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October Bank Holiday Weekend In Porto, Flights & 4* Apartment, 3 Nights, €259!

porto

Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe! Why not choose some where different for a city break this year and try a weekend in Porto – you won’t be disappointed.

 

I spent the October Bank holiday weekend in Porto last year and loved it!  This medieval city is full of colourful buildings, I was genuinely amazed at how beautiful the Porto was. The Ribeira district is a Unesco World Heritage site and is full of local wine bars, restaurants and old buildings close to the waterfront. Enjoy a glass of wine or a meal by the river, and soak up the atmosphere, for a fraction of what you would pay at home. In fact Porto of late has become one of Europe’s top food destinations. You wont find top celebrity restaurants here, but lots of local eateries serving delicious Portuguese food, at rock bottom prices. Renowned as the birthplace of port, there are also numerous wine cellars offering tastings and tours. There are plenty of good places to go at night time too, with bands playing in various venues across the city.

weekend in Porto

Porto is not all about food and wine though. No visit would be complete without seeing the Se Cathedral, Saõ Francisco church and Clérigos Tower. You will also be drawn to the many churches with blue tiles that are scattered throughout the city. Like all cities there is a great shopping street and let’s not forget Porto is beside the coast, so if you dont fancy a boat trip along the Douro River, why not spend the day at the beach, which is only 15 minutes from the centre of Porto.  For more information read my blog on why you need to choose Porto for your next city break.

I found a great deal staying in the 4* Porto Cinema apartments. Highly rated on tripadvisor and centrally located, this is a great choice to explore all that Porto has to offer.  Fly from Dublin on the 26th of October and enjoy a three night stay here for only €259 per person!

Click here to book flights: €151pp:

Click here to book apartment: €108pp

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Please note that some of these links are affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

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Travel News and Reviews

Portugal Wins World’s Leading Destination at the World Travel Awards

I have visited Portugal many times so I was delighted to hear it won the World’s Leading Destination award at the prestigious World Travel Awards last week.

 

It is great to see Portugal being recognised with such an accolade, as well as Lisbon winning the world’s leading city break destination. While the Algarve is one of Ireland’s most popular destinations for holidaymakers, regular direct flights to Lisbon and Porto are making Portugal’s cities, firm favourites too. In fact passenger growth from Ireland has increased dramatically and now Ireland is considered one Portugal’s fastest growing markets. I am just back from a weekend in Porto and I loved it. The city of Porto is UNESCO World Heritage site, full of colourful buildings, delightful streets and has a great food and wine scene. If you haven’t already visited, read my blog on why you need to choose Porto for your next city break.

world travel awards

These awards are a fantastic achievement, particularly as Portugal is the first European country to win the World’s Leading Destination award. Portugal won Europe’s Leading Destination in September which automatically entered them into the final along with 17 other countries. It beat off competition from the USA, Brazil, as well as six time winners, Dubai, to win the coveted prize of at the World Travel Awards, on the 10th of November in Vietnam.

But that’s not all, Portugal also won 6 other awards:

– World’s Leading Tourist Board for Turismo de Portugal
– World’s Leading Tourism Authority Website for Visit Portugal
– World’s Leading Island Destination 2017 for Visitmadeiraofficial
– World’s Leading City Break Destination 2017 for Visit Lisboa
– World’s Leading Conservation Company 2017 for Parques de Sintra
– World’s Leading Luxury Leisure Resort 2017 for Pine Cliffs, a Luxury Collection Resort

world travel awards

Ana Mendes Godinho, Secretary of State for Tourism said, “It is the acknowledgment of the country that we have. An authentic, innovative, reinvented country that combines a wide variety of experiences and landscapes, a country that combines cosmopolitanism, history, tradition, sun, nature and gastronomy. A country that knows and enjoys to welcome everyone. We must now continue this work of showing all the diversity of what Portugal has to offer and which makes us a tourism destination of excellence”.

 

So if you haven’t already visited Portugal, go see it in 2018!

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

In The Media

Travel Hot Spots for 2017 – As Seen on TV3’s Saturday AM

TV3-Cover-SatAM

Spain, Portugal and Croatia are looking like the top short haul destinations this year while America and Asia lead the way in long haul travel. Check out my travel hot spots for 2017 as seen on TV3’s Saturday AM.

  

European holiday destinations 

Sunway

Spain and Portugal will remain the most popular short haul holiday destinations in 2017. 1.8 million Irish holiday makers went to Spain in 2016 and this year should attract similar numbers. The Costa Dorada could be the big winner. There are flights from Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock serving Reus, Girona or Barcelona. Sunway and Falcon Holidays both offer package deals to Salou and Cambrils. The combination of the iconic city of Barcelona and the opening of Ferrari World at the already popular Port Aventura theme park, make it an ideal choice for all the family.

Travel hot spots for 2017

The Algarve has almost fifty flights per week from Irish airports, in the peak Summer months. Aer Lingus have added a new service to Porto, and Lisbon is already a popular city break destination. Sunway have introduced a direct flight to Sardinia in Italy, a welcome return for those looking for nice beaches in Italy. Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Aegean air are all flying to Athens so this should help those looking to travel to the bucket list destinations of Santorini and Mykonos.

Croatia may prove to be the hot spot for people looking to go somewhere different but want to be close to home. Aer Lingus have introduced flights to Split and they also fly to Pula and Dubrovnik, while Ryanair fly to Zadar. I was in Pula last year and loved it, you can read all about my stay here.

Fly from Dublin to Pula with Aer Lingus on the 23rd of May and enjoy a seven night stay in the popular Splendid Hotel for only €349 per person, including airport transfers. Situated right at the waters edge, this is a great choice for a relaxing break and is within easy reach of the city of Pula. Use my exclusive code TRAVELEXP10 to save 10% off the hotel cost.

Click here for more details.

Travel hot spots for 2017
Amphitheatre in Pula

City Breaks

WOW air have increased flights from Dublin to Reykjavik and added on a service from Cork. It looks like Iceland will remain popular in 2017 for weekend breaks and as a holiday destination. KLM are now flying four times a day to Amsterdam as well as Aer Lingus and Ryanair so this could prove another cheap city break option.

Porto for me will be the big winner. When Aer Lingus announced they were flying to Porto, Ryanair decided to increase their flights. We now have 8 flights a week to the small city of Porto – it could prove to be this years top city break destination. It is one of Europe’s oldest cities and almost feels medieval. It is also a good choice for food lovers. You will find some excellent restaurants serving traditional Portuguese food and wine, at a fraction of the cost you would pay at home.

I found a great deal to the 4* Cristal Porto hotel in May, highly recommended on tripadvisor, this modern hotel ticks all boxes. Fly from Dublin on the 11th of May and enjoy a three night stay here for only €237 per person.

Click here to book flights: €75pp:

Click here to book hotel: €162pp

Travel hot spots for 2017
Porto 

Cruises

Cruise Holiday

One of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry, cruise holidays should have another bumper year. The competition has never been greater. Most major cruise lines have dedicated Irish websites now and many travel agents and tour operators have dedicated cruise departments. Free all inclusive drinks packages, half price kids offers and even free flights, will I am sure, entice Irish holidaymakers to cruise in 2017. New destinations like Cuba will make it easier for visitors to visit Havana without paying the increasing accommodation costs. River cruises are also proving popular for discerning clients. For those who don’t want to fly there are also cruises operating directly from Ireland in 2017.

travel hot spots for 2017
MSC Meraviglia

MSC’s Get more, Get All campaign offers free WiFi, free all-inclusive drinks package and €50 on board credit. This deal is also available on their brand new luxury ship, MSC Meraviglia. Fly from Dublin to Barcelona on the 8th of September and enjoy a seven night Med cruise, visiting Spain, France, Italy and Malta for only €1399. This price includes an upgrade to a balcony cabin, a FREE all-inclusive drinks package, FREE Wi-Fi and €50 on board credit.

Click here for more details:

 

Long Haul destinations

Flights to the States have grown to unprecedented levels. New routes to from Aer Lingus to Hartford and Miami and extra flights to Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago and New York, should translate into a bumper year for Irish tourists to the USA. The addition of low cost flights with Norwegian Air from Cork to Boston and New York, as well as WOW air flights via Iceland, should ensure lots of good deals for Irish holidaymakers.

travel hot spots for 2017
Miami

With two direct daily flights to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi and now a new daily service to Doha with Qatar airlines, getting to Asia, Africa and Australia has never been easier. No lengthy lay overs in Heathrow and with so many flights, prices will be very competitive. Ethiopian airlines‘ Dreamliner aircraft made many news reports when they offered cheap direct flights from Dublin to Los Angeles this year. They have now added extra connections from their hub in Addis Ababa to South Africa. This means that flights from Dublin to Cape Town are easily accessible and hopefully well priced too.

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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Featured

Top Holiday Destinations in 2017

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Dublin airport has just celebrated it’s best ever year in 2016 and there are lots of new routes announced from Dublin, Cork and Shannon. It seems Irish airports are set for another bumper year.  So where are the top holiday destinations in 2017?

It looks like firm favourites, Spain and Portugal will remain the most popular short haul holiday destinations. Every other month we are hearing about new routes to the USA so American holidays will probably be the next biggest crowd pleaser. Short break enthusiasts will welcome the 9 weekly flights to Iceland and if you haven’t visited Athens or Amsterdam yet, 2017 might well be the year to do it. Cruise holidays are gearing up for another year of growth and the 14 weekly flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well as the new daily Qatar airways service from Dublin to Doha, ensures long haul holidays will be easily accessible. Here are my picks for holiday hot spots in 2017!

Spain

Ireland’s favourite holiday destination never disappoints. Culture vultures or party animals enjoy the numerous choices for city breaks and beach holidays. Why not combine both though? The Costa Dorada looks like it could be the big winner this year. There are flights from Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock serving Reus, Girona or Barcelona and Sunway and Falcon Holidays both offer package deals to Salou and Cambrils. The combination of the iconic city of Barcelona and the opening of Ferrari World at the already popular Port Aventura theme park, make it an ideal choice for all the family.

Top holiday destinations in 2017

Portugal

Another Irish favourite, the Algarve has almost fifty flights per week from Irish airports, in the peak Summer months. Aer Lingus have added a new service to Porto, and Lisbon is already a popular city break destination. It looks like lots Irish holiday makers will be flocking to Portugal in their droves in 2017.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
Algarve

Italy

Lakes, mountains, cities and beaches, Italy has something to offer all holiday makers. Lake Garda is becoming more and more popular with families as there are numerous self catering and camping options. The Amalfi Coast is always a popular honeymoon destination and the islands will attract couples looking for an upmarket holiday. Sunway have introduced a direct flight to Sardinia for 2017 which should keep the beach enthusiasts happy, and the growing trend for authentic experiences will ensure that Irish numbers to the region of Puglia should continue to grow.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
Sardinia

Greece

Always great value for money and appealing to the masses, the Greek islands should have many Irish visitors in 2017. There are direct flights to Zakynthos, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and Kos with Falcon Holidays and flights to Athens with Aer Lingus, Ryanair and Aegean airlines. This should ensure Athens will be a popular city break destination but also allow easier access to the sought after islands of Santorini and Mykonos.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
Santorini

USA

Flights to the States have grown to unprecedented levels. New routes to from Aer Lingus to Hartford and Miami and extra flights to Los Angeles, Orlando and New York, should translate into a bumper year for Irish tourists to the USA. The addition of low cost flights with Norwegian Air from Cork to Boston and New York, as well as WOW air flights via Iceland, should ensure lots of good deals for Irish holidaymakers. San Francisco is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic ‘summer of love’ with a year of events and festivals in 2017. And would you believe Elvis is dead 40 years this year… sure makes me feel old! Why not pay tribute to the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ by visiting Memphis during ‘Elvis Week’, between 11th and 19th August. See American Sky for details.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
Universal Studios

Mexico

Mexico is one of our most popular long haul destinations. Falcon Holidays are offering direct flights from Dublin for those looking for a two week holiday in the summer months. Many choose to fly via America and combine with a city break in New York or Vegas. I think Mexico will continue to be as popular with Irish holidaymakers in 2017.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
Mexico

Iceland

WOW air introduced flights to Reykjavik in 2015 which proved to be a resounding success. People chased the Northern lights and swam in the Blue Lagoon, with lots of positive reviews. So much so that WOW have decided to increase flights from Dublin and add on a service from Cork. It looks like Iceland will remain popular in 2017 for weekend breaks and as a holiday destination.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
Chase the Northern Lights in Iceland

Cruises

One of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry is set for another bumper year. The competition has never been greater. Most major cruise lines have dedicated Irish websites now and many travel agents and tour operators have dedicated cruise departments. Free all inclusive drinks packages, half price kids offers and even free flights, will I am sure, entice Irish holidaymakers to cruise in 2017. New destinations like Cuba will make it easier for visitors to visit Havana without paying the increasing accommodation costs. River cruises are also proving popular for discerning clients. For those who don’t want to fly there are even cruises operating directly from Ireland in 2017.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
American cruise lines are now docking in Cuba.

Croatia

For those looking for somewhere a little different but still close to home, Croatia will be a top choice. The stunning city of Dubrovnik has always been a favourite but now there are flights to Split and Pula with Aer Lingus, as well as Zadar with RyanairFalcon Holidays have also announced package holidays to Croatia and specialists Croatia Tours continue to offer a wide choice of package holidays to the region.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
Dubrovnik

Middle East and beyond

With two direct daily flights to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi and now a new daily service to Doha with Qatar airlines, getting to Asia, Africa and Australia has never been easier. No lengthy lay overs in Heathrow and prices should reduce too!

Top holiday destinations in 2017
Dubai

South Africa

Ethiopian airlines‘ Dreamliner aircraft made many news reports when they offered cheap direct flights from Dublin to Los Angeles this year. They have now added extra connections from their hub in Addis Ababa to South Africa. This means that flights from Dublin to Cape Town should be easily accessible and hopefully well priced too.

Top holiday destinations in 2017
South African safari

They are my thoughts on the top holiday destinations in 2017 but please comment below if you have any more to add 🙂

 

Sarah

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DestinationsEuropeFamily HolidaysFeaturedSunseekers

Alvor in the Algarve – The Perfect Place for a Relaxing Break.

Alvor fishing village portugal

Looking for a quiet break with great restaurants and a stunning beach? Alvor in the Algarve ticks every box.

My husband and I went to Alvor in the Algarve when I was pregnant with Alex and we couldn’t have chosen a better location. We stayed in the Pestana Dom Joao villas which are right on the beach. Although the accommodation is more like large apartments than private villas, you can’t beat their beachfront location. The sand is literally at the end of the garden, a luxury that is hard to find on a typical package holiday.

alvor portugal fishing village tourist attraction

Having the garden was a massive advantage. I was able to sunbathe while Luke slept. It was also handy when I was preparing meals, Luke was able to play football outside. The Dom Joao Villas are ideal if travelling with young children who don’t need kids clubs or entertainment to amuse them,  and are just happy to be at the beach or kicking ball.

There are dramatic rock formations all along the Alvor coastline. These are not only stunning to look at, but have the added advantage of creating rock pools, a great way to pass the time with young kids too, searching for crabs, small fish or other pirates treasure!

Alvor, The Travel Expert

Alvor is a small fishing village, yet despite the influx of tourists it still retains much of its old world charm. The village has narrow cobbled streets with some fantastic restaurants, as well as some lively bars boasting inexpensive prices. Adega Alvor is a great family choice with an extensive menu to suit all tastes. The local Alvor wine is particularly good too.

There are also some stunning restaurants built into the cliffs along the beach. Canico is a particularly good choice, you can access this from the beach, or through the Prainha Village complex. Canico is more expensive than the local village restaurants and although the food does not necessarily justify higher prices, the setting certainly does. Watching the sunset over the Atantic Ocean from its dramatic clifftop setting is something I would never tire of.

 

I recommend that you hire a car if you want to see a little more of the Algarve. The coach transfer from the airport can be two hours depending on the amount of stops, but to drive it, it is just over an hour. I also recommend a trip to nearby Portimao, the Algarve’s capital, to visit the modern marina and local shops.

Zoo Marine which is close to the airport, is an excellent theme park with dolphin, seal and bird shows. It also has a man made beach with slides and a splash park.

The Algarve is a great holiday destination with a huge number of resorts to choose from, but Alvor will always have a special place in my heart. I look forward to returning soon.

Sarah

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City BreaksDestinationsEurope

Cascais and the Lisbon Coast

Lisbon

Despite visiting Portugal on many occasions, I had never visited Lisbon until recently. I wanted a beach holiday but with the opportunity to do some sightseeing too – the Lisbon Coast has both in abundance.

 

I was really impressed by the Lisbon Coast as a holiday destination, it had something for everyone. I stayed in the beautiful village of Cascais which offered the best of both worlds. We enjoyed staying in a holiday resort, but within easy access to Lisbon. Lisbon is a great city to visit. It is so colourful, has a great food scene and there is an endless supply of sights to see.

things to do on the lisbon coast

 

Things to do in Lisbon

If you are on a city break and staying in Lisbon you may get to see all of the top attractions, but if like us you are staying along the Lisbon Coast, and day-tripping to Lisbon, it is impossible to see everything! I would recommend taking one of the old fashioned trams and doing a hop on hop off city tour, this will enable you to see as much as possible. If you want to go it alone, Tram 28 offers the best route to all the sights.

 
things to do on the lisbon coast
 

The city is quite spread out, but using the trams will allow you see the cultural centre of Belem, the Castelo de Sao Jorge and even climb the Cristo Rei: a huge statue of Christ where you can see views of the whole city. If you are travelling with children, the Aquarium is a must-see. It’s one of the worlds largest aquariums, and one that you could easily find yourself spending the day in!

Wondering where to stay in Lisbon? Read my top picks of 3, 4 & 5-Star Lisbon hotels here.

 

 

 

Things to do on The Lisbon Coast 

A visit to Sintra is one of the top attractions on the Lisbon Coast. Wander through the narrow streets and marvel at the architecture that dates back to the fifteenth century. It has numerous designated UNESCO world heritage sites, the most famous being the National Palace. I loved the lesser known Quinta de Regaleira, a mystical place, great for families with children, who can explore the many nooks and crannies in its wonderful gardens. There are underground tunnels, waterfalls and a magical castle. My son Luke (6) thought we were in middle earth and needless to say he thoroughly enjoyed it!
 
things to do on the lisbon coast
 

 

 
If, like us, you want to stay in a beach resort, there many to choose from. We chose Cascais and loved it. It is such a charming town, filled with quaint cobbled stone streets, some great shops, and a huge variety of restaurants to cater for every palate. I found a little gem hidden away from the main centre called 5 Sentidos, Casa do Largo, with typical Portugeese food that catered really well for all of us. There is a nice cove beach with a marina close by and plenty of larger beaches a few minutes drive from the centre too.
 

 

 

 

 
The beaches at Guincho are particularly impressive,  with huge waves and wide stretches of sandy beach. The train station is right in the centre of the town, with trains going every 20 minutes to Lisbon and the surrounding area.

Overall it was a great trip. It was not your typical family beach holiday, but that was part of the charm. When I think of the thousands of Irish visitors that travel to the Algarve each year, I enjoyed taking the path less travelled on, it made all the difference!
 

 

 

Wondering where to stay in Lisbon? Read my top picks of 3, 4 & 5-Star Lisbon hotels here.

 

Like city breaks? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

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