Kathleen Sykes and Stephen Vetzner, USA, July 2015
Everything was terrific. We loved Portugal and everywhere we went. I do have some comments that should not be viewed as negative, just positive feedback.
We particularly want to praise Carla, our guide for the walk in Sagres. She was terrific.
The one activity that we changed was the boat trip in Lagos. As you know, we had friends meeting us in Lisbon later that day and were anxious to see them. So when we arrived and talked to the boat company, we were concerned about the length of the boat trip (4 and a half hours; I thought it was 4 but either way our desire to see our friends changed our thinking because it would mean getting to Lisbon later than we wanted). The heat that day was also very bad. It also seemed that the trip was more a leisure cruise, although the grotto tour was included. So we changed to a shorter grotto trip without an additional charge. I probably should have asked more about this trip. I assumed it was more nature oriented, but I don’t blame you for setting it up.
We also took a short boat trip in Tavira, which was excellent. I think I would have liked to have seen options for slightly longer trips in the Formosa.
Our guide in Lisbon, Patricia, was also excellent. Although we discussed where we would tour, I felt we could have had a couple of short stops for shopping during the walk, which was half a day. Once again, this is not a criticism just a thought that it is good to have time to rest and look at things a bit more closely. Please don’t share these comments with her.
The road book was generally fine. In a few instances, it seemed to have some duplication. There were also a couple of times where it had information on a place we were not headed. For example, the section on the drive from Lagos to Lisbon had a stop along the coast and a listing for a hotel.
We followed a couple of the restaurant suggestions. With respect to hotels, Altis Avendia was excellent and provided superb service and help. All the hotels’ personnel were incredibly helpful. The hotel in Evora was very good and roomy, but also felt that it was almost too big a place. Would have liked to have tried the other hotel. The Pousada in Sagres was fine, but does feel a bit dated. But it was very clean and welcoming and was located perfectly.
Once again, these aren’t criticisms, because every day we rave about our trip AND Portugal Trails. You did an excellent job and really appreciate your approach and appreciation for the beauty and hospitality of Portugal.
We will use you again and recommend you without question.
David and Thirell Trottier, Canada, July 2015
We are home safely with many happy memories. Thank you for organizing such a successful trip for us. We were most satisfied. We will recommend Portugal to family and friends and we hope to return in the next years.
If you’d like a little feedback, I’ll give you a few of our reflections.
Lagos was beautiful. Check with your clients if they’d prefer to kayak or go in a fish boat. The kayaking might have been our choice. You don’t have to drive all the way to Sagres to dolphin watch. It was fantastic but the boat came back almost as far as Lagos. We didn’t think Sagres was anything special but maybe we missed the little town. We loved driving north to near Aljezur. I can’t remember the name of the beach but there was surfing and a warm lagoon. The fog rolled in which was eerie but beautiful. I loved Porimao and the Praia des Roches – beautiful long long beach and warm water. Albufeira was beautiful but quite crowded and touristy. We didn’t make it to Silves or Tavira.
We loved Evora and we would highly recommend the Pousada. 1 day and 1 night is enough though.
We loved Setubal peninsula and had an amazing afternoon at a sandy, lagoony beach. Beautiful warm water. It was an easy drive back in to Lisbon.
Lisboa was amazing. The GPS helped us and the hotel is perfectly located to the metro. Our walking tour was excellent. The 3 hours was interesting and we ate the traditional pastries and had some wine and cheese. The fado dinner was excellent and the music moving, but we were tired by midnight. We found a great restaurant for dinner that was delicioius, huge and inexpensive – 4 courses for 16 E . I believe it was The Story Restaurant, in a square / walk through near the elevator.
Sintra was very special. We only made it to the 2 sights up on the moutain but they were fantastic. WE stopped at a beach near Caiscas (sp?) but we weren’t able to find the bikes….we didn’t make it to the west of Sintra but that’s okay.
We loved Obidos, and we had a great beach swim in warm water near Peniche. The hotel Mar Bravo was excellent. Loved the location and the view. The water was a bit chilly with big waves but it was still great fun. 2 nights were enough as the Saturday crowds arrived. We found a fantastic dinner restaurant right around the corner from the hotel that was deeeeelicious and inexpensive….we ate there both nights. The name was ….darn, I can’t remember nor find it on the web. It was just around the corner from the hotel.
Aveira was a nice stop on the long day of driving. It was pretty and the boat ride was nice for 8 E. WE loved the pousada at Geres! Amazing views, great pool, fantastic breakfast and a big dinner. The rooms are a bit shabby but still great! We loved swimming in the lake, too, and we did a hike and drive all around. Well worth a couple of days.
We wish we had driven to Porto via the Douro Valley. The Ponta da Lima and west to Castelo…wasn’t as pretty. The cathedral was lovely and a great view. We couldn’t find a warm beach for our last swim before Porto, but that was maybe our fault. IT was windy and the water cold. Someone told us after about a built in pool in the rocks just north of Porto.
We LOVED Porto. Our hotel was cool….Musica….very modern and comfortable. The service was excellent and the breakfast excellent. It was close to a metro too. The tour down the river was good, but I would ask your customers if they’d like a longer tour, with dinner, that goes up the river more. I’m sad to have missed the Douro wineries….we loved the port tasting !!!! WE were tired and it was hot so we were glad of the hop on hop off bus as Porto is big!
The rental car worked beautifully. Driving there was fine, way easier than the narrow streets of Scotland.
Obrigada, Magdalena. Those are just a few reflections. It was a wonderful 2 week trip. We used your booklet a lot but didn’t track down the restaurants that you suggested often, as we found that overwhelming. There are soooo many restaurants everywhere that we just chose 1 that we came across. The breakfasts were so delicious and filling that we often didn’t eat lunch!
Take care. If you ever come to Victoria or Vancouver, let us know. We could arrange a beautiful trip for you!
Thirell and David Trottier”
Nancy and Stephen Walsh, USA, June 2015
I am writing to thank you for arranging a wonderful trip. This trip was taken to celebrate our 10 years of marriage and I could not have asked for anything more wonderful. You and your team went above and beyond anything we could have imagined. Every accommodation was top notch and the people were wonderful. I am sorry to say I do not believe I gave Sofia a large enough tip for her services. Please let her know how sorry I am and that is was no reflection of her job. We just did not know. I will write a review to honor your wonderful service and recommend that people use your travel assistance. Thanks again for all you did for us and making our trip unforgettable.
If there was anything to give feedback on it would be the communication of our tapas and wine tasting with the boat trip in Averio. The boat trip and its people where amazing but it seemed once we got to the restaurant for tapas and wine tasting the staff at the restaurant acted as if they knew nothing about it. They were kind and gave us the tapas and drinks. But there was no tasting of wines. We told them what we wanted to drink. It was somewhat uncomfortable. But that is all everything else was AMAZING.
Thanks again for all you did.
Barb and Ian Bryan, Australia, June 2015
We are slowly getting back into our usual routine here in Australia after 4 wonderful weeks in your lovely country. We found the Portuguese people so welcoming and friendly everywhere we went, and that makes such a difference when you are travelling in a foreign country. It is hard to highlight any particular experience as they were all so different, from the romantic wine valleys to the wild and beautiful Algarve coast. Our tour and degustation lunch at the winery, at Esporao was just superb, we are so glad that you convinced us to go. I know we had doubts to start with,but it ended up being a memorable experience. We have to say the accommodation you booked for us was excellent with some amazing views. Our guides also were great everywhere especially the delightful Carla in Sagres. We also enjoyed our time in Spain, with Ronda being a standout for us. The little white mountain villages were like taking a trip back in time. All in all we had a lovely holiday and the information you gave us was a great help, from places to see to restaurants to eat .. Thank you for designing such a comprehensive itinerary for us. We would happily recommend your services to anyone contemplating visiting Portugal.
Barb and Ian”
Peter & Margaret Robinson, United Kingdom, June 2015
We are back home after an absolutely marvellous holiday. The arrangements you made for us went smoothly and every part was something we enjoyed. Both hotels were of the highest quality and we were particularly impressed by the staff who were very professional and extremely welcoming. Indeed one of the highlights of our tour was the people we met. The guides who accompanied us on our tours were excellent. Every one of them provided a service that could not be faulted and I hope you pass on our opinion to the companies they work for. All of the transfers went well and the drivers also provided a faultless service.
Finally can I once again thank you for the way you have dealt with our requests and put them into practice. I will certainly recommend Portugal Trails to anyone thinking of a holiday in Portugal Best wishes
Lynn Pieron, USA, May 2015
You must have guessed from our silence that everything has gone smoothly in Lisbon and that we’ve been too busy to write. Tomorrow we leave for Evora and the excitement of driving on our own. I’m sad to leave and know I must come back one day with my husband.
Our book club has enjoyed everything that Portugal Trails proposed. The hotel is comfortable, welcoming, well located and offers a truly copious breakfast. Our guides were delightful and very knowledgeable. The guidebook has been a very helpful resource especially for restaurants and the side trips to Sintra and Cascais were perfect. The people of your country are so gracious- friendly and helpful to lost visitors. We will be enthusiastic ambassadors for Portugal when we get home.
Meanwhile we are off to the next stage of our adventure. Thanks again for all that you and your firm have done to make this a superb trip.
Heather & Phil Brush, USA, May 2015
I hope my email finds you well.
The trip overall was just amazing. What a beautiful, beautiful country. I’ve had more than a few friends look at my pictures & say they now want to go. Don’t worry I will give them your info!
I would have to say that our favourite places were Porto, the Douro Valley and then Cascais/Estoril. We loved Porto as I was pretty sure we would and the location of the Pestana Porto Hotel was just perfect. We felt like we could have stayed there one more day. (We ran out of time to try a franchesina.) Quinta de la Rosa was a perfect spot. The terrace for breakfast/dinner was just lovely. We felt we could have handled another day here as well to maybe do some more visiting of the local quintas. The river cruise on the Douro was a truly memorable experience as well. We ran into our only glitch here (other than the GPS). Our road book said we were due in Pinhao for a 1700h wine tasting at the CS Vintage Hotel but when we got there & pulled out our voucher it was actually for the following day at 1300h. We had run into the couple I had our tour with in Porto (Monica was awesome by the way) and they were staying at the hotel and they were booked in for the 1700h wine tasting. The hotel was very accommodating & allowed us to have our wine tasting together and honoured our voucher for that day. The wine tasting was a lovely treat as well and we enjoyed sharing it.
The day we left Pinhao headed in the direction of Belmonte there was a half marathon being run in Regua so a policeman turned us around & made us go via Vila Real. The GPS helped us but was that ever a white knuckle drive up and down the hills! WOW!
The Pousada de Belmonte was breathtaking! Did we ever feel pampered here and at all the hotels. We ended up having dinner at the Pousada twice. It was as good, if not better than “advertised.” We even got to spend an afternoon by the pool here.
Évora was a perfect stop. By this time we were getting a little tired. I have to say that the itinerary was a little overwhelming for us and we got to the point where we just didn’t want to see every single town as they were getting a little repetitious. Phil struggled with all the hills because of his artificial knee and it got to the point where he was just too sore and tired. The Convento was perfect for a 3-night stop allowing us to slow down and we got to spend time by the pool here too. The outing to Herdade do Esporao was a perfect way to spend the day. The lunch was outstanding and here we ended up having lunch with an American couple who were also doing a Portugal Trails itinerary. Our tour guide was amazing and we had a nice ride into the vineyards.
We found a great little restaurant for lunch that had been recommended by the American couple. Unfortunately I don’t recall the name right now. I would have to find the business card I have tucked away. The husband/owner spoke virtually no English but his wife did. He made the best white sangria EVER! We ran into very few people who did not speak English but when we did those people were so friendly & helpful while we figured out what each other way saying.
Cascais is breathtaking! The ocean is always appealing. We had a couple of meals in the centre square. We took the road towards Sintra but made a detour and ended up having another white knuckled ride through back streets to Sintra which turned out well as there was no parking to be had on the hills so we got to see Sintra without actually ever stopping other than right on the main street for a short few minutes.
We also quite enjoyed Estoril. The office for the car rental return was not programmed in the GPS (at least I couldn’t find it) but we had parked & had lunch along the beach so we happened to see the office on our travels. I believe the road book said something about a shuttle being available to take us back to our hotel, but there was no such shuttle. We just grabbed a cab (with a female cab driver who was missing her front teeth and entertained us all the way to the hotel.)
Since I started at Porto with our favourite let me back track to the beginning of the trip: Lisbon. We did enjoy Lisbon & Patricia our guide was lovely. Even though it was right at the beginning of the trip Phil was feeling the hills already (I may have pushed him a bit too much the first day) & she was very accommodating to make sure we didn’t have any major hills to go up or down. The Fado dinner was lovely & a definitely must see for anyone. We were glad we only had that much time in Lisbon. It is a beautiful city but we much preferred the rest of the country.
Coimbra was lovely. We had a couple of GPS glitches between Lisbon and Coimbra where the GPS wanted us to to make a turn the wrong way on a one-way street so we missed a few things. We could not get ourselves parked at the University in Coimbra but we went up and down those hills so many times we felt we got a good overview of the city anyways. We had a nice lunch down by the water.
So, I think that just about covers everything. Despite the fact that we left a few things off the itinerary we felt we got a good overview of the country. We did not feel like we missed things because we didn’t do everything. We chose the things we wanted to do from a whole list of available things. We were glad we were not on the move every day and the timing of the stay in Évora made us very glad we did the tour in the order we did rather than the opposite way round. Every hotel was impeccable and the staff at each one were very, very accommodating. The breakfast at each one as well was excellent. We do not have a single complaint about any of the hotels. The gentleman at the car rental office was very helpful as well.
We ran into several other people who were using Portugal Trails services and every single person had nothing but praise for your company. That is very admirable!
I bet you weren’t expecting quite the essay! Thank you so much for all your assistance and the lovely arrival gifts. I enjoyed the Ramos Pinto port so much I brought a bottle of the same one home (along with some ginja!)
Heather & Phil Brush”
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.