World Travel Diaries

Porto, Portugal

Friday 18 June 2010 | By Emma Watt |

An Ideal Destination for Port Lovers

I was fortunate to experience a number of mini-breaks as you do when living in London. The usual places were covered and sometimes repeated ie- Paris! One place that stood out for me was Porto in the northern part of Portugal. It’s also not too surprising that Porto, as the name suggests, is the birth place of the well known fortified wine - Port.

“Great – let’s go there!” Emma thinks to herself whilst scrolling through Easyjet’s specials.

We finally arrived in Porto after a 4am rise in London to get out to Gatwick and couldn’t have been happier to be off the plane and with baggage within about 15 minutes. We found our way to the tram line and to our hotel after another 45 minutes. Checked-in, showered and scanned a map. Right, let’s have a drink to celebrate.

We enjoyed four days there which was probably just enough time to cover the highlights (could easily give it a week depending on your taste for Port). We spent out first day on foot, exploring the streets, getting lost, walking through the shanty villages and thoroughly absorbing Porto.  

There’s two distinct sides to town – the port side (Villa Nova de Gaia) and the old town (Porto). Both sides are separated by the Douro River and the bridges that link them. As with most towns centred on water there’s a lot of activity on the river banks and where we had dinner most nights. 

After day one, feeling that we’d satisfactorily explored the old town, we moved on to the Port side – for the remaining 3 days. 

In Porto just about everything can be done on foot. The port cellars are clustered together, joined by little cobblestone alleys, working up a reasonably steep hill. Naturally, we started at the top and worked our way down. We visited the Croft Port house and did a small tour through their cellars. It was amazing to find a bottle with a vintage of 1841; we just don’t have that history here in Australia. 

A little out of town (about 20 minutes in a cab) is the beach and the costal part of town where the River Duoro stems from. Although not as spectacular as some of Portugal’s other beaches it provides another focal point to the city with more restaurants/shops and bars. The area (Matosinhos) lends itself to a more modern atmosphere, noticeably populated with the younger Porto inhabitants.

We were there in May 2007 about 5 days after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (near Lisbon). Even in the short time we were there the Portuguese people displayed their exceptional hospitality and were genuinely interested to know where we were from and if we enjoyed their home town. It was as if there were trying to convince us that Portugal is a good place and that the bad publicity should not put anyone off visiting.

That it shouldn’t…It’s a beautiful place. I’d definitely go again! 

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A Stunning and Memorable Destination

Wednesday 16 June 2010 | By Sonya Dwarte |

BULA!

After a three and a half hour flight we arrive in beautiful Fiji. Our flight arrived late at night so we stayed at the Mercure in Nadi which was only a 10 minute transfer ride. I found the mercure a great hotel for a stopover as it is close to the airport, clean, comfortable, features a delicious buffet breakfast plus the staff were also extremely welcoming.

The next day we drove to Denarau Island which is only a 15 minute trip from Nadi. Denarau Island is a beautiful island located across a little bridge from the mainland of Fiji. Boasting a stunning golf course at its centre, extravagant housing on either side and luxury resorts perched at the end. 

Denarau harbour is a great spot and has grown to include many cafes, including; The Hard Rock Café, Thai and Indian restaurants, clothing stores, souvenir shops and a local supermarket. Denarau harbour is also the main marina where the ferry boats go to the mamanuca islands.

Later that morning we boarded the island hopping ferry, 'Awesome Adventures,' giving us a chance to see many of the other islands. After a 6 hour boat ride plus a 45 minute tinny ride we finally arrive at the exclusive Yasawa Island Resort. Given my experience on the open seas I would highly recommend a plane or helicopter alternative in order to get to Yasawa Island resort. This will ensure you avoid sea sickness and save time. As a side note, the water was quite calm however the duration of the trip is the primary downside to this mode of transport.

Since we where all exhausted from our long boat ride we chose to postpone to resort inspection to the following day and instead indulged in some cocktails in the pool. Yasawa Island resort is very private and exclusive, nestled on its own little island it's an ideal destination for honeymooners!

The next day we had another long boat ride back towards them main land.  On our journey back we stopped at an array of islands and I would have to say that the highlight for me was LikuLiku Lagoon Resort situated on Malolo Island. This was yet another luxurious and amazing resort featuring over water bungalows, perched atop crystal clear, blue water.

Around the corner from LikuLiku we continued to inspect Malolo Island and the Malolo Island Resort. This island and in particular, this resort will always hold a special place in my heart. It has recently been refurbished and plays host to beautiful, private cottages sitting along the beach. 

With a few hours to spare before the boat picked us up we decided to go snorkeling… and for someone who is usually petrified at the thought, it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had!... I never knew that Nemo was actually real!!

Over the next 3 days we inspected The Sofitel, The Radisson, The Hilton, Sheraton resort and spa and the Westin. The Sheraton Resort and Spa and the Westin are conveniently located next to one another, and I would nominate these as the best resorts in the area. With the two properties owned by the same company, guests of these resorts are given access to the facilities of both. This makes for excellent value for money!

There is a local shuttle bus that picks up from all the resorts on Denarau and from Denarau marina, at the small cost of $4.00 for the entire day, passengers are free to hop on and off as many times as they wish.

During my stay on Fiji I also had the privilege of visiting the Taikim Village. It is a village supported by charities with the aim of housing women and children who have nowhere to go or who suffer from abuse. While we where there we helped build a little hut, we also sung and danced with the children and purchased community made clothing and handicraft, with all proceeds going back into the community.

All in all Fiji was an amazing experience and I cannot wait to go back one day. I highly recommend Fiji, boasting lovely weather, crystal clear water and friendly local communities - It is both a stunning and memorable holiday location.

Venaka! (Thankyou).

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!