Our weather on the mainland was chilly and, in Lisbon and Porto, raining some of the time. Nonetheless, our program included indoor as well as outdoor activities and we never needed more than a coat and umbrella to participate in everything!
As our guests marvelled at the baroque palaces, medieval castles and monasteries on the mainland, so they gained a new appreciation of the history of Portugal, thanks in good part to our wonderful private Guide, Valter Portugal and excellent planning input from our amazing Virtuoso on-site partner in Portugal, Tours for You. Furthermore, our visit to a private wine estate, in The Douro and our delicious local-cuisine meal in Evora, also known as the Gastronomy capital of Portugal, were magnificent.
Our time in Madeira was more relaxed, still somewhat scheduled but not heavily. In addition to staying at two very different hotels (The Vine – an award-winning Design Hotel and Quinta da Bela Vista, a Virtuoso, country manor house property owned and managed by a well-respected Madeiran family) our group sat in comfortable seats for two hours to watch the perfectly choreographed Flower Festival Parade – the final event of the world-famous Madeira Flower Festival. It was a truly beautiful time in Madeira, with fresh flower carpets, flower shows, flower and anything else floral that the mind could imagine. This week, the town of Funchal is quieter, although the cruise ships continue to stop for a day allowing their travellers to explore the narrow streets with their boutiques and kerbside cafes. We also took a guided day trip to the North of the island where the grapes for the well known Madeira wines are grown and where the terrain is more rugged and the air somewhat cooler. We had lunch in a small fishing village known for its excellent seafood and took photographs galore. We took the cable-car to Monte, peering down at the houses below, some seemingly perched on the edge of the cliffs, and visited the Tropical Gardens at the top.
It takes a lot of time and attention from many people to make a tour like this successful, so I would like to pass along to all who participated in planning and running our tour, the words of one of the guests, echoed by others: This trip truly exceeded my expectations.
I am happy.