We had a wonderful trip to Morocco and Portugal.
In Morocco we were well taken care of by our guide Rashid Mardi and our driver Nuri Bouabid.
They saw to our every need, including trying to steer us in the right direction as concerns safe foods for our American stomachs, taking us wherever we wanted to go, and providing a program with different experiences and views of Moroccan culture. In some places such as the High Atlas and Volublius we had special guides to provide information to us. I only wish that at some of the places where we received written self guided materials that we had a special guide or that Rashid accompanied us. Nuri was a safe and careful driver. Both Rashid and Nuri spoke very good English though it took a little while to adjust to Rashid’s accent. Though we were together with Rashid and Nuri for 7 days we enjoyed each other’s company. Rashid is a wonderful joke and storyteller. I would highly recommend this guide and driver. We very much enjoyed our visit in Morocco.
In Lisbon, we were met by Paulo who drove us from the airport to the hotel. He was there when we arrived and helped with our luggage and was very pleasant. Paulo also was our driver for our half day tour the next day in Lisbon. Our guide for the half day tour was to be Carla Almeida but instead Vera Lourenco was our guide. Vera was very nice and was informative and gave us a good overview of the city. Her English was very good. Heritage arranged for an evening of Fado for us including transport to the venue. The car was to pick us up at 8pm. No one came and eventually at 8:20pm we contacted Maria, our person on the ground for Heritage. Maria said she would check out the situation and call back. Another 10 minutes transpired with no callback and so we called again. Maria said that the driver was held up returning from Porto and though we said we would just get a cab on our own if she provided the name and address of the Fado place (since it was not listed in our program), Maria arranged with the hotel to get us a taxi at the travel agent’s cost. I am sure that I will receive a cellphone bill for 20 minutes in calls because of this mixup. The Fado evening was fine and the performers quite talented but for someone that does not speak the language, a libretto or an introduction of each song would have been helpful. Also instead of being able to choose from a menu we were offered two choices of food items for each course…that was a little disappointing. Because of a viaduct incident on the roadway, Miguel instead of Paulo was our driver for our ride to Sintra. Miguel was very nice and spoke English well. Carla Almeida was an excellent guide with so much knowledge and so many interesting stories. You can tell that she really loves to guide and her English was perfect and easy to understand. We spent a very enjoyable day with her. The next day Enterprise brought our rental car to the hotel at the appointed time. The car did not have a GPS and the agent did not offer to provide one. We confirmed that someone from Enterprise would pick up the rental car at our hotel in Porto at 6pm. We had a lovely day driving to Porto and arrived at our hotel at 5:40pm. At checkin we were told that Enterprise had called and left a message that they could pick up the car at 5pm and otherwise we could drive the car to the rental agency and drop the car off. The concierge at the hotel said that was ridiculous and was most helpful. He contacted Enterprise on our behalf and told them to either pick up the car in the evening or that they would park the car in the hotel overnight, charge the parking fee to Enterprise and they could pick the car up in the morning. The next day we had a very informative half day city tour with Rita who gave us a good overview of the city. She was a guide that gave many dates and facts and was most knowledgable with excellent English skills. Our driver during the half day tour returned later that afternoon and arrived at the appointed hour and took us to the airport. Our last night was at the Hilton Hotel in Madrid which you arranged with breakfast. I know that we declined the transport from the hotel, however, I wanted you to know that we had to wait for the hotel shuttle and you might suggest that guests call the Hotel to request the shuttle as soon as they leave the terminal. We had to call the hotel twice and wait almost 20 plus minutes. Please also note that breakfast does not start at the hotel until 6:30am so with a 9am departure the inclusion of breakfast is wasteful.
Except for a few glitches in Portugal our trip was smooth, well planned and most enjoyable. The overall quality of guides were very good and our expectations were certainly met.
Below I have provided specific reviews of the hotels and restaurants which I will be listing on Trip Advisor. I thought you might have some interest.
La Maison Arabe – We enjoyed our 3 night stay at this lovely riad in the old city of Marrakech. The furnishings of the hotel are very nice. You feel like you are back in the days of the Arabian nights. I believe that the hotel is made up of numerous old houses so there are lots of stairs that you have to climb to get to the breakfast room, tearoom, baths and in our case, to our room. The hotel has several lovely courtyards and our room had a private courtyard. Our room was spacious with a desk, a nice sized tv, a large closet with safe, a comfortable bed, an extra sitting chair. The courtyard had two chairs and a table and one evening I enjoyed my afternoon tea which is offered by the hotel each day in our private courtyard. The bathroom had a tiled vanity and a tub shower combo with a half glass door. There was a good hairdryer, sufficient plugs for our electronic devices, wifi, and a room air conditioner unit. Friends who were traveling with us had a balcony and two sinks in their large bathroom. Each room is unique in this riad. The haman area is lovely and we enjoyed a delightful bath and massage……just the right touch. The staff was very friendly and attentive. The morning breakfast buffet was plentiful with Moroccan as well as standard American fare. I would definitely recommend this hotel.
Les Trois Saveurs – This restaurant is located in La Maison Arabe, a lovely riad in the old city. The restaurant has an interior portion as well as covered exterior and open air portion surrounding the pool. The atmosphere is wonderful. You can look up and see the stars and you are surrounded by candlelight and heaters when the temperature is a little chilly. There was lovely Moroccan background music and you felt like you were in a magical place. The food was very good with Moroccan and more continental fare. I had the rack of lamb which was good and my husband had the lamb tagine. Service was a little slow but not too bad. Just sit back and enjoy.
Kasbah Tamadot – we had a lovely lunch at this beautiful hotel in the High Atlas. The service was very attentive though our waiter’s English was not the best. We had delicious soup and a very good quiche. It was a lovely day and we sat outside and enjoyed the scenery and good food.
Al Fassia – This traditional Moroccan restaurant in the new city has a lovely Moroccan ambience. They had a menu in English and when our waitress struggled with our questions, the manager was there to help and she spoke excellent English. The four of us enjoyed the assortment of salads ( a large variety of deliciously marinated and cooked vegetables) as a starter as well as delicious pastilla. For our main course, we had different tagines which were quite good. The portion sizes were huge and two could have easily shared a main course tagine. I would recommend this restaurant.
Casino – We went to the casino one evening around 11pm. We were disappointed. It is a small casino and there was only one operating blackjack table. The casino also had one table each of craps, roulette and another card game. There were numerous slot machines. There weren’t many people in attendance and we left after a short time.
Nomad – After several days of more traditional heavy Moroccan fare we were ready for something lighter and more fun. Nomad was perfect. It was a younger crowd with a modern atmosphere. We had soup and delicious lamb burgers. Service was very attentive and you pay at the register when you complete the meal.
Villa Mandarine – We enjoyed our one night stay at this hotel. The property is located in the embassy district in Rabat. The property is on lovely grounds with beautiful gardens, patios, a gorgeous courtyard and a pool. There are many nice public rooms, including a living room type area, billiard room and bar. There are lots of beautiful flowers and fruit trees on the grounds which give the place a wonderful smell. Our room was large and comfortable with a large bath including a bath shower combo and a separate toilet. There was a weak hairdryer and wifi was spotty. We called reception when we could not connect to the wifi and though they came upstairs to help they were not able to fix it and though they promised to return they never did. It eventually worked but not particularly well. The room was well appointed with a chair and desk and lots of outlets for our electronic devices. No outlet in the bathroom for a straightener. We had a small balcony. We had dinner at the hotel during our one night stay. The food was Moroccan and French flavors. They were quite accommodating varying the accompaniments to the fish and providing a pasta that was not on the menu. The service was a little slow and the food was good but not great. We also had breakfast in the morning. There was a good selection but by comparison to a number of other hotel breakfasts that we had on the trip, not nearly as good as others.
Palais Armani – This beautiful 15 room riad is an old mansion located in the old city. We stayed three nights. You would never expect to find this beautiful property as you walk up the narrow winding staircase alley. The staff at the riad is so welcoming and tries so hard to please. The riad has three floors, one with reception, guest rooms, a lovely bar with fireplace, and a restaurant. There is an elevator to the second and third floors. The second floor has the outdoor breakfast area and guest rooms and the third floor has a bar and lovely lounging area. We enjoyed drinks in this area one evening, The place is built in atrium form and surround a beautiful garden courtyard. Our room on the second floor was large with very high ceilings. It was a large rectangular room with the bedroom on one end, a bathroom with shower tub combo and one sink as well as a separate toilet room in the middle and a sitting area on the other end. The room had old style large glass windows and doors that opened to the open air hallway. Our friends who were traveling with us had the room next door and their room had a sitting room, bath and closet downstairs and their bedroom was loft like up a very large staircase with a separate second toilet. As with many riads most rooms have different setups. Unfortunately the central air conditioning had not been turned on yet and it was a little stuffy in the rooms when the windows were not open. Of course if you opened the windows you saw the people using the hallway and they saw you but there were few and it did not bother us. We kept the sitting room windows open and closed the bedroom windows when we went to bed. There was an armoire closet, a safe and shelves, lots of outlets, and good wifi and tv. Breakfast was delicious each day, it was a set slightly changing menu each day and you could order different style eggs. We had dinner one night at the hotel and it was good. The choices were somewhat limited but the creamy onion soup was delicious. We took part in a cooking class one day. It started at 10:30am (which allowed us to sleep in one day on our busy trip) with a trip with the chef to some of the stalls in the souk where we bought veggies, spices, and various other items. The class was set up under a tent on the third floor of the hotel. We observed and helped make a delicious starter of eggplant salad, the best chicken tagine of the trip and a delicious orange fruit dessert. We ate our lunch in the lounge area on the third floor. It was just lovely and extremely good.
La Maison Bleu – This is a lovely traditional Moroccan restaurant with nice atmosphere. During dinner there were musicians and dancers providing entertainment but it was not intrusive. The menu is a set three course menu with the traditional assortment of salads, olives and bread to start, you choose your main course and then there are two desserts, delicious sweet juicy sliced orange and large layered crispy pancakes covered in cream and orange zest which was unusual and yummy.
Cafe Clock – We had been traveling in Morocco for 7 days and we were ready to have some lighter modern fare. Cafe Clock is a young student type place but as 60 plus year olds we still enjoyed it….but beware there are lots of steep staircases. We sat on the terrace to get away from the smokers and we had an enjoyable evening of soup and lamb burgers at a very reasonable price.
Pousada de Lisboa – We stayed three nights at this lovely hotel. It is extremely well located in the downtown area near the large square hear the river. Our room had a spectacular view of the square and river with a window alcove and chaise looking into the square. The room was a little odd. There is no true wall or door to the bathroom. The tub has a curtain next to it which separates it from the bedroom. The bath area has a frosted glass full shower with a separate walked toilet area but there is a sliding glass door that either closes off the shower or toilet area. There is a sink area in between. The hair dryer is one of those weak, stuck to the wall ones and there is no outlet near a mirror for a curling iron or straightener. The closet armoire was extremely tall. I would say the clothes bar had to be 6 plus feet above the floor. The room had great air conditioning and wifi was very good. The front desk staff was very nice and helpful. The breakfast room area is beautiful and there was a large selection of items on the buffet. We enjoyed our stay.
Sea Me – This fresh fish and seafood restaurant is located in the Chiado area of town. It is what I would call a trendy popular restaurant with excellent food. Though there is a menu, the main fare is fresh fish and seafood as well as sushi. You are escorted to a display of fresh fish and seafood and your waiter describes the fish and seafood and shows you the price per pound and offers to weigh the fish to determine the one that is appropriate for you or your party. My husband had delicious scallops for an appetizer and I had a spicy tuna roll which was quite spicy but the tuna was excellent quality. We shared a fresh grilled sea bass for dinner with simply prepared vegetables. It was all delicious. Service is attentive and efficient. Reservations are a must,
Fado Casa de Linhares – This Fado restaurant offers an introduction to Fado. Its performers are very talented, two musicians and two female singers. They perform throughout dinner. There is a menu to choose from and the food was good for this type of place. Since we don’t speak Portuguese it would have been nice if we had been given a libretto or a written or oral introduction to each song. After an evening of Fado I can say that it is not my thing but it certainly was a different evening
Intercontinental Palacio das cardosas Porto – We enjoyed our one night stay in this lovely hotel. It is located in the heart of the city near the large square opposite the city hall. The staff was friendly and the concierge was particularly helpful when we had trouble with our rental car. The room was large and spacious with a large bathroom with a separate tub, full shower and toilet area. There was a strong hairdryer, outlet for a straightener or curling iron, and other outlets for electronic devices. The air conditioning worked well and wifi was very good. The bed was very comfortable and there was a desk area and separate lounge chair. The breakfast buffet had everything you could ever want. We enjoyed our stay.
Tapabento – We had a lovely lunch here starting with delicious vegetable soup and an absolutely delicious potato, onion and leak tortilla. My husband had mussels and I had the roast beef toast and both were very good. These items are all listed as either starters or tapas and we were expecting small portions. All of the portions were quite large and we certainly could have eliminated one of the items for lunch. We would highly recommend this restaurant.
Don Quixote bar – We had delicious lunch of soup and tuna toasts in this eclectic restaurant overlooking the Atlantic. Though service was a little spotty it was a perfect stop after our visit to Sintra.
Cafeine cafe – My husband and I had an enjoyable meal at this lovely restaurant. We were staying in the downtown area of Porto but it was worth the Uber ride. My husband enjoyed the seafood soup and his unusually prepared pork. My tuna tartar was good and I enjoyed the leg of lamb (it was the actual leg). Our only disappointment was the Mille feuille for dessert. It was not the typical pastry and the filling needed to be more plentiful. The staff was very friendly and efficient.
Hilton Madrid – We stayed one night on a layover at the Madrid airport. We had dinner at the hotel and it was better than typical hotel fare. The room was spacious and modern and the bathroom had a separate tub and fully enclosed shower as well as a separate toilet area. The sink and counter were plexiglass. There was a good hairdryer and outlets for a straightener or curling iron in the bathroom. We never could figure out the lighting…..it was either all on or all off. Our only complaint about the hotel was its airport shuttle. When we arrived at the Madrid airport hotel shuttle area we had to call the hotel twice before the shuttle picked us up. We waited 20 plus minutes and one empty Hilton bus passed the area without stopping. In the morning the shuttle worked well and was only five minutes from our terminal 1 dropoff.
Susan Schrade listened to what I wanted, picked an excellent driver and guide. She arranged for a professional photographer for 3 hours in Fes. He got me into some very interesting spots. The Riads all gave me a sense of place, that I was in Morocco.
We just returned from Morocco this past month & were so pleased with the itinerary Joel’s team from Heritage Travel put together for us! Susan Schrade was our go-to and from the first moment we spoke on the phone it was obvious that it was going to be an amazing experience. She knows Morocco so well, and with the great staff and resources they have, it was truly a dream trip: from the cities we traveled, the beautiful accommodations, dining & entertainment. The really outstanding part of our trip were our guide Driss and driver Marouane–what wonderful representatives of Morocco they were! They were professional and knowledgeable as we had expected but they also so accommodating: they were flexible, responsive to our needs/requests, and surprised us with visits to special places which weren’t part of our original itinerary. We have such fond memories of their many kindnesses: they made the difference from a very nice trip to an exceptional one.
This trip made us true believers in your WOW list & are now planning February’s Asia adventure with two other of your recommendations.
Thanks so very much.
Heritage Tours did a phenomenal job with our tour. Our guide Omar was absolutely fantastic and we had a terrific time in beautiful Morocco. Thank you for a great recommendation!
Heritage Tours was very responsive both in the planning stages and actual trip to accommodate our needs and wishes. Guide and driver both personable and knowledgeable. The trip was well paced. I liked that we felt the company was paying attention to us while we were actually on the trip and called us several times to check on our satisfaction. We really enjoyed the accommodations around the country and the food was fantastic. We added a few extras to the trip which enhanced our experiences like a cooking class, photography walk and hammam visit which I highly recommend. I would have liked a few other cultural experiences beyond sightseeing but I did not request this at the booking time so can’t fault the company. Overall, I give the company an excellent rating and would definitely use them again and recommend them to other travelers.
A remarkable trip! All details taken care of – everything went seamlessly. We were well looked after, and best of all, were provided with an exceptional guide and driver.
Heritage Tours organized a wonderful trip to Morocco for us in May 2015. The 11-day trip included Fes, the desert, Skoura oasis and Marrakech. The itinerary that Heritage put together was excellent, and the choice of hotels, experiences, and tours was great. Of special note were our excellent guide, Hassane, and driver, Alae. They made a good trip even better with their knowledge, professionalism and friendly attitudes. I would not hesitate to recommend Heritage Tours for your trip to Morocco.
Last October my husband and I traveled to Spain and Morocco with the very able help and guidance of Michael Diamond and his team. Again, Wendy Perrin discovered a hands on travel team with access to wonderful guides and top-notch experiences. Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, all of our lodgings and guides in Spain were chosen with our desires in mind. Morocco was even better than we had imagined. The country lovely, the cities fascinating, and the culture deep and resonating with history. Pairing Southern Spain with Morocco really helped us understand the history of each country. We perhaps did a bit too much driving in Morocco, and would suggest finding additional means of travel (helicopter?), but the driving did take us to out of the way places. Not to miss is the desert encampment in Eastern Morocco near the border with Algeria. Our night in a tent (think dining room, living room, bedroom, running water) on the Sahara Desert under the stars was an experience of a lifetime.