This travel agent is superlative, would give her 6 stars if possible here. We were in Portugal, (Porto, Douro valley, Lisbon), Western Spain, Madeira and Azores Islands for a three week family trip with two teenagers. She works by giving a detailed, passionate overview of her country's regions on the phone, and several rough first drafts of an itinerary based on your feedback. She encourages a bespoke model-- when I last minute wanted to include Salamanca and Caceres in western Spain, she fully encouraged us to go ahead with that and made it work in the itinerary by swapping out other places.Her choice of hotel bookings were super, and presented in two tiers for budget reasons. She went an extra step fulfilling my request to secure restaurant reservations for dinner each night of the trip. The guides were also very good - courteous, on time and knowledgeable. Best one was from Lisbon, who had my children enthralled about 800 years of Portuguese history.The most unusual thing about this agent is her willingness to go the extra mile- literally. She travelled three hours from her home to meet us at the airport to deliver not only our docs, a cell phone and the fully programmed sat nav, but a camera battery charger for my Nikon that I'd left at home and had asked her to locate a store so I could buy it- and there it was, she astoundingly had stopped by a camera store on her way so that I did not have to! She is readily 'available' for the duration of the trip for any advice or problem solving. This was my first use of a travel agent, and Zicasso- I am a trip planner and have done many detailed itineraries for six other long summer trips, and decided to get some help this time and am thrilled I did.
The Douro Valley is a stunning, unique World Heritage region - and very relaxing and we stayed at a beautiful resort. The little town of Caceres is also UNESCO and perfectly preserved Roman, Medieval and Islamic buildings. Azores islands are a delight- a sylvan escape with very few tourists, and jaw dropping natural scenery. Lisbon is a fun city with excellent restaurants and Valverde, the hotel, was distinctive.
Regarding the overall, and regarding the agent, nothing. Very nice balance of nature, cities and culture. Re the specific itinerary, I would skip the Pena Palace in Sintra - a bit Disnelyand, but not Sintra itself ....I would have shortened the overall trip, some places did not warrant a three night (Porto). I would forego Madeira altogether, the only place that I did not like our hotel or the feeling that everyone was a tourist... the town of Funchal itself felt soulless and a bit of a cruise port- we were there way too long, four nights, and my kids really wanted to leave! I would add more time to Azores, to see other islands, we were in Sao Miguel only.
Regarding the tours, I would ask for a more detailed itinerary ahead of time from agent since we were not in contact with the guides - some of the day ones lasted too long, and needed a little more communication to help us figure out how to plan the 'off tour' days, or the free time leftover in the day.
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