Oporto, Portugal – Travel Guide

The city of Oporto is built on steep hills which surround the mouth of the River Douro on the west coast of Portugal. Steeped in history Oporto is an ideal all year round holiday destination for visitors looking for more than just sunshine and beaches. Oporto has an amazing mix of neighbourhoods, although most Oporto holidays focus on the riverside Ribeira quarter which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The historic city of Oporto offers a vast array of architecture, a 12th century cathedral, old churches, the Maria Pia Bridge which was built by Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower Paris fame) and once the longest arch bridge in the world, medieval alleys leading off steep cobbled streets, an old riverside quarter, waterside bars and cafes, shops, parks and gardens. When it comes to relaxing Oporto has plenty of traditional tavernas and restaurants where you can enjoy local cuisine, fish and seafood dishes along with some local vinho verde. Enjoy some shopping in the city’s traditional stores and covered market or take in some culture including art, furniture and ceramic museums, theatres and galleries.

Climb the Baroque Torre dos Clerigos for amazing panoramic views of the old city and a photographic opportunity not to be missed. Visitors climb 240 steps to the top of this iconic landmark! A holiday in Oporto is not complete without a walk across the two-tiered Dom Luis Bridge to the suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia where you will find the famous port wine lodges on one bank and the Ribeira on the other. Here at the port lodges you can sample ports from the three sub-zones of the Douro Valley, the world’s first demarcated wine region. You will also be able to buy from famous cellars such as Sandeman and Taylor’s who produce the fortified wine (port) named after the famous city of Oporto.

Families will love exploring the maze of narrow lanes which are lined with brightly coloured houses with white and blue tiled facades and balconies decked in flowers. There are lots of interesting excursions available on your bargain holidays to Oporto, including those to seaside towns, small fishing villages, small towns and villages where you can explore old monasteries, churches, castles, forts and bridges. A great day out for all the family is a cruise along the River Douro which runs through the picturesque Douro Valley with a stunning backdrop of terraced vineyards and quaint towns. Guimares is a World Heritage Site where you see some fine medieval, Gothic, Roman and Baroque architecture.

A holiday to Portugal wouldn’t be complete without a day or two on the beach. The most popular beach resorts close to Oporto are the Atlantic resorts of Foz, Vila Cha, Povoa de Varzim, Santo Tirso and Cabadelo to the north and Esmoriz, Espinho (a long golden beach with a casino) and Cortegaca (excellent for surfing) to the south.

Nightlife centres mainly on the old riverside area of Cais da Ribeira, the student bars of Cordoaria and also the more trendy bars, clubs, Art Deco cafes and smart restaurants.

Oporto enjoys long hot summers with almost unbroken sunshine between June and September. Spring and Autumn are warm with plenty of sunshine and an ideal time for cruising on the River Douro and exploring the many historical sites Oporto has to offer.

Travel – The Benefits of Exploring the World

What on earth is happening to the world?

The financial sectors are being brought down to their knees the world over, jobs are on the line, and we feel forced to watch this happen and feel powerless to do anything to stop it. But are we powerless? No. Good enough reason to want to survive this ruin. In fact, the key to surviving this difficult and unprecedented stage in our planet’s history is to take responsibility, alter our thought process altogether and change the way we see the world. Travel and the exploration of our world provides us with the perfect platform for this change to occur.

When approached with openness and humility, the benefits of Travel are endless. But for the sake of simplicity, I have broken them down to 5 points.

1. Travel gives us the opportunity to silence the mind.

2. Travel gives us the opportunity to be touched by beauty.

3. Travel encourages us to grow.

4. Travel fuels our imagination, and awakens a sense of lightness and joy.

5. Travel fulfills our yearning for Unity.

1. Travel gives us the opportunity to silence the mind. Silence, which has been grossly underrated by modern society, creates a nourishing environment for contemplation and the appearance of inspiration. Yet, we find it extremely challenging to silence the mind in the midst of our everyday routine. This is where stepping outside of our comfort zone and exploring unfamiliar lands can play a very important part. It becomes easier for us to focus our undivided attention on a chosen object, such as a sunset, a beautiful landscape or a work of art, when we are outside of our normal environment. We allow ourselves to experience that sense of wonder and rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural laws, and feelings such as exhilaration, joy and peace are triggered. Time seems to stand still. Our intuitive capacity is increased, leading us to reach the Self and contact it fully. This is called an insight or “Illumination”, that “AHA” moment, where we arrive at a new level of awareness. And when an insight or illumination does appear, it sometimes reveals something that may have even been staring at us in the face all along.

The opportunity to silence the mind during my own personal travels has enabled me to find practical solutions to problems, the courage to change direction in my life at pivotal moments, and has provided me with the fertile grounds to think creatively. I have also observed that insights come as “feelings”, and so the insights vanish when the feeling vanishes. I have found that registering the insight on a mental level, like recording it into a diary, journal or workbook, fully assimilates the insights on a mental level. By recording insights, it anchors your thoughts, and thus forms the beginning of a gradual unfolding.

2. Travel gives us the opportunity to be touched by beauty.

Beauty can be described as a certain visual harmony, a spontaneous aesthetic experience. It is elusive, highly personal, it’s impact unpredictable, and yet is as integral to our human survival as Oxygen. Beauty is healing, regenerative, uplifting. Beauty allows us to put our pains and problems aside and helps us succeed in forgetting ourselves. It reveals unknown worlds and nameless possibilities. Beauty lightens our greed. As human beings, we have the choice to increase our aptitude in the art of appreciating beauty by opening ourselves to it and making ourselves available to experience it. Travel and exploring the world provides us with that opportunity in spades. After all, planet Earth is the “paradise planet” of the universe.

3. Travel encourages us to grow.

Growth is understanding what we have not previously been able to conceive. It is feeling what we have never felt, or doing what we have never done before. It obliges us to leave our comfort zone and progress into the unknown. Growth can sometimes be a joy, and sometimes it can be uncomfortable or even downright painful. But one thing is for certain. The personal growth experienced through travel and the exploration of the world results in a far greater sensitivity to the pain of human beings in general. And through this, we begin to see our own life in perspective, which in turn gives us a greater sense of purpose.

4. Travel fuels our imagination, and awakens a sense of lightness and joy.

What has happened to our imagination? Have our life experiences, schooling and conditioning discouraged us so much from using our imagination that we now view it as a frivolous word? Take a look at the eyes of a child. That look reminds us of a time when anything and everything was possible, unobstructed by past experiences and without exclusions. Travel reminds us not to take things quite so seriously in our lives. It awakens a sense of lightness and joy, and the realization that life is a dance. And dance, though powerful, is also a great pleasure.

5. Travel fulfills our yearning for Unity.

It is instinctive for human beings to naturally seek union with larger units, as we wish to share and participate in something that we regard as being greater than our individual selves. It is only natural. Travel encourages a sense of unity with all beings everywhere. Through travel we acquire a sense that we all share in the same destiny. So rather than confining ourselves to our own local communities and remaining in a stagnant mindset about the world, now more than ever, it makes so much sense to explore our wonderful world and travel more. The planet is in dire need for human beings to start resonating with each other, despite our cultural differences. No man is an island, as we have seen from the more recent financial meltdown. What has happened in Wall Street has affected us all on a global scale. We now have the opportunity to raise awareness and reverse the process through the art of travel.

Our outer world is simply a reflection of our own inner process. As without, so within. And as wonderful as the world is, it is no match for the beauty and depths of our imagination and own soul. And yet we can reach those depths via the richness of our world. The colours, languages, peoples, cultures, sounds, smells, taste sensations, art, all are part of a rich tapestry that forms our world heritage, and it’s just waiting for us to discover and enjoy it.

So act now and book that honeymoon travel destination, or that Summer holiday to somewhere that you haven’t been to before. Bring your diary, journal or workbook to record all those great insights and ideas that will come to you along the way, and don’t forget your camera so that you can capture the beauty around you.

Eco-Friendly Travel

According to research from the Green Hotel Association, an organization in Texas that promotes ecological consciousness in the hospitality industry, 43 million U.S. travelers say they are concerned about the environment. As a result the travel industry is making an effort to promote green initiatives. In today’s travel environment it is not difficult for consumers to be more eco-friendly.

Car rental companies Hertz, Budget and Avis are adding more fuel-efficient cars to their fleet, and many limo companies use hybrid vehicles. Hertz promotes it has nearly 35,000 in its Green Collection fleet. While 100% of Budget rental vehicles in economy, compact and intermediate categories, and 98% of standard and full-size car classes have met stringent U.S. EPA guidelines and are SmartWay Certified. Each vehicle receives an Air Pollution Score and a Greenhouse Gas Score, on a scale of 1-10. For the SmartWay designation, a vehicle must receive a 6 or better on both scores, and have a total score of at least 13. At Avis approximately half the fleet have a fuel efficiency rating of 28 miles per gallon or better (highway). One-fourth of the fleet is rated at 30 miles per gallon (highway) or better.

The Fairmont Hotel chain offers in-room information, recycling bins, optional sheet and towel replacement at select locations, energy-efficient lighting, and water-conserving showerheads, toilets and tap aerators. Their eco-cuisine menus incorporate local, seasonal and organically grown foods wherever possible. Special menus for Eco-Meet can also include a 50-percent reduction in animal proteins, supplemented by vegetable proteins at meal functions. Select Fairmont hotels and resorts have their own herb gardens or the ability to adjust their cuisine to utilize seasonings locally grown featuring dishes using those ingredients. The emphasis is on healthy, environmentally friendly and delicious food.

Aloft Hotels, a member of the Starwood Hotel collection, opened their first location in Canada in 2008 and now have 38 locations around the world offering a unique hotel experience. Aloft is really about the self-sufficient traveler who has a lot of energy, a positive vibe and certainly tech-savvy design focused.

The experience at their location in Lexington, Massachusetts begins upon arrival, with park-like landscaping that offers the chance for a breath of fresh air. Premium parking spots are allocated for hybrid cars to reward the most eco-minded guests. Guest rooms contain natural materials like cork and sustainable wood veneers which are integrated into the hotel’s design. Their pools even use a cleaner, greener saline solution.

Australia’s award winning resort located just 45 mins north of Cairns, and just south of Port Douglas, Thala Beach Lodge resides on the only private beach in the area. It provides the perfect location to explore the Great Barrier Reef, private coastal beaches and tropical rainforest, with individual private bungalows that are set overlooking the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, World Heritage listed rainforest and lush tropical beaches.

At a time when there are great concerns about fragile environments, Thala Beach Lodge proudly boasts that it has achieved the highest accreditation of eco certification through its sustainable practice and environmental sensitivity.

Located at one of the most fascinating Mexican biological reserves, nestled on a 3 mile virgin beach is the Hotel Eco Paraiso which features bungalows each overlooking the emerald green Gulf of Mexico.

Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico is a main feeding area for the Pink Flamingo and countless species of waterfowl and shore birds. It was decreed a Special Biosphere Reserve in 1989. By definition, this is a zone of one or more ecosystems that haven’t been altered by man.

At Buck Island Reef National Monument, the reef surrounding was named America’s first-ever underwater national monument in 1961 which, naturally, has resulted in an ecosystem so thriving and well-preserved that 30,000 visitors a year flock to see it, making it the single most popular attraction on St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Eco-friendly vacations are numerous and if you are willing to adjust your vacation travel dates, you are among the 61 percent of Americans who in order to save money are willing to travel during “off peak” periods when the prices may be more favorable. This trend seems to transcend all age categories. While weather conditions may not be perfect, the savings travelers may realize by traveling in the off season can represent a valuable sum.