Thanks for the feedback…
We are just now sending out our researchers to every corner of Europe as we update our series of guidebooks. My assignment: Portugal — where, for 10 days, I’ll visit these cities with a long list of places to check and feedback to run down. We used to get feedback by mail. Now it comes to us by email. My staff collects and distills it. This pile of suggestions from our readers (we focus our energy mostly on the negative ones) is what I’ll pack along with my little bag as I fly away in a few days…ready to make our Rick Steves’ Portugal guidebook better than ever. (Remember that all of this feedback is unverified — take it with a grain of salt…just like I do.)
Portugal Feedback, distilled March 2008
Car Rental: Include info about CDW when renting cars in Portugal. Had CDW coverage with credit card, so didn’t purchase from the rental company. But when we got to Portugal, they didn’t honor that since our agreement is with credit card, not the car rental company. We had to buy the additional CDW (approx. 100 Euros), so our rental was 33% more expensive than planned. The lady at the counter said that if we’d booked our car through the rental company’s Portuguese website instead of the international site, we’d have been told this.
Money: Get cash before entering Portugal. Many people couldn’t use Mastercard/debit card in Portugal. Readers had bankers insist that it would work because it had the Mastercard logo on it, called their bank confirming there were no holds and that everything was okay, they had plenty of money and the bank knew they were traveling. Had trouble for hotel payments, ATMS, at restaurants. NOTE FROM A READER: The Portuguese banking system is still primitive by international standards. MultiBanco is a Portuguese bank association. Most merchants, especially outside the main tourist areas, only take MultiBanco credit cards, but many merchants are not even aware that they are not the same thing as Mastercard, etc. When you go to a specific MultiBanco ATM it only connects to the international ATM networks associated with the owning bank. So the Mastercard symbol means that you can probably get a cash advance out of the machine, but can’t get money from your personal bank account. To get money from your U.S. bank account, look at the other symbols on the back of your ATM card to find the associated ATM networks. Almost all machines will accept either Star or Cirrus.
Food: Had a few excellent meals, but food in general was disappointing. Many restaurants in the book are closed/opening times incorrect, add more translations of soups.
Language: No one says Adeau; use Ciao for goodbye.
Viuva Lamega tile shop: moved from Chiado; store in the NE part of Baixa–Largo do Intendente, 25 1100-285 Lisboa Tel: 218 852 408. Belem: Map needs adjusted–suggests that the Alges train stop is right next to the tower of Belem, while almost a mile apart (map suggests it is drawn to scale, which is misleading).
Several readers disappointed with city–dirty and overrun with drugs and prostitution. Getting through the airport was an absolute nightmare; it was totally chaotic and the immigration agents had no control over the unruly crowd. My 52-year-old mother was literally shoved to the ground and similar incidents happened about every 15 minutes. It took us over two hours just to get our passport stamped so that we could leave the country.
Parking: very expensive (used an underground car park in Restauradores and didn’t move the car 3 days while in Lisbon–cost €130, almost $200).
Took the train from Lisbon to Lagos from the Entrecampos station–easier and faster to get to from my hotel by bus and/or metro than Oriente.
No longer Amex office (p. 46).
No “free guided tour” for Sao Jorge (p. 59) (Oct 2007).
Trolley fares: reader confused as to who and when you pay fare. In one place we say pay the driver, then lower down we say pay the conductor. Are these the same guy? Also, reader shook down on the #15 to Belem by 4 uniformed men who took their passports and then fined them ¬210.60 in cash on the spot for not having already paid the fare. The readers say they really were intending to pay but didn’t see anyone to pay on board. Is the procedure different for newer buses? Were the uniformed guys legit? If so, we should add a warning about how not to run afoul of them. If not, we should warning about scam.
Barrio Alto overlook view from a terrace near the Gloria funicular was fenced off for renovations.
LisboaCard is not necessary if you have a student card–then most museums are 1/2 off/free).
Cristo Rei: In Cacilhas across the Tagus from Lisbon, bus 101 doesn’t operate every 20 minutes–sometimes there is a 40-minute gap, so allow plenty of time. Also, the Carris transit cards don’t work, so get a ticket at Cacilhas before taking the bus.
Lisbon fado museum (near Santa Apolonia) is really wonderful and a great intro to fado.
Directions in 2007 book for getting to the Gulbenkian Museum are terrible–provide street names and distances rather than “walk downhill”.
Bus is so easy but never mentioned. Also, include name of sight in Portuguese, not just English.
Lisbon walking tour: called Lisbon, city of Spies. José, a super friendly/charming, awesome price, good English, gave a fab 2.5 hour tour.
Your recommended guide had to cancel but set us up with Rita Mateus, 011-351-966, who was great.
Pensao Santa Cruz: Oswald was VERY kind BUT it is truly for the BUDGET conscious.
Hotel Lisboa Tejo: Our room was extremely spacious and clean–but street on the west side of the building was full of young and very busy prostitutes–pretty social in the later hours of the evening and the noise made it difficult to sleep.
Pensao Residencial 13 da Sorte, Lisbon on page 99 of 2007 book no longer open mid-Nov 2007. A sign referred guests to another location in the city.
A Baiuca in the Alfama: once it fills up (about 8 PM), the earliest space available is 11 pm, so get there before 8 and make reservations. Reader rec: Restaurante Maria da Fonte, Largo Chafariz de Dentro (Alfama), Rua de S. Pedro, 5-A for a nice fado experience Thu-Sun. Three singers and two guitarists in this tiny resaurant with no more than twelve tables. It was a thoroughly enjoyable show and the food was not bad at all.
Reader rec: Bonjardin has the most flavorful roasted chicken, french fries & sangria, setting is great fun, outdoor seating in a lively area.
Fix map on Barrio Alto to reflect both fado places with the same name – Canto de Camoes. Only the overpriced one is included on the map–so missed the more authentic place. Describe better the location of the jijinga (sp?) bar since it’s hard to find when it’s closed.
If you take the train from Lisbon to Fatima, you’ll be stuck with a big taxi fare. Upset people in the train station were pooling their money.
Queluz-Belas–good stop on Sintra train line, easy, 20-min walk from station to Queluz Palace–no crowds, made seeing Tile Museum redundant.
Reader rec: Sidecar Touring Co: 8 1/2 hr-guided tour in a motorcycle with sidebar for 112 euros (20% off with the Lisboa card) for two people, owner, Joao de Lemos Soares, door to door service, 14 bikes in great condition, drivers go through all sorts of training, never felt in danger, www. email@example.com.
Pena Palace: Sun morning discounts apply to the gardens–not the palace itself. There are Sunday morning discounts for the Moorish castle, though–so reverse book rec. so people visit Moorish Castle first and then Pena PalaceT. Cost is 10 euros combo ticket for Pena Palace/Moorish Castle. Sunday day trip to Sintra from Lisbon not cheap (with 3.20 euros round-trip by train and the 4.00 euros 434 Scotturb bus).
Inside Lisbon gave great daytrip to Sintra/ Cascais, guide Edgar fantastic, much better than the walking tour guides with the same company, http://insidelisbon.com/EN/en_passeios_sintra.htm. Reader rec: Hotel Alif, http://www.hotelalif.pt/.
Cabo da Roca: TI that sells certificates closes at 18:30 or 19:00, and the bus from Cabo da Roca stops running at a certain time…about 19:45 or so. I just barely made the last bus.
Restaurante Cervejaria 1/4 Para As 9 (quarter to nine) has wonderful arroz de tamaboril – rice and seafood stew. Owner rec: www.monteserralheira.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Lucia van der Feltz. Batata Quente Restaurante has closed (now a pizzeria there). Alentejo area section incomplete: really interesting places, wineries, cheesemaking places, great place to visit. Portuguese people said that about three years ago people from North America stopped visiting and they have no idea why.
Nazare & Nearby
Some places recommended in Nazare are now closed.
Locate Nazaré Amada rooms on the map and try to get a specific address on Rua Adrião Batalha, tel. 262-552-206, mobile 962-579-371). Percebes available only in the spring/summer, so I was told. The beach dancers are on their break until about late March or so. Reader rec: Quinta Princesa do Pinhal, 3 KM north of Nazare, this beautiful B&B, 9 bedrooms, a swimming pool and fresh fruit from Leonhilde’s orchard, fluent in English, www.princesadopinhal.com. In the summer, almost as touristy as the Algarve–can’t believe there’s a chapter on this place.
Julia Pereira rooms: Asking for ocean view means you face plaza, which has very noisy bar, very loud music until 4 am and then people come out yelling, talking, whistling. You also couldn’t see the ocean because of the distance to the water and the large stage. Alcobaca: National Wine Museum (p. 187) permanently closed. (10/07)
Felt book overrated this destination.
Had very bad time driving into the city, and chose badly from suggested activities.
Driving to Coimbra from Spain was difficult-not clearly marked.
Cover Porto better–wonderful, but not if you try to drive in it. The Port lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia are worth a visit.
Solar do Vino do Porto just showcases of lots of bottles of Port, unfriendly, unhelpful guy there, four of us were the only visitors there on a Saturday afternoon.
Guimaraes: great side trip from Porto.
Add more detailed directions from Porto to the Douro Valley–info gap between Armarante and Mesao Frio; hard to find N-101 just east of Armarante near Maladena.
Many readers said include more on Duoro Valley– highlight of trip yet book coverage seemed an afterthought.
Pousada Solar da Rede: For the expense and stiffness of service, the quality of the food was not worth the splurge.
Reader rec: D.O.C., a delightful riverside restaurant in the Douro Valley, is located between Regua and Pinhao (closer to Regua). Roy, the owner, walked us through everything he served, providing commentary in broken English on preparation, ingredients and anything else he wanted to talk about. He worked hard to ensure that we savored the meal at his new restaurant. It was a memorable dining experience, a definite worthwhile splurge. Tel: 254-858-123. Email: email@example.com.
Reader rec: Casa de Vilarinho de S. Romao, lovely restored 16th-century quinta between Pinhao and Sabrosa (drivers only). Six lovely rooms, private baths, swimming pool, outstanding view, vineyards, great breakfasts, relaxing porch, owned by helpful Christine Olzafabel von Zeller, must wind up/down gorgeous mountains on narrow roads with hairpin turns, but the surrounding villages worth it, just 2.5-hour drive to Santiago de Compostela.
Reader rec: Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros outside Pinhao, Eu 120/day, breakfast included; dinner Eu 30, www.chanceleiros.com, owners (Ursula Bocking and her husband) are very knowledgeable, friendly, and fluent in English. The staff are local, have been with them for years, and the food is local, traditional, and wonderful. Pinhao had tiles), river boat tour, and walk by the river. Peso da Regua: Duoro Museum closed while the new museum is being built (7/07).
Santuario de Panoias near Vila Real, pre-Roman/Roman site of worship and animal sacrifice is a National Monument, connected to the Instituto Portugues do Patrimonio Arquitectonico. 7 km from Vila Real, through Mateus via EN322 toward Sabrosa. Brief film with audioguide in English and guide info around the various rocks, still marked with inscriptions and basins used in various sacrificial ceremonie; friendly bar across street.