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Custom Travel, Featured, THIRDHOME, Traveler Spotlight

Traveler Spotlight: The Novaks & Friends Visit Portugal


November 17, 2021 • By Margeaux Gerwin

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.

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Thank you to Frank and Pat Novak for reviewing their THIRDHOME Custom Travel experience and for being wonderful members.