Frank and Pat Novak, members since 2018, visited Portugal with the help of the the Exchange Club and THIRDHOME Custom Travel.

Portugal was always a destination we wanted to visit!

The allure of Portugal as a place less visited, less Americanized, full of interesting history, castles, cathedrals, and welcoming people made it intriguing. Our trip involved a 20-day curated trip with Liz Bates, through Portugal and the Azores wrapped around a 7-day stay at a THIRDHOME property on the Southern coast. We had heard many good things about Portugal over the years. It appealed to us as a developed, safe, and modern nation yet still somewhat undiscovered and off the beaten path. It offered history, architecture, wine, cuisine and plenty of natural beauty in addition to 17 of the world’s 1,154 world heritage sights… and we were able to visit 7 on our particular itinerary.

Our trip included many wonderful highlights and every day was an exciting new adventure.

Beautiful medieval towns, gorgeous wine vineyards, new and wonderful foods and spirits (port is our new favorite drink), meeting the locals, and the joy of turning a corner and seeing a charming cobblestone street or magnificent terraced vineyards.  We unhurriedly sipped espresso and nibbled decadent pastries while deciding which site to visit next.  In no particular order we enjoyed the architecture, history, churches, castles, museums and outdoor cafes of Lisbon, Sintra, Porto, Braga and Óbidos; the wine and scenery of the Douro Valley and the Minho region, the natural beauty of Peneda-Geres National Park and the Azores’ San Miguel Island and, finally, the plentiful beaches, grottos and coastal towns of the Algarve.

When asked if there was one “WOW” moment or most memorable experience that stood out from all the others, we would have to say this is so hard… as the entire trip was awesome.  But here are a few…

  1. Relaxing in an infinity pool overlooking the Douro River while sipping wine (ahhh!)
  2. Driving impossibly twisted roads to arrive at a vineyard for a picnic lunch that Renoir would have loved to have painted.
  3. Staying at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel inside the most gorgeous botanical garden in the world on San Miguel located in the Azores.
  4. Once again sipping Portuguese wine while watching a brilliant sunset over the city from a turret in the Pousada Castelo de Óbidos.

Our Exchange experience was also a wonderful highlight!

We started planning our trip about two years earlier, with the intent to center around all we wanted to do around our THIRDHOME Exchange.  We targeted a few countries of interest so that when something became available we would be able to react quickly due to global challenges with the pandemic. Then we got the green light to go to Portugal and built out the trip from there with Liz’s help. As we learned more and more about all Portugal had to offer, our original Exchange stay of only seven days became 14, then 18, then 23.  We stopped ourselves at 27… yet we could have stayed longer!  

The THIRDHOME Exchange house was fabulous.

Casa Bela Vista was conveniently located on a hillside of the Algarve coast of Portugal with a pool and a beautiful view of the Atlantic ocean.  We used it as a base, rented a car, and saw most of the Southern coast and nearby towns. It also served as a nice respite from travel earlier in the trip which tended to be two to four-day stops. After a couple of weeks traveling through Portugal, what a lovely relaxing home with everything we needed to unwind and set our suitcases down for a week. It was great to live like locals. By day we visited beautiful beaches, explored small fishing villages and lots of historical sites.  At the end of our leisurely paced day, we dined alfresco by the pool and enjoyed vibrant sunsets and of course more Portuguese wine!  The hosts, Heather and John, were very accommodating as was their property manager, Clara.

THIRDHOME Custom Travel is the perfect complement for planning a standalone trip.

It truly maximizes the benefits of a THIRDHOME Exchange. Liz is such a treasure and was an invaluable resource in helping us design our trip to suit our personal preferences, helped us sort through the information overload from the internet, and provided insights that only an experienced and well-connected travel advisor would provide. She helped every step of the way with planning our itinerary to help us fully immerse ourselves in Portugal. It was a remarkable trip and Liz maneuvered us through the maze of on again-off again COVID restrictions, requirements and risks  –  that all this in itself could be an entire newsletter.

We would rate the entire experience as certainly a five star one!

Interested in booking an Exchange stay with the help of THIRDHOME Custom Travel? Click here to learn more and get in touch with our Director of Adventures & Custom Travel, Liz Bates.

What are THIRDHOME members saying about their luxury home exchange trips to France and Portugal this week?

THIRDHOME Exchange members recently returned from Cholet, France and Dunas Douradas, Portugal! Keep reading to learn about their THIRDHOME travel experiences!

Chateau Exterior

Pool, gardens, and Jacuzzi

Gold Suite

1 of 9 luxurious bedrooms

Billiard room

One of many salons. Other rooms include the Louis XVI gilded sitting room.

Chateau de Vezins | Cholet, France

Chateau de Vezins is an 18th-century historic marvel with the amenities and comfort of a royal palace! The Chateau is designed to provide the most spectacular forms of entertainment for all guests. Each bedroom and bathroom is decorated diligently and with exquisite detail. No matter which room you walk into, you’ll feel like royalty! Chateau de Vezins is surrounded by over 7 acres of manicured French gardens with a 40 foot heated swimming pool, 7 person Jacuzzi, numerous fountains, a 14th-century moat, barbecue and outdoor dining in the conservatory. The chalet alone is reason enough to travel to the beautiful western countryside of France.

THIRDHOME member Bob says, “The property is nothing short of extraordinary- it would take a book to describe it. The owners and staff were very gracious and accommodating. My 25-year-old son said it was the best trip of his life and he has taken a lot.” Click here to read more of Bob’s review.

Casa Wadma pool exterior

The outdoor living spaces are the heart of this stunning getaway.

Living Room

Clean modern interiors blend seamlessly into the bright exterior pool area.

Outdoor Living

Fully enjoy Portugal’s temperate weather with this homes outdoor dining, billiards and poolside area.

Casa Wadma | Dunas Douradas, Portugal

Located between the renowned resorts of Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago, Dunas Douradas is set in acres of pine woods and was designed to resemble a Roman village. Casa Wadma is a lovely getaway located within Dunas Douradas with 6 bedrooms for guests to enjoy. In addition to the fascinating interior, amenities also include delicately treated gardens with a beach entrance, a private pool, waterfall, slide and an outdoor entertainment area. Casa Wadma is welcoming to all visitors!

THIRDHOME member Azita says, “Perfect family home with complete privacy and security. The villa is well maintained and doesn’t lack anything. Very spacious and the bedrooms are separated to give everyone a very private and comfortable feeling.” Click here to read more of Azita’s review.

Members, click here to view all available weeks and plan your next THIRHOME Exchange trip. Remember, you must be logged in to your account to see availability.

Want more information about our Exchange Club? Click here to learn more about THIRDHOME.


THIRDHOME members and good friends, Phyllis & Don Feil and Tamra & Charlie O’Hara, embarked on a journey together through Spain and Portugal. This Curated Journey, designed by THIRDHOME Custom Travel, allowed each member to enjoy their vacation without the hassle of planning. These 4 members were lucky enough to experience luxury accommodations in historic Paradores, once lived in by European royals.

Phillis Feil provided a first-hand account of her Curated Journey to Spain and Portugal. Keep reading for her account of this amazing experience.


We just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Spain and Portugal, and can’t thank Liz Bates enough for putting together a perfect vacation.  From the first time I contacted THIRDHOME, until the very last detail, the entire planning process seemed way too easy. Liz did an incredible job fulfilling our expectations, including transportation, rental car, and accommodations. She saved us hours of research and planning. I highly recommend the THIRDHOME Adventures & Custom Travel.


Gaudi Architecture Barcelona, SpainPark Guell Gaudi Spain


During our 14 day journey thru Spain and Portugal, we stayed at beautiful Paradores along the way. (One of the best kept secrets of Spain and Portugal, Paradores offer luxury accommodations in historic buildings or castles built for european royalty). Every stop was a new and exciting experience. From Barcelona up to the wine country of Rioja, down to Toledo, Granda, Ronda, Malaga, and a quick flight to Portugal, it was hard to say which Paradore was our favorite.  Each location was first class with captivating views and rich heritage. Our first stop was in Barcelona, after disembarking from a Mediterranean cruise. Liz had a private driver waiting to pick us up and drop us off at our hotel.  Then we were off to explore the sites of the city. Local markets, cathedrals, and parks were all within walking distance from our location.


Parador Santo Domingo, SpainParador Santo Domingo, Spain


In Barcelona we picked up the rental car, and began our Spain road trip. First stop was the Rioja wine region. The scenery was hard to believe. One rolling vineyard after another and such an easy drive. The Paradore we stayed in was on the path of the Pilgrim Walk, or El Camino de Santiago, which was an added bonus. We really enjoyed seeing and meeting people from all over the world. 


Toledo Cathedral, SpainToledo, Spain


After spending a few days in La Rioja we packed the car and headed south to Toledo.  The Paradore was located at the top of the hill, overlooking the historic Toledo UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Paradore restaurant had the best views of Toledo, and served delicious authentic Spanish cuisine. A tour of the famous Saint Mary of Toledo Cathedral was the highlight of our visit. Its a must see if you travel to Toledo. Words can not express the beauty.


Toledo, Spain Sierra Nevada Mountains Olive Trees, Spain


After spending a few days in Toledo we packed the car again, and headed south to Granada. The drive thru the Sierra Nevada Mountains was amazing, passing by hundreds of olive tree orchards and vineyards. We had no idea that olive trees lived up to 1,500 years old. We arrived a few hours later and checked into the Paradore, which was located inside the Alhambra, and just steps away from the front entrance.  The following day we spent touring the Alhambra, General Gardens,  and Moorish heritage. So many beautiful things to see!


Paradore in Ronda, Spain Cliff in Ronda, Spain


Next stop was Ronda, Spain, located around one hour from Granada. This was one of our favorite Paradores. The views from our balconies were like a postcard. Ronda is so picturesque and such a charming place to visit. There were many restaurants and stores to shop within a two minute walk of our location.  The town is gleaming from the white buildings and cobblestone streets.


Cliff view of Ronda, Spain  Ocean view of Malaga, Spain

After leaving Ronda, we headed to the Mediterranean coastline city of Malaga, the birth place of Picasso. We stayed at the Paradore Malaga, which overlooked a bull fight arena and cruise port. Once again, we were very happy wth the accommodations, views, and incredible Spanish cuisine offered on property. We got lucky and arrived the day of a large festival celebration. We attended the festivities offered by the Paradore restaurant. What a way to end our journey through Spain….. with fireworks and an amazing five course Spanish dinner.


Parador Restaurant special evening dinner Fireworks Show during Dinner
           The following morning we boarded a quick fight to Lisbon Portugal to spend our last few days of vacation.  Lisbon is spread across hillsides and overlooks the shoreline. From Gothic cathedrals, to castles, and museums there is so much to see. Not to mention the waterfront square with all the incredible seafood restaurants to choose from. We enjoyed the fresh seafood platters and romantic ambiance.


Building in Lisbon, PortugalThe Feil's and the O'Hara's in Lisbon, Portugal


          To sum it all up, Liz Bates did an outstanding job of putting our dream vacation together. We would do it all over again and not change a thing. It was hard to leave and come back home after experiencing the beauty that Spain and Portugal has to offer.  Back to Houston and reality for now.  Cheers until our next incredible journey through THIRDHOME Adventures & Custom Travel.


The Feil's and the O'Hara's


Click here to explore this Curated Trip to Spain and Portugal
Contact to start planning your Curated Journey. 


THIRDHOME members have recently returned from Lombok, Indonesia, and Loule, Portugal. Keep reading to learn about their THIRDHOME experience!



Kayu Villa | Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok is an island in the West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. Kayu Villa is located in the Jabon Hills, overlooking the Selong Belanak Bay. From the moment you set your eyes on this luxurious, modern villa you will be hooked. The spacious living area is met with sliding doors that open up to the exceptional private pool, creating a view like no other. The two bedrooms offer a relaxing atmosphere with easy access to the surrounding patio. The property offers easy access to clubhouse facilities like the main pool, bar and restaurant. This stunning property is situated in a secluded area and is only a short drive to the beach.

THIRDHOME member Janos says, “First of all – Lombok is incredible. ‘Photoshop-green’ on the island, blue on the sea and various colors of sand in between… Selong Selo is a top-notch resort with separate villas with their own garden, infinity pool etc…The uninterrupted view is literally breathtaking, and at the same time, the garden is very intimate.” click here to read more of Janos’s review



Casa Monte Santa Luzia | Loule, Portugal

Portugal is an outstanding destination due to its rich history, relaxing nature and breathtaking views. The town of Loule is in the Algarve region and will provide you with all of these virtues. Casa Monte Santa Luzia is located in an ideal location and comes with great amenities for an unforgettable week with the family. All 5 bedrooms offer plenty of space for a large gathering and can fit up to 10 people. The villa is surrounded by beautiful, rural landscapes, while also being close to golf courses, tennis courts and water activities. A stay at Casa Monte Santa Luzia is one you won’t forget.

THIRDHOME member Nicola says, “Casa Monte Santa Luzia is the perfect place to spend a relaxing week in the sunny Algarve. The villa is beautifully kept and very well equipped – there’s little reason to leave.” click here to read more of Nicola’s review


Members, click here to view all available weeks and plan your next THIRDHOME Exchange trip. Remember, you must be logged in to your account to see availability.

Want more information about our luxury home exchange club? Click here to learn more about THIRDHOME.

If you’ve booked or are thinking about booking a trip to Portugal, this guide is for you. THIRDHOME‘s Travel Concierge, Liz Bates, has collected Portugal’s best local experiences, and is now sharing her insider knowledge with you!

Don’t just be a tourist. Live Like a Local, in Lisbon or Porto, Portugal, by adding-on one of these private or small group experiences!



A refreshing Mediterennean climate, rich history and beautiful cityscape all meet in confluence in the city of Lisbon. Start planning your Lisbon experience today.


Nightlife with Fado Show & Dinner – $145 per person

The historic city of Lisbon is at its most beautiful at night. Enjoy a traditional Fado performance and folk dancing while dining on local delicacies.


Fatima Pilgrimage Half-day Tour – $95 per person

In 1917, an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherds in Fatima, Portugal. It has since become a popular Roman Catholic pilgrimage, with nearly 4-million people traveling to see the commemorative shrine and basilica, each year. Make this world-famous pilgrimage and see the Portuguese countryside on a half-day tour from Lisbon.


Sintra & Estoril Scenic Escape – $99 per person

Discover Portugal’s diverse scenery, from sun-kissed beach to a verdant mountain palace, in one unforgettable afternoon. Uncover beautiful Moorish architecture, palaces and coasts, only a short drive away from Lisbon.


Nestled in the estuary of the Douro River is the bustling city of Porto. Admire Porto’s architectural marvels, irresistible cuisine and delicious fortified Port wine.


Wine Tasting & River Cruise – $119 per person

Visit a cave wine cellar to sample and learn about Porto wines. Tastings are followed by an hour-long Douro River cruise. Coast along Porto’s riverfront and discover the city’s best architecture and wines.


Douro Valley Full-Day w/Lunch – $149 per person

Discover the charming region of Douro Valley. Explore rolling vineyards and scenic riverside towns on this full-day excursion. Uncover the delectable wines in this enchanted valley on a full-day tour.


Santiago de Compostela Tour & Hike – $125 per person

Witness a pilgrimage over 1,000 years in the making. Visit Santiago de Compostela, capital of the autonomous Spanish community of Galicia, the final destination of The Way of Saint James Pilgrimage. Over 200,000 Roman Catholic pilgrims leave their homes each year to visit the final resting place of James the Apostle.




NO Keys are required to book these excursions and guided activities, however, a Personal Concierge assistance fee of $200 will be required upfront and does not include the actual tours and experiences you opt to add-on. If you would like to include a local excursion, please contact THIRDHOME‘s Travel & Concierge, Liz Bates.

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