Bart & Josiane Cobert, USA, May 2015
As promised, some follow up after our trip. As we said, it was absolutely great. Your choices, itinerary, guides, everything were top notch.
The GPS – Worked very very well. Your programming was great. The comment that the wine tasting/lunch in the winery in Evora was a bit off. The directions in the book you sent us talked of the big white building. That was not the place to go. Rather one continues on the road another km or so and turns right to several minimally marked low white buildings where the tour and tasting occur. The GPS was actually correct though said it might not be. The whole day was superb. Excellent lunch and charming tour. The rental car was fine though the chap was late delivering the car to the hotel (traffic) and the young fellow who brought it and signed us up was brand new on the job (he admitted) and had no idea what the insurance and other extras were about. Fortunately you prepared us well in the booklet.
The Travel Kit – Thanks for the soap, cookies and Porto! Your personalized day by day guidebook was excellent though it required a lot of cross referencing as the directions (which we really didn’t need) were mixed in with the daily advice, schedule, and restaurants. That is a quibble however. We used it daily. I kept a copy on my iPhone and used that when we were walking around or when I did not want to carry the book in my backpack. The printed book you supplied was ok but I also used Lonely Traveler which was quite useful. We also used the Green Michelin guide for walking itineraries. An area where you might consider adding a bit more detail is for the small towns you suggest visiting (e.g. Marvao). You suggest stopping in the local tourist office to get a walking map. This worked when the office was open but the bigger problem was finding where the tourist office was located. Almost no city maps anywhere on the streets (as the French do). Paris is full of maps particularly near metro stops showing the local neighborhood and “you are here”). You might consider, especially when you suggest parking in a particular parking lot (e.g. outside the walls) to say specifically where to go to either get to the tourist office or where to walk. We used the Michelin guide for this as they give several suggested one hour or so walking tours.
Hotels – All excellent except Marvao which was OK but nothing more [El-rei Dom Manuel]; it was satisfactory. I gather that there are not too many hotels there and this is one of the better onew. The rest were wonderful, particularly the Belmonte Pousada and Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros (which probably was the best one of all). The Cascais hotel (Gale) was great to relax in with a wonderful pool.
Driving – Except for the day we drove from Porto to Pinhao with several stops along the way, the driving was not excessive. You had noted in the book that one should arrive at the hotel in Pinhao during daylight as the ride up along the mountain can be…interesting. Indeed it was and we sort of rushed to get there but still missed the wine tasting. Traffic and construction. We also stayed in the hotel for dinner both nights as we did not want to drive back up and down that road for dinner (with wine…) or risk doing it in the dark or if there was rain (which there wasn’t). Dinner at the hotel was fine those two nights though you had to eat the one dish they were offering with no other choices available I think. Not a problem as we eat everything.
Cascais – Delightful way to end the trip (though we did do another 2 days in Lisbon where I had some business to tie up). Lovely hotel, town, museums and we had some superb meals.
The Itinerary – Perfect, we were not overtaxed (we’re in our 60s but still very active) but saw an enormous amount of things in your beautiful country.
The guides – All were excellent, knowledgeable and charming!
Restaurants – We followed a few of your suggestions but did a lot of experimentation both upscale and downscale including little “holes in the wall” in tiny little family restaurants all of which were fine. We tend to avoid recommendations of hotel concierges. If we do ask the concierge we’ll look at the reviews in Yelp and Trip Advisor. I think the Lisbon Plaza recommendations were a bit off. Suggested a touristy expensive restaurant which was not well reviewed. We are adventuresome eaters and don’t mind local joints with menus not in English. (This method does not work in China however though we did go into busy local restaurants and ordered by pointing to other diners’ dishes and saying we want that. Almost always works well).
So in summary, I can’t think of anything you could do to make it better ! We’ve mentioned this to our friends and family here and perhaps they will go through Portugal does not seem to be high on the current bucket lists of many folks which is a shame.
Do you do other countries (e.g. Spain) or have affiliates in other countries (e.g. Italy)?
I will drop a lovely note in Trip Advisor and anywhere else you might wish.
Bart & Josiane”
Casey and Cornelis Leuven, Canada May 2015
“Okay, so about our Iberian adventure. It truly was the trip of a lifetime. Casey and I have travelled extensively but this was the best. Portugal is a very special country. It felt like home, especially after the second stint in Spain. I don’t know if it’s the people, the landscape, the food, the wine, the flowers, the heat, or what but it’s an extraordinary place. If it wasn’t so far away, I think we’d buy property and spend several months a year there. I know the kids want us to.
I’ll write something suitably glowing and post it on Trip Advisor. I just need some time to come up with enough superlatives.
Debra Gaines and Alberta Piche, Canada, April 2015
“Good Day Cristina,
I want to thank you so very much for taking such good care of me before Debby arrived.
The guided hike with Bruno was amazing…he was excellent and showed me the small villages along the coast. Hiked to a very pristine beach that I got to dip my toes into. He was very attentive and never tired of my questions. Very gracious and I highly recommend that he continue on your roster of guides.
The road book was very well thought out and presented all the highlights and great as a testament to your work.
The wine tour, the Fado dinner were highlights I would not have wanted to miss. Except the GPS is okay with directions to the Winery, as opposed to written directions.
The transfers worked very well to and from hotel, and bus stops. George was just like family in his greetings and I was so happy to see his face in the bus depot. Thank you for all the details you provided. My single adventure was awesome, and the Quinte on the top of the hill provided all the necessities. The owner and the staff were very attentive, and even came down in the evening to pick me up after dinner. Very personalized service.
Debby and I had an amazing trip, all your planning paid off, The GPS had some glitches but I think
Debby told you about them..updates for Braga and Aveinda. We put 1,500 KMs on the car!!!!
The guides were so kowledgeable about all the history , and Nuno was so gracious and we hiked 22 KMs and I was thrilled that 11 KM on the El Camino…which is what I have dreamed about.
The lodgings, esp the Psoudas will provide long lasting memories.
Your dedication and commitment to make sure your customers have a perfect trip speaks to Portugal Trails as the best supplier for self-guided trips to Portugal. I will recommend you and your company to anyone that wants a great experice!
I will get the picture to you and send from home.
Take care, Happy Summer…I am sure you will be very busy with travellers from all over the world.
Bill Baptista, USA, April 2015
The whole trip went GREAT! (though poor Matt was sick for 10 of the days, hurt to drink even water, we left Fado dinner before even getting dessert and thus did not see the show though grew up listening to such music at family events).
Drivers – each of the drivers you selected were professional and on time.
Hotels – each of the hotels were what we expected, a “3” star type. Though on the last day in which we got up at 0400am
to get out to the airport to return to USA we had no hot water for our showers!
Group Tours – each one was quite enjoyable. The Inside Lisbon tour we actually got to sample some cheese, deer meat, another sausage meat and a glass of wine which we did not expect being part of that tour.
Lunch – the lunch at the winery was wonderful but the lunch during the drive tour in Madeira was just as good if not better!!
At the table waiting for us was a bottle of both red and white wine along with a bottle of water. It was a four course lunch like at the winery. Both lunches were wonderful. The meal itself at the Fado dinner was also very good.
Your choice of having a free day after taking a group tour worked out real well.
Adding Jenny was not a problem and no one was surprised as their records showed 2 plus one. I gave the voucher and then Jenny just paid her own way. She got her room in each hotel we stayed at as well and also paid for right to breakfast at the hotel.
Train – this was only concern all trip as leaving Lisboa for Evora we did not know what line to be standing at. Luckily one man heard our conversation approached us and said to follow him and he actually stayed until we got on the correct line.
I actually contacted one employee at a train that stopped and asked for assistance and was told different company, wrong line but did not advise me where to go.
We also did not pay for the cable car as the driver, Benny (Benny dos Ramos 00351-963-672-387 of Madeira Tourism Driver), said her boss told her to buy our tickets for us. I was expecting to pay. Matt and I did the sledging back down the hill. Benny was terrific both days, second day we stopped and had samples of different ports as well which again was unexpected and wonderful!
The Madeira tours were exceptional!!!
Only activity we added on our own was in Porto and it was the 55 min. boat tour of the 6 bridges. It included a port sample at 3 different locations. One such location we saw educational films about the valley and the making of the port wine in the region.
Matt took all photos with his cell phone so will forward photos when I get them from him.
The trip was worry free, we were made to feel very welcome by all.
Cristina, thanks again for putting this all together. I will be setting down with friends from down the block who want to go to Portugal next year and I will show them my road book, guidebook and what you did for us. Granted, in this day and age one can most likely book hotels, tours online and possibly save money but it was great to have it all done, drivers all set up, etc…You putting it all together was worth any extra we paid!
I think I covered it all but if you have any questions, comments, feel free to contact me.
As you may have gathered early on, I was very apprehensive about doing business with your company, sending thousands of dollars to a company I have never heard of though I did read about Portugal Trails on Trip Advisor.
The final reason to proceed was (I reached out to several travel agents asking if they had heard of your company) when a travel agent advised me as follows “I checked with the Portuguese Tourist Office in New York and they told me it was a very reliable travel company, therefore you will be in good hands”. Well, as it turned out we were in very good hands and feel very fortunate to have booked with your company and having worked with Cristina.
Bill Baptista ”
Sue and Mike Lyon, Australia, April 2015
Thank you so much for our beautiful gift and for organising such a wonderful holiday. Our driver from the airport was very helpful. the day tour with Andreia was the best walking tour we have ever had and we could not recommend her highly enough. we have fallen love with Lisbon and look forward to the rest of the holiday you have organised for us.
Sue and Mike”
Kelsey Holt, USA, March 2015
My trip was awesome. Your suggestions were excellent. I did alter some of my free time but I did fit in all of the places you suggested. I did go to the Belem area and had the famous pastry but i only got to see the monastery and other monuments at night when they were closed.
Porto was beautiful and the tours I did were awesome. Everyone was nice and I made a few friends along the way.
Lagos was gorgeous and had a bit of nice weather. Rained a bit when I was there but got some warm weather. Boat trip was fun but they did charge me when I got there. I was under the idea it was already paid for. Saw some of the museums while there.
When I got back into Lisbon I went to the restaurant you suggested O Talho. It was delicious! Good choice.
The accommodations were nice I especially liked the one in Lagos. Thanks for all your help. I wouldn’t have had as good a trip if I planned it.
The road book was very handy and helpful for places to see.
Julie Coopersmith, USA, March 2015
We had a wonderful trip through Portugal and so enjoyed it- thank you for helping us with planning it and finding us great places to stay.
We left the GPS with the hotel in Porto as we did not realize we could leave it in a mailbox in the airport-we thought we had to take it to the post office and it might not be opened. The Concierge in Porto said he would put it in the mail for us so I so hope that is OK.
It was great to have the GPS and to have options as we drove through the country. We chose to leave Coimbra a day early as we realized that we would be better rested if we stayed in 1 place longer, and as interesting as the castles and side trips were, we were more interested in being in Porto and getting more of a solid feel for the city. We appreciate your flexibility and being able to change our itinerary while we were there and not being charged for it.
All the people in every single hotel/pousada you booked us at could not have been more gracious. We do not eat “traditional Portuguese” food and were able to be pointed towards really good options in each city. Also, they our guides were timely and interesting and able, based on what we already did, to show us other sites. Finally, thank you so much for helping with getting our daughter Sydney to Spain, esp after her first flight was cancelled.
Again, thank you so so much…we will absolutely recommend you when we know of others going to Portugal,
John Gale & Jill Mooney, Canada, October 2014
“John and I are home again and engaged in many local family and friend events as well as working and volunteering in our community. However, playing it out in the backs of our minds are memories of the wonderful experiences we had last month in Portugal. We loved the entire country and were so happy we had decided to stay within its boundaries for our first visit to Europe in many decades. We want to thank you for all your help and the fabulous travel aids (our itinerary, the GPS, the prearranged accommodation and site guides, the welcoming package, and the airport assistants etc.) that made our time exciting and pretty much stress-free.
We really had an amazing time and have recommended PortugalTrails to friends and acquaintances. John wanted to make sure you got the GPS back!!! We mailed it from the airport….even that was an easy process!”