We have recently been to Albufeira in Portugal for a family holiday. The break (ha! like holidaying with children can be called a break!) was a welcome one – I was definitely in need of a change of scenery. My husband booked this holiday when Clara was just a few days old. At that point looking through holiday brochures was really the last thing on my mind, and as I’d yet to leave the house with two kids the thought of leaving the country was unfathomable. But fast forward a year, with my return to work imminent, the trip couldn’t have come at a better time.

1. Meeting a dolphin
We went to Zoomarine, not far from Albufeira. There was so much to do, including some rides, a dinosaur attraction, aquarium, water park and slides and 4D cinema. And of course the main attractions – the dolphin, sea lion and tropical bird shows. We didn’t even get chance to go to the water park, we just ran out of time. Clara loved the sea lion show, clapping and cheering every time they did tricks. The dolphin show was Izzy’s favourite and afterwards she got to meet one of the dolphins. She said it felt like plastic as she stroked it’s nose and posed for a photo.
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2. Brave snake charmer
I can’t believe Izzy did this. Me? I squealed loudly in front of about 4 dozen people who were all watching the reptile show by the pool when the lady went to put the snake around my neck. No warning, she just walked up to me. After embarrassing myself (and yes I tried to hide behind a 4 year old) Izzy volunteered to hold the 2 metre long snake (to quote Izzy “It is twice my tall!”) Without flinching. She also held a chameleon (but she didn’t like it as it nipped her) and stroked a very large iguana.

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3. Fun in the pool
The pool was a little deep for Izzy to comfortably touch the bottom, but she did like being pushed around the water on a huge inflatable dolphin that she picked herself from the hotel shop. Clara looked perfectly calm but underneath the float her little legs were kicking furiously.

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4. Family meal times
As much as we try to eat together it just doesn’t always work out – especially during the week. So it was nice to have a full week of the whole family sitting down at the table and eating together. Izzy had spaghetti 5 evenings out of 7! Of course the highlight for her was going to McDonalds, which she pestered us for all week!

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5. Sun, sea and sand
Clara has never been to the beach before and she wasn’t really sure what to make of it at first. She didn’t like being dipped in the sea (to be fair I’m not surprised as it was freezing!) but she did quite enjoy the sand once she got used to it!

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6. Clara’s first trip on an aeroplane
On the way there Clara mainly slept. On the way back, she was a bit of a handful at times, getting restless, kicking and pulling my hair. Even bit me on the shoulder. But when she was calm she loved looking out of the window. And eating chocolate fingers. Izzy happily watched Boxtrolls on the iPad and complained that there were no free croissants on the plane (she loved those on the way to Disneyland).

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7. Learning Portuguese
Izzy loved learning some French words when we went to Disneyland last year, and this time she was really confident using a few words of Portuguese. She would say ‘Obrigado’ (thank you), ‘Bom Dia’ (Hello) and ‘Por Favor’ (please) to waiters, shop keepers and hotel staff – and she would always look very proud and pleased with herself.

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8. Sibling love
This holiday Clara was able to join in a lot with her big sister. They loved playing in the sand together, Clara helping Mummy and Daddy to bury Izzy’s legs in the sand, and the two of them shared ice cream. Most mornings Clara would wake before Izzy and crawl over to her bed, waking her up or trying to climb into bed with her for cuddles.

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9. Little flirt
Clara is such a flirt! Waving at waiters, blowing them kisses, giggling when they spoke to her, shouting ‘hi’ and ‘bye’. She’s a cheeky little lady.

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10. Trying new things
Izzy loves going to new places, meeting new people and trying new things. We are so lucky like that and I just hope that Clara shares even some of that confidence and curiosity. She never ceases to amaze me – whether it’s holding a snake, leading her new friends from kids’ club in an impromptu dance performance of Uptown Funk by the pool, or going on the rollercoaster 3 times in a row, with her hands in the air the entire time!

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