Our 200th episode kicks off a series of podcast episodes covering Kim and Tamara’s recent EPIC trip to Portugal. This week we are joined by Kirsten Maxwell, from Kids Are a Trip and Multigenerational Vacations to talk about visiting Porto and the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal. Stay tuned for future episodes on the Alentejo, Algarve and Azores regions of Portugal!
Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by EPIC Travel, a boutique travel agency specializing in arranging custom itineraries in Portugal and Morocco. EPIC’s in-country travel planners have close relationships with hotels, guides, drivers and tour operators and can design the perfect trip for your travel style and interests. EPIC focuses on adventure and cultural experiences to allow you to have a deeper and more epic journey.
Visiting Porto & the Douro Valley
- Porto is similar to Lisbon but much smaller and more compact, easier to explore in just a couple of days.
- Start off your visiting with a walking tour (we used Explore Sideways) to get a feel of the city.
- Be sure to walk across one of the bridges, or take a water taxi, to Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river
- World of Wine is an entertainment complex with multiple museums, restaurants, and bars in Vila Nova de Gaia — offering so much to do for families, friends, and couples.
- WOW offers a Chocolate Museum and experience where you can take workshops such as a chocolate and port pairing class.
- There is also a museum about Porto and Portuguese history and even a Rosé museum!
- You can learn a lot about Port wine with a tour and tasting at Taylor’s, one of the major port producers, which is located right next to WOW.
- We stayed at Vila Foz, a luxury boutique property in the Foz district of Porto, about 10 minutes from downtown. It is located right across from the coast, along a coastal pathway great for walking, running, or biking.
- Vila Foz offers both a historic manor house and more modern rooms. The service and food are excellent and the hotel has a very nice spa, making it ideal for couples or a girlfriend getaway.
- To visit the Douro Valley, you can either rent a car and self-drive, or take a day trip tour from Porto. Even if you are staying in the Valley, we would recommend that you hire a driver or take a wine tour (we worked with Lab Tours Portugal) when you want to go wine tasting.
- Also keep in mind that driving in the cities is quite harrowing, as are the narrow streets you will find in many of the small towns in the countryside. So if you are not comfortable with that, be sure to hire a driver instead.
- The Douro River Valley is a UNESCO Heritage site for its terraced vineyards. It is a popular river cruise destination but if you are visiting by land, you can get a good sense of it in just one to two days. If you want time to relax and enjoy activities at your hotel, then plan on staying longer.
- The Douro River Valley is ideal for couples or friends because the main activity is wine tasting. However, if you are visiting with kids you can find other activities like hiking and kayaking. You can also take a Douro River boat cruise from the town of Pinhaõ on one of the historic boats used to transport barrels of port wine down the river to Porto.
- If traveling with young kids, be sure to stay at a hotel that offers on-site activities and/or babysitting.
- Douro 41 is located between Porto and the Douro Valley, but on the Douro River, and it is a great choice for families with young kids or teens. They offer many activities on site including picnics, boat cruises, kayaking, and paddleboards. The hotel also has a movie corner and game room with a snooker table and board games.
- When going wine tasting, you will want to make reservations ahead of time and be sure to plan out your day as the quintas are all very spread out and there aren’t a lot of restaurants and things around. It is best to work with a wine tour company like Lab Tours Portugal.
- For a high-end, luxury stay, book a room at the Six Senses Douro Valley. The Six Senses offers a convenient location, great rooms, wonderful food, and tons of activities on site for adults as well as children from pickling classes to making your own bath products. Some are complimentary and some are additional.
- The Vintage House in Pinhao is a more traditional British style hotel located right on the river in a convenient location for exploring the small town. There is a wonderful on-site restaurant, outdoor terrace, and lovely pool.
Full Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.190] – Kim Tate
Discover why you should visit the second biggest city in Portugal.
[00:00:15.950] – Announcer
Welcome to Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts, Kim from Stuffed Suitcase and Tamara from We 3Travel.
[00:00:30.410] – Kim Tate
So, Tamara, we are back from our massive epic trip to Portugal, and we are going to dive in on some coverage and talk about our trip over the next few episodes.
[00:00:41.990] – Tamara Gruber
Actually, I know we have to apologize for having, like, an extra week break in there, but we were just too tired last week. Guys, we couldn’t do it, I think.
[00:00:51.050] – Kim Tate
My eight hour time zone change. I’m still not recovered one weekend. There was no way we were making it happen. So hopefully you guys forgiven us for our extra delay.
[00:01:03.530] – Tamara Gruber
We had a very busy trip. And so when we were on the trip, we decided that the best way to do to cover it for our listeners would be to break it up into the different regions that we visited. Because as much as you may like us, you probably don’t want to have us going on and on for about 4 hours trying to cover everything that we did in our trip, and then we probably still couldn’t get to it.
[00:01:25.310] – Kim Tate
Yeah. I think 17 days in one podcast episode is too much to ask of anyone. So I think we made the right choice. And I think that we learned about the variety of Portugal and how much more there is than just Lisbon. And that’s what we’re hoping to help share with you guys with these episodes. And having multiple episodes is that we can help you see that there is variety. It’s not just pretty tiles and Rivers. So we’re going to help share some of that.
[00:01:53.810] – Tamara Gruber
So let’s break down where we went and we’re just going to probably cover things maybe not exactly chronologically the way that we did them, but breaking up into regions. But our trip started out in Porto, which is a Northern city of Portugal. And from there we explored the Douro River Valley, and those two areas are what we’re going to talk about today, because a lot of that would be captured in one trip. But I think as we work our way through the different episodes, you’ll kind of get a better sense of if you want to do this region in that region, like what things kind of go together.
[00:02:29.390] – Tamara Gruber
But after Porto and Douro, what do we cover next?
[00:02:33.350] – Kim Tate
I think we’re going to move to the Alentejo region, which is the biggest region of Portugal. And it’s kind of that whole middle section in between kind of the Northern section, which is Porto Douro, and then the Southern section, which is the Algarve. It was a real delight for me to discover. It’s definitely a wine region, has some epic night skies and sunsets, and we’re going to kind of get more information about that region.
[00:03:02.090] – Tamara Gruber
I kind of think of it as if you like Southern Spain or if you like Tuscany, like you would probably really like Alentejo. It has a lot of that kind of rolling Hills. There’s some small hillside, historic towns, big wine farms, I should say, big vineyards as well as wine, hotels and estates that are on those properties. So a lot to offer families, couples, really any type of travelers, especially those that like to get a little bit more off the beaten path. But then from Alentejo, we’re going to go.
[00:03:37.070] – Tamara Gruber
I don’t know if we’ll cover it this way, but on our trip, we went down to the Algarve, which is going from off the beaten path to probably very much the beaten path with many tourists. But it was some place I’ve never been to, and I’ve always wanted to go because I don’t care how busy something is. Those gorgeous coastlines and the caves and the cliffs is just something that I needed to see for myself.
[00:03:59.090] – Kim Tate
Agreed. It’s quite beautiful. And again, another amazing place to find sunsets. And yeah, it was neat to see that. And then I think then we’ll wrap up. We came back into Lisbon after the Algarve and flew over to the Azores, which is kind of I think that’s probably the trendiest place that people seem to be most excited about hearing about based on social shares that I’ve seen all of us, the comments we’ve been getting.
[00:04:24.710] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I think not as many people have gone. It’s on a lot of bucket lists. There’s a lot of curiosity in terms of where do you go? How do you do it? There’s a lot more information out there about Lisbon and Porto, so definitely look forward to sharing that. Of course, we only had a chance to visit one of the Islands, but we try to see as much of that island as we could, so definitely stay tuned, lots of content. But this week we’re going to start off with Porto and Douro.
[00:04:52.490] – Tamara Gruber
And since you probably don’t want to hear just from us, we’re going to try to bring in some other people on these episodes, too. That joined us on the trip or that helped us plan the trip.
[00:05:02.330] – Kim Tate
So we’re starting off today with Kirsten, who is with us for the first seven days. And so with her, we are going to talk all about Porto and Douro Valley.
[00:05:18.810] – Tamara Gruber
So this week we’re here with Kirsten Maxwell, who is founder of Kids Are A Trip. And you may remember her from previous episodes where we talked about what do we talk about? We’ve talked about kids with allergies I know. You’ve been on many times. Kirsten right.
[00:05:31.350] – Kirsten Maxwell
That’s right. I also did all inclusive Mexico resorts with you guys yes.
[00:05:36.270] – Tamara Gruber
Such a good resource. So this time, we’re having on to talk about Porto and the Douro Valley in Portugal because we were all just there together.
[00:05:44.190] – Kirsten Maxwell
We’re so fun. Yeah.
[00:05:46.230] – Tamara Gruber
So before we get into talking about that particular region, I just wanted to kind of go through a Disclaimer and talk a little bit about how we did our trip. So for this trip, we worked with Epic Travel. Epic is a boutique travel agency that focuses exclusively on Portugal and Morocco, and they create custom itineraries for families and couples and others that are looking to explore a little deeper and add some adventure and culture into their journey through Portugal. And so we worked with them to try to get a sense of what type of experiences and things that they can arrange.
[00:06:23.430] – Tamara Gruber
And so just as a Disclaimer, our trip was hosted by both Epic, and their travel partners, different hotels and activity providers. And our flights were provided by TAP Airlines. So big thank you to them. But in the meantime, if anyone is interested in planning a trip after you’re inspired by our little discussion here today, then you can reach out it’s Epic Travel and check out what they have to offer. But let’s talk about it. So, Kirsten, you’ve been to Portugal before, but I think this was your first time in Porto or the Douro Valley.
[00:06:57.450] – Tamara Gruber
What did you expect when we went? What were your overall thoughts about that part of the trip?
[00:07:03.630] – Kirsten Maxwell
This was my first time to visit both those areas. And I think what I expected was a smaller version of Lisbon, which I kind of feel like Porto is and with the Douro Valley, I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I knew it was a wine region famous for its river cruises, but no idea what we would find there.
[00:07:24.750] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I’ve heard about it being very pretty and a UNESCO heritage site with the terraced river valleys. Also, I knew it was the birthplace of Port, but I was not thinking of it exclusively as Port. And then when we were in Porto, we learned so much about Port that I got worried. I know it’s going to be only Port. I was relieved to find out that they actually do a lot of other wine there as well.
[00:07:49.650] – Kirsten Maxwell
I think I probably have the same misconception as well.
[00:07:52.470] – Kim Tate
Well, I was kind of excited to see how each of the Quintas as we soon learned what they call their farms and kind of wineries out there. They do wine differently than I think in the States that we’re used to where it’s like, oh, these are the Cab grapes, and this is our cab. Sov and this is our Merlot or whatever it is. And there they just kind of say, oh, we’re just going to grab all the grapes, mix them together and see what we get.
[00:08:18.990] – Kirsten Maxwell
[00:08:20.790] – Tamara Gruber
Mix and match different way of planting. Yes.
[00:08:25.110] – Kim Tate
So we only had two days in Porto, but why don’t you kind of highlight some of the things that stood out to you? And how long do you think people should maybe plan on spending in Porto?
[00:08:37.710] – Kirsten Maxwell
We did pack in a lot in two days. I think I had mentioned maybe to Tamara while we were walking around through the city. I mean, that was my favorite part, just walking through the little back alleyways and seeing the historic buildings and seeing all the people outside enjoying dining and the restaurant terraces. I really thought that was part of the fun was just kind of going through the back alleyways and finding those hidden gems I still love.We went to this place called the World of Wine or WOW World of Wine and it is massive. I can call it like an entertainment complex with I think there’s seven different museums, twelve restaurants. It has everything you could want to spend, like a fun day out with family, kids, husband, girlfriends, whatever. For as many days, I would say at least two days minimum in Porto. And you probably could go up to maybe four with, like, a day trip to the Door Valley.
[00:09:39.030] – Tamara Gruber
Probably. Especially if you wanted to build in some of the workshops or experiences that they had. It. Well, like we did the chocolate and Port tasting, but even for kids and families, they have, like the chocolate pop cake, pop making and the whole chocolate Museum. I think my kid could spend a good amount of time in there, especially when they got to the tasting section.
[00:09:59.730] – Kirsten Maxwell
Agree that and the Rose place. I can’t remember what it was called, but I think a teenager that was of drinking age would really enjoy doing all the selfies that they had to offer. Yeah.
[00:10:11.430] – Kim Tate
You can tell that that whole Museum district was definitely designed with kind of Instagram and very modern tourism take on stuff.
[00:10:20.910] – Kirsten Maxwell
[00:10:23.610] – Kim Tate
I think you made a good point, though. That one of the highlights for me was that they arranged that walking tour for us because I think Porto is definitely one of those cities, and I think this is like it. I mean, Tamara does food tours a lot, but just when you’re new to an international city, getting a tour early on can really, I think help you know what you want to do on the other days as well and kind of give you more of a feel for the city and help you identify things that maybe you wouldn’t have noticed before.
[00:10:55.110] – Kim Tate
And so I love those local walking tours when you kind of get a feel for the city and being able to find where to eat and where to get stuff. I mean, that was huge. Yeah.
[00:11:05.850] – Tamara Gruber
And I found it really interesting, too, to learn about some of the history of Porto as you’re walking around, you see all these names that sound very English, like Taylors and Sandman. So you’re like, what is that connection with Port and the English? And you learned about this, like, 500 year old history and this alliance and how they developed Port because the regular wine didn’t make the journey up to England, and so they fortified it. And just so many interesting little facts that help you feel like you understand the place a bit more.
[00:11:34.530] – Tamara Gruber
I mean, look, we learned all about these kind of winemaking families in the Douro Valley and competition or competitiveness, I guess, between some of them.
[00:11:44.190] – Kirsten Maxwell
Yeah. And I would agree it was such a nice introduction to the city in the area to do a walking tour. And for us, that’s one of the best places to start. Like you said, you do different classes and stuff when you travel for us. It’s a tour because it gives you the instant layout of the city. And usually the tour guides are a great resource for where to eat or what not to miss or a special gem. So definitely recommend taking a tour.
[00:12:10.590] – Tamara Gruber
So what did you think of Porto in general compared to Lisbon? I have a feeling I know what Kim is going to answer, but I want to hear what yours is first.
[00:12:18.090] – Kirsten Maxwell
So it’s such a hard thing to say because they’re totally the same but different if you understand what I mean. Porto is smaller, but it’s got the Atlantic Coast, it has surfing, it has rocky shorelines, it’s much more compact. And I think that Lisbon is just humongous. I mean, it’s just hard to explore in a day or two. You really have to set yourself there and make time to see everything. But now I want to know what Kim has to say.
[00:12:52.290] – Kim Tate
It’s so funny because I fell in love with Lisbon, but I really liked Porto, and I think it’s for a little bit of the same reasons. They have much of the similar feel. I liked that Porto was kind of a little more compact. And then I really liked how they had, like, the two feels of the town, like Porto and then going across, I can’t remember what it was called Gaia. And then it’s called something like Novella Gaia or whatever. But I like that kind of how they had little sectors that they considered.
[00:13:24.030] – Kim Tate
And I really liked Porto. I just thought it was a cool thing. I loved staying at where we stayed. I love being able to see the rocky shoreline and kind of walk around. And then all the bridges were just so amazing. And I remember we were on one of the bridges and looking out and seeing all these modernist type buildings and boats and everything. And then there’s like this Castle wall right there as well. And I love that about Portugal, that it’s just such a really unique blend of history and old with kind of modern life still and I just love that.
[00:13:54.810] – Kim Tate
I think I liked Porto slightly more than Lisbon, but I love them both, so I’m not sure.
[00:14:00.330] – Tamara Gruber
Visit them both, I guess.
[00:14:03.270] – Kim Tate
I think it is really we can talk about this later. But I do think for people who are planning to go over there, I think it makes a lot of sense to fly into Porto and back out of Lisbon and do some stuff in between. I think that makes a lot of sense.
[00:14:17.250] – Tamara Gruber
Well, Kim, you mentioned where we stayed, which was a little bit outside of the downtown historic center of Porto in this neighborhood called Foz with Foz. And we really all loved our stay at Villa Foz. I think it was one of our favorites of the trip. And so Kirsten, I guess maybe you could tell our listeners a little bit about this hotel. Like, why did we like it so much? And would you recommend that people stay there, or do you think it’s better to be in town?
[00:14:45.330] – Kirsten Maxwell
Yeah, sure. So like you mentioned, it’s kind of on the outskirts of Porto, and it’s a former Manor home and a newer building hotel building kind of attached to it, but attached to an underground. And the decor is phenomenal. I mean, it’s just stunning when you walk in and you’re just greeted by these high ceilings and wood and beautiful, deep, rich colors. And I will say the hospitality, I think we can all agree with second to none. You felt like wherever you turn, there was somebody there who could help you with anything you needed.
[00:15:20.910] – Kirsten Maxwell
And I think that as far as who should stay there definitely families. Maybe if you’re looking for a little bit somewhere close to the beaches, it has good beach access, but more maybe for couples because they had a great spa and the restaurant top notch, one of the best meals we had there.
[00:15:43.170] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I agree with what you said. What do you think, Tamara? What did you think of Vila Foz?
[00:15:48.150] – Tamara Gruber
I mean, I loved it. Definitely. Like you said the service, the breakfast was great. I mean, not many places have oysters and champagne for their breakfast buffet. Not that I was ever up for oysters and champagne after, like, late night chef’s tasting dinner with wine courses. But it was nice that it was there if I wanted it true. But yeah, I definitely thought it was great. And I agree it would be good for couples.
[00:16:12.090] – Kim Tate
And I think it was nice that they did have the set up where they did arrange transportation in and out of the city via Uber, but they kind of managed it themselves. So that is a little bit of a perk. It’s maybe a little clunky right now how that works. But for people who are maybe looking to be not in the middle of the city necessarily. And like those lazy mornings and kind of being on site and eating, I think that’s a good option, because you can then just get transportation into the city and then back home when you’re ready or back to the hotel.
[00:16:43.050] – Kim Tate
But building on that, why don’t we talk about maybe getting from place to place? Because we got to explore a lot of Portugal, which was one of my favorite things that I kind of got outside of the cities and got to see more of what Portugal is like the countryside. So what do you think your recommendation is for families or couples, whoever. How should they get around Portugal? Because don’t you agree that there’s more to Portugal to see than just Lisbon and Porto?
[00:17:10.350] – Kirsten Maxwell
Yes. Absolutely. And I think that was one of my favorite parts of this whole trip was getting outside of the major cities and seeing the countryside both in the Douro Valley and in Alentejo. And I think for families because usually have more than two, three, four people. I would recommend probably renting a car or hiring a driver, I think definitely hire a driver if you’re going to do wine tasting. I highly recommend that I have had experiences many times with the transportation system, the public transport in Portugal, and it’s not the most efficient.
[00:17:49.710] – Kirsten Maxwell
So for me, it just kind of makes more sense to do it on your own or hire a driver or like you said, take a plane, fly into one, fly out of the other, rent a car in between the two. I think that would be a great idea. What did you guys think?
[00:18:04.890] – Kim Tate
I definitely felt like the highways and everything are very easy to drive. It’s normal, right sided driving. So for those who are used to driving in the States and everything, it’s easy and things are well marked and all of that. The only thing is little towns. There are some tiny, tiny streets, and I would definitely not want to be doing that. So that’s where if you’re going to be touring little towns or like you’re getting in and out of Lisbon or Porto, I would be a little hesitant to be driving in the city itself, but definitely small cars are going to be your friends there, which is going to be a little trickier for families with a lot of luggage.
[00:18:44.850] – Tamara Gruber
I feel like with so many cities, the idea is if you have to have a car, drop it off, like outside of the city, right. We saw Kirsten, you weren’t there, but driving in Lisbon is just impossible. There’s no way I’d want to attempt that. And I definitely would also agree with certainly hiring a driver for the Douro Valley and having someone that is maybe not just a driver, but that can arrange a wine tour for you to visit different wineries, because like many places, it’s something where you need to have an appointment.
[00:19:17.250] – Tamara Gruber
But we saw, like, especially on I think it was the north side of the river. The roads aren’t even as fully developed. So we were on some very narrow, gravely roads that were like Cliff right there, and there’s no way you’d want to go wine tasting and beyond those roads. So 100% you need a driver then?
[00:19:35.850] – Kim Tate
Yeah. Absolutely agree.
[00:19:37.770] – Tamara Gruber
Since we’re talking about the Douro Valley, we should talk to a little bit about kind of what it’s like when we touched on it briefly. We know it’s popular as a river cruise destination. So what are some of your overall thoughts about the region? Just what are the things to do outside of wine tasting? Or is this strictly something that you would recommend for people if they’re looking for kind of beautiful scenery and wine?
[00:20:05.190] – Kirsten Maxwell
That’s an interesting question. I think that there probably is a lot to do. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore outside the vineyards, but we had a conversation with our host at Douro 41 Hotel, and they were talking to us about going kayaking, that there’s several national parks nearby that you can go and explore and do hiking and stuff like that. So I think you could make time out of it. A little bit of a city escape where you’re sitting by the pool or you’re going out and doing some hikes.
[00:20:39.090] – Kirsten Maxwell
For the most part, though, I probably stick to couples, girls trips, single travel, even. I think that it really is all about the wine region for the most part there.
[00:20:51.390] – Kim Tate
Yeah, we did do that boat tour on the river out of when we were in Pinhaõ, and I think that was quite fun and neat and would be great for families. And maybe we didn’t spend enough time in that city specifically. But I agree 100%. I think that region the real gem of it is visiting the different Quintas and tasting Port and wine and having some lazy lunches and definitely can find some luxury and high end stuff there as well. So maybe not the best for families, depending on how much time you want or what your family’s travel style is, I think.
[00:21:31.230] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. I must feel like if you have little kids, you could stay at a place where there’s a lot of very kid focused activities and do some relaxation and then just take a day trip, even if they had kind of the babysitting or kids club activities, maybe just the parents go off and do some wine tasting and come back. But you need to look at it as like this is the downtime, quieter time of the trip.
[00:21:54.390] – Kim Tate
Or just like your hotel base type. It’s the kind of destination where you’re going to really enjoy your hotel activities. Yeah, that’s fine.
[00:22:03.390] – Kim Tate
So do you think, Tamara, you recommend the Douro, just like Kirsten said, you think it’s good for mostly couples or girlfriend getaways type thing.
[00:22:11.010] – Tamara Gruber
I think it would be ideal for that again. Like with little kids. I think you want to be at a hotel that has hotel based activities. And then for teens, maybe you want to be a little bit more like where we were at Douro 41, which is somewhere between Porto and the Douro Valley, where you can do a lot more adventure and active types of things.
[00:22:31.530] – Kim Tate
I definitely think that was kind of a little gem there, with the Douro 41 being kind of on the Porto side of the Douro Valley, and it seemed like they did have more. They were saying they’re pretty popular families and had, like, the movie nights and stuff. But then they had beaches and water activity on the riverfront, so definitely more of a fit for families there. So what do you think about any tips for visiting Douro? I feel like we kind of went through Porto pretty quickly, but maybe those together.
[00:23:01.410] – Kim Tate
What do you think are the tips for visiting the Douro region? And what about anything to follow up with Porto either?
[00:23:08.130] – Kirsten Maxwell
Yeah, I think we covered some of the small tidbits. But number one, Tamara talked about the roads. Definitely. If you’re not comfortable driving small roads or winding roads or have a kid that gets car sick, you might want to make a mental note and consider an alternative option of exploring, which would be by a river cruise or just a day trip. Even from Porto, you could take a cruise up there might be easier and then making appointments at the different Quintas because they aren’t like, I know a lot of places in the States you can just drop in.
[00:23:41.730] – Kirsten Maxwell
It seemed like many of them were making appointments ahead of time. I’m sure maybe some of the bigger ones you can drop in, but I’m not even sure about that. Which is why it comes in helpful to have somebody do that for you.
[00:23:54.870] – Kirsten Maxwell
I think that the hotels, restaurants, everything else seemed to be pretty spread out. So you want to have a clear plan going into things like have your itinerary sketched out of where you’re going to go. What you’re going to see what you’re going to do ahead of time because it’s not really let’s wing it kind of a trip.
[00:24:15.210] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I know. Let’s get on the road. Oh, let’s stop there. That looks good.
[00:24:19.170] – Kim Tate
It’s not really not that kind of part of your trip.
[00:24:22.350] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. I found that, especially in the Douro Valley, that it wasn’t like they were just restaurants all along. You had some that were tied into Quintas, which I think you pretty much needed the reservations for. There was that one. Was it called like, Doc, I think. Yeah, Doc or something? That was, I think, a Michelin star chef, but it’s a very nice restaurant right on the river. And then there’s only really a couple of little towns there’s Pinhao that we stayed at that seemed pretty small in terms of restaurants and things.
[00:24:51.450] – Tamara Gruber
And then there was one larger town gosh. I can’t remember the name of it. I remember, it wasn’t, like, super attractive.
[00:25:00.450] – Tamara Gruber
You definitely need some planning. And we all enjoyed our experience with Lab Tours Portugal.
[00:25:08.310] – Kim Tate
I was going to say I really think he did a great job, and I would recommend that way of doing it and even doing it from, like Kirsten said, a day trip from Porto kind of getting over there and getting picked up. That’s really great.
[00:25:21.390] – Tamara Gruber
Well, we talked a little bit about some of the hotels that we experienced. One of the things that as we get into more of our Portugal trip, we’ll find that we moved around a lot. But the good news is we got to experience, like, a lot of different hotels, which some of them would appeal to different types of travelers. And so we can break down some of the ones that we experienced in the Douro Valley when we stayed at two and then we had lunch and took a tour of another.
[00:25:46.650] – Tamara Gruber
So should we start at the top and just talk about six senses?
[00:25:50.730] – Kirsten Maxwell
I mean, how do you not? I think it’s one of the most popular accommodations in the Douro Valley. If I’m correct it’s very high end luxury property and tons of activities for families, families, adults, friends. They’ve really kind of thought about everything when it comes to six senses. I think that’s kind of what they’re known for. I would definitely recommend that for families with young children because I believe they had a child care there. You guys can correct me if I’m wrong and definitely had activities. Teens might like it, but I could see them getting kind of bored.
[00:26:29.490] – Kirsten Maxwell
You’d have to schedule some off property activities, which I’m sure they could schedule for you.
[00:26:34.470] – Kim Tate
I did see they did have quite a few activities each day that some were complementary and some were extra. But there were things like four by four tours and things like that. So I think if you’re splurging to stay at the Six Senses, you can probably afford a few of those activities, and you could keep teens entertained so that could work. But yeah, and I think when you talk about luxury, we all looked up kind of the pricing there, and it’s definitely you’re going to be paying for that.
[00:26:59.970] – Kim Tate
But it’s a very nice property. I loved how it was decorated and everything, and especially their little hotel dog Aqua.
[00:27:09.210] – Kirsten Maxwell
[00:27:10.950] – Tamara Gruber
It’s always nice to have a little friendly greeter like that. I feel like a lot of the programming that they had. I agree. It would definitely like that younger age group would be wonderful. We did something in the spa where we made a scrub. So they do those types of things for adults. But then they had that whole little workshop where they did types of things from the ground. So they would do things with herbs or pickle vegetables, or they seem like all types of different, very unique hands on types of things that I think some younger kids can really get into.
[00:27:44.070] – Tamara Gruber
So definitely, if you can spring for six senses would be a great way to go. But then we had another stay at Vintage House, which was a very different vibe, but very nice in its own way. So can you describe that one Kirsten?
[00:27:58.050] – Kirsten Maxwell
The Vintage house is. I call it traditionally British kind of hotel. It’s very classical decor, something you’d expect to find in England almost was located right on the river, which was perfect. And you can kind of see the boats coming and going from your balcony in the room. They had lovely restaurant. We had really good dinner there, and it’s located in the town of Pinhao. So if you wanted to walk into town and explore, you could do that. But it really was for them all about I think the location and their food. They had a great pool to be wonderful during the summer for kids and families, but there wasn’t really much I felt going on for a family stay. Do you guys agree? Disagree.
[00:28:48.030] – Kim Tate
I agree. That’s where we took that river cruise and they offer longer river cruises. We did, like a 1 hour one. I think that was ideal. So for families or even couples, it gives you a good little taste, but it’s not so long that you’re like, okay. Yeah, I’ve seen this. There’s another Quinta on the Hill, so I definitely think that that was really nice and its location right there on the river was great. I loved the decor and kind of the classicness.
[00:29:15.810] – Kim Tate
They mentioned that it’s going to be going through a remodel soon because you definitely had the it’s very old and classic and kind of original. It’s the original building. And so it’s kind of got some really quaint and cool things like that. But I wish we would have had more time to kind of explore that city because I feel like if we knew more about Pinhao and what it was like, then maybe that would be more of a gem. So if you’re thinking of kind of a little bit of a city stay in the Douro Valley region, you might look at Vintage House and Pinhao out and see what it kind of attracts.
[00:29:46.530] – Kim Tate
But I think overall, as we kind of expressed, Douro is kind of a maybe one or two night stay type destination, depending on what type of vacation you’re looking for.
[00:29:58.710] – Tamara Gruber
Definitely central location. Good for that short stay. If somebody did want to stay longer in Douro, then stay at one of the other properties where they have much more going on on site. And it’s more of a relaxation. This is kind of like a great place to lay your head while you’re exploring the Douro Valley.
[00:30:15.450] – Tamara Gruber
So we already talked a little bit about the other one that we see. That Douro 41. But, Kirsten, what are your thoughts about Douro 41?
[00:30:22.810] – Kirsten Maxwell
I love six senses because it was super over the top and amazing. But Douro 41 is more of the reachable hotel for most families. What I loved about the rooms is you really felt like you walked in. Then you had floor to ceiling windows right overlooking the river. And it feels like you’re almost on a river cruise. It seemed like that was kind of the feel that you got in the room. And then there were so many different little nooks and crannies around the hotel for families.
[00:30:53.910] – Kirsten Maxwell
There was a game area, there was a snooker table, there was a movie night area. They had pizza making classes, so many different things they had to offer for families that I thought it would make a really good stay if you wanted to escape from the city. Yeah.
[00:31:11.370] – Tamara Gruber
I was really impressed by some of the things they did from arranging picnics and doing the boat rides, doing the stand up paddle boards and kayaks. It just seemed like there was really such a great range for different age groups. And while it wasn’t right there by anything, there were some restaurants. They said they were, like, 15 minutes away. Plus, they have two restaurants on site. One was like, I think a Michelin Star chef, and the other one was a casual, more of a casual pizzeria. So, like having those options around it.
[00:31:40.170] – Tamara Gruber
So you’re not in the middle of a certain region or town, but there’s still plenty to do, especially if you’re willing to drive a little bit. Yeah.
[00:31:48.330] – Kim Tate
Agree. So any final thoughts about Porto and Douro Valley? Kirsten, you start then maybe Tamara you can kind of give your chime in about what you thought of those two areas. And just so people know, they’re the north. They’re on the north side of Portugal. So to give you a feel for the country, that’s where we’re talking.
[00:32:09.030] – Kirsten Maxwell
I think they’re definitely must visit places in Portugal. I think so many people get trapped into the Lisbon Algarve experience because that’s what they hear.
[00:32:21.750] – Kirsten Maxwell
But I think Porto is one of those. I mean, it’s a huge city. Don’t get me wrong, but there’s still something about that seems a little bit hidden gem exploration kind of thing. Douro Valley. I really loved it, but I kind of feel like it’s once you do it, then you can be. I don’t know that I would go back to experience it’s. Maybe with my husband. It just didn’t give me that vibe of, like, hey, everything here is unique and felt very repetitive for me. The region.
[00:32:54.870] – Kim Tate
I totally agree.
[00:32:57.270] – Tamara Gruber
Before I went, I’ve heard so many people, especially young people, like, really raving about Porto, and I was never quite sure if it was just because it’s like, the new thing versus Lisbon, like Lisbon being a little bit over touristed and trying to find that new thing. So it kind of had really high expectations of Porto. And with the Douro Valley. I’ve heard descriptions and I’ve seen some pictures and I kept thinking, oh, it would be a great place to do one of those week long river cruises, like a Viking cruise or something like that.
[00:33:29.010] – Tamara Gruber
So my two impressions, like leaving are that I really love Porto, but I didn’t love it like that much more than Lisbon. So I think it’s maybe just if people went to Lisbon and it was a little too crowded that Porto would possibly be a better alternative. I think we were also there at a nice time in fall when it’s maybe not high season, but those nice shoulder seasons. So I definitely enjoyed it. And then the Douro Valley, I am pretty sure I would not need to take a river cruise through there.
[00:33:59.790] – Tamara Gruber
I think spending the two to three days there, it was definitely good. I think a week would feel kind of long. And then also, I guess there was our experience in the lounge of seeing all the people going on the Viking cruise, where we were kind of convinced that maybe we should pick a different one, right?
[00:34:17.010] – Kirsten Maxwell
Yeah. Different demographic than us.
[00:34:19.770] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. So I feel like if you want to go to Portugal for just a few days, like, maybe you have, like, a five day trip in mind. If you did just Porto and Douro, you could do that. And if you wanted to do a longer trip, then you want to add in those other things and do it. Kim said, which is like, go into one and out of the other. That would make a lot of sense. But it would be nice, like, as a pairing if you want to do just a five day trip or if you want to stretch it into a week and just have a little bit more downtime to relax.
[00:34:49.350] – Kim Tate
Yeah. I think that’s all good. Those are all good points.
[00:34:51.750] – Kirsten Maxwell
[00:34:52.170] – Kim Tate
I think the one thing we’re not giving enough credit to Douro Valley is that no, I think we’re doing enough credit, but that’s the thing to know. It’s amazing to see. And I remember the first day when we drove into there. We’re like, Can you please pull over the car and we’re all taking pictures? It was just amazing.
[00:35:06.630] – Tamara Gruber
It was so beautiful.
[00:35:07.650] – Kim Tate
And so it’s breathtaking like that. It’s a very unique area, and you can see why it’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. However you get that and then you’ve gotten it. So you’re good. So that’s the thing to know about it. We’re a week long vacation. It’s kind of like, okay. Well, I guess we’re going to go this do this again. So I think that that’s good points for people to know. And I think that if you do, like Port and you do like wine tasting. It is a fun destination to go like that.
[00:35:33.450] – Kim Tate
However, it’s also not like Napa, where you’re able to just drive down the street and find another winery. I mean, they’re spread out very far, and it’s in a region that’s not overly developed. So they were saying, like we were talking when we were on the river, like Kirsten said, one side, there’s like no roads, barely. And the other side is where the main road is. And so if you’re doing wine tasting and you work with a driver or a tour guide, they’re going to help, you know, to stay on that other side of the river where you can visit a couple at a time.
[00:36:02.010] – Kim Tate
Because if you go across and try and drive on those no road type places, you’re going to spend your whole day getting to one quinta, and you’re going to miss out on when you maybe would have been able to visit two or three on the other side.
[00:36:13.590] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Great points. Great point, Kirsten. We obviously worked with Epic to plan this trip, and they kind of took what we were interested in covering and developed an itinerary for us. When do you think it would make sense for a family to work with someone like Epic when they’re planning a trip to Portugal?
[00:36:32.970] – Kirsten Maxwell
Wow. There are so many good times, I think, to use a boutique travel agency like Epic, it was so nice to be able to tell them our interest and have them kind of figure out what would be a good itinerary to go along with that. I think too often if you book, like, one of the major group tour travel agencies, you’re stuck with a big group of people and you’re going to the places that they pick for you versus Epic. I mean, they’re working with you to customize everything from the beginning of your day to the time your head hits the bed at night and to kind of relieve yourself of all that stress of planning.
[00:37:15.270] – Kirsten Maxwell
There’s just something to be said for that. And I think they did a phenomenal job of just hitting everything kind of right for us and what we were looking for.
[00:37:24.270] – Kim Tate
I think one of the other things that was huge about them is they’re able to arrange kind of these unique things that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily know to ask for to look for. And I think that’s where the fact that they’re not just a general travel agency, they only focus on Morocco and Portugal, and they live in those countries, so they know the guides, they know the hotels, they have personal relationships. Like we were there. Tamara and I were on talking to one of the Epic girls that was traveling with us, and she was like, oh, yeah.
[00:37:50.670] – Kim Tate
I’m just checking in with the hotel about some clients that are coming in next week, and I just want to make sure everything is set up for them. It’s like a real personal experience. They’re making sure everything is ready for you. And I think that’s a huge thing. And little things, like, Tamara and I were going to the source, and we needed to have a negative PCR test. And so they arranged all of that in Lisbon for us. So we had the appointment, they got that all set up.
[00:38:19.110] – Kim Tate
So that kind of having someone that just knows what to do and helps you set all that up is huge.
[00:38:25.290] – Tamara Gruber
And the experiences that they can do, and they really focus on finding those unique things. I mean, it’s easy enough nowadays to be like, oh, I want to do a food tour, walking tour, like, when you’re in a city, fine. Like, you can find that. But then there’s always, like, that next level of experiences. Like, I remember when we were taking the tram into downtown Porto, they were telling us about some things they did, like, they can arrange to do a private tram with a dinner on it with a great chef.
[00:38:52.710] – Tamara Gruber
Where you’re doing, like, a chef’s tasting while you’re on the tram, going around the city. And one of those bridges, they do this experience where you’re I don’t know what you’d call it, like bridge climbing, like, you’re like cable. So if you’re into adventure, I mean, I’m thinking some teens, especially, would love something like that. It just seemed like there were so many of these things that they can do throughout the country that were so unique. And, like you said, you wouldn’t know to ask for it.
[00:39:20.550] – Tamara Gruber
You many know I want to take a walking tour. I want to take a wine tour. Things like that. But these are things that you would never even come up with. But because they’ve spent so much time getting to know people personally, they have these relationships can do these types of things. So if you say, hey, I know I if I was working with them, I’d be like, hey, my daughter really loves stargazing, and we definitely would have been doing that. They can find those interests and things and then just make that next level experience and then having that hands on knowledge and even things when it comes to the hotel rooms, like, okay, this one is going to be better for, like, this room type is going to be better for you, like, knowing things to that level.
[00:40:01.470] – Kim Tate
Well, even me, like you said, I mentioned, oh, when we’re in Lisbon, I really want to see a great sunset. Can you help us figure out and arrange so at sunset, we were at some kind of lookout or really great sunset. And they ran with that. And they were like, we ended up on a private Chartered sailboat river cruise for sunset. Right. Tamara? And she said it was all because you mentioned that you wanted to have a great sunset in Lisbon. And that’s what we ended up with.
[00:40:26.610] – Kim Tate
So that’s the kind of stuff that they do.
[00:40:29.310] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. And that’s the kind of thing where that’s just the moment that you remember with the trip, right? Like, something like that is the best way to start a trip or end a trip. It’s just so like, wow, special.
[00:40:42.210] – Kim Tate
Well, Kirsten, we’ve probably already asked you what you like to wear when you travel since you’ve been a guest before. But what about anything new, any new travel products or apps or anything you’ve discovered recently that you want to share with our listeners. Okay.
[00:40:54.090] – Kirsten Maxwell
I came up with two things that I thought. Okay, maybe you haven’t discussed on here before, but number one, because of the whole thing with having to carry your vaccine card. Now I’ve invested in a passport wallet so that I can always keep the vaccine passport and vaccine card with my passport anywhere I go. So I found that carrying one of those kind of wallets has been super helpful for me, especially when I’m usually tasked with carrying everybody’s passports in our family. So it’s kind of nice to have them all in one place.
[00:41:26.970] – Kirsten Maxwell
And then the other thing that I’ve found for individual traveling is a doorstop. And you guys maybe have seen these, but that you put underneath your hotel door and that if anybody tries to get into your room, it makes a big alarm, super blaring alarm to let you know somebody’s trying to break into your room. But I feel like when you travel alone, you can never be too safe. So in addition to checking out your surroundings, like, I think it’s a nice peace of mind to just stick it under the door at night, go to bed and then enjoy the rest of your trip.
[00:42:01.890] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, that is a good idea. I feel like I’ve thought about those in the past, and I haven’t invested in one. And I said I’m thinking about that time I forget where we were, which hotel. But I went to take a shower and I came out and they had made a delivery of, like, an Amenity or something. And I’m like, that wasn’t fair when I went in the shower. Yeah.
[00:42:20.970] – Kim Tate
I’m thinking even with being the mom of two teen girls as they start going off on their own travels or stuff, maybe with girlfriends or whatever by themselves, then that would be a good little.
[00:42:31.650] – Tamara Gruber
Or you can have them in a separate room, right?
[00:42:33.930] – Kirsten Maxwell
[00:42:36.630] – Tamara Gruber
Good suggestion, Kirsten.
[00:42:38.010] – Kirsten Maxwell
Oh, thank you.
[00:42:39.090] – Tamara Gruber
So can you remind our listeners where they can find you online? Absolutely.
[00:42:44.430] – Kirsten Maxwell
You can find me at kidsratrip.Com.
[00:42:48.030] – Kirsten Maxwell
That’s A-R-E-A. Versus just the letter R. And then I’m at multigenerationalvacations.Com.
[00:42:55.530] – Kirsten Maxwell
That’s my site about multigenerationalfamily travel.
[00:42:58.830] – Tamara Gruber
[00:42:59.370] – Kim Tate
Well, thanks again for being a guest. And I’m so glad we all got to travel again. It was really fun, and there’s nothing quite like taking a trip with your girlfriends so thank you.
[00:43:10.050] – Kirsten Maxwell
Guys, thanks so much for having me. This was such a fun trip, and I would love to repeat it again with a different destination because there were so many good times that I’m like, oh, my God. That was really fun. Having a good time relaxing and enjoying life without the stresses of family.
[00:43:28.110] – Tamara Gruber
2022 Here we come. Thank you.
[00:43:32.250] – Kirsten Maxwell
[00:43:32.610] – Tamara Gruber
[00:43:32.850] – Kirsten Maxwell
[00:43:37.690] – Tamara Gruber
Well, thanks for listening to another episode of vacation mavens, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our first few days in Portugal, and we are going to take a little break from our Portuguese coverage.
[00:43:46.990] – Kim Tate
So tune in next time because we are going to be talking about cruising and how cruising is coming back, which I know we just booked a spring break cruise. So I’m definitely interested in hearing about this. And maybe you are, too.
[00:43:57.610] – Tamara Gruber
Yes, lots of new policies, new ships, things to talk about. So we’re going to get a couple of cruise experts on to dive into some details. So see you next time. Talk to you soon. Bye.