Let's leave these murky shores and venture further afield (we cried). Let's take in the winter sun at a reasonable rate - and while we're at it use a firm we haven't tried before. In the interests of this new-found adventurous mind-set we plumped for Portugal (never been) and Low Cost Holidays (never used).
After the usual mulling over various offers we chose the Brisa Sol for the reasonable price and (of course) good reviews in these virtual pages. After initial problems with the Low Cost website, which necessitated late night phone calls and dealing with the lovely Becky (who thought I sounded like Chris Tarrant!) we managed to get all our paperwork for Monarch Airlines, the Brisa and Greenbus transfers. With what seemed like a telephone directory in our case we set off by bus and train to Leeds Bradford - where we discovered that all Monarch really wanted was our passports! Half a ton of paper could have been saved. Greenbus did require our paperwork in Faro airport and kept us waiting whilst the unsmiling lady clerk (clerkess?) assembled our party. We hoped (and were correct) that not all the Portugese would have this sullen, unamused demeanour. Not impressed - particularly after a long journey.
On arrival at the Brisa we didn't need paperwork either. We were warmly greeted by a smiling receptionist, efficiently allocated our room and sent on our way upwards to the second floor to the studio. Oh joy - a hob, fridge, microwave, cups, saucers plates, glasses and a comtemporary flatscreen Samsung telly which worked. Safe was available at 10 euros for the week, plus 15 deposit. Value!
Our balcony was accessed by a separate door prior to a few steps down where metal furniture awaited and an ashtray indicating that if you really had to you could smoke outside. There was also a sliding window overlooking the balcony from the room from which one's partner could observe your every move! A nice view over the town and not far distant sea was a Constant Reminder of where we were.
The bed was the usual two singles pushed together, but was comfortable and sleepable. We also had two chairs and plenty of wardrobe and stowage space. Bathroom comprised bath, loo, bidet, washbasin and was a good place to be.
Just exactly what we wanted for our winter break and a good pad to retreat to if it all got too much, which at our advancing years, it sometimes did.
Enough of the room, already. let's look at the rest of the Brisa. The reception was on floor 0, and the games room on floor -1. This had a minigolf set-up, various games machines and an internet area. Toilets also here and lovely and clean. Floor -2 saw the dining room - I suspect this was cut down to half size to reflect the winter trade. From these minus numbers you would expect to be in the basement, but no - the hotel is built on a hill which meant that the restaurant overlooked the swimming pool and external facilities. More on the restaurant later...
The "Bar Algarve" situated on floor 0 opposite the reception was open from 1600. From 1700 to 2000 was Happy Hour with 30% off drinks. To be fair this was needed, as this would be my one, only and totally singular grumble about the Brisa. Drinks prices were more than at the airport going home - with Super Bock beer coming in at 3.80 euro for 50cl. Never mind though, there were plenty of bars in the Old Town flogging the stuff at around 1.75 for 40cl. We enjoyed the bar though, as it was - well - respectable.
Of course with having all the required assets in our room it proved economical and sensible to stock up on comestibles at the supermarket over the road, with special offers on both beer and port it would have been churlish not to! Oh, also bought a large suitcase to accommodate a large purchase for 15 euros.
The restaurant presented a limited range of foods to choose from. It wasn't a dash in and grab a seat job either. This had its own decorum. You would be greeted by either the boss or one of the waiters and the ritual of checking your room number would be punctiliously observed. Then you were allowed to choose your own seat and venture to the servery. If you wanted a drink, this would be brought to your table and paid for on the way out. It all worked very well - and magnificently enlivened by Marco - a young waiter with a better grasp of the English language than many people at home. He and the other chap (who was more reserved) were genuine, friendly, helpful and great ambassadors for the Brisa. The food was always good, and there was always something we wanted. Full marks.
There was no celebration meal for New Year's Day. Not a problem, as we all toddled down to Fisherman's Beach for a loud, raucous and enthusiastic welcoming of 2014. No trouble, nearby bar and toilet and great fun.
With January 3rd being my loved one's birthday I was entertaining all sorts of bizarre notions such as announcing the event at breakfast (excellent - just wait for the fresh fried eggs coming out). I chickened out on this, and just as well as the Brisa had other plans. With no action on my part, a bottle of champagne appeared in our room, courtesy of the manager and we had a complimentary drink and singing of Happy Birthday in the evening. Well done!
This brings me to the nub of it all really. The Brisa is a respectable, mature, extremely well-run hotel. The staff, without fail, were attentive, charming and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble and nothing detracted from the smooth-running of the place. It reminded me of a respectable (that word again) middle-aged, middle-class lady who knew exactly what she was doing and the right way to do it. If that sounds snobbish - tough. Riff-raff and yobbos need not enter - plenty of room for them on the tacky Strip. I know where we'll stay again when we venture back in a summer some time.
Not relevant to the hotel, but pertinent nonetheless - weather was variable, but not too bad. The tourist train stops outside and is 2.50 per ride or the preferred option would be 4 euros for all day hop-on and off. The Marina is a good walk away through the old town, but once you master the Giro bus system (1.40 euros for an hour) is accessible for boat trips. Tours are well-organised locally and very good value.
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- Also Known As:
- Apartamento Brisa Sol Albufeira
- Apartamento Brisa Sol Hotel
- Brisa Sol Albufeira
- Hotel Apartamento Brisa Sol Albufeira, Algarve, Portugal