I have wanted to travel more for a long time.  Most of my ‘holidays’ for the past 20 years have been about visiting family and friends and exploring Ireland prior to our big move.

Now, don’t get me wrong I am not complaining.  I love my regular trips back to South Africa (of course stopping off in Dubai as often as I can), but I longed for a holiday that was simply that.  A trip where my choices included exploring, resting and simply being present –in a beautiful place.

This January I escaped the cold and wet in Ireland and travelled to Albufeira in the Algarve along the stunning Portuguese coast.  It was a package deal from Love Holidays and I can honestly say that it was money well spent.

So who is Stan?

Well you might be thinking he is a real life man, but he isn’t.  Stan is my walking stick.  I had to start using a stick last year after having a terrible fall which resulted in concussion as well as some other complications.  I actually fell twice.  It seemed that I didn’t understand concussion and went out a couple of days later and simply crumpled like a crisp packet on the pavement.

I suffer from quite severe arthritis which affects my hands, knees and feet.  This is complicated by other auto-immune diseases that affect my fatigue levels and my balance.  Hence the addition of Stan to my life.  Stan is sexy, or so my Mom tells me.  I have chosen a beautiful paisley design and tried to inject some personality into my stick.

Onwards to Albufeira

We flew from Dublin, and chose to drive up from Galway early in the morning and park at the long-term parking.  Note to self – book this in advance it is much cheaper!   I most often fly using the passenger assist option.  As I had a companion (as well as Stan), I tried the regular way and managed fine.  I think it helped that the airports were not that busy.   Soon we were on the Aer Lingus plane drinking a cup of Barry’s tea and chatting away about all the adventures to be had in the Algarve.

Our transfer was easy enough to find and soon we were whizzing through orange groves on the way to Albufeira.  The sky was bright blue which was a stark contrast to the Irish grey we had left behind.

I was not expecting a luxury hotel, that isn’t what we booked.  What I was looking for was clean and comfortable.  At the Eirasol apartments we got exactly that.  A really friendly welcome and a sparkling clean apartment which was so well located, but more about that later.

Pain and Portugal

I am in pain most of the time.  My arthritis means that life is a game where you get different pills and potions and try them to relieve the pain.  I had heard that the weather could make a difference, but I was sceptical.  Very hot weather makes my joints swell.

The Portuguese winter was just right.  Like Goldilocks I felt that I had found a temperature that worked for me.  Within 12 hours I could feel a difference and within 24 I realised that I hadn’t taken a pain-killer for a whole day!

Simply having lower pain levels gave me more energy and also made me feel brave enough to get out and do things.

The simple things – travel on a budget

Our trip was a budget trip.  We didn’t have the funds for expensive tours or lots of eating out, but we were determined to enjoy ourselves.

The beach was a top priority so we set out to find our way to the see walking though cobbled streets (with Stan to ensure that there was no chance of falling).  The beach when we found it was sublime.  Blue sky, a long stretch of golden sand as far as the eye could see and turquoise glistening sea with frothy white waves.  As I was a bit tired from the walk, we simply sat and gazed.  Eventually the call of the sand and sea was enough and we started walking.

Dodging in and out of the surf, with my dress hitched up into my knickers we ambled along.  Picking up shells to admire, we chatted with other fellow beach walkers.  If you told me when we set off that I would be able to walk from our starting point to the old town I would have laughed.  I did though, I plodded along and was very grateful to Stan for his help.

Albufeira is very hilly, but the clever people who have developed this town have taken everything into account.  There are escalators that take you up or down to the beach!  How cool is that?

After our long walk we treated ourselves to and ice-cold beer at the seafront.  We then wandered through the old town before taking the escalators up the hill and taking a tuk tuk ride back to the apartment.  I felt giddy speeding down hills with my hair tangled behind me.

Taking time to be present and enjoy the special moments in Albufeira

Every day was special.  I like the idea of the open-topped buses as I think it is a great way of getting to know a place.  Our tour was two hours long, but definitely gave us a sense of what we wanted to see for the rest of the week.

This included some great foody moments, a visit to the local market, shopping in the old town, breakfast on ‘the strip’, and of course many more walks along the beach.  We found a fabulous restaurant where the young man kissing me below promised that if we sat down we would be happy!  His natural exuberance was contagious.

The apartment we had chosen was really conveniently located and in easy walking distance to bus stops (great service at a great price).  The beaches and the local supermarket – Pingo Doce, where you could get everything and at really good prices were an easy walk.  Self-catering certainly helped on the budget side.  It was also fun as we explored new foods and figured out that butter was the block with a cow on it – not the other one!

A perfect holiday

If I could describe a perfect holiday for me it would have to be great weather, good company, yummy food and lots of rest, not in any particular order.  In Albufeira I certainly had that.

Although I was a bit embarrassed at taking my walking stick Stan, I realised that many people have sticks.  Truthfully Stan allowed me to do so much more, to walk with confidence.  I am simply content as I am, a 53-year-old fabulous woman who walks with a stick!

Thank you for reading about my trip.  Lots more travel to come on the blog this year.

Kerry xx

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