June Masuyama, USA, October 2016
“Hi Cristina, Good morning. I wanted to give you feedback about our trip. I can truly say that overall, you and your company exceeded our expectations! 1. I was impressed with your professionalism, knowledge, patience, and kindness. You were always so prompt with your responses and felt that you really wanted to help us. I appreciate all the last minute help you gave us…like helping us find the soap, good octopus meal, soccer shirt, etc. I met several travelers using Portugal Trails and they all had positive comments to say about their travel consultants. I will definitely recommend Portugal Trails to my friends (and you’ll probably hear from me again when we make plans for Spain). 2. All accommodations were excellent. Our very favorite hotel was Pousada de Belmonte! Pestana Palacio do Freixo was beautiful…a little far from town which was not a problem for us since we like to walk (yes, we walked back one night by the river…45 minutes). 3. All drivers and local guides arrived on time. I liked that we did not have to share the local guides with other tourists. Both guides were excellent. The woman who picked us up at the airport was just “ok”. The driver who took us to the airport was excellent…friendly, asked about our trip, etc. 4. The preprogrammed GPS was a lifesaver! We were impressed with the ease of using it. (When we took a wrong turn, it did couple of times take us on a different route to our destination…using very narrow back roads…scary at times). 5. My favorite site, as you know, was Monsanto! I loved that there were very few tourists there and that people still live there. We really liked the route and places we visited on our way to Porto…Evora, Belmonte and Duoro Valley. Places felt more “authentic”…definitely compared to places like Obidos. 6. Harry’s favorite place was the Duoro Valley. I think I mentioned that Harry loves port. We did not know that Duoro Valley is where the grapes are grown (ignorance on our part)…we always thought it was Porto. Since we stayed there, Harry found his favorite quintas and we went to three Porto tastings. He was like a kid in a candy store! The only negative comment that he wanted me to share is that the Churchill Porto tasting was a disappointment and I agree. The tour was cursory…the guide took us to look at the view from one of the rooms (river and town) and also took us outside to look at the view the second time! Harry says that unless someone wants to go there, he suggests going to a larger cellar, not a boutique cellar like Churchills. 7. We visited many of the places you suggested. The Portugese Stonehenge, historical villages and castles were amazing…it looked like some of the areas we visited has not been discovered by tourists yet (which was great for us)! Because we went back to Monsanto before heading to Duoro Valley, we only stopped in Amarante (went to local bakery). We decided not stop to see the Guimaraes castle because there was too much traffic around the castle. On the way back from Porto, we only stopped in Obidos because we wanted to spend more time in Lisbon. Since we visited medieval villages on our way to Porto, Obidos felt just too touristy…too many tour buses and tourists! The itinerary you set up was perfect for us! 8. We really enjoyed the Fado dinner in Lisbon. We ate at Casa do Alentejo Restaurante in Lisbon – we thought it was very good. We also had Francesinha at Cervejaria Brasso (Rua Ramalho Ortigoa 28, Porto)…recommended by our city guide. We really liked the restaurant! The food at Restaurant of Pousada de Belmonte was delicious! I can go on and on but I think I better stop. I loved Lisbon and wish I could have spent more time there. I guess that’s a good reason for returning to Lisbon. Once again, thank you! June (Spain…spring 2018)!!”
Bunny Smith, USA, October 2016
“Dear Diana, I am sorry I am so late replying to your email requesting feedback on our Portugal Trails experience in Portugal. First, I have fallen in love with your country and have been spreading the word among my friends and everyone who asks, “How was your trip?” I say, “You HAVE to go to Portugal, and I highly recommend Portugal trails!” Everything that Portugal Trails arranged — from the pickup at the airport, to the tour guides, to the information packet — was outstanding and exceeded my expectations. I was especially glad we used the private driver option; it made everything go so much smoother for us “older ladies.” Our driver/guide, Fernando, was delightful and worked very hard to enhance our experience. My one regret is that, in trying to keep to our budget, we didn’t go with your original hotel recommendation in Porto. The hotel we stayed in was certainly acceptable; the lobby spaces were pretty and the breakfast was very good. The location was excellent. But the rooms were kind of strange and the beds not the most comfortable. We thought the hotel we ended up staying at in Sintra was very nice, and the service and location were outstanding. Please accept my thanks for working so hard to make our time in Portugal so memorable! Sincerely, Bunny Smith”
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. Sincerely, Nancy Godwin”
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”
Debbie, USA, October 2016
“Diana, 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. Debbie”
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. Barb”
Fritz, USA, October 2016
“Diana, We want to thank you for your help in putting together a fantastic trip for us. There is nothing that we would change. The drive from Sos to Parque National Ordesa/Monte Perdido was a little too long but we enjoyed So. The surprise was the pintxos tour in San Sebastion. We found fighting our way to the counter to sample very daunting but our guide was great and we sampled things we would never have tried. The only other hitch was the drop off location for the car in Madrid is almost impossible to find. The street has 2 names and the Avis sign was miniscule. One of us had to leave the car walk to the main office walk find the location and then walk back to the car. We were very happy customers!!! Best, Fritz”
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
“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. Restaurants: 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. Obrigada ! Gail Solomon-Dorfman”
Peter and Margaret, Canada, October 2016
“Diana 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.”