Carolyn Esposito, USA, December 2016
Happy New Year! We had the most fantastic time in Portugal. Thank you!!!! Your recommendations were super helpful and everyone we met was wonderful. We had one small issue but it was resolved instantly- we could not find out driver on the platform in Porto. I was impressed with how quickly your team helped us when we called to find him. The half day tours were a perfect way to be introduced to the cities and each guide was very knowledgeable. We ate, drank and really enjoyed our time away and your guides made everything super easy. We will need to come back though when it’s not Christmas to see more of Lisbon. We never got into the castle or the convent since they closed earlier than expected on Christmas Eve. But I would not have missed all the wonderful lights and Christmas markets. They were spectacular to see. Thank you for all your help. I will definitely recommend you to anyone interested in going to Spain or Portugal!
Thank you once more and best regards.”
Cathy Rosenberg, USA, December 2016
We want to thank you for providing us with an excellent vacation and experience.
We cannot overemphasize how well our itinerary was planned. Everyone and every location was efficient, professional and eager to help. We were especially impressed with the Britania Hotel in Lisbon. They were extremely helpful and professional (especially when you consider our luggage was lost in transit!) On our last morning, they even provided a cold breakfast for us before we left at 6:15 A.M.
Everything went extremely well, and we really enjoyed your beautiful country. I think we all agreed that Evora was our favorite location, with Fatima a distant second.
I can’t think of anything that could be improved upon except for maybe the hotel in Porta. While everyone was nice and helpful, the rooms were not as nice as any of the other hotels, and parking was atrocious. If there is anything that can be improved upon for this wonderful trip, it would be a better hotel in an easier location for parking a car.
We all would recommend your company for anyone who is interested in touring Portugal. Please feel free to use us as a reference, including any portion of this letter you think would be appropriate.
Again, thank you for a wonderful Portuguese experience.
Pat and David, Canada, November 2016
Just a quick note as we’re at the airport right now. Thanks so much for organizing such a varied and interesting trip in your beautiful country! I feel as though I learned a lot about the country and the wonderful people who live here.
Everyone we met related to your company and all of the facilities and tours were excellent. A special remembrance to our walking guides – Sophia, Roderigue, Carla and the wonderful staff at the Hotel Britania.
Thank you again for the welcome gifts – we are taking them home to enjoy!
All the best and thank you again,
Pat Penner and David West”
Debbie, USA, October 2016
With just two more tour days, we thought it was a good time to let you know how much fun and enjoyment we have been having in Portugal. The trip has been amazing.
The men picked up the rental car with no problem. We opted to skip Obidos for a more relaxing day. The Nazare beach and Sitio were great. We found A Tasquinha but, alas, they were closed for holiday. We will try them next time!
We had a little trouble with the GPS entering Coimbra (I am pretty sure it was man-made error). The weather on our arrival was very rainy but we were able to secure a table at Restaurant Ze Manel–it was even better than described. Definitely one of our highlights. The hotel, Vila Gale, was adequate. The neighborhood was not very picturesque, so less pleasant to walk through.
On the other hand, the Intercontinental in Porto was perfect! Fantastic location and totally elegant. We happened to meet the general manager of the hotel in the bar one night and told him so, too! Our Porto guide, Poala, was very nice and did a good job of introducing us to the city and its history. She spent over three hours and was very generous with her time. We would have preferred an earlier start because by the time our tour ended and we grabbed a bite to eat, we had to leave for the port tasting. It would have been better to have scheduled that a little later in the afternoon. We needed to delay our departure from Porto so that we could go into several places we did not have time for on Wednesday. So on the way to Pinhao, we saw Guimaraes (which we loved) and skipped Amarante.
The Vintage House in Douro was another great place. But really not a lot to do in Pinhao for us. We did the 2-hour boat ride (1-hour would have been sufficient). We really enjoyed the wine and cheese tasting–our hostess was knowledgeable and personable and spent a lot of time with us. Again, it would have been better for us to have it later in the day. (In retrospect, we probably could have eliminated the port tasting in Porto and just done this.)
The poussada in Belmonte was incredible as was the restaurant there. Another great choice–thank you!
We just loved both Sortelha and Monsanto. What treasures they are and we are so pleased you had us scheduled to see them. I am quite sure that we will feel the same about Estremoz and Vila Costa tomorrow.
The M’AR de AR Aqueducto is clean and modern and ideally situated. Our visit to Herdade do Esporao was beyond all expectations. The guide was exceptional. The lunch experience was out of this world. Another perfect recommendation! (Our driver was very nice but did not speak English. Joy was able to converse with him a little in Spanish. Sorry to be spoiled Americans.)
We have had so much fun, seen such beautiful, interesting places– both historical and modern, eaten delicious food and drank some great wine. What more could anyone ask for? Thank you so much again.
Barb, Canada, October 2016
“We had a wonderful trip. All your arrangements came together almost flawlessly. We arrived around 9:15 am at Avis in Lagos to pick up the car to find the office locked and a sign on the door that they were closed until March. Fortunately once we reached them on the phone they had arrived at the office as they knew we were coming!
Our guides for our walks were great. One comment would be that the 3 hour cliff walk was too much of the same. Most of the time we were inland from the ocean. Nona was good though.
Loved our range of accommodation except perhaps for Porto. We faced the noisy street as well as the bar across the way where the noise went on until after 3 am.
Some challenges driving when we ended up inside the fortifications. I would recommend that all drivers be told to stay outside the walls as you did later on. We however had our challenges in the beginning in Lagos. Perhaps a page in the Road Book on Portugal road signs would help.
GPS only had a few errors. In Pinhao we were told to turn right, not left, across the bridge.
All in all, a memorable trip. We certainly would recommend Portugal Trails without hesitation.
Sofia, warmest thanks.
Nancy and John Godwin, Canada, October 2016“Hi Nuno
Thanks for your follow-up email.The four of us very much enjoyed our driving trip around Portugal and all of the activities that were paid for with the vouchers. More specifically, to start at the beginning, we felt a warm welcome when we were met at the Lisbon airport and transferred to our hotel. We were pleasantly surprised to receive the package containing the port wine, cookies and soap – the wine and cookies were very tasty. The road map book and the other tourist book contained so much additional information that added to what we were seeing and we carried the relevant pages from the road map book around daily.The GPS unit worked very well and we were able to find everything without a problem. We sent the GPS back by mail from the Lisbon post office, as instructed, so hopefully you have or will shortly receive it.
The walking tours of both Lisbon and Porto were excellent and Elsa and Maria respectively, had a wealth of knowledge that made the walks very interesting and informative.
The dinner and fado performance was an experience to be remembered, as we did not previously know what “fado” was and so learned that aspect of Portuguese culture. We also learned that Portuguese servings can be quite large!
We enjoyed that side trips to Belem and Sintra (but decided to further explore Lisbon rather than go to Cascais.) Similarly, we decided to further explore Porto rather than to Braga.
On the way to Aveiro we found Obidos and the Alcobaca monastery to be interesting and on arrival in Aveiro could really see why one of the tourist books we read described it as “the Venice of Portugal.” We enjoyed the boat tour and the local snacks before heading out. At this point I will say that the night before the boat tour we had dinner at a restaurant called, ” Mare Cheia” and would recommend this to anyone spending time in Aveiro. The food was delicious and the staff very friendly. John had a sore neck and one of the owners (I think) gave him a neck massage! They did not have an English language menu but another owner translated and made recommendations. It appeared that “locals” ate there and the restaurant was full by the time we left.
Another restaurant to recommend was one in Evora called, “Restaurante A Chaupana”.Once again the food was superb, it seemed popular with the locals and there were people waiting on the street for a table when we left.
We very much enjoyed the port wine tasting outside Porto and the wine and cheese tasting outside Evora. The medieval town of Monsaraz was also fun to explore.
It almost goes without saying that Lagos was beautiful and very relaxing after a busy itinerary. Once again, we chose to stay there
rather than go to Albufeira.
All in all, Nuna, we had a wonderful time, learned a lot about Portugal and its culture and took 953 pictures.
Thanks again for arranging such a full and interesting itinerary for us.
Gail Solomon-Dorfman, USA, October 2016“Hi Diana,
First and foremost Neil and I want to say thank you again. The experience of working with Portugal Trails far exceeded all expectations and I have already referred several of my friends and relatives to your website. After hearing about our trip they are really wanting to plan something similar in the near future. I will also be posting a glowing review on Trip Advisor.
I just wanted to give you some additional feedback on the hotels, restaurants, activities, and the driver services because I think you will find some of this information useful .
First I’d like to comment on the hotels.
Hotel Heritage Avenida Da Liberdade
Thank you for selecting this hotel for us. It was our favorite of the week. I say this for many reasons. The reception desk was the most helpful and kind of all the hotels we stayed at. Although we arrived at 9:30 in the morning, well before check in time, the desk clerk offered us breakfast (she did not have to do that) and somehow managed to get us into our room by 10:30 AM. The hotel was convenient, the rooms comfortable, and the complimentary beverages and cookies that are available all day and night were very much appreciated. They even had coffee and some breakfast items available for us at 6:00 AM on the morning that we checked out. I would recommend this hotel very very highly.
Pestana Porto Hotel
Again, the accommodations were quite nice here. The room was a little small but the bathroom was enormous! We found the front desk to be helpful but not nearly as helpful as at the Heritage Hotel. The breakfast here was outstanding. Best breakfast of the week with custom made omelets.
Vintage House Douro
This was a disappointment sadly. Although it is a beautiful hotel and the room was lovely, the air conditioning unit in the room was not working. And while I understand that this can happen, the hotel staff refused to be honest about what was going on.
We kept telling them how hot the room was (it was nearly 30 Degrees Celsius outside ) and they kept telling us the air conditioning was working properly , that is just takes time for the room to get cool. The hallways in the hotel were fine but the room was not. It was unbearable in that room We later found out from the other guests that it wasn’t just our room that was the problem, everyone’s air conditioning was not working. The hotel never acknowledged or apologized to the guests. At 3:00 AM the unit finally began to work. We had to sleep with the door open to the outside and had to contend with whatever bugs got into the room. Thank goodness it was just one night in this hotel. I would never want to stay there again.
Hotel M’ar De Ar Aqueduto
I wanted to like this hotel. We had a big spacious room, the best pillows of the week, great bathroom amenities, a tub and a separate shower area, a patio with chairs that allowed for a view of the aqueduct, and it was the only hotel that offered turndown service in the evening. But once again the room was very hot with no ability to make it cooler . It was not as unbearable as at the Vintage House, but it was not comfortable to sleep there. We spoke with the front desk, and they were not very kind or helpful. In fact this hotel desk staff has the same cold and austere attitude toward its guests as its out of place architecture Not very welcoming. If there are other options to recommend for your guests I would encourage you to look into them.
We loved just about everywhere we ate last week.
Cantinho Do Avillez was one of the only ones that were open on Sunday . Had read mixed reviews on this restaurant but we really enjoyed it. Didn’t get to Tagide as we had planned. Too tired that first night!
In Porto we had two excellent dinners:
Lsd Largo de Sao Domingos was a wonderful surprise. The hotel recommended it along with a few others and I would love to go back there. Service and Food were both excellent.
Ode Porto Wine House was an experience that was completely worth the cost. I see that you have it as a two EE rating for price but I think that should be three EEE. It was expensive but absolutely wonderful.
For Pinhao it was a little tougher to find a restaurant. The ones you suggest in the booklet are really too far to drive to if you don’t have a car. Even if you do I think they are a little too far for anyone who is traveling from Porto to Pinhao like we did. Once we got to the hotel and did the river cruise there was no way we were getting back in a car to drive 35 minutes back to the DOC or Castas e Pratos. We wound up at Veladouro and it was fine. They do seem to prefer if you make reservations. We saw open tables but people without reservations were turned away. Nice place, nothing fancy but the food was okay.
Evora restaurants that we tried were just okay. The one we wanted to go to, Botequim da Mouraria was closed for vacation. And we probably should have followed one of your other recommendations but somehow didn’t see what you listed as alternatives. Oh well!!
Activities that were preplanned for us:
These mostly went off without any problems but I did want to point out just a few glitches that arose.
The wine tasting and lunch at Herdade do Esporao took much longer than anticipated. I remember asking you whether it was a 4 hour event including the driving to and from or if it was to be 4 hours at the estate plus 45 minutes drive time each way and you told me the 4 hours included the drive time. As it turned out, the estate expected us to be there for almost 5 hours. We had made plans for 5:30 that we couldn’t easily change and wound up having to skip the tour and the additional wine and olive oil tasting that they apparently offer during the tour. It was not a big problem since we had had quite a bit of wine with the 6 course tasting lunch which was absolutely amazing and totally unexpected, but we felt badly telling our hosts that we had to leave early. I don’t like to appear rude. Perhaps it would be better to let people know that they will be at the estate for a full 4-5 hours. : ) . Again, the meal was one of the finest I’ve ever had. What an incredible chef!!!
The other timing problem that arose had to do with the hike and bike along the aqueduct in Evora. Fernando, our driver told us the activity was 3 hours long. I thought it was strange that we were being taken back to Lisbon at 2:00 if the hike which started at 9:00 was supposed to be over at noon. Also of concern was the checkout time from the hotel. They expected us to check out at noon and that would have meant no shower and clean up after a 3 hour hike and bike trip.
The hotel agreed to let us check out at 1:00. I called the help line to make sure that the activity was really only 3 hours long because I still thought it was strange that we weren’t being picked up to return to Lisbon until 2:00 according to the itinerary. The person who answered the help line told me, that yes, the activity was 3 hours long.
Our guide, Mario, was excellent but when we started the biking portion he said “OK , so we will be done at 1:00 “. We had to tell him that we were told the activity was 3 hours not 4 hours. I think he was a little upset that we were cutting it short. When you book this type of trip with Turaventur for someone else please make sure that everyone knows how long the activity lasts. We would have loved to do a 4 hour hike and bike but we needed to know that in advance so that we could have arranged with the hotel to let us check out later .
All of this said, we thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities we contracted for. Great tour guides all.
We also enjoyed the Fado dinner very much. Thank you for making these special arrangements for us with O Faia. The manager was very kind. He noticed that I was not enjoying my starter and immediately ordered something else for me. I never would have asked for that. It was very sweet of him.
And finally I just have to tell you how absolutely delighted we were with Fernando from Attturismo. He was much more than an English speaking driver. He provided detailed histories for us of all the places we visited. His willingness to share his knowledge made the trip even more incredible. We thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with him and had a hard time saying goodbye at the end of the week. He is truly a gem.
Diana you did a wonderful, wonderful job of putting this trip together for us. I am still marveling at your ability. I wish all travel companies were as well run as Portugal Trails.
Victoria Corbett, Canada, October 2016
“Good morning Sofia,
Many thanks to you and Portugal Trails for organizing such an excellent trip for us. The support materials from the road book to the preprogrammed GPS made following the itinerary extremely easy. We appreciated all the excursions you organized and thoroughly enjoyed our time on the ocean and beside the ocean.
Thanks also for your careful selection of charming hotels. We enjoyed them all from Madeira to Cascais.
We also appreciated the restaurant recommendations with the programmed locations along the way.
We have done a number of self drive trips but the organization and attention to detail from you and Portugal Trails was particularly impressive.
We would highly recommend Portugal Trails to anyone.
Thanks again, Sofia”
Anne, USA, October 2016
Thanks for checking in with us and glad you had a nice vacation yourself!
We had a lovely time in Portugal, and were very impressed with everything Portugal Trails had arranged for us. We also heard very positive comments on your company from other PT travelers at the hotel and from those providing services from us–hotel staff, Avis staff, guides. All were friendly, helpful, and liked working with you. That’s all very positive! When I get settled, I’ll also post comments on TripAdvisor.
Some specifics. We loved the hotels, and the locations were very good. Staff at the Hotel Britania were extremely helpful, even to the point of mailing the GPS back to you so that we didn’t have to find a post office. It is a lovely old hotel and its history, very interesting. Elsa, our guide was wonderful, a great source of information and very accommodating about pace, etc. Thank you for alerting the guides in advance about that. After covering the center city on foot, she suggested, and we agreed, that we find a taxi driver with whom she could negotiate to spend an hour or so driving us to the hilly places, stopping for photos, and covering some of the other areas, such as the redeveloped site of the 1998 Exposition which I had attended as part of my professional responsibilities. We went to Sintra as recommended, and did fine with the train. It was a Saturday, and very, very crowded. We took at taxi to the palace, but should have taken the bus (which was also very crowded–had to wait for 3 buses to have room to get back to town), stopped at the Moorish Castle first, then caught the bus up to the palace. Jan was told that he could walk down, but would have to walk up, which he did, and said it was quite challenging. But it was an interesting, if sometimes frustrating, day. As far as restaurants are concerned, our best meals were at Bonjardim, where the roast chicken and piri-piri sauce (for me) and the grilled fish (Jan), were delicious, and our last night at Solar dos Presuntos, where we shared the traditional black rice with cuddlefish, prawns, etc., dish.
Enjoyed the drive to Sagres and beaches and castles along the way. No problem finding the hotel. Lovely, but would not recommend eating there for dinner. We enjoyed a dinner at Vila Velha. The sunset views from the hotel were spectacular. Jan got some great photos and even saw the elusive “green flash” that sometimes occurs as the sun is setting. Our only real problem with the GPS was in Lagos, where we lost the signal and had to drive around the tiny streets in search of the location where Silvano was waiting for us. Thank you for providing his telephone number so that we could contact him. Apparently the GPS isn’t set for the ring road which would have taken us right down by the harbor where there is an underground parking facility very near the meeting spot. We were a bit anxious, but found him and he was also an excellent guide and we enjoyed the day.
No problem getting to Evora and the beautiful, interesting hotel. Were able to get into our room before meeting Sofia, who was full of history and interesting stories about Evora. Our walking tour with her was really good, and we were just disappointed at the end when we got to the Bones Chapel, only to find that it had closed early. The next day was a holiday (October 5th), so museums on our day trip to Monsarz and Vila Vicosa were closed. But we enjoyed the castles and lunch in the old city at Monsarz and buying pottery in Sao Pablo de Corval for gifts. Our best dinner there was at Fialho–probably the best on the entire trip. On the way back to Lisbon, we found the megalithic site and some smaller ones on very narrow roads, and enjoyed seeing that aspect of central Portugal as well. Also enjoyed some fine wine and just seeing different regions.
So thank again for helping us to have a very successful visit to Portugal. I hope we can get back there to see the northern part of the country next time!
Debra and Larry, USA, October 2016“Dear Sofia,
We had a wonderful time visiting Portugal. All of your arrangements worked out beautifully for us — the transports went smoothly, the drivers were very professional and helpful, and the walking tour guides were extremely knowledgeable. We also enjoyed the special activities that you booked for us — the canal ride in Aveiro, the lunch and wine-tasting in Monsaraz, and the Fado evening in Lisbon. Finally, the hotels were fantastic — beautiful, historic sites in their own right, and with excellent service.
In short, we couldn’t have been happier, and we will post something on Trip Advisor to let other travelers know that we recommend your services highly.
Thanks again for all your help — and thanks also for our Welcome to Portugal gifts!
Debra and Larry”