How best sum up this trip? Last December my friend Rosa invited me to go with her on the trip and I have to say I looked forward to the trip for several months.
I did my usual research about the places I was going to visit including the Azores and all the cities and towns in Portugal and Spain. Lisbon and Cintra were an unexpected pleasure because of the strike by SATA airlines. SATA was great with covering the all the cost of accommodations and meals for the days we were in Lisbon.
The Azores was disappointing - first because we did not go when we were supposed to but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise (no pun intended) for me. Then it was cold, rainy, foggy and cloudy for almost the entire time we were there. The tour guide did not answer some key questions that I asked especially about indigenous vegetation on the island (most of the vegetation seemed to be settler crops imported from countries that Portugal colonized over the last few centuries). Some of the crops that are grown there did not seem very sustainable for the average farmer (pineapple in particular) and some of the activities we did seemed more focused on helping us tourists part with our money than because they were interesting.
I was somewhat disappointed by the support some group members received from the travel agent. There were several people who were older and needed a somewhat slower pace, as well as some who appeared not to be too experienced at travelling. I felt that they could have been provided assistance along the way (e.g. lost luggage, illness, needing directions) to make their trip enjoyable or at the very least, rewarding. There were several of us who were only English speaking and much of the time, there was no translation for us and when there was, it was minimal at best ,unless we asked. This was frustratingly difficult for us when we were not kept informed of changes in schedules.
In retrospect, with all the traveling I have done, I should have realized that the itinerary was ambitiously overscheduled. That made the activities too rushed to enjoy. It was only about half way through the itinerary that I decided that if I was going to enjoy the rest of the trip, I didn’t have to do everything with the group. So that’s the big lesson for me. I am not bound by a pre-determined schedule. It’s not too late to make small but necessary adjustments so that I could do/see that I liked. Would I recommend this trip to someone else? Probably not.