Holiday ideas: Norwegian cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida

As some of you know, I have just returned from my trip to The USA. I had a great time discovering New York and its surroundings. In addition, I also went on a cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida and I really enjoyed it.

The common misconception on holidaying at sea is that cruises are only for pensioners. Until a few years ago, that was exactly what I thought. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was my third cruise and I am sure that there will be many more to come. This year, I went with my husband on a 7-day cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) on their ship the ‘Norwegian Breakaway’ from New York to Bahamas and Florida and I  would recommend it to anyone who is travelling to the Big Apple. You are probably thinking why? If you are intrigued then read on…

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Itinerary

The itinerary of this NCL cruise from New York combines the best of two great destinations – Orlando and Bahamas.

Our first stop was in (Port Canaveral). There were many excursions to choose from including a visit nearby Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona International (NASCAR) Speedway Tour, soaking up the sun on one of Florida’s beaches, going shopping or having fun at one of the theme parks. We decided to take a transfer (organised by NCL) to Universal Studios and we had a wonderful day.

Our second stop was in Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas. Unfortunately, due to strong winds we were unable to tender to the island but I had a relaxing day sunbathing on top deck of the ship whilst sipping some cocktails.

Our final stop was in Nassau- the capital of Bahamas. This beautiful island is known for beaches and offshore coral reefs that are popular for diving and snorkeling. Once again NCL’s excursion team had many places and activities to choose from including a visit to  Atlantis Aquaventure park or Balmoral Island Beach.

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We decided to have a beach day at Blue Lagoon Island. Our excursion started with a 40-minute scenic boat ride through historic Nassau Harbour towards Blue Lagoon Island. We then discovered that many celebrities including Beyonce, Michael Jordan and Serena Williams love spending their spare time on the island and have bought some impressive properties there.

Once we arrived at Blue Lagoon Island we went to a private beach and enjoyed sunbathing whilst admiring its clear, blue waters.

The food & drink

As some of you know, I am a massive foodie. What I love about cruising is that you can always go and grab something to eat at one of many tasty eateries and you can dine on your time not on a schedule. As with other ships in Norwegian’s fleet, The Getaway practices Freestyle dining, meaning there’s no early or late assigned seating and reservations are not allowed in the complimentary dining rooms. There are 28 restaurants on The Norwegian Getaway ship with a mixture of complimentary and specialty dinning restaurants that range from the buffets to A la carte restaurants. Each day gives guests a chance to wet their appetite with something new. We bought the ultimate dinning package for 3 days and it gave us an opportunity to experience some amazing cooked to perfection meals in:

  • Cagney’s – a classic steakhouse serving cooked to perfection meals;
  • Le Bistro – a superb French restaurant that is perfect for a romantic meal onboard your cruise ship,
  • Teppanyaki – Japanese cuisine in which food is grilled live in front of guests and served to them in a restaurant.

During the remaining 4 nights we dined in the complimentary restaurants – Savor, Taste, Manhattan Room (with a dance floor and live music) and in O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill offering the best chicken wings starter ever! All our meals were enjoyable and the waiters were extremely friendly and attentive.

What about drinks? There are many bars throughout the ship. We bought an all inclusive package that included most alcoholic drinks, cocktails and soft drinks. I loved the ‘mudslide’ cocktail so when you decide to travel with NCL then you should definitely try it!

Cabin

We stayed in a Spa Mini-Suite with Balcony. Our room had a private balcony, large double bed and sofa, TV, minibar and coffee making facilities.

Our bathroom had an oversized waterfall shower-complete with body spray jets and complimentary toiletries from Givenchy were provided.

Relaxing

When it’s time for relaxing, there are several ways to let your hair down. Norwegian Breakaway ship has a Mandara Spa which offers a steam room, sauna, Salt room and therapy pools. Passengers can also enjoy one of many treatments such as massages or facials for an extra charge. The access to Mandara Spa was included with our Spa Mini-Suite room which was perfect as I spent quite a bit of time in there relaxing whilst we were at sea. There was also a hair salons and a gym located just next door to the spa.

Entertainment

There are plenty of activities to do and it’s impossible to get bored on a cruise. Norwegian Breakaway ship has swimming pools, running track, gym, climbing wall and a video games arcade. There are also many dazzling shows on offer including ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy’, ‘Burn the Floor’ or Rock of Ages’. If you love art then you can attend one of the lectures and learn more from the on-board’s Arts Gallery staff.  In addition, you can have a drink in an Ice Bar, attend one of the wine tastings, play bingo or ‘Deal or No Deal’, enter a karaoke competition, or splash some cash in the casinos. Kids can be left under supervision a the Splash Academy (3-12 years old) or Entourage (13-17 years old) so you can enjoy many of the activities available on board.

Final thoughts: 

Cruises are like floating cities- there is plenty to do, discover and enjoy whist on-board. Nothing can beat the thrill of being transported to an exciting new destinations whilst you sleep. In addition, as there are almost 4000 others traveling with you, you can meet interesting people from all over the world and make some friends. I had a great time on my Norwegian cruise and I cannot wait to enjoy some more holidaying at sea.

You can book your cruise on:

https://www.ncl.com/uk/

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

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Shopping in Queens Centre– the most diverse borough in NYC

As some of you know I love shopping. I was in New York City over the Thanksgiving period and as a result I was able to do some Black Friday shopping. The options on where to shop whilst in New York are all but limitless. New York has some of the best department stores in the world, including Saks, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and countless Fifth Avenue boutique shops. I was advised by my friend to go shopping in Queens Center and I really enjoyed it. I love shopping and for all the shopaholics among us, a destination filled with shops, boutiques as well as eateries to escape the busy hustle and bustle of shops sounds like the ideal day out. Well for me, it certainly was as I left my husband at the hotel after our breakfast and spent my day at Queens Centre. I ended up being there for 6 hours and came back with multiple shopping bags filled with goods from Kiko Milano, Gap and my beautiful new handbag and pouch from Armani Exchange in addition to some other bits and bobs. In addition, I also managed to collect almost 19,000 steps on my iWatch. Clearly shopping is not only good for your mind. I often go shopping to treat myself when I am stressed but what I also realized that it clearly made me more active on that day.

Stores: 

The Queens Centre has recently been renovated and offers its visitors an opportunity to shop in the modern, spacious surroundings. I discovered that Queens Center attracts nearly 27 million shoppers annually, compared to:
– 20 million visitors to Niagara Falls
– 17.4 million visitors to Disneyland
That is more than the combined, annual total number of visitors to: The Eiffel Tower (7 million) or The Statue of Liberty (4.2 million) so you should definitely check it out!

Everyone can find the brands they like in there ranging from a very popular JCPenney’s and Macy’s, Apple, A|X Armani Exchange, to all other known retailers such as TDisney Store, Hollister, MAC, Swarovski, Forever 21, H&M or Michael Kors. I went to many of these stores and managed to splash some cash on the goods from GAP, Kiko Milano, Armani Exchange as well as some small bits and bobs from the other brands. I was offered a first class suburban shopping experience in an urban environment.

If you feel you need a break from all the shopping, it makes sense to enjoy one of the eateries. In addition, you can also grab some chocolates from Godiva or a piece of cake from The Cheescake Factory to enjoy later.

Discounts: 

As I was in Queens Centre during the Black Friday the discounts were pretty hefty however if you decide to visit this great mall during other periods of the year then some special discounts are available to all out-of-town guests. When I went to the Concierge (that is located at the top floor of the mall) and provided her with my Business Card I received the Visitors Savings URL and the secret Password that gave me the access to the deals! You should definitely check it out!

Location & how to get there:

Queens Centre is located in the heart of Queens in Elmhurst in New York. Queens is a dynamic borough rich in Arts & Culture and can be described as the most diverse borough in New York City.  If you would like to experience live entertainment, music performances or art galleries then you should definitely add it to your travel itinerary whilst in NYC.

Queens Centre is easily accessible by public transport – I took a subway train to get there and it only took 35 min from Manhattan. It is well placed and a mass transit hub, at the intersections of Queens Boulevard, the Long Island Expressway and Woodhaven
Boulevard.

Opening hours :

These opening hours change during the special events like i.e. Black Friday when Queens Centre was open until 2a.m. but usually the Queens Centre is open until 10 p.m. at most days.

Address:

90-15 Queens Blvd

Elmhurst, NY 11373

Website: 

http://www.shopqueenscenter.com/

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: New York, USA

I have recently traveled to the USA with my husband for our autumn / winter holidays. Our first stop was New York City.  It is the most densely populated city in the USA and it has a population of 8.5 million. New York City is one of the most famous cities worldwide and it has been described as the cultural, financial and media capital of the world. New York City consists of five boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island. I have recently read that there 800 languages are spoken in New York, which makes it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.

Many districts and landmarks in New York City are well known and 61 million tourists visited the city in 2016. There are many places worth visiting in New York. Please find a quick summary listed below:

  • Empire State Building – a perfect way to see the city’s major highlights from the highest building in New York.
  • Statue of Liberty – a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City.
  • Grand Central Terminal – beautiful train station with a wide range of shops and eateries to relax in.
  • Fifth Avenue – a famous shopping street with a range of boutique and high-street brands where you can shop until you drop.
  • Times Square – exciting and colorful square that just cannot be missed. Sometimes referred to as the Crossroads of the World.

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  • Rockefeller Center (Top of The Rock experience) – an observatory on top of Rockefeller Center, with great city views.
  • National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey – amazing entertainment experience in the heart of Times Square which uses ground-breaking technology that takes its attendees on a journey into the ocean. It is super interactive with escaping sea creatures and underwater maze. A perfect destination for a day out with a family especially if you have kids as everyone can experience being face-to-face with whales and sharks, squids or sea lions.
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – an American military and maritime history museum. I especially enjoyed learning more about the Space Shuttle ‘Enterprise’ – the first space shuttle, a Cold War-era submarine Growler and British Airways Concorde, the world’s fastest commercial jet that can take passengers from London to New York in under 3 hours.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Dinner at Grande Hotel do Porto restaurant in Porto, Portugal

A few weeks ago, I was with my husband in Porto, Portugal. During our stay we visited lots of different bars and restaurants and today I would like to tell you about our dinner at the Grande Hotel’s D. Pedro II Restaurant.

Location:

Grande Hotel do Porto is located on a famous shopping street- Rua de Santa Catarina. The restaurant is located at the quiet area of the hotel-away from all the hustle and bustle of the main street.

Atmosphere:

The D. Pedro II Restaurant offers its dinner a space where guests cross daily with local clients and passing tourists that when strolling by Santa Catarina Street can’t resist the temptation to come inside

The hotel has an exclusive décor and some beautiful pieces of art are visible throughout the communal areas. Many famous guests have stayed in this property. The restaurant is named after D. Pedro II – the former emperor of Brazil, who found refuge here during the fall of the Monarchy in that country. At the time, the royal entourage took up the entire first floor of the Hotel and stayed here for a while.

The menu:

Antonio-our waiter brought us our menus in no time and that’s when we discovered that the restaurant offers a great selection of dishes. Both myself and my husband are a massive foodies so we were looking forward to our meal.

To start with, we received a complimentary amouse brioche – a glass with some smoked haddock.

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I then ordered a stuffed Portobello mushroom with truffle and vegetables cream and quail egg. It was really tasty.

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My husband ordered some smoked ham cantelloni with arugula in pesto sauce, gratinated brie croutons with honey. He enjoyed it and finished it in no time.

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For our mains we both decided to have a fish. I ordered some bream fillet with olive cream and roasted peppers composition. It was mouth watering!

My husband had some braised salmon with bread crust and chard sautéed in garlic sauce. Not only his main was presented nicely, it tasted even better.

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Dessert is always my favorite part of any meal and I had some beautiful creamy coconut cake and fruit composition. It was delicious!

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My husband ordered a cheese board with a nice selection of cheeses and finish his meal with a glass of traditional port.

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Overall experience:

We both had a nice time at the D. Pedro II Restaurant. The restaurant serves tasty food and offers a great, friendly service. It is also very conveniently located so I would definitely visit it again

Website:

For more information and to book visit:

http://www.grandehotelporto.com/en/restaurant-bar/d-pedro-ii-restaurant/

Address:

Rua de Santa Catarina 197,

4000-450 Porto, Portugal

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

 

Dinner at The Artist Bistro in Porto, Portugal

Last week, I was with my husband in Porto in Portugal. On our last evening, we booked a table at the popular local restaurant – The Artist Bistro. It was definitely the best meal we had whilst in Portugal.

Location:

The Artist Bistro is located inside The Artist Hotel. The hotel is based in a former art school and provides a contemporary and comfortable environment, inspiring and developing the skills of the current students of the Hotel and Tourism school who work there. It is just around a corner from a famous shopping street and commercial area of Rua de Santa Catarina. The metro closest station (Campo de Agosto) is just a few minutes away.

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Atmosphere:

The Artist Bistro is inspired by the artistic heritage of the building which has previously hosted an Art School. The decoration of the restaurant is classy and elegant.

All art visible in the restaurant is made up of pieces from previous students of the old school Soares dos Reis.

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The dinning experience at The Artist Bistro is designed to socialise with the art one can see, smell, taste and feel. The atmosphere of the restaurant is warm and inviting. We were welcomed by Katia who was attending our table through the night. She was really friendly and professional. Quiet jazz music was playing in the background…

The menu:

Do you like surprises and trying new things? If you are quite open to the new experiences and you like being surprised then you will love The Artist Bistro. The key aim of the Head Chef – Hugo Dias is to surprise his dinners with a unique experience of sampling some great locally sourced food.

You can now be surprised by selecting one of 3 sampling menus:

  • Myth 5 experiences
  • Musa 7 experiences
  • Bistro 9 experiences

What all of these menus have in common is that they change on a daily basis and they offer dinners a combination of unforgettable flavours. At the beginning of the meal, we were asked if we had any allergies and whether there were any ingredients we really didn’t like. Our waitress took notes and explained that every course we’ll  receive will be a surprise-we could only choose what type of main dish we wanted to receive (fish/ meat / vegetarian). The really unique think about this restaurant was that we didn’t know what we will have for any of the courses!

We decided to try a Musa – 7 course dinning experience. Each dish was beautifully presented and made from fresh seasonal foods.

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While sipping some crispy white wine, our first course arrived- oysters with some red onions.

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We finished them in no time and the waitress brought us some mouth-watering mushroom soup with some olive oil, croutons and chives. It was delicious.

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From the next course onward we were surprised with different dish each. We received ‘Samosas de Artist’. We decided to play a game and identify the ingredients of our samosas-a great way of having fun whilst enjoying your meal. My samosa was with goats cheese with pumpkin and my husband received a samosa with a chicken and chorizo filling.

Next, we received some vegetable brioche with some potatoes, carrots, peppers, balsamic vinegar, courgettes which were all baked with egg. It was really enjoyable.

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Moving on, I received caramelized scallops with a cauliflower mouse-they were divine.

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My husband, on the other hand, got an octopus with a lime foam with breadcrumbs and site salad. It crackled like a sea because of the foam popping up.

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Following on from our great seafood dishes, I received some green beans stew based on a traditional Portuguese sausage and bread in a rich tomatoes sauce.

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My husband got some pork belly, crackling with balsamic vinegar.

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Before our main dishes were served, our waitress brought us some lemon & vodka sorbet to clean the palette. It was really refreshing.

At the begging of our meal I decided to have a fish main and I received some beautifully cooked sea bass paired up with an appetizing vegetable puree.

My husband decided to have a meat main and he received some quail with roasted carrots, potatoes pure in a port sauce with some figs and rosemary. It was the best quail he has ever eaten-extremely tender and cooked to perfection.

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If you read my reviews regularly then you will know that a dessert is always my favorite part of any meal. I received a delectable chocolate brownie with large pieces of nuts and some vanilla ice-cream.

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To finish off his meal my husband received a pear that was boiled in port and paired up with some raspberry ice-creams.

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Overall experience:

We both had an amazing time at The Artist Bistro. As I like surprises and trying new food, I was delighted with the concept of discovery. The restaurant serves delicious food with a twist. In addition to food, the service was great and the restaurant is conveniently located so I would definitely visit it again.

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Website:

For more information and to book visit:

http://www.shotels.pt/restaurantetheartistbistrot/en/home

Address:

 Rua da Firmeza 49,

4000-099 Porto, Portugal

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

 

The House Ribeira Hotel in Porto, Portugal

Last week, I was with my husband in Portugal for 4 days. This time we visited a picturesque city of Porto and stayed at the trendy House Ribeira Hotel which was transformed into a modern hotel from an abandoned ballet school and theatre.

Atmosphere:

As soon as we entered this trendy, boutique hotel we felt welcomed and the front desk staff were extremely accommodating. As we had a very early morning flight and arrived at the hotel at 10a.m., we dropped our bags and took some advice from the receptionist who recommended for us to take one of the bus tours. When we came back to hotel, around 5p.m. on that day we were welcomed with a glass of Port wine whilst filling in the paperwork-a really nice touch that made us feel appreciated and welcomed.

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The hotel is addressed to a modern, urban audience that seeks not only a great place to stay during their travels but also the authenticity of this marvellous city.

Location:

The House Ribeira Hotel is superbly situated in the centre of Porto’s downtown area. The river is only a minute away by foot and there are lots of restaurants and cafes nearby. The nearest station (Sao Bento) is only 700m away. The main square is only around 15 minutes walk from the hotel and the shopping district and the famous Rue Santa Caterina street is around 10 min walk from the hotel.  Most other key attractions (i.e. Alfandega do Porto, Luis I Bridge, Port Wine Cellars, Palacio da Bosa) are within walking distance making it a perfect place to stay whilst in Porto.

The Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport airport is around 20-30 min from the hotel and the taxi costs around 30-40 Euros.

Facilities:

The House Ribeira Hotel has only 56 rooms spread over 6 floors. The hotel’s design is meant to make you ‘feel like home’.

This theme is visible everywhere, starting from the reception, moving to the bar and breakfast area and ending in the rooms. If you like a modern, funky look then you will love the sitting in one of the multifunctional areas located at the opposite sides of the reception.

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They are furnished with a mix of bench seating, with some interesting cushions and colourful stools, which create a modern, vibrant and colourful look.

Next to reception, there is an open refrigerator stocking a selection of 24/7 ‘grab and go’ packaged sandwiches, snacks and fruit juices. Nice when you just need to get a quick snack on the go.

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Daily breakfast service is available from 7:30a.m.-11a.m. and the cafeteria is open from 1p.m. -11p.m.

Room:

We stayed in a premium room located on the forth floor . Our room was equipped with a private bathroom, interactive TV,  mini bar with a selection of soft drinks and wine, safe, air conditioning. There was a free Wi-Fi available throughout the property. Our bed was comfortable and the room had a simple, modern design. There was a walk in wardrobe as well as study desk with 2 chairs.

Our bathroom had a contemporary, open-plan design with glass-panelled toilet and shower cubicles. Some basic toiletries were provided.

Overall experience:

Although, we were in Porto for only 3 nights, we had a great stay at the House Ribeira Hotel. The hotel has a perfect location, staff was extremely friendly and our room was comfortable and  modern. I would definitely recommend it to any travellers who enjoy chic looking surroundings and like to feel like home whilst away.

If you consider visiting Porto then you can book your stay at The House Ribeira hotel through Booking.com. In addition, if you book your accommodation via this referral link, you’ll get £20 in cash.

Address:

Rua do Infante D. Henrique 26,

4050-492 Porto,

Portugal

Website:

http://www.shotels.pt/thehouse/home

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Porto, Portugal

Last week, I traveled with my husband to Porto in Portugal. Porto is Portugal’s second largest city after Lisbon set on the northern bank of the Douro River.

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The city is located inland from the Atlantic and the visitors can visit one of its popular beaches which I just a short train ride away.

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Although, Porto is not known as a city-break / weekend break destination, it is quickly becoming one of Western Europe’s most respected tourist destinations. In 1996, the historical center of Porto was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This year, the city was nominated by WTA (World Travel Awards) in these 2 categories:

  • Europe’s Leading City Break Destination 2017
  • Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2017

The city boasts an extensive history, interesting tourist attractions and a buzzing nightlife.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors. As we arrived quite early on Saturday morning, we decided to take one of the sightseeing bus tours to quickly see all the main sites prior to exploring this colorful city on foot. There were lots of opportunities to admire the viewpoint of the terracotta rooftops and the city’s dreamy architecture.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • The Ribeira district – the oldest district of the city which is filled with ancient houses, narrow cobbled streets and numerous family owned restaurants, cafes and bars.

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  • São Bento train station – a 19th-century railway station located in the centre of Porto that features some beautiful tiles.
  • A mini-cruise down the Douro rivers admiring the architecture of the city and its beautiful bridges.
  • Dom Luís I Bridge – a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal.
  • Palácio da Bolsa –  a historical building built in the 19th century by the city’s Commercial Association in Neoclassical style.
  • Casa da Música – a modern design, 12-floor concert hall & top floor restaurant  completed in 2005.

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How to get there?

It’s never been easier to get there and Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights and holidays to Porto from Birmingham, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, from £42 one way (£77 return).

For further information or to book Monarch flightsMonarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk

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I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline