Seeing Portugal Through New Eyes

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My name is Yanushka and I have just celebrated the milestone of being at The Villa Agency for one year!  It’s been a busy year and the time has flown by, it feels like just last week I was walking through the door for my first day.

When I started here I have to admit to being a complete novice in the travel industry and my knowledge of Portugal was very limited. I knew of the Algarve but had never been and even had to be corrected in my pronunciation of Faro Airport (I was quick in learning it was not pronounced the same as Pharaoh!).

I am still learning each day, however I am happy to report that my knowledge of the different areas of the Algarve and our wonderful villas, along with my grasp of the Portuguese language, is steadily progressing.

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I was fortunate enough to visit the Algarve in November and what a great trip it was. We were blessed with gorgeous sunshine and I got to experience the different popular resorts in the Algarve as well as visiting several of our villas.

There were many highlights to my trip and numerous houses which I fell in love with and am already planning to stay at as soon as possible!

Stopping for a coffee at the beautiful marina at Lagos is a must, as is lunch on one of the many gorgeous beaches along the Algarve coast; we stopped at a beach just near Kaza Keamara, a house I wish I could live in forever!

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The peacefulness of the Loule hills was a great start to the trip, a complete contrast to the bustling towns of Carvoeiro and Albufeira. Then you have the glamour of Quinta do Lago, with its opulent houses, or the more traditional feel of Praia da Luz and its cobbled streets. I learned how many different sides of Portugal there are; there really is something for everyone.

The best part of the trip though was being able to come back and speak to people about villas with confidence; knowing the locations of the villas and being able to picture the different features we’re often asked about. I can now explain to people my first hand experiences of holidaying in Portugal.

There is a lot do see and do in Portugal but I cant wait to return for a week lazing by the pool, perhaps at Cegonha, Porta Azul or Sao Nemesio, a few more of my favourites!

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Fantastic Offers on Villas in Portugal this Easter

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With flight prices as low as £127 per person from Gatwick to Faro you could be enjoying some sunshine this Easter.

 Unlike many other companies, we don’t increase the rental price for Easter on most of our villas so the rent comes into the low season bracket. And it gets better – We are offering up to 25% discount on some of our villas. Simply go to our website, find the villa of your choice and contact us to ask for the relevant discount. Car hire prices start from just £139 so you really could grab yourself a last minute bargain. For example, Casa Luisa has 3 bedrooms which means that the price  per person for a week would be under £45 for a week based on 6 people sharing. This means that you could be soaking up the sun for under £175 each, including flights!

Or you and your friends could enjoy the amazing Quinta da Luz with a private tennis court and amazing pool with spa

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To make Easter extra special, if you have children under 12 in your party and if you enter EGG on the booking source when completing our booking form we will provide an Easter egg for each of your children.

If you would like to speak to us about the right choice for you we would be delighted to hear from you. You can call our office on 01273 747811, chat to us online via our website www.thevillaagency.co.uk or send us an email mail@thevillaagency.co.uk

Mum’s The Word

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My name is Ginnie and I have worked for The Villa Agency for many years.  I began in 2000 by popping in to help with some mail outs (basically sticking labels on envelopes!) having graduated from university and in the search for some extra work to pay off my student loan.  Little by little my role within the office grew from occasional label sticker to ‘Ticketing’ to ‘Reservations’ to my current role of running the ‘Accounts Department’!

 Quite a journey…

harWe are like a family here in the office and it is a lovely place to be on a day to day basis which is largely why I am still here.  During this time, I have also had a son, Harrison, who is now 5 years old.

He started school in September 2013 and my partner and I breathed a sigh of relief when the child care costs suddenly reduced massively having been a working mum since he was 3 months old.  We were in for a cruel reality check however as we had not considered the affect it would have on our holiday plans.

Like many others, we are now restricted to school holidays and I am genuinely shocked at the price hikes that occur the minute Harrison breaks up from school.  To add insult to injury, parents can now be fined £60.00 per child, per parent, if they take their children out during term-time

Now I work in travel so you would think I would have been fully aware of this beforehand but it was only when we started to plan our own family holiday that I realised the true implications of these restrictions.  Accommodation, flights, car hire; all are increased in peak season and when you add it all up, a summer holiday can be unaffordable for a family on an average income.

I would like to make things easier so I have pulled some strings with the boss (she HATES me calling her that!) and we have decided to offer a 10% discount on the villa rental on all family, peak season bookings made before 30th April 2014.  This offer is exclusively for groups with children between 5 & 16 who book a villa before 30th April for holidays that occur in peak season (i.e. the most expensive date range on each individual villa in July & August).  Just mention ‘MUM’ on your booking form to apply for your discount. * Lots of our villas are child friendly – feel free to ask us for our suggestions

We would also like to know what children look forward to the most when going on holiday.  If your child would like to draw us a picture of what makes a holiday special to them and send it to us when you make your booking, we will make sure there is a pool toy waiting for them in the villa on your arrival! We will publish the photos on our Facebook page and will send a prize to the artist who receives the most ‘likes’

I can’t change the travel industry but I can make it a little easier for our clients to have a villa holiday.

Us Mums should stick together after all!

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*  Please note that this does not apply to villas already discounted.  Discount is on villa rental only. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.

 

 

Why Choose Portugal for your Summer Holiday

Portugal has long been a favourite holiday destination – not surprising as there really is something for everyone.

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For families, The Algarve offers safe, sandy beaches, reasonably priced restaurants, water parks and much, much more. Children are always welcome and as increasing number of villas now have pool fencing parents can have a relaxing holiday too! Most of the beaches have good quality, inexpensive beach bars and many of the beaches have water sports, jet ski hire, beach bananas and other fun things for older children to enjoy.

Portugal is a golfers paradise with more than 80 courses, ranging from small nine hole courses such as the one at Vale de Milho in Carvoeiro to championship courses such as Sao Lourenco in Quinta do Lago and Quinta do Peru, on the Lisbon Coast Portugal offers a wealth of other sporting activities; from tennis at places such as the prestigious Vale do Lobo Academy to horse ridingscuba diving and wind surfing.

 

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There are first class shopping facilities, with Cascais Shopping, Quinta Shopping and Algarve Shopping all offering a wide variety of to suit every taste and pocket.

For those wishing to sample the real Portugal, a short drive to the inland towns such as Loule give a real flavour of local traditions with good markets and inexpensive restaurants serving traditional cuisine.  The carnival in Loule is the oldest in Portugal and has been held for over 100 years.  This year it will be held between 1st and 4th March. The town comes alive with processions, street performances, fireworks and bonfires – the atmosphere really is electric and as the carnival is held out of season flight and accommodation costs are much lower  Loule also hosts a music festival each year. The festival really does get better and better with local musicians but also international artists too – last year they came from as far away as Mali and Jamaica.

 Portuguese wine is massively underrated, perhaps the reds are best known but some of the whites are really first class including the Esporao, Quinta do Carma and Quinta do Cotto. Vinho Verde – green wine, so called because of the region in which it is produced and not because of it’s colour, is slightly fizzy and really refreshing and goes particularly well with the fresh fish which is to be found in abundance. There are some really good wines produced in The Algarve nowadays and a visit to the Adega’s is really interesting  

The weather in Portugal is mild, even in winter – another good reason for heading south and with villa rental and flight prices so much lower in the off season months it is little wonder that Portugal is so popular.

1984

What does that mean to you? To us it means we are officially old. We started The Villa Agency in 1984 from a dark and windowless basement with a handful of villas in The Algarve, plus some in Italy, France and Spain.

Olhos d'Agua in 1980's

Olhos d’Agua in 1980′s

Over the years, the travel industry, and indeed The Algarve, has changed beyond recognition. In 1984 it was really only possible to go Portugal for 1 or 2 week holidays due to the very tight regulations surrounding package air travel. The Algarve was one of the most exclusive destinations in Europe, with a clientele to match; from movie stars to minor royalty. We prided ourselves on offering everyone, no matter what their background, a friendly and personalised service – that is one of the few things that hasn’t changed over the years!

There were only a small number of golf courses dotted along the coast – in those days golf was very much a rich man’s sport. It was advisable to learn a few useful phrases in Portuguese as English was not widely spoken. Indeed, when the first English Restaurant, The Beefeater Carvery, opened in Albufeira the local residents were apoplectic.

Albufeira and Carvoeiro were still fishing villages and Faro Airport was little more than a wooden shed. Hire cars were group A, B or C only and the choice was a Mini, Escort or Cortina.

Carvoeiro in 1980's

Carvoeiro in 1980′s

Communication was something of a challenge – pre mobile phones, computers and the internet we had to rely on telex machines or the occasional international call which had to be booked in advance. This usually involved shouting down the line and enduring a horrible delay before receiving the shouted response.

We have seen numerous villa rental companies come and go during the thirty years and are proud to say we are still going strong. We even still rent one of the original villas from 1984 although it has of course been much modernised since then. We have seen package holidays fall out of fashion, cheap air travel monopolise the industry (which is now going full circle and becoming not so cheap!) and of course the rise of websites that allow individuals to advertise their own villas, thus cutting out companies like The Villa Agency.

So are these changes for the better? Yes and no. European accommodation has become much more affordable which has to be a good thing but surely the internet is a double edged sword? This year we got almost weekly calls from poor souls who had paid their money to a private “owner” only to find out the villa didn’t exist, or it did exist but was next to a building site or that their identity and passport information had been stolen or cloned and the website in question taken down.

What do the next thirty years hold? We shall see. One thing I can guarantee is that I will have handed The Villa Agency over to younger blood and shall hopefully be sipping a gin and tonic in The Beefeater Carvery or it’s modern day equivalent.

Elvis has left the building…

In 1995 I popped into The Villa Agency’s office to ask a favour, I didn’t know how to use a computer and needed a typed CV. In exchange I did couple of odd jobs and returned occasionally to help out.

I met our Managing Director Karen Lippitt in a local restaurant (I had a regular night there singing with my guitar) and the girls from the office were in enjoying a mostly liquid dinner. By the end of the night Karen and her best friend Wendy had transformed themselves into the vanKanettes, were playing the spoons and enthusiastically singing along to ‘Losing My Religion’. Our friendships were sealed and a couple of years later so was my part time job at The Villa Agency.

Time flies when you’re having fun – it’s been 16 years. I never really expected I’d end up as General Manager of any company. I’d had my sights set on a record contract for so many years but I enjoyed the stability of a ‘proper job’ and as the years flew by my involvement with the company and knowledge of Portugal increased. Considering I didn’t even understand the mechanics of a word processor when I started I was now designing and publishing our annual brochure, updating our website on a daily basis and building relationships with our overseas travel partners. My responsibilities and loyalty increased and work didn’t feel like work with trips to the Algarve, Lisbon and Croatia as well as an office run by people I class as family.

My passion for music never waned and in 2010 I arranged a surprise birthday party for Karen in a Brighton hotel. I organised a pianist so that I could sing her favourite song ‘Just The Way You Look Tonight’.

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That night I was asked to perform at a private party and the hotel  booked me for a monthly night. Just weeks later I sang at the launch of  Dermot O’Leary’s new restaurant, I performed for a charity event at the exclusive Club At The Ivy in London, and the Savile Row tailor Richard James hired me for the launch of his spring/summer collection. From these events came my regular twice monthly night at the world famous Savoy Hotel in London. For the last two years I have managed to run my music career alongside The Villa Agency quite successfully but gradually reduced my hours and at the end of this month will be leaving my desk job completely and starting my life as a full time musician with a trip to the Middle East to perform in Qatar and Oman.

I will still be working behind the scenes for www.thevillaagency.co.uk mostly on the technical side of things – the girls in the office reserve any IT work for the boys! So although I won’t be answering the phones or dealing with the day to day holiday stuff I am still very much a part of the fabric of this company that has become a bit of an institution to us all!

The Artist known as Matthew vanKan

Formerly know as ‘Generally the Manager’

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Feel free to have a snoop around my website www.vankan.co.uk. You can follow my musical pursuits on Facebook www.facebook.com/matthewvankanmusic or Twitter www.twitter.com/matthewvankan

Our first post…

We are very excited to be publishing our first blog here at The Villa Agency. As this is our first post I thought I would tell you a little bit about us.

The-Gang

The Villa Agency has been around since 1984 and I have been running it for all that time.

Over the years we have had a remarkably low turnover of staff and Matthew, our General Manager (or Generally the Manager as he is affectionately known), has been here man and boy.

Sarah came to us as a school leaver then went off travelling and had a son but like a little homing pigeon she always comes back to “The Family” and is once again helping us out.

Ginnie popped in one day to help us stick some labels onto envelopes – back in the days when we put things in the post – and now runs our accounts department.

We really are almost family too (it gets a bit confusing):

Matthew and Ginnie are brother and sister, Matthew is my oldest friend and Ginnie’s son is my Godson.

Remarkably, there is never a cross word in the office – maybe because arranging people’s holidays is such a fun thing to do, we even socialise with each other and go on holiday together.

That’s us – a happy, contented bunch who love what we do.

Hopefully our future blogs will keep you amused, we might share some of our more bizarre requests from clients or might (in confidence of course) let you in on one or two of the stranger things that have gone on in our villas.

More soon,

Karen