Working with Marina Courtaut of Espiritu Trav...
Portugal | Jun 4 - Jun 11, 2022

M
Michael B.
New Rochelle, NY | Jul 02, 2022

Working with Marina Courtaut of Espiritu Travel was an absolute pleasure. During all the planning she was responsive and very helpful. She listened will to our interests and planned a vacation to match our needs.

During this vacation there were a couple of mishaps related to transfers, however, having Marina and Espiritu Travel on the other end of What’ App was very helpful. We simply advised Marian of the issues and she worked to get them corrected.

The first situation was that upon... read more

Working with Marina Courtaut of Espiritu Travel was an absolute pleasure. During all the planning she was responsive and very helpful. She listened will to our interests and planned a vacation to match our needs.

During this vacation there were a couple of mishaps related to transfers, however, having Marina and Espiritu Travel on the other end of What’ App was very helpful. We simply advised Marian of the issues and she worked to get them corrected.

The first situation was that upon arrival in Portugal the car to transport the 5 of us to Porto fit only 2. It took about an hour, but the transfer vendor returned to the airport with a van to accommodate us all. The second situation occurred when the vehicle to transfer 5 of us from Lisbon to Lagos was also only for 2 people. While it took more than 2 hours to fix this, eventually a van arrived to transport all of us. Through out all of this Marina was engaged and provided information. Additionally, she took responsibility for the mistakes and accommodated us financially. I adhere to the wisdom that “people remember how you made them feel” and Marina made us feel that she deeply regretted the problems and worked very hard to rectify them. That approach left our family feeling satisfied and not unhappy with the service.

May 28
Due to the delay leaving Lisbon airport the pre-arranged plan for lunch in Coimbra no longer worked (too late in the day) however our driver found us a place to stop for lunch and that worked out well.

The Hotel Teatro in Porto was very nice. Upon arrival they did not know one of the rooms was to be configured as two twin beds however the were easily able to fix that; our 2 sons were sharing the room.

We had dinner that night at one restaurant recommended by Marina – DOP – and it was lovely.

May 29
Bluedragon Bike Shop did not know that we had prepaid for 5 for a guided bike visit of Porto. However, we put them in touch with Espiritu Travel and that was communicated. The Bike Shop charged my credit card and refunded the money in Euros. Our bike guide, Ana, was young and not very knowledgeable about the city. While very pleasant and nothing “went wrong,” she did not know as much as we have come to expect from city guides. FYI, the itinerary lists “water” as one of the things provided; it was not.

May 30
Our guide Pedro was terrific and our day trip to the Douro Valley was very nice. The boat tour wasn’t overwhelming, but not a problem either. Not sure I would recommend it to others. Pedro took us to a lovely restaurant for lunch and we all enjoyed the experience, however it was not, as the itinerary said, “”at a famous Quinta.” We also visited just one winery; the itinerary says, “visit traditional wineries.” We thought we would visit more than one.

May 31
The Lisbon hotel Duque de Loule was very nice. Turns out not as centrally located as we might have wanted, but as I recall that was due to the 3 rooms we needed, and another hotel being fully booked.

While we were making the 3-hour trip from Porto to Lisbon, at 10am, a person called me to say we were late for our 10am guided tour of Lisbon. However, we had no such tour scheduled; in fact, our tour was for 2:00 pm that afternoon. Marina was again very responsive. She learned that the company had mixed two tours and moved ours to 10am. Marina reassigned us to another tour vendor with a guide named Daniel at 2:30.

Daniel was a lovely young man, age 23, and while he did his job, it was clear he did not really know enough about the city and its history. We enjoyed him and our 21-year-old son and he had lots of conversation, but he was not the most informative tour guide. Daniel also provided us with 2 restaurant recommendations, and we ate at both places. It was nice of him to do so and helpful to us.

The pre-arranged Fado dinner this night was a very good choice.

June 1
Our day trip to Sintra, Cascais & Estoril was with a guide named Marta. She was very good; our family felt she was our best guide of the trip. We enjoyed both the pace of the day and the information. Unfortunately, the next day Marta shared she tested positive for COVID. None of the family tested positive, however, one should expect guides test themselves daily before taking a group out for a day in an enclosed vehicle.

June 2
As mentioned, the transfer to Lagos was not smooth, however Marina got it all fixed and made the offer to buy the family dinner in Lagos, which certainly made us all feel like she really cared about our experience.
The Cascade Resort did not have our rooms ready upon arrival however they shortly did, and the property and our stay there was terrific.

This night we had the Sunset Experience tour, not with Pedro as noted, but rather with Luis. We all very much enjoyed him and the tour. He was clearly passionate about the Algarve and his home area. Just to note, the itinerary mentioned binoculars however he did not offer any.

June 4
Our transfer from Lagos to Lisbon airport was fine. We left an item at the Cascade Wellness resort and Marina was very helpful in efforts to retrieve it and have it sent to our hotel in Lisbon upon our return a week later. Side note: the package did not arrive in Lisbon in time for us to take it home with us to the US. However, the front desk at Hotel Portugal was very helpful. When the package did arrive, 2 days after we left the country, the Hotel communicated this to us by email and connected us to a shipping company that is mailing us the package.

Our rental care pick up at the Valencia airport with Sixt went very smoothly.

Marina booked us at the hotel Hospes Palau De La Mar at my request. This boutique hotel was fine for us. It was in a nice neighborhood on a busy, but pretty street, and within walking distance of the Old City. When they brought us to the room they had for us the staff could not get the air system to work so they immediately moved us by their own choice to a different room. The hotel breakfast was very nice and they had outdoor seating.

June 5
We drove to Albufera easily but did get lost looking for the meeting spot for our boat tour. With a phone call to the boat operator, we received directions and we found the meeting spot. Our guide Anna was delightful, and she recommended a restaurant for paella. She made the 1:30pm lunch reservation for us and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal at El Redoli. Also, she led us to the bird preserve (flamingos), and we walked the paths, very nice. We drove a bit and walked to the beach.

This afternoon we chose on our own to do an historical walking tour of Old Valencia with GuruWalk (no fee; gratuity only). This 3-hour walk was excellent, and we learned about Aqua de Valencia (as a bonus); a drink we thoroughly enjoyed.

June 6
This morning we experienced our Local Market and Paella Cooking Class with “My First Paella” and it was very well done. While the attendees are obviously all tourists, the guide/cooking team was very funny, thoughtful, and instructive. We had fun and would recommend it.

This afternoon we had a private bike tour of Valencia with Jose. Bikes were provided by DoYouBike Rental. Jose was very nice and informative. We visited some of the places we had seen on our walking tour the day before but enjoyed the repetition, and we went inside to some places we really wanted to visit, including L’Almonia (archaeological artifacts), La Lonja and climbing one of the city’s old towers. We rode through the Turia Gardens (very nice) to the Science and Arts center, also very nice but we did not enter any buildings by our own choice.

June 7
We visited the Valencia beach and then drove at noon to Javea, stopping for lunch along the way. The Nomad Hotel was wonderful. The room had a beautiful view; Marina chose this hotel, and it was an excellent choice. The service as very good. Breakfast was delicious. We had dinner the first night at the hotel restaurant outdoors on the promenade and it was very nice.

June 8
We spend the day at Cala Grandella, beautiful beach spot 30 minutes away. As the beaches are mostly rocky, we chose to purchase 2 inexpensive beach chairs (which we left behind). A really nice hotel amenity would be to loan beach chairs to guests.

June 9
We chose to return to Cala Grandella having booked a 2.5-hour kayak tour with Siesta Advisor. We found the service and the kayak tour excellent. That afternoon we explored the nearby town of Moraira, for lunch and sandy beach. Great services (restroom and changing) at this public beach; very family friendly (lots of young children) and mostly European vacationers.

June 10
We drove to Valencia mid-day, stopping in the morning to see the castle in Cullero and then lunch near port in Valencia. Car return and flight to Lisbon were fine. We flew Vueling Air and had to pay quite a lot to check our luggage. While this was a surprise, it is understandable. The taxi from Lisbon airport to Hotel Portugal was on our own, which was fine. The Hotel was well located near the old district of the city and lovely.

June 11
The hotel room and the breakfast were very nice. They stored out luggage. They arranged to help us with our missing package. We would recommend this hotel due to location. Our transfer to the Lisbon airport was pre-arranged, on-time and fine, as was our flight home.

Hotel Reviews

Hospes Palau de la Mar

Valencia

Marina booked us at the hotel Hospes Palau De La Mar at my request. This boutique hotel was fine for us. It was in a nice neighborhood on a busy, but pretty street, and within walking distance of the Old City. When they brought us to the room they had for us the staff could not get the air system to work so they immediately moved us by their own choice to a different room. The hotel breakfast was very nice and they had outdoor seating.

Authenticity & Character
its very modern in style
Location
Depends on how near beach or near old city you want to be
Staff
Front desk and porter very pleasant and helpful
Cleanliness & Comfort
well appointed and cared for rooms

Nomad Xabia Port

Javea

The Nomad Hotel was wonderful. The room had a beautiful view; Marina chose this hotel, and it was an excellent choice. The service as very good. Breakfast was delicious. We had dinner the first night at the hotel restaurant outdoors on the promenade and it was very nice.

Tips for future travelers

While it is very eco-friendly (and the room lighting not great) there were both couples and families and it is right on the promenade so well located

Authenticity & Character
Lots of character which appealed to us
Location
beautiful view of Med
Staff
very helpful front desk and restaurant personnel
Cleanliness & Comfort
room and common areas very nice

Hotel Portugal

Lisbon

The Hotel was well located near the old district of the city and lovely. The hotel room and the breakfast were very nice. They stored out luggage. They arranged to help us with our missing package. We would recommend this hotel due to location.

Authenticity & Character
it is modern and that appeals to some; we enjoyed it
Location
very close to old part of city
Staff
very helpful front desk
Cleanliness & Comfort
very nicely cared for
Activity Reviews

Panoramic Albufera Cruise

Valencia

We drove to Albufera easily but did get lost looking for the meeting spot for our boat tour. With a phone call to the boat operator, we received directions and we found the meeting spot. Our guide Anna was delightful, and she recommended a restaurant for paella. She made the 1:30pm lunch reservation for us and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal at El Redoli. Also, she led us to the bird preserve (flamingos), and we walked the paths, very nice. We drove a bit and walked to the beach.

Quality of Experience
the guide was knowledgeable and helpful, the experience unique
Guides, drivers and staff
as noted, very helpful
Transport
we drove ourselves and got a bit lost

Local Market Visit and Paella Cooking Class

Valencia

This morning we experienced our Local Market and Paella Cooking Class with “My First Paella” and it was very well done. While the attendees are obviously all tourists, the guide/cooking team was very funny, thoughtful, and instructive. We had fun and would recommend it.

Quality of Experience
the staff
Food
great fun participating in the cooking and then eating what was made
Guides, drivers and staff
very friendly

Valencia Seightseeing Bike Tour

Valencia

This afternoon we had a private bike tour of Valencia with Jose. Bikes were provided by DoYouBike Rental. Jose was very nice and informative. We visited some of the places we had seen on our walking tour the day before but enjoyed the repetition, and we went inside to some places we really wanted to visit, including L’Almonia (archaeological artifacts), La Lonja and climbing one of the city’s old towers. We rode through the Turia Gardens (very nice) to the Science and Arts center, also very nice but we did not enter any buildings by our own choice.

Quality of Experience
It is a very nice way to explore and feel the city
Guides, drivers and staff
our guide was excellent
Local specialist: Marina Courtaut
Marina
Marina Courtaut
Local specialist in Madrid | Jun 27, 2022

Hi Michael,

Let me start by thanking you for taking the time to write such a detailed review from your trip. I appreciate your kind words and I will pass your comments to the team.

It has been a real pleasure helping you plan your family trip and I am glad that you could finally enjoy it after having to postpone the trip.

The incidents with the transfer from Lisbon to Porto on the first day and the transfer from Lisbon to Lagos were a big mistake by the transport company. We tried to give... read more

Hi Michael,

Let me start by thanking you for taking the time to write such a detailed review from your trip. I appreciate your kind words and I will pass your comments to the team.

It has been a real pleasure helping you plan your family trip and I am glad that you could finally enjoy it after having to postpone the trip.

The incidents with the transfer from Lisbon to Porto on the first day and the transfer from Lisbon to Lagos were a big mistake by the transport company. We tried to give you a solution as quickly as possible so that you could continue your trip as planned but I am very disappointed on how the transfer company handled the error. I apologize again for the inconvenience this has caused your family during your trip.

I am glad that over all you have enjoyed all your visits and that the guides have contributed in one way or another to add value to your trip. I am happy to know that you liked the gastronomic recommendations that your guides and I gave you!

It is good to know that your stay in all the hotels has been as expected and I appreciate your comments about each hotel.

Again, thank you, Michael for taking the time to write such a detailed review of your trip and all your comments about each activity, service or hotel. Warmest regards, Marina