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”
Gail Solomon-Dorfman, USA, October 2016
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.
Peter and Margaret, Canada, October 2016
Margaret and I would like to thank you and your team for the excellent job putting together our tour. We had a wonderful time in Portugal. From the moment we arrive until the time we left everything was great. Our highlights were:
1) the hotel Britannia in Lisbon was perfect, the staff were great.
2) our tour guide in Lisbon was excellent and provided us with helpful insights to Lisbon. We enjoyed the Fado performance.
3) Sintra and Belem were wonderful. We wish we could have spent an extra day in Sintra simply because there was so much to see and do.
4) Coimbra was nice but we arrived on Sunday and most of the stores were closed and there was not much to see there except the University students all dressed up parading in the streets. Our tour guide there was very good. The hotel was good although we found the hallways and lighting in the hotel was dark. If we could do it over we would of preferred to go straight to Porto.
5) We loved Costa Nova, the beaches there were wonderful.
6) we really enjoyed Obidos, while Alcobaca were nice to see – a quick drive through.
7) Porto was nice and we enjoyed the hotel there. It rained for most of our stay there so the Port wine tour was a nice break.
8) Nazare was very nice. We tried to go into the Celeste restaurant suggested but there was no room.
9) We really loved the Pousada de Belmonte. The location was great and the views wonderful.
10) Sortelha and Monsanto were interesting and we enjoyed strolling through the villages
11) Evora was very good, and we enjoyed our stay at the hotel. The day of our wine tour was a perfect day. The tour and specifically the lunch was excellent. This was followed by a nice spa afternoon at the hotel.
12) The drive down to the Algrave was great. We stopped at Amoreira beach, Arrifana beach and Amado beach for lunch.
13) the Pousada de Sagres was a wonderful location and a very nice hotel. The only comment I would have here is that the hotel needs some upgrading. Also some of the staff there were excellent while some like the housekeeping staff we had to ask to have our room cleaned. We had dinner at the Vila Velha restaurant and we would highly recommend this restaurant, it was a wonderful experience.
14) While staying in Sagres we did visit Lagos several times but did not go as far as Tavira. By this time in our trip we wanted to just enjoy the beaches around Sagres. Tavira was too far given the short time we had.
15) The nature hike we took in Sagres was excellent. We would highly recommend this hike to anyone. We enjoyed every minute with our tour guide.
16) Overall the Portugal experience was great. The food, people and scenery were great.
Thank you again for all your help putting this tour together for us. I am sure we will be coming back to Portugal.”
Debra and Larry, USA, October 2016
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”
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!
Laure and Mark, USA, September 2016
Mark wrote you a great review on trip advisor, but I also wanted you to know what a wonderful trip we had! You worked with us in planning the best trip we have ever been on!
We enjoyed all the different places that we visited from Lisboa and Sintra and Oporto, to the castle villages and vineyards. We really loved staying at all of the Pestana properties. Our favorite one was the monastery in Guimaraes. We loved the building, the food, the grounds and the pool! The one in Belmont was amazing also and the Casa outside of Évora.
We loved driving along the the Douro river valley and visiting the little villages and towns. We also loved the southern most point of Sagresh and it’s beautiful cliffs and gorgeous views of the ocean. We met many wonderful people of your country and heard their stories about their lives and their pride and stories of Portugal.
The Chocolatier, Laura, in Castelo de Vide; the tour guide at Pacheco Vineyard, Rubin, a college student who gave us a tour of the church Santa Maria de Viseu, who later joined us for dinner; one of the employees at the Casa named Marta; a sheep herder up in the high mountains near Seia, and a cafe owner in Viseu who wouldn’t charge me for my salad because he didn’t have all the ingredients to make it just right; and the list goes on and on…..
Of all the traveling we did, I would have to say that it was only the last day that was difficult. It was too much to drive 3 hours from the south into Lisbon, go to the hotel, return the rental car, pack and them get to the Fado dinner. We just couldn’t do it all and hated to miss the dinner, but we had heard it went on late into the night and we had to get up at 6 to get to our plane on time.
We have told many people about Portugal Trails and what a good service you offer. We hope to come back again one day as we love your country and would like to visit some of the areas we didn’t get to explore.
Again, thank you for all your help!
Laure and Mark Frank”
Kathy Steinberg, USA, September 2016
“Hi, Filipa and Vanessa
First of all, thank you again for the lovely gift bag (port wine, cookies and soap). What a lovely surprise! We ate the cookies while still in Portugal – they were delicious. We finished the bottle of vintage port wine in November and enjoyed it so much!
Clearly, this trip report will take a few days (weeks!) to write, but if I don’t begin, it will never get done so here goes:
We were very impressed with the overall organization provided by Portugal Trails. This helped to make things go smoothly overall. We loved the detailed Road Book and were glad that you made it available to us electronically before the trip! We appreciated that someone was always available by email and phone and it was very helpful to have the GPS.
Hotels: All were clean and comfortable and there was a nice mix of different styles. In all cases, the proprietors or owners were pleasant and helpful. I would suggest a few clues for how to find Casa do Pinheiro in Ponte de Lima: the sign on the street side is tiny and the door looks much like all the other doors on the street. Also, the house number doesn’t match that on the PT itinerary. We finally parked the car and walked up the street to find the entrance – Turned out we were within a few steps, just didn’t know it! Maybe, someone from PT could take a photo of the street entrance – All the online photos show the beautiful rear view with the swimming pool! Our room was upstairs – Fortunately, the owner was able to handle our luggage! As you told us, the Belmonte Pousada was lovely and the restaurant was excellent. The rooms are down a long flight of stair, but again, help was available. Hotel Oslo in Coimbra was basic, as expected, and very centrally located – great for our walking tour. H10 Villa de la Reina in Madrid: The location, as expected, was excellent for us – Walkable to the main museums and many restaurants. When we arrived, the staff had assigned us a tiny triangular room. We were surprised and I immediately requested a change, but all rooms were filled for the night. They offered to move us the next day – We accepted the offer as we were going to be there for four nights! Inconvenient to have to move, but the second room was much better.
Private Guides: They were all excellent. Elisabeth, in Belmonte, misunderstood that she was to meet us at the Pousada, but the hotel clerk called her and straightened out the instructions. Tiago, in. Coimbra was great and a wealth of knowledge about the city and its history. The best guide (perhaps the best we have ever had) was Sofia in Evora. She is remarkable and thinks of everything. She gives a very good talk about the processing of cork. We would have loved to have even more time with her! Of course, we bought lots of cork products – Bernie even bought a hat and my favorite purchase is a pair of cork sandals!
All the excursions you included in our itinerary were worthwhile so we did just about all of them. Enjoyed the International Garden Exposition in Ponte de Lima – Thanks for the suggestion. Although it was raining on the day we visited Barcelos and Braga, we managed to visit the museum and buy a cockerel and another folk figure in Barcelos and eat lunch at Frigideiras do Cantinho in Braga. By the time we got to Ponte Da Barco, the rain had cleared out so we could get beautiful photos of the bridge! Even visited both monasteries as each was different from the other. The side trip to Piodao, including a lunch at O Fortinha, featuring chanfana (goat, boiled potatoes and broccoli), turned out to be a highlight for us. I can’t get goat meat here so will have to make it with lamb. We bought rag dolls on the street up to the restaurant in Monsanto and some delicious fruit liqueurs that we sampled from a vendor on the square in Piodao! The drive to (on N339) and from the town was beautiful.
All in all, it was a great trip and we have shared how pleased we were, as well as your contact information with some friends who may want to plan a trip to Portugal in 2017. Their names are David and Gayle Ebel – I hope that they contact you.
Feel free to share my comments with other clients who may want to plan a similar trip.
I have attached a few of my favorite photos.
Genevieve Cragg, Canada, September 2016
I’m hoping you’ve had some feedback from our group – but if not please know that everyone was very happy with all your arrangements. I believe the cities you sent us to were an overall very good sampling of some of Portugal’s highlights. Your recommendations of sights were very helpful and well chosen, and your tour guides in each city were all very knowledgeable. All of the transitions for this large group of 14 went quite seamlessly.
Everyone had a great time, and it was nice to hear that you’ve made quite a name for yourself in Portugal. Keep up the excellent work.
Carmel & Craig Anderson, Australia, September 2016
Nice to hear from you! We’ve had a fantastic holiday and loved the cities, hotels, and tours you booked for us. We’ve loved the variation and bring surprised each time we went to a new place. It was great bumping in to other Portugal trails clients at different cities too! Everything has gone smoothly, which we really appreciate your help with.
I hope it’s ok to give you some feedback?
We loved the inner city hotels and being able to walk or catch public transport to tourist sights. The walking tour guides were fantastic too.
We didn’t really enjoy Villa Gale in Lagos as it is a huge hotel and was full of senior German tourists. The location was fabulous but the dining room was huge and not nice for us. The hotel felt too big.
Our one big disappointment was in Granada as we weren’t able to get tickets to the Alhambra. I didn’t realise we needed to book tickets 2-3 months ahead of time. I think it’d be good if you could let your clients know so they can get their tickets early if they’re going to Granada.
We returned the car safely which was a nice relief and caught the train to Madrid. It was lovely being able to relax and arrive in this busy, exciting city.
We’ve had a fabulous time but feel ready to go home on Friday.
Thank you once again for all your great suggestions and work to ensure we had a fabulous holiday. We will certainly be recommending Portugal Trails to our friends.
Carmel & Craig Anderson
Albany, Western Australia”
Fred and Ursula Moretti, USA, September 2016
“We have finished our trip in Portugal and are now in Spain. We very much enjoyed our trip to Portugal and all the accommodations and tours. Our tour guide in Lisbon was excellent and had an extensive knowledge of history. I believe her name was Alex.
Fred left some money in the safe at Pestana vintage Porto hotel. Even before we realized he had done it, they notified us they had found it. They continued to look for way to return it to us and finally wired it to us. We appreciate their integrity in this manner. Pedro Bras kept us informed and was very helpful..
We will recommend your service to anyone planning a trip to Portugal.
Fred and Ursula Moretti”