“Dear Vanessa, We had a great time on the trip. Can’t believe that we checked into 8 hotels, rented two cars with a transfer in between, went on at least 7 excursions and there were zero hiccups! Your organizational skills were amazing. I hope you don’t mind but I have copied Julie Beck on this email. She is traveling to Spain and Portugal and we would like to make her our first referral to you. There will be many more. Julie is a world class traveler and knows everyone so the word will spread fast about you if she is as happy with your services as we were. I’ll try to summarize the high and low points below (there weren’t many lows)
1. Regions Favorite cities – Porto and Seville Favorite small towns – Pinhao (probably the highlight of the trip for us) and White hill towns (particularly Grazelema, Ronda, and Zahara) Evora would be next followed by Valencia and Malaga. Lisbon was okay but didn’t have any sites better than Porto or Seville and was more difficult to get around. The only towns we didn’t like were Jerez and Arcos de Frontera.
2. Dining Best two spots were DOC in Douro and Carmen Mirador de Aixa in Granada (both with amazing food and beautiful), followed closely by a meal we had on the waterfront in the Triana area of Seville called Abades Triana. . Best inexpensive dive would have to be Ora Viva in Porto ,1/4 Para as 9 in Evora or El Aji in Seville. We ate at lots of quality Tapas Bars in Valencia, Seville, Ronda (Tragatapas), Porto, and Lisbon. The only tapas restaurant I would not recommend would be Bodegas Castaneda in Granada. Service was horrible. We actually left after drinks and before dinner was ordered because they were so rude. The meal at the Fada dinner at Mesa de Frades was authentic and a pleasant surprise.
3. Hotels A real highlight of the trip. All hotels were outstanding in their own way. Best Splurge was definitely the Yeatman. Stunning hotel and worth the price. Only downside was long walk to town but it felt good to stretch our legs after the big dinners. Slightly behind the Yeatman but still amazing was the Vintage House in Pinhao. 3rd through 5th place would go to the three posadas/paradors (Rhonda, Evora, and Lisbon, probably in that order). Rounding out the stellar list would be the Hotel Becquer in Seville, the Suites Gran Via in Granada, and the Vincci Lys in Valencia (in that order). All were centrally located and roomy.
4. Activities A. Planned activities – Our favorites would have to be the guided tour of Porto with Ricardo, who was outstanding, and the Alhambra tour (although the guide wasn’t great). A nice surprise was the wine tasting in Evora. The surroundings were not great but our guide was excellent. Patricia was a good guide in Lisbon but the city wasn’t as interesting as Porto. The Fado dinner was great. The singing was professional but we tired of it after a few hours and it was getting very late. The Flamenco night was a little bit of a disappointment. The singers were just so so and talked amongst themselves instead of interacting with the audience. We got the impression that they were very arrogant. We wished we had gone to a more authentic show in the Sacromonte district of Granada. The Douro cruise was relaxing but the views were better from the roads.
B. Unplanned activities – I’ll rate these by stars since we did so many. 5 stars – Hike down into Gorge in Ronda near Puente Nuevo. Electric Bike tour of Albaicin and Sacromonte in Granada. Bike Ride to Arts and Science Center in Valencia (spent half day in Oceanographic Sea Park, very nice). Personal walking tour of Seville (good during day but even better at night) including downtown, Plaza de Espana, and Barrio Santa Cruz. Visiting Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto. 4 stars – Picasso Museum in Malaga. Hike near Grazelema. Porto wine tasting in small Quinta Marrocos near Peso de Regua in Douro area. Visiting Bull fighting ring and museum in Ronda. 3 stars – Climbing towers in Valencia, Porto, and Lisbon. Walking tour of Evora. Wine tasting in Porto. Bike ride in Seville.
C. Activities we didn’t get to but kind of wish we did Vuelve Carolina Restaurant in Valencia – looked nice but fully booked. Visit Murcia, Belmonte, Almarante, Guimaraes, Obidos, and Sintra which were all nearby. Arabic baths in Granada Watch flamenco in Sacromonte instead of Seville. Take a tour of Alcazar and Cathedral in Seville (we passed because of recent visits to Alhambra and other cathedrals) Watch a bullfight – timing just did not work out. Eat at Ode Porto Wine House and Majestic Cafe in Porto- just not enough time. Visit Monastery and tower in Belem area of Lisbon.”