Our Private Getaway to Carcavelos, Portugal

Last week, hubby, LB and I went to Carcavelos, Portugal for a family vacation. The trip was a long time coming. Two years ago, the idea of visiting this penthouse beach apartment outside Lisbon was planted in our heads, but I was newly pregnant with LB and by the time we got our act together it was too late for me to travel so the idea was set up on a shelf. Over the last two years, it gathered dust. In that time, my Dad went to Portugal and raved about how wonderful it was. The dusty idea called to us. We had to go! I can tell you, I was so excited to have a family vacation that I packed a week ahead of time! So, we’ll skip over the whole fog closing down the airport so the little two-hour flight to Lisbon ended up being a 12-hour trip door-to-door. With a toddler. There was a three-and-a-half hour bus ride involved. But again, let’s gloss over that because it was a complete contrast to the relaxation that greeted us in Lisbon! We arrived in the middle of the night, but awoke fully on vacation with the sun welcoming us to Portugal. Oh yeah, life is good.

We stayed in a penthouse beach apartment on the top floor (you know that means HUGE balcony!) of a residential building in Carcavelos, about 20 minutes outside Lisbon. It had a sneaky view of the ocean and a huge terrace with a grill so we felt like it wasn’t even September! We loved sipping wine and nibbling on fruit and cheese on the terrace. LB loved checking on the plants each day. They were watered with a little irrigation system so he felt like a proper farmer inspecting to make sure they were properly hydrated. Even if they were, he liked to share a few drops from his sippy cup of water. Such a sharer that one.


Terrace of penthouse apartment in Carcavelos Portugal



Needless to say, being a ten-minute walk from the beach meant we went every day. Every single morning, LB was up with his soccer ball kicking that thing all the way down the pedestrian path to the huge beach and he kicked, played in the ocean and watched the surfers like they were Neptune himself climbing out of the sea. The beach is one the biggest and best in the region with a surf school wind-surfing, beach soccer pitch, beach volleyball courts, cafes, a real historic fort, and so much more. It was a destination in itself.

Carcavelos beach in Portugal. Copyright Evin O'Keeffe 2013

The short walk meant we could visit the beach AND go into downtown Lisbon or take the train to Cascais or one of the other coastal towns or just sit on the terrace reading, knitting and doing absolutely nothing. We did all those things in our week there because with the train station less than two blocks away, we were out exploring as often as we were in being lazy.


On warm days, the place had air-conditioning so we could nap in a cool cocoon of calm. I’ve not been in an air-conditioned apartment in Europe like EVER so this felt luxurious. Here’s a view of the whole main room looking toward the terrace (the buggy is at the front door, pantry/laundry on the far right, bedroom and bathroom on the far left). A stack of travel books is below the TV. Wifi and cable TV too, which we loved! We don’t have cable TV or air-conditioning at home.


In addition to decadent air-conditioning, the apartment also had all the usual things so we were able to cook our own meals and have a leisurely breakfasts first thing, not to mention prepare and wash LB’s bottles. How is it that doing dishes on vacation is even more fun?!


A dining table was set up with a highchair for LB and four chairs, so we felt comfortable when we’d dine at our home-away-from-home. It was nice to have a place to eat-in so we could relax and not always chase LB in restaurants. And we loved that all the wall art in the place showed us different beautiful views of Lisbon and the region.


This place was ready for Irish visitors too since there was a tea set in the cupboard.


The fact that it is in a residential building meant that the neighbors were quiet and the amenities within three blocks (two bakeries, a grocery store, a local market, several cafes, a movie theatre, train station,…) were priced for locals and had useful things not just stupid floppy beach hats and tee-shirts printed with “Portugal”. We loved the location! LOVED! It was a great place for a kid too since nothing too precious was out for him to tumble over. And being on the top floor meant LB tired himself on the walk up so we had some pretty amazing naps! Plus, he felt like such a big boy and the railing was at the perfect kid height with good lighting.


After the beach when we’d head somewhere on the train, we would grab a fresh pastry from the bakery around the corner. Yeah, it sounds as nice as it was. We worked out way through most of the options. My favorite was a sweet pretzel-shaped pastry with chopped almonds on it. Some days, LB would choose his own pastry.



The bedroom is a cheerful sea aqua color that balanced the crisp white linens. It was set up with a cot for LB too, which was so thoughtful and helpful! The bed was very comfortable. The kind of comfort you think, “No, I’m not tired enough to nap.” Until you wake up two hours later! The shelves beside the bed have a basket of books to read too so it was super comfortable. Just like all the other windows, the bedroom had a pull-down shutter with ventilation openings. So, the sunlight could be blocked out for mid-day naps or to keep things cool with a gentle breeze still coming in.


I loved the natural basket light fixture. Go ahead, you know you want to Pin it. Here’s another view of it. I pinned this photo already.


So, you’ve seen the place and heard about where we stayed and how we loved the privacy of having our own penthouse apartment in Portugal for a week (doesn’t that sound fabulous, dahling?). Now I’ll admit that one of the best parts of this vacation was that it was stress-free. Once we decided to go, we just booked the apartment with Miguel and Claudia (who sent us links to videos and great travel tips ahead of time to help us plan our trip), booked the flights with Aer Lingus and packed. Ta-da. Seriously, just what we needed. They made it so easy and it was so much more affordable than a hotel would have been, plus most hotels don’t have the fridge space required by a hungry toddler. We’ll definitely be returning there. Next time, we may even have to surf!

Carcavelos beach in Portugal. Copyright Evin O'Keeffe 2013

There is nothing like a good true holiday to make you feel revitalised. I’m not talking about the vacation that wears you out so much you need to rest when you get home, but the real honest-to-goodness getaway that is the ideal balance of rest, relaxation, exploration, and great food. Well, that’s what we enjoyed when we went to Carcavelos last week. Ok, give me a second while I daydream of lazy mornings on the beach and lunches on the terrace. Wait, almost done. Sigh. Ok, back to reality *looks outside at the chilly rain here in Cork City*. But even though we’re back to the real world, I feel like there’s still a bit of the vacation with us. Or maybe that’s just the sand in my luggage. I think the only thing that would have made the trip better was if I got to play cards or board games with my parents, but they weren’t with us.

What is your favourite part of the trip? Do you have a place you go when you want a relaxing vacation?

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