Our trip was a terrific experience, thanks mostly to the excellent plan and prepaid aspects Portugal Trails provided. The vouchers simplified everything: checking into and out of hotels; tours, etc. Everyone was courteous and we had no difficulties with using any of them.
Covering the country and experiencing the regional differences was a delight. Our tours were excellent. They, and the tastings, were extra special due to their small size. We didn’t cover everything but we covered and enjoyed 1978 Kms and, it seems, almost that much walking since almost everything was uphill!
We thought you might enjoy hearing about some of our adventures in dealing with our travels. The biggest challenge was negotiating the street system. We missed some streets because we drove by them thinking they were for pedestrians. Some were raised or reached by driving over the sidewalk. Then there were the hard to find street signs or lack of signs. We were lost for an hour trying to find the hotel in Porto because streets on the GPS were closed. We called the hotel and found we were nearby. They talked us back to the hotel.
After check in we were told the garage was down the street. Mort couldn’t find it and spent a half hour getting back to the hotel. He was shown two double doors right next to the entrance. Strange that such a good hotel wouldn’t think to put up a sign (garagem?) – we’d never seen garage doors like that. After parking we realized that was part of the fun of travelling. Did we mention that we found the streets narrow?
The GPS was “fun”. We never found the Pizza place. Somehow, leaving Sagres, we missed a turn or took a wrong one. We wound up on the highway and were detoured through a wonderful golf community and then onto a dirt road going up, up. We eventually wound up in a wind power electrical field next to one of the wind towers and a locked road. Turning around we found a downhill route and were back on the highway heading for pizza. Nearing Sagres, the GPS said we had 30 Kms to go but when we left Sagres it said 15. We drove for a while then gave up. It was an experience. We think we were on the road that services these wind towers.
Late in the trip we noticed the GPS made mistakes like saying “take the third exit” when the proper exit was the second, or fourth. Perhaps that’s what happened on our way to pizza. We discovered that the GPS was even programmed for sights within the city – but we wanted to walk. We never found the Roman Baths, in three tries. But the walking was great.
Finding the car return was a riot. It took 4 circuits. The GPS would say “turn right onto ………..” but we didn’t see a street, only a BP station. On our last circuit we saw the office on a 50 meter strip of pavement parallel to the main road. The entrance to this alley was not visible and was hidden behind a bus. The highlights of our circuit were stalling on a hill on the main road and Mort having trouble getting restarted. Somebody pulled in next to us. We expected anger but the driver simply smiled, asked if we needed help, and said “relax”. Portugal is relaxed and relaxing to its guests.
We loved the people and the widespread use of English was a plus. Speaking to the car representative provided a great insight. He was working to raise money for a return to university. A grocery store cashier with a British accent was from Bangladesh via London. He said he would never leave Cascais. In returning the GPS, we met a Dutch woman who led us to a post office. She’d lived there for 40 years and only goes “home” to visit relatives. She would never go back – “it would be crazy” she said. Our guide in Porto was a history teacher whose hours had been cut back so he was using his Tourism certification to make up some of his salary loss. Our vineyard tour to d’Ervideira was by a Tourism graduate. She said she took up tourism to ensure employment. It’s amazing how resilient and happy people were.
By the way, there is an error in your personalized guide for Evora. It refers to a three page description beginning on page 155 of the guide. It actually begins on 224.
We truly enjoyed the Fado evening. The dinner was superb and all-inclusive, plus we were proud that we got there by transit and didn’t get lost!
We marveled at the castle in Marvao as we had been watching on TV in Toronto, the re-creation of a castle in the north of France which is in its 17th of 25 years of being rebuilt using only the original materials available at the time it was built. The documentary helped us truly understand the logistics of this incredible fortress.
All the hotels were centrally situated except for the one in Porto. It was in a strange district and quite a distance from anything.
We have more tales but we can sum up by telling you that never on our travels have we had so much to talk about and so many memories. obrigada (and obrigado).
Nadia and Mort”