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.