Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Highlights were a trip through the lava tubes on Pico, visits to wineries and a hike around the Caldera on Faial
Tony Ford-Hutchinson | September 6, 2023
Overlooking the Lagoa das Sete Cidades on São Miguel Island in the Azores.

Tony Ford-Hutchinson and family enjoy a view of Lagoa das Sete Cidades on São Miguel Island in the Azores.

For those of us who live on the East Coast of the USA, the Azores are the closest point to somewhere with a European and Portuguese feel. One of our guides (an American ex-pat) described them as a cross between Iceland (they are so volcanic), Ireland (they are so green) and Hawaii (a holiday destination in the middle of an ocean). Our trip with our daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters (aged 9 and 11) started with a direct 5.5 h flight from Newark airport. Flights arrive in San Miguel Island, the most populated, and we spent the first three nights in the luxurious Octant Furnas Hotel in Furnas, The hotel is surrounded by hot springs bringing boiling water to the surface. Highlights there were the food, including preparing and cooking a traditional stew which is buried in the hot ground for several hours, the hotel’s super warm, mineral swimming pool and a hike up a mountain side to Lagoa de Fogo (a lake in a former volcanic cone) followed by a swim on the beach. We then took a short flight to the volcanic Island of Pico famous for its mountain (a former volcano of course) and its outstanding white wine. During 5 nights in Pico, we took two day trips on ferries to the neighboring islands of Faial and Sao Jorge. Highlights were a trip through the lava tubes on Pico, visits to wineries and a hike around the Caldera on Faial. After flying back to San Miguel for our last 3 nights we were driven to our hotel on the Ponta Delgada harbor front (Octant Ponta Delgada). Highlights included a private whale watching trip with great sightings of three female sperm whales (one with a calf), an evening wine and food tasting tour, a morning food tour, a Jeep tour of the Lagoa das Sete Cidades and finally a tour of the tea plantations with an opportunity to make our own ice cream. Throughout the trip we had excellent local food and wine, including ultra-fresh seafood and excellent beef (cows outnumber people on the islands). A 5-hour flight home took us back to Newark with the realization that we still had 5 more islands to explore! Thank you to Goncalo and his co-workers for a great trip that left a multi-generational family very happy.

Truly the best wine-tasting experience we've ever had, & we've had many
Paul Bennett | September 2, 2023

We travelled to Portugal in late May, a trip that we built around a Film Festival my wife Catherine was attending in Spain. We began in Lisbon, staying centrally at the Pousada de Lisboa (we loved the location), & then moved slightly up the coast to Cascais where we stayed at the Albatroz seafront hotel (which we also loved). Catarina arranged for a private after-hours tour of the Peña Palace in Sintra, which we highly recommend. After the Film Festival in Barcelona, we flew back into the Algarve & began a self-drive tour that included a week on the coast in Praia de Luz, Portamao (worth a night or 2 but only if you stay at the Hotel Bela Vista), & Tavira. If you want a very special blow-out dinner by a Michelin-star chef we highly recommend Restaurant Vista in the Hotel Bela Vista. Chef deserves another star!! One of the best tasting menus we’ve ever experienced! We drove north through Evora, Coimbra, & Porto…all beautiful, but the highlight of our trip was a stay at the Quinta de Sao Bernardo (which Catarina highly recommended), a farmhouse & vineyard that’s been converted into a small boutique hotel. You can forget about going almost anywhere else…the food, activities, boat trips that you can organize out of the hotel are all superb. We had a small-group wine tasting with the vintner that lasted 3 hours, where he proudly showed off all the lovely wines he produces in the vineyard (which you can’t get anywhere else), & taught us the art of wine tasting. Truly the best wine-tasting experience we’ve ever had, & we’ve had many. There were a few things we could’ve missed in our itinerary…the food tour of Lagos & Porto (which was scheduled the day the Porto market was closed), the boat trip on the Douro river out of Pinhao & the port tasting at Bomfim. In the latter 2 cases we’d been spoiled by the special experience at Quinta da Sao Bernardo, & everything else paled after that. Overall, it was a fabulous trip, & I would recommend Goncalo’s office highly!

His response time was longer than it should have been
Debra Redmond | August 30, 2023

Our 3-week trip to Portugal was wonderful. The hotels and activities that Goncalo Correia arranged for us were enjoyable. He’s very familiar with Portugal and gave me some great tips and advice. We got off to a slow start working with him. He had the flu go through his office and were down for a while. With that being said, when the flu was over, his response time was still longer than it should have been. On a few occasions, he gave me a date that he would have my information back to me and when it didn’t come, I had to follow up with him.

Our hiking/walking tour in Madeira was beautiful. The tour was at 9 am. When 9:15 came around I knew something was wrong when our guide did not show. I called the number that Gonzalo’s team gave us if there was a problem. The gentleman I spoke to confirmed our tour was at 9 and he would investigate and call me back. Our guide showed up at 9:50 and his itinerary showed 10 am. We got a late start on our hike. I never did receive a return call.

I booked this trip using a WOW Moment certificate. I was anticipating this and as we got further into our trip, I figured it would be during our last week. It never happened. When I returned home, I contacted Goncalo’s office and inquired about this. I never received a response. I contacted Wendy Perrin’s office and you followed up Goncalo. You indicated he was very sorry and was checking into it and that you would continue to follow up and nudge him to get back to me. Nothing.

I do understand that traveling and trip planning has been more of a challenge after covid but incidences when I’m given a certain date to hear back from them or told I would receive a phone call and one never calls is not good customer service. If these dates couldn’t be met, they should not have been promised.

Again, Goncalo and his team is very knowledgeable and they were very polite. I’m sorry we had these frustrating events with this tour. Goncalo set us up with a 1/2 day private walking tour in Lisbon. This gal Diana was excellent. It was one of the best tours I’ve had. She was knowledgeable, down to earth, very personable and was passionate about Lisbon and the history. He deserves kudos for this.

And despite the hiccups, we very much enjoyed Portugal.

Response from Wendy:

Debra is absolutely right that the pandemic and the resulting crush of pent-up travel demand has made many aspects of travel planning far more complicated than they once were. We’re dismayed that Debra’s WOW Moment was overlooked, and we will certainly more than make it up to her on her next trip. As a reminder to all travelers, here’s how our WOW Moments project works and here are the rules for redeeming your WOW Moments gift certificate. While every WOW Moment is a surprise, if your final trip itinerary does not include mention that this surprise will occur and when, by all means let us know immediately at

Celebrated our 30th anniversary visiting a port lodge with a glass of 30-year port overlooking the city of Porto as the sun set
Cari Bender | August 20, 2023

My husband and I traveled to three places in Portugal in July 2023 to celebrate our 30th Anniversary. We had terrific tour guides in Evora, Porto, and Lisbon, and loved hearing all the history, culture, and food background in all three places. Highlights were a private after-hours tour of the Pena Palace in Sintra, our food tour in Lisbon with a terrific tour guide who incorporated just the right amount of history which we loved, and excellent choices of hotels in all three places. We celebrated our 30th anniversary visiting a port lodge with a glass of 30-year port overlooking the city of Porto as the sun set. Absolutely perfect!

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