26th February 2018: See what delights and wonders Kerry, Travel Specialist at our Bath branch, had when she took an escorted tour with Insight Vacations. With so much included and taken care of, all you have to do is turn up!
Our tour started in the beautiful city of Lisbon where we arrived at our first hotel, the five star Dom Pedro Hotel. An expert guide took us around some of the top sights and attractions in the city. Firstly, we saw the Belem Quarter along with Belem Tower before visiting the Monument to the Discoveries; an impressive concrete feature, overlooking the Tagus River which celebrates the Portuguese era of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.
After all that walking, it was time for to eat. I was very happy to learn our next visit would be to a local patisserie where we sampled some of the finest Pastéis de Belém; a local delicacy made from egg, created from a historic recipe which has been kept secret for over 200 years.
Our evening involved an Insight 'highlight dinner' which consisted of fantastic food, followed by a performance of traditional Fado music; an art of expression dating back to the 1800's.
Today we were guided around some of the historical landmarks located in this charming city. After visiting the Roman Temple of Evora and the Evora Cathedral we moved on to possibly our most fascinating location of the day, Capela Dos Ossos. Located next to the Church of St. Francis the literal translation means chapel of bones and it's not hard to see why. The interior walls of the chapel are covered and decorated with approximately 5,000 human skulls cast in cement.
Our hotel for the night was the hotel M’AR de Ar Aqueduto which was named after the stunning views it holds of the nearby ancient aqueduct of the same name.
My favourite day of the whole trip had to be our visit to the tranquil village of Monsaraz. This scenic village is paved with cobbled alleys and white-washed houses encased by castle ruins which when the summit is reached, rewards visitors with stunning views of the nearby man-made lake. During our time here, we had the opportunity to explore the lake by way of an old Dutch-style canal boat which transported us to an island just off the mainland.
After a brief stop for refreshments we returned to the mainland for a delicious lunch in a former olive mill. Both the food and the venue were truly breathtaking.
Conimbriga & Fatima
The days which followed included a trip to Conimbriga, one of the most impressive Roman archaeological sites in Portugal where you can still see the intricate detailing within its tiled floors. We also visited Fatima, a religious site which is a popular with pilgrims. During our time here, we visited the library at the University of Coimbra which is home to a colony of bats. The bats are interestingly used to control the number of insects and dissuade them from eating the library’s books.
Our tour ended in Portugal's largest city, Porto not before taking a tour with a local expert around a Vila Nova de Gaia wine cellar. Here we learned about the fermentation process as well as getting the opportunity to sample some of the fine fruits of their labour for ourselves. Very enjoyable!
Before the day was over, we took a stroll along the beautiful Douro river and admired the picturesque scenery. My time here came to an end as I took a journey along the funicular back to our hotel. Our farewell meal was spent at the Casa De Musica where we were also treated to a backstage tour of this magnificent musical venue.
For me, Portugal proved to be an amazing destination and really exceeded all my expectations. I can't recommend a tour with Insight Vacations enough. Not only was our accommodation and food fully taken care of, so too was our transport, excursions and experiences. Insight's expert guides really made the trip stand out from anything else I've ever done. Please do pop in and ask me any questions you may have regarding escorted tours with Insight Vacations, I’ll be more than happy to help.