porto, portugal, river

Portugal Highlights that you need to read.

Are you visiting Portugal soon? We have got your back for the best places to visit in Portugal.

A round up of the best places to visit in Portugal.

From world famous cities and isolated villages to vibrant beaches and spectacular National Parks, this minuscule country offers a vast array of visitor attractions and services. It occupies the wedge of ibéria with the Borders of Spain as well as the magnificent coastline with the Atlantic and Portugals location at this sunny corner of West-Europe lends it an exclusive appeal. The southern parts of the island are still popular vacation destinations with glorious sandy beaches and golf courses.

Lisbon – the Capital city

Did you know that Lisbon (Portugal’s capital city) is known as the architectural, cobbled streets and cultural pearl of Western Europe, and one of the oldest towns in the world? The original capital of the Country was Guimarães. In the mid 13th century, Lisbon became the capital of Portugal.

lisbon, portugal, historic center

Lisbon has a very mild climate for Europe. It is sunny throughout the year, with an annual average of 2900-3300 hours of sunshine. The Tagus Iberia is the largest river in Lisbon and is believed to be large enough to hold all the warships on the planet.

Lisbon has a symbol of a Raven. For quite some time, the city had a cult for Raven. The clan even had a large cage with ravens in the São Jorge Castle.

The main port in Portugal is the Port of Lisbon located where the River Tagus and the Atlantic Ocean meet. It was a global maritime power during the 15th and 16th centuries. There are five major ports in Portugal, including Aveiro, the seaport of Douro, Leixões in the north, Lisbon, Setúbal, and Sines in the south. On a cruise, your ship will dock in Leixões Port, which is located in the Matosinhos District.

The Port of Setúbal has been recognized as an ‘EcoPort’ by the European Sea Ports Organisation, recognizing the excellent environmental quality of the port. Portugal’s top 5 commodity exports are petroleum, tobacco, olive oil, copper ore, and pig meat. Importable items of the nation are machinery and transport commodities, chemicals, textiles, and agricultural products.

Lisbon is so full of history; it truly is one of the best places to visit in Portugal. There are lots of independent restaurants and cafes that line the streets and you won’t be able to resist the sweet treats! Lisbon truly is one of the best places in Portugal. Read on for more places to visit in Portugal.

Natas (the most amazing custard tarts!)

Monks and nuns originally baked many of Portugal’s best cakes. In fact, the original recipe for Pastel de Nata came from the monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon. In 1834, when the monastery closed, the formula was sold to the eventual owners of the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém, which opened in 1837.

portuguese custard tart, pastel de nata, lisbon

Pastel de Nata looks like a cross between a custard tart and a cake. The outside is crispy and flaky, while the inside is creamy and sweet. To order this in Lisbon, request “u pastel de nata.” However, other regions call it by different names. Want to try one of these tasty pastries? They are best tried from a local bakery. Head of down to one of the best place to see in Portugal and try them.

The Trams of Lisbon

Here are some interesting facts about the historic trams of Lisbon?

Trams first appeared in Lisbon in 1873. They were called Carros Americanos and were first built in the United States.

portugal, lisbon, europe

It was on the 31st of August 1901 that the first electric tram (Eléctricos) departed from Cais Sodré towards Algés.

Green and red trams are specifically for tourists. The green ones were recently added to the system in May 2015. Inside, the Cobrador had two roles: to validate the ticket and to get rid of the penduras, people who climbed the tram for a free ride.

Around Christmas, you might spot the Christmas Tram with Santa on the driver’s seat.

Benagil Cave

Benagil Cave, also referred to as Algar de Benagil, is probably the most famous of all the sea caves in Algarve, Portugal. You’ll see many beautiful villages and stunning sea caves. The dome is impressive with its colorful rings and a blue opening at the top. To get to Benagil Cave, you’ll need to either kayak, take a small boat tour or swim, but beware, the ocean is rough, and even the best swimmers should take caution.

Azores – a beautiful and unique Portuguese archipelago

Made up of nine different islands and situated far from Portugals coastal coast in the mid-atlantic, the Azores might be the perfect place for anyone looking for adventure, but they are also a perfect place for those searching for beauty and wonder. Each travel destination is unique and we strongly encourage the visitor to learn the most about it and we want to give you all of that information. Expect vineyards, spectacular scenery, fishing villages and lush pastures.

azores, landscape, nature

São Miguel Island

Experience the magical island of São Miguel with the waterfalls of the Azores being one of the most enchanting features. To reach the waterfall, you’ll follow the PRC29SMI trail, which takes you along an old power plant pipeline. It requires climbing stairs, so shoes are a must. A little trip for anyone who decides to visit this trail, make sure you go up to the top of the waterfall. You’ll pass a small lookout point on your right so that you can see the waterfall from above. Continue on that path, and you’ll reach the serene water before the drop.

island, azores, atlantic

Batalha Monastery

The Batalha Monastery is one of the most significant religious buildings in Portugal. King João accredited this gothic monastery in gratitude for the 1385 victory in the battle of Aljubarrota, and the grand designs took over a hundred years to construct. The leading portal has a myriad of carved arches and magnificent stone statues, which covers most of the western wall. The lower figures represent the Apostles, above them are angels, and at the pinnacle is a statue of Christ. You can visit the main church for free, and revel in its high vaulted ceilings and original stained glass windows. However, you must attend the paid sections to experience the real magic of the monastery.

monastery, batalha, architecture


foam, castle, portugal

The Palacio da Pena is one of the most beautiful places in Sintra as well as one of the seven wonders of Portugal. It shares an array of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic, and Neo-Renaissance architectural styles and a prime example of 19th-century Romanticism. Initially, it was a monastery donated to the Order of Saint Jerome by Manuel I. It was reduced to ruins after the Lisbon Earthquake. In the restoration of 1994, the original colors were restored outside the Palace. These colors included old rose for the old monastery and ocher for the New Palace. The work of the Pena Palace ended in the mid-1860s, although later interior decoration campaigns were carried out.

Porto and Douro – Northern Portugal

In northern Portugal, Porto and Douro are two complementary destinations, both with the charm and delight of romantic locations. Porto is an ancient city that passed its name to Portugal as well as Port wine. Porto and Douro are located by the mouth of the River Douro and are classified as World Heritage Sites since 1996. Tourists admire the typical housing and granite monuments. Grab a tipple in Porto! Porto is one of the country’s largest cities that sits in the north of the country. This hilly city is one heck of a place to visit, think cobbled streets, fresh seafood and copious amounts of port that’ll keep you sozzled all evening! On our last visit, I kept forgetting that port was much more alcoholic than ‘regular wines’. As you can imagine an almighty hangover and bouts of feeling sorry for myself ensued.

Portuguese Vineyards

Taking the tram towards the beaches or riding along the river is quite romantic. Take a stroll around the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves with its luscious park, or the new Casa da Música and the praised Metro do Porto. Visit the Museu do Douro, where you will see objects about the region while enjoying a drink.

The Douro River

The Douro River is a historically significant river of the Iberian Peninsula, creating a magnificent waterway for cruise ships. The Douro River cruises run from Porto, Portugal to Vega de Terron, Spain. Most cruises are round trip from Porto. The most eminent structure on the river, the Dom Luis I Bridge, stretches to 951 feet long.

porto, portugal, river

You get a variety of Portugal and Spain on Douro River Cruises, meaning excellent Paella from Spain and Port wines from Portugal, along with Flamenco dancers and Portuguese pingo (like espresso).

Let’s learn a little about the city of Porto!

Portugal got its name for the city of Porto (Portus Cale) before Lisbon was the capital of Portugal. The city is nicknamed Invicta because Porto was never conquered, and even survived a siege.

The most typical dish in Porto is the Francesinha (Frency). It is composed of meat and sausages, cheese, and beer-tomato sauce. Porto’s most famous export is Port wine.

portugal, porto, port wine

Porto, the home to one of the three biggest football teams in Portugal, Futebol Clube do Porto (FCP). Porto also hosts one of Europe’s largest street festivals, St John’s Festival. Porto really is one of the best places to visit in portugal.


Are you ready to learn some fun facts about Aveiro?

Aveiro is known for bold Art Nouveau buildings, human-made canals, and ornate vessels.

aveiro, coloured houses, portugal

Costa Nova Beach in Aveiro is a must for seafood lovers; crabs, goose barnacles, shrimp, and whelks from the lagoon can be prepared for you on the Cais dos Pescadores. The tourists often herald the town of Aveiro as being the Venice of Portugal.

The cityscape is crisscrossed by canals that you can navigate on painted gondola-style boats known as Moliceiros. The Romans were the first to recognize Aveiro as a harbor. The harbor is the best-sheltered harbor on the Iberian Peninsula western side. Aveiro’s prized monument is the Moistero de Jesus, built between the 15th and 17th centuries.

Portuguese architecture

Portugal’s architecture made its artistic statement. It developed its style, like all aspects of Portuguese culture noted in the history of the country, and many people that have settled and influenced the current Portuguese territory. These settlers include Romans and Suebians, among other related Germanic peoples, Visigoths, and Arabs. Influence from the main European artistic centers, such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicism, are also present. Among the primary local manifestations of Portuguese architecture are the Manueline, the exuberant Portuguese version of late Gothic, and the Pombaline style that developed after the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

statue, sculpture, art

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

The Monument to the Discoveries or Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Portuguese is a monument constructed in 1939 in honor of the Portuguese Discoveries of the golden XV and XVI centuries. It is also known as Monument to Navigators and designed by the Portuguese architect José Angelo Cottinelli Telmo.

Each side of this monument features 33 heroes of the Portuguese Discoveries, and the sculpture of Infante D. Henriques (Henry the Navigator) is found on the edge of the caravel. He was the most significant person in the Discoveries. You can climb up to the 6th floor, by stairs or elevator. Try to reach the highest point of this monument to enjoy one of the favorite views over Belém and Tagus River.

Classic Portuguese Azulejos tiles

Tiles (called Azulejos) are everywhere in Portugal. They decorate walls of churches and monasteries, palaces, ordinary houses, park seats, fountains, shops, and train stations. Azulejos date back to the 13th century, and the word Azulejo stems from Arabic roots, meaning ‘small polished stone.’ King Manuel I was astonished by the Alhambra in Granada (Spain) and decided to have his Palace in Sintra decorated with the same vibrant ceramic tiles.

portugal, azulejo, ceramic

When visiting a church or cathedral in Portugal, many are decorated in Azulejos, depicting a style that started during the 16th century. Birds and leaves were frequently symbols used as decoration, possibly inspired by Asian fabrics. Famous sites known for their Azulejo art include the Sao Bento Railway Station in Porto, and the Buçaco Palace.

Glorious beaches

Portugal is a gorgeous country and home to some of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in the world. The country’s coastline stretches for over 1,000 kilometers, and is littered with sandy coves and rocky cliffs. From the picturesque Algarve region in the south to the wilds of the Atlantic Coast in the north, there are plenty of beaches to choose from.

faro, portugal, algarve

Some of the most popular beaches in Portugal include Praia da Marinha in Lagoa, Costa da Caparica near Lisbon, and Dona Ana Beach in Lagos. Praia da Marinha is known for its dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters, while Costa da Caparica is a long sandy beach that is popular with locals and visitors alike. Dona Ana Beach is one of the most secluded beaches in Portugal, and features dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters.


Bragare is Portugals largest city. A city to the north, the town is renowned for a long tradition as a religious and commercial centre. Walking around the historical center of Braga you’ll be entered into an 18th-century city of magnificent mansions and impressive cathedrals, as well as impressive palaces. Several spruce gardens and parks break up the imposing granite veneer characteristic for most of the buildings. Braga was established in 10th century with its Cathedral Sé proving a popular tourist attraction that symbolises its position as a bishopric and church and it remains a major clesiastical centre for Portugal in Portugal.


The most beautiful destination on this map, Tavira certainly possesses all of these picturesque features. This charming laid back vibe neighborhood has a Roman bridge that connects both sides. The waterfront provides an exciting walk before or after exploring Tavira’s remaining historical treasure. Castle walls give spectacular views over Old City and its neighbour’s shoreline.

tavira, algarve, water

You can also explore Igreja Santa Do Castelo, the grand cathedral where warriors’ Knights are buried. The city also has an amazing museum, Ncleo islmic. Highlighting this is an ancient and rare figure vase.


Sopotnic Vilamoura, considered to be the heart of the Algarve, is known for its absorbent beauty, its natural beauty as well – a truly beautiful town. But today tourism is growing and becomes renowned for the luxuriant spa and golf courses and as a paradise for discerning food lovers. Vilamoura is where one can put his feet up. The Algarve offers countless beaches to explore in just minutes. Some of Portugals finest wind-surfs occur on beaches nearby. It’s definitely worth visiting for food lovers and wine-lovers.


One of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal, Lagos soaks up the sunshine from the Algarve and is an ideal holiday destination for thousands of tourists. Lagos – formerly known by its stunning beach fronting both sides of its International Marina – is also a home of incredibly magical rocks and sand stone walls which rise above several rocky islands. There is also a series of sea caves and strange shaped cliffs, Alternatively, they are possible when visiting them during a relaxing sightseeing tour among many watersport activities.


portugal, albufeira, portuguese

This old fishing village today offers dozens of destinations for visitors domestically and internationally. The beaches of white tans, parasailing, jetskiing, dolphin watching and diving are not surprising. Two good beaches worth looking at are Praia da Oura and Praia dos Pescadors. The smaller secluded beaches with plenty of charm are ideal for families. Take the boat into the countryside to explore appealing villages and the finest restaurants on offer. Also remember to keep in mind the amazing nightlife.

Cascais – a pretty cosmopolitan coastal resort and a great place to visit in Portugal

Cascais, Portugal, Calcassis

Once a sleepy fishing community, Calcassis is a fashionable beach resort near Lisbon. It’s famed for a glorious beach, elegant nightlife, watersports and adventure pursuits has an elegant cosmopolitan quality. Besides being extremely acclaimed among artists and artisans for its exquisite landscape, the museum has some outstanding artworks that remain prominent in the Museum Cond de Castro Guimares. One more attraction is the elegant new marina filled with yachts dazzling in the sunshine.

What month is the best to go to Portugal?

Best time to visit Portugal is during spring months (March-May) when Portugal is blooming or waking from winter. If it is autumn (between September and Oct. ) it may be able to be crowded a few days after sunset when it’s hot.

That’s our starter for the best places to visit in Portugal. If you would like to travel to Portugal for less and even travel for free, check out our travel club membership: http://www.thetravelclub.info

 More about Portugal – Top Tips for your first amazing visit to Portugal: https://greatescapetravel.blog/top-tips-for-your-first-amazing-visit-to-portugal/

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lisbon, portugal, historic center

Top tips for a great first visit to Portugal.

This southern European country certainly doesn’t lack natural or architectural beauty. It’s no wonder you have the desire to visit Portugal. We snapshot some of our top tips for your first amazing visit to Portugal…

There’s a never-ending number of things to do and see.

So, where should you even begin? Here are some top recommendations for visiting this magnificent nation for the first time. Don’t forget, as a Travel Club member, you can secure up to 80% off hotel accommodation rates in Portugal and worldwide!

1. What places should I check out?

  • Lisbon

As the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is full of vibrant culture, historical sights, and friendly natives.

Also, Lisbon is an ideal place in the nation to take delight in authentic Portuguese cuisine and to enjoy live entertainment.

Lisbon is known for its traditional Fado performances.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to listen to some of the best Portuguese folk music!

  • Porto

There are many things to do in Porto, and this list is just a sampling of the top attractions and activities. From exploring the city’s charming architecture and vibrant culture, to enjoying its delicious food and wine, there is something for everyone in Porto. So whether you’re visiting for a day or staying for a week, be sure to add this city (Portugal’s second city) to your itinerary.

Porto is one of the oldest European cities, with a history spanning over 2,000 years. Founded by the Celts in the late 4th century BC, Porto rapidly grew into an important trade center and capital of the region. Over the centuries, it has been ruled by Phoenicians, Romans, Suevi, Visigoths, Moors, and finally, Portuguese kings. Today, Porto is a vibrant city with a rich culture and history that visitors can explore while enjoying its beautiful architecture and delicious food.

  • Batalha

One of the most phenomenal Gothic churches in all of Europe.

The church preserve is protected as a World Heritage Monument due to its significance.

As you enter the grand doors of the church, you’ll immediately take notice to all of its architectural details and picturesque 16th Century stained glass windows.

  • The Abbey of Santa Maria

As Europe’s most significant building of the Cistercian order, wander through this historical site for hours if you wish.

There certainly is a lot to see, including a monastery, seven dormitories, the library, the kitchen, and of course, the church.

  • The Beaches

The coastline of Portugal provides some of the most stunning beaches you’ll ever see.

Don’t shy away, take a break from your explorations to relax on the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream.

Some of the most popular beaches are in the Algarve region, Sagres, Aveiro, and the Praia da Adraga.

2. What are some of the most popular dishes and foods?

  • Arroz de Cabidela

It might seem daunting once you know what this dish derives from, but this chicken blood rice is a native favorite in Portugal.

You can also get this dish made with rabbit and rabbit blood.

  • Alheira

This delightful lunch includes sausage, typically prepared with french fries and fried eggs.

  • Bacalhau A Bras

Cod is shredded, sauteed to perfection, and served with onion, straw fried potatoes, eggs, parsley, and garlic.

  • Arroz Doce

As an authentic Portuguese dessert, this dish is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth.

This creamy rice pudding is topped with cinnamon and caramel custard to add a burst of flavor.

  • Caldo Verde

On a chilly night, treat yourself to this fantastic soup.

It’s merely potato, onions, and shredded kale, cooked in garlic and olive oil, yet it certainly doesn’t lack flavor!

  • Pastel de nata

Originating in Lisbon, this custard tart is an indigenous staple, and you can’t leave the country without trying it.

Now that you have some of our top tips for your first trip to Portugal let’s start planning your stay!

You’ll be amazed by the nation’s delicious food options and breathtaking sights!

Learn more about Portugal with our post HERE about its Highlights

If you’re looking for the best rates for accommodation in Portugal (or anywhere else in the world), the Travel Club can help you with up to 80% discounts off of typical retail rates. Our members also travel for free and get paid to travel. To find out more, visit http://www.thetravelclub.info

Muros, Spain

Visiting Ria de Muros, Spain – Is it worth the trip?

If you’re looking for an interesting and off-the-beaten-path destination in Spain, visiting Ria de Muros will be the best decision. This small town is located on the Galician coast, and it’s well worth a visit if you’re interested in history, culture, and stunning coastal scenery. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what Ria de Muros offers visitors.

Ria de Muros, Spain

Muros is an historic town with small narrow streets to explore. In the heart of the town is the Plaza de la Constitución, a beautiful square flanked by arcades and a large church. The town is a popular destination for tourists who come to enjoy its medieval charm. You can spend a couple of hours wandering around these small streets with local bars and restaurants nestled in between.

We arrived to Muros by sail boat and settled in to the main anchorage outside the marina. A point to note, contrary to the Reeds Almanac (2022) and Pilot Book (2019), is that there is NO fuel berth for pleasure boats – only fishing boats. If you are looking Muros to be a fuel stop, you will be required to take your portable fuel tanks to the local car filling station 10 – 15 minutes walk across town (as directed by the marina staff).

We arrived on a bank holiday weekend and although it did not both us too much, there was a rather loud party/disco/rave(??) event taking place in town (close to the water’s edge) which we could hear in the background until around 0530hrs. A large number of motorbikes (around 200) passed through the town along the coast road at around lunch time on the Sunday. On Sunday and the following day (Monday 15 August 2022), most shops were closed for the Fiesta.

The only place to land your dinghy (if using the anchorage) is the main public slip way. The marina do not permit use of their facilities. There are secure attachment points to padlock and secure your outboard and dinghy on the slip way if required.

The local area is very picturesque with a number of small coves and beaches to explore by dinghy. We spent a couple of days exploring the coastline, which is dotted with small fishing villages. The scenery is simply stunning and well worth the effort to get there.

So, if you’re looking for an interesting place to visit in Spain, we highly recommend Muros. It’s a charming town with plenty to see and do, and the surrounding area is absolutely beautiful. We think it’s well worth the trip.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post about Muros, Spain. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask. For discounted accommodation up to 80% off retail rates, visit http://www.thetravelclub.info

Is A Coruña, Spain worth a visit?

If you’re looking for a new travel destination, A Coruña, in Spain worth a visit. This city is located in the northwest corner of the country, and it has a lot to offer visitors. From its stunning architecture to its delicious food, A Coruña is definitely worth exploring! So, if you’re looking for a new place to travel to, be sure to add A Coruña, Spain to your list!

Have you ever been to A Coruña, Spain? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.

Spain worth a visit.

Is A Coruña, Spain worth a visit?

We arrived in A Coruña on 1 August 2022 after a 3 day sail from Salcombe, UK across the Bay of Biscay. We had some options for the first stop, one of which was Viveiro. After a few issues causing us to need some remedial work to our engine, we continued on to A Coruña to Marina Coruña, run by Chuny (Roberto Bermúdez de Castro Muñoz) the MD of the Coruna and Viveiro group of marinas. We cannot recommend these guys enough. Chuny and his team were ready, able and willing to assist us with our repair requirements and all other questions and queries we might have, including how best to avoid the Orcas currently residing in the Galacian waters and causing damage to yachts. The friendliness and welcoming approach of the staff at Marina Coruña was second to none!

We stayed 10 days in A Coruña and spent most evenings venturing in to the old town for dinner. There is a varied selection of restaurants (mainly seafood) in the small quaint streets. You really are spoiled for choice. Some meals with a couple of beers each (for 2) cost around 50-60 Euros, with others as low as 16-20 Euros – so take your pick, and don’t forget the ice cream shops afterwards. The are plenty of pharmacies, nicknack shops, tabacs and clothing stores. There is one main Gadis supermarket in the old town (0900-2130hrs Monday to Saturday) with a couple more further on the outskirts on the town. 10 minute taxi rides cost between 6 – 8 Euros.

Most restaurants open for food at around 1230hrs for lunch, and in the evening from 1930hrs with a siesta closure in the afternoon between 1430h/1500hrs. Our favourite was Casa del Vella – easily located – lovely staff and consistently lovely food (Address: Rúa Galera, 15, 15003 A Coruña – Phone: 881 89 53 26)

In some restaurants, we did find receiving what we had ordered a little hit and miss. You might order 2 of something as a main each, but receive just one or a flat refusal from your server to bring two on the basis that one is enough for two persons. Often when it turned up, it was a small tapas dish and clearly not sufficient for one person so you would need to order something more. That aside, almost everything we ordered was superb food with good service to match. Octopus is a local speciality – so be prepared to see this on menus prepared in various ways.

A Coruña has a relaxed, friendly vibe and warm, comfortable climate. There’s always something happening with events planned in the Maria Pitas square or the castle over-looking the harbour. While we were there we saw Texas play live for 1 hour 30 mins for free in the square. Earlier in the week various other artists including James Blunt performed.

All in all, A Coruña is, in our view, a great place to visit for a week or so. There’s plenty to do an see and if you come in the summer, the weather will undoubtedly be as warm or warmer than the UK (however, we did visit during the UK heatwave so London was 10 degrees hotter!)

For discounted accommodation, Travel Club members can receive up to 80% discount on retail accommodation rates around the world – visit http://www.thetravelclub.info

The Amazing Hamble Adventure Begins. Let’s Go!

We’re a bit late, I know. We were due to set off on our ‘big adventure’ for hamble in May 2021, but with Lockdown and various other things which sprung a surprise, here we are a year late but underway.

The extra time has given up the opportunity to carry out quite a few upgrades to the boat (a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 52.2 sailing yacht- 1999 Bruce Farr design), vinyl wrapping the whole interior in a much lighter, brighter colour wood finish, complete re-wiring, install a new radar, various major electrical system upgrades, a new oven, new fridges, new spray-hood, upgraded chart-plotter, a new anchor and chain, mounting a smart-monitor on the bulk head, complete a generator overhaul – and so the list goes on. All in all, it has been time well spent.

The story would not be complete without letting you know that we did go through a period earlier this year (April 2022) of wanting to sell the boat. This was pre-many of these upgrades and with a view to swapping out the boat for a motorhome.

We fell in love with the Hymer 890 – a brand new, very well kitted-out long-distance motorhome. With the artic pack and all available system upgrades we planned to drive our way around Europe – chasing the sun for the summer and spending the winter months up a mountain somewhere, skiing. Alas, that was not to be. We were given (what I now know to be) well intended but false hope of selling our boat “very quickly” and “at the full asking price”.

The market for used both boats and motorhomes was extremely buoyant during the end of 2021 and early 2022 following lockdown and the era of the staycation. However, when it came to selling ours (after we had virtually ordered the new Hymer), we came to learn, as did others we spoke to, that the market has flattened off with the return of new boats to the market brought back too much choice. What was a sellers market turned in to a series of ups-and-downs and disappointment for us.

That said, during the last potential purchaser viewing of our boat, we both found ourselves feeling rather down about the likelihood of an offer being made and the ultimate decision to sell our boat, ‘Great Escape’. We felt, although the benefits of a motorhome were many (and we may revisit this option again in the future), we would find ourselves parked up in a motorhome along a sunny European coastline staring at the boats and wishing we were on one of them. Suffice to say, Great Escape did not sell – so we happily decided that the ‘right thing’ for us had shown itself. We were keeping her – and we started to make final plans do what we had intended in the first place.

First stop – Salcombe.

It’s fair to say, we wouldn’t be quite were we are without someone very special to both of us. During the first lockdown we go to know a man working at the marina for one of the resident charter companies – Andy. Andy became a very good friend and will always remain so. He sailed Great Escape with us from Hamble to Chatham in 2020. After just over a year in Chatham, we moved her back to Hamble for her annual lift-out and the above upgrades. It’s been so good to have Andy’s company again for a further 9 months. Had we not gone through the process of attempting to sell Great Escape (delaying our departure from May 2022 to July 2022), Andy would be with us for the first part of our journey – Hamble – Falmouth – A’Coruna (if not more).

We left Hamble at around 1145hrs, Wednesday 28 July 2022. Our send off was Andy speeding out to us as we entered the main Solent channel out of the Hamble River accompanied by Lee, Steph, Brad and fog-horn! It was sad to see him go back as we ploughed on through the waves – but he is most likely to the first to come join us for another adventure on Great Escape down in the Med.

There’s not much to tell you about long passages sailing. There are various types and sizes of waves, variable states of tide and wind, and often a requirement to motor instead of just sail as a result. The darkness during the overnight sectors can be strange and a little daunting until day-break. We laid cushions on the cockpit floor and took turns getting some rest, but we found, in the end, when the sea state isn’t relatively calm, it can be very difficult to get comfortable without sliding across the floor. Neither of us got much sleep during the first 14 hours – more like a doze here and there. Suffice to say, when we arrived in Salcombe, we both needed a good sleep.

We arrived in Salcombe at around 0900hrs, Thursday 29 July 2022. We found a peaceful and calm anchorage, dropped the hook and set about taking a shower, making breakfast and getting ready for a sleep. We were adjacent to a quiet beach at Sunny Cove with only 2 other yachts anchored. Of course, being the summer in the UK, it wasn’t long before the ribs started arriving, the beach filled up and other boats attempting to anchor (some being asked to move on as too close to others). Although it was busy by midday, it was still quite quiet so we had a lovely afternoon just relaxing and doing little else. We were in bed by 1900hrs for a good sleep ahead of our departure for A’Coruna, crossing the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay.

Significant Delays for UK Passport renewals (exceeding 10 weeks) – and how to get yours faster!

The UK passport renewals processing time is currently at its worst, with the average wait time now exceeding 10 weeks. This is due to a high demand for passports and a lack of staff to handle the applications. If you plan on renewing your passport soon, be sure to do so as soon as possible to avoid having to wait months for your application to be processed!

All that you need to know about UK passport renewals

The UK passport office has recently come under fire for the increasing amount of time it is taking to process passport applications, with delays in excess of 10 weeks. In some cases, applicants wait over three months to receive their passports back from the HM Passport Office. This is a significant increase from the average processing time of six weeks. This has caused an incredible amount of stress and frustration for intended holiday-makers,

with some taking the matter into their own hands.

The passport office attributes the delays to a higher-than-usual demand for passports and a lack of staff to handle the applications. They are urging people who are planning on renewing their passports

to do so as soon as possible in order to avoid any potential delays. The worst delays appear to be with those applications sent to Peterborough and Durham HMPO offices, with most of the other offices returning passports as quickly as 7 to 14 days after application.

You WILL be required to send (email) proof of departure to your office of application or take copies of flight itineraries with you when you visit. Arrive early – be prepared to wait. Queues are sorted into lanes of those departing within 24 hours and those departing within 48 hours. Don’t expect to be seen if you cannot prove these timescales. The above Facebook Groups will give you details of email addresses to use and any additional numbers you can call. NB: Phone calls alone do not get results!

We found that following the Passport Office recommendation of seeking an ‘upgrade’ (said to be available after 6 weeks, but in fact rarely permitted before 10 weeks) resulted in a cost of £144 and another long wait for an appointment (2-3 weeks in most cases), with no guarantee of your passport with 7-8 days thereafter.

In short – best results have been found by attending your local passport office (need not be the office of application) within 48 hours of your departure (as soon as they open), taking proof with you. Be prepared to queue, but most people are leaving the same day with their passport.

UK passport renewals

For those with a valid passport and those who obtain their passport – the Travel Club can help you find great deals on travel for up to 80% off of retail rates and many other service providers, tickets, and lifestyle products. Visit http://www.thetravelclub.info for more information.

Greek Hotels – Your home in the Med

Greece is full of wonderful hotels – family size and equipped, plus boutique, quiet luxury size gems. Its Mediterranean location is an ideal holiday spot, and it is still seeing tourism increase steadily increasing by 10% a year for decades. The Olympics in 2004 boosted its popularity in the early 2000s, as did the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest. Since then, Greece has been host to many international event which only service to raise its position in the holiday landscape, with no sign of a decline any time soon.

The beautiful beaches of Greece

As tourism is such an important industry in Greece, hotels are everywhere: they just can’t build them fast enough to meet all the demand. As a result, the quality of hotels in the country varies widely. Rather than being ranked with stars, hotels in Greece have been put into categories, with category A ranking the best. However, as the category system is based on a number of factors, like the sizes of rooms, it can often be deceptive with many category B or C hotels actually better in reality than some category A, or at least most people would consider them superior.

There are lots of things you should look for when choosing a hotel. What are the facilities like? Is there any building work going on? Can you bring children? What kind of rooms are there? Is it close to what you’ve come to see? The best way to get all these questions answered is to use a site that reviews or compares hotels, so that you can see all the features of each hotel laid out in front of you.

Stunning views from Greek Islands

As an English speaker, you may find you are only able to book at quite big hotels. Smaller hotels will often rely on agencies to act as a go-between and translate into Greek for them which can push up the cost of staying there. The travel club we found is able to secure lots of rooms at lovely, quaint, off-the-beaten-track Greek hotels without any fuss or difficulty.

Greek Luxury…

One last thing to note is that it is essential to book before you go to Greece rather than trying to find a hotel once you’re there. The exceptionally high demand means that in peak season all the decently-located hotels can easily end up full, leaving you to wander around aimlessly for hours trying to find something.

The travel club is able to source and unique, boutique, family friendly and ideally located hotels across Greece and the Greek Islands. Check out membership here: http://www.thetravelclub.info

Naxos: A true gem of the Cyclades, the Greek Islands

Thanks to a 2014 New York Times article declaring Naxos, Greece not to be missed, travel heavyweights have been including it year after year on their roundups of must-see destinations within the Cyclades – Naxos: a true gem of the Cyclades, the Greek Islands.

The touqouise sea of the Cyclades

Unlike its neighbours Santorini and Mykonos, Naxos remains relatively unfazed by the hype – despite the fact that the picturesque island continues to surface on Greek island round-ups. Its low-key ambiance and quiet pace provide visitors with an authentic Greek island experience, only three and a half hours from bustling Athens.

When to Go

The weather in Greece is warm from March and April onwards, with peak crowds in July and August.  Early September is an ideal time to experience the island. By September fewer tourists are packing the ferries and beaches, as children across Europe are back in school.


Getting There

The easiest way to arrive to Naxos is by ferry from Athens. From the port of Piraeus (just outside of Athens) a highspeed ferry will deliver you to Naxos in roughly 3.5 hours, while other ferries offer a more scenic 5.5-hour journey. Purchase your tickets in advance to alleviate any headaches at the port and guarantee your arrival time. See here for more info: https://www.greekferries.gr/

What to Do

Eat. Simply arrive hungry, and don’t leave until you’ve eaten just about everything. Local Naxian cheese and olive oil are not to be missed, as is imbibing on a glass of island-made Kitron (a spirit made from citron trees, a relative of the lemon). There are plenty of restaurants directly across the street from the port, however going inland (even if it’s a block or two) will often reveal restaurants aimed at locals instead of tourists, complete with more reasonable prices and authentic cuisine.

While it’s a drive nearly 45 minutes inland, a visit to Rotonda (located in the Apeiranthos region of Naxos) will deliver gourmet food with jaw-dropping views of the island and sea. Tip: Reserve a table for sunset, the views are some of the best on the island.

Naxos has no shortage of stunning beaches and beach bars. From the Chora (town center) the first beach is Agios Georgios, an easy 15-minute walk from the center of town. While there are ample oceanfront restaurants and beach bars, Agios Georgios is often the most crowded due to its proximity to the town center.

Outside of the town center, three well-known beaches dot the coast – Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, and Plaka. Each boasts crystal clear turquoise water, not unlike the Caribbean, and Agios Prokopios and Agia Anna are within walking distance of each other. All three beaches are easily accessible by public transit that runs every half hour from the town center. If you want to rent a sunbed for the day (highly recommended to find reprieve from the scorching Mediterranean sun) visit any number of the beach bars along the beach. Some will rent two beds and an umbrella for a flat fee, others will include them for ‘free’ with the purchase of food or drinks.

Unique to Naxos is the Eggares Olive Press Museum, one of Naxos’s oldest remaining olive mills. A brief complimentary tour showcases the history of the mill, including original production materials once used at the site. Don’t miss a tasting, I dare you to leave without buying some of their oil. You’ll be hooked and we’d love to help you get there!

Picturesque Greek hamlet pathways

Where to Stay

There’s no shortage of accommodation options on Naxos, ranging from luxurious private villas to basic room rentals.

Iliada Villas are located a ten-minute walk from Paralia Agios Prokopios beach and offers guests their choice of villas, rooms, or suites with breakfast included. With an outdoor pool, restaurant, and pool bar, guests will want for nothing. Travel club members can save over £1000 GBP for a week in the Summer here.

Accurate as at 30 May 2022 for 1 week – 18 to 25 June 2022

Pyrgaki Hotel has great reviews for good reason. The Greek hospitality is evident from the moment you arrive. Save over £125 for a week here with the travel club

Accurate as at 30 May 2022 for 1 week – 18 to 25 June 2022

Interested in visiting Greece, or maybe island hopping for your next trip away?

Contact me here, I’d love to help you with big savings on your next Mediterranean escape! Or visit our travel club information page: http://www.thetravelclub.info