A simple space with beautiful views out to the garden and the sea beyond, the pool is heated to the perfect temperature for little swimmers. My daughter spent the day paddling back and forth in her Frozen armbands, beaming at bigger children and practising her dives.
The hotel also has a playroom specifically for children, filled with wooden toys and slouchy seating for the adults. As it’s next door to the gym you could theoretically do a workout while keeping an eye on them; I chose to bury my nose in a book instead. The room is painted with an incredible mural, emulating a deep-sea cave and fitting in with the theme of “You and the Sea”.
Outdoors, a well-appointed playground, football pitch, and skating ramp surround a very cool bar, open on Friday and Saturday evenings. This offers a more casual menu of pizzas and tacos, rather than the slightly upmarket Jaganda restaurant in the hotel proper. On that first Friday, before the pox, our daughter played to her heart’s content in the climbing frame while we spent the evening enjoying a gentle breeze, cocktails and burgers, and watching the sunset over an azure sea.
If there was one bum note to the hotel, it was the poor offering of kids’ food. At the outdoor bar there was nothing for children, while the only choice in Jaganda restaurant was between spaghetti bolognese or a burger with chips, followed by ice cream, costing 12 euros, with no concession to picky eaters or those with dietary requirements. We opted to feed our daughter in the flat or to bring a sandwich for her instead, and happily found that the other restaurants in Ericeira were much more used to catering to toddlers.
Overall, we adored our time at You and the Sea. Apart from the small issue of the food, the hotel was set up brilliantly for a relaxed family holiday, offering stylish surroundings, proximity to the ocean and the traditional centre of Ericeira, and enough attention to detail to keep every member of the family entertained. We would have no hesitation in returning next year, and thankfully we won’t have to worry about chickenpox.