Insider Tips to Coimbra, Central Portugal

Wednesday August 14, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 4 Comments

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, Coimbra, Portugal

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha in Coimbra, Portugal

Are you visiting Central Portugal for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Coimbra, the capital of tradition and knowledge.

If you’re planning a trip to Coimbra and the rest of Central Portugal, try and make some time to see the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest in Europe. While you’re at it, take in the Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery for a local, authentic experience.

 

Portugal for Little Ones, Coimbra, Portugal

Portugal for Little Ones, Coimbra

Traveling with kids?

Need a little peace and quiet? If you want to escape some of Central Portugal’s tourists, check out Coimbra’s botanical garden.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend Quinta das Lágrimas Gardens Hotel and Pedro & Inês Bridge for kissing with a view.

Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the Exploratorio and Portugal for the little ones (Portugal dos Pequenitos).

 

Portuguese food in Central Portugal and Coimbra

While you’re in Portugal, you should find some authentic Portuguese cuisine. If you are looking for typical Coimbra’ cuisine, try leitão à bairrada – suckling pig. For a drinkable taste of Coimbra, try bairrada, a sparkling wine that is a specialty of the region.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is Café Santa Cruz. They have a wide selection of pastries and coffee. If you want to bring home a memory of central Portugal, I recommend Amor de Biscoito, www.amordebiscoito.com. I was introduced to these little gems after dinner at Villa Pedra Natural Houses.

Looking for cheap food in Coimbra? Choose one of the bistros downtown or go to the Cafetaria of the Santa Clara’s Monastery – they make great sandwiches.

If you’re looking to splurge a little, go to Arcadas Restaurant by Quintas das Lágrimas Hotel. The Fangas Mercearia bar is a great spot for late night dining.  Just outside of Coimbra you can visit Aveiro, and have lunch at the Bairro restaurant.

University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal

University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal

Things to see and do

Seeing a lot of young people in the area? Coimbra is best known for the academic life and fado music, making it a great European “college town.”

Coimbra has some spectacular views and vantage points. When you come to Coimbra, get your picture taken at Pedro & Inês’ Bridge. The best vantage points are seen by walking to the top of the tower of Coimbra’s University.

Want to dine with a great visual backdrop? The Loggia restaurant at Machado de Castro National Museum (Coimbra’s best museum) offers great views to the roofs of the uptown area of Coimbra.

Looking for a little exercise? You’ll  work up a sweat walking up and down the cobble stone streets of old Coimbra. Walk along the Mondego River at Parque Verde do Mondego or Choupal.

Are you a night owl? Experience some of Coimbra’s exciting night life and go dancing at Rock Planet or NB Club or Rock Bar for live music – all within walking distance of  Praça da Républica’ square.

Old Cathedral, Coimbra, Portugal

Old Cathedral of Coimbra

Seasonal activities in Coimbra

Coimbra is great to visit at any time of year. Visiting in the winter? Take a Portuguese class at the University. You must visit the library with its many books and gold painted walls.

In the spring, take a day trip to Slates Villages (Aldeias do Xisto), just outside Coimbra. In the summer, you can enjoy the annual art festival, which takes place in the second half of July.

What are your favorite things to do in Coimbra and Central Portugal?

Photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Portuguese National Tourist Office and Centro Portugal.

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Home2 Suites by Hilton, Huntsville, Alabama

Wednesday August 14, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 2 Comments

Research Park Lake, Huntsville, AL

Sunsets behind Home2 Suites in Huntsville, Alabama

Looking for an environmentally-friendly, affordable hotel in Huntsville, Alabama? Have you tried Home2 Suites by Hilton? A fairly new brand, Hilton has rolled out 17 Home2 Suites since 2012, with 70 more Home2 Suites in the pipeline. The Huntsville, Alabama hotel opened March 15, 2013 with 77 rooms, some of them pet-friendly.
 

 
Home2 Suites by Hilton, Huntsville, Alabama

Located near the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Bridgestreet Town Center – with shopping, restaurants and a movie theater, and Red Stone Arsenal, the army base in Huntsville, there is plenty to keep you busy in this part of Alabama.

Families will like the large rooms and casual atmosphere of these Home2 Suites – as well as the free hot breakfast. Kids will like the yogurt bar with all the different toppings, unlimited juice and hot chocolate. On a hot Alabama afternoon, everyone will enjoy the outdoor swimming pool.

 

Home2 Suites hotel room, Huntsville, Alabama

King room in Huntsville, Alabama at Home2 Suites

Eco-friendly Home2 Suites hotel

If environmentally-friendly lodging is important to you, Home2 Suites is certainly an ecologically-minded hotel. With Energy Star rated appliances, dual-flush water conserving toilets, Neutrogena shampoo and body soap dispencers in the shower and micro-fiber, quick drying bed sheets and pillow cases, the all-suite hotel is doing its part to lessen its footprint on the environment and reduce plastic bottles in the landfill.

Home2 Suites swimming pool

Relax at Home2 Suites pool in Huntsville, Alabama

Home2 Suites accomodations

The Huntsville, Alabama all-suite, extended stay hotel caters to families, the business traveler, as well as sports teams and military personnel. With the average stay ranging from five days to two weeks, there are several pricing options available for the traveler. My room, #351, a king suite looking onto the lake behind the hotel, rented for $129. per night – check the website for details.

 

 

Insider Tip

If you are staying at the Home2 Suites in Huntsville, Alabama, you’ll want to be sure to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Home to Space Camp, the U.S. Space & Rocket center is one of the most comprehensive U.S. manned space flight museums in the world.

For additional insider tips follow Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and @Home2Suites on Twitter.

Home2 Suites patio, Huntsville, Alabama

Outdoor patio & firepit at Home2 Suites, Huntsville, Alabama

If You Go:

Home2 Suites  (256) 489-8295

7010 Governors West Drive Unit 3

Huntsville, Alabama 35806

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Photos courtesy of Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Home2 Suites by Hilton.

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River Views at Napa River Inn, California

Friday August 9, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 0 Comments

Napa River Inn

Napa River Inn hotel review at Historic Napa Mill

The Napa River Inn at the Historic Napa Mill has a connection to both land and sea. Built in 1884 by Captain Albert Hatt, the building was created using clay bricks which Hatt dredged from the Napa River and fired in the lot in front of the Hatt Building.

Originally built as a mill, the 66 room Napa River Inn opened in 2000. Like a California cab franc blended wine, Napa River Inn is a mix of history, art and hospitality. Guests enter the Victorian themed lobby and have the option of the 26 room, nautical-themed Embarcadero Building, the 32 room Plaza Building with a Victorian and wine theme or the historic Hatt Building. While the Hatt Building does not offer views of the Napa River, all eight rooms featured claw footed bath tubs.

 

 

Napa River Inn lobby

Napa River Inn is a downtown California wine country hotel

Captain Hatt Suite at Napa River Inn

While room #208 is the Captain Hatt Suite, my room #207 – a historic deluxe king room – also includes a fireplace and has a claw footed tub, as well as separate shower. Some rooms offer Napa River views with balconies. All rooms include complimentary internet, in room coffee maker, cotton bath robes, NV Organics bath amenities of grape seed shampoo, conditioner, body wash and Chardonnay lotions. There was also a desk with chair and sitting area in our room with a 37 inch flat screen television.

 

Historica Hatt Building hotel room

Historic deluxe room in the Napa River Inn Hatt Building.

Downtown Napa location

Ideally situated on Main Street in downtown Napa, Napa River Inn is within walking distance to 30 restaurants, 15 wine tasting rooms and the Napa River Art Walk.
Breakfast in bed at Napa River Inn

Complimentary breakfast delivery is included with the price of your room. Hat tip to Napa River Inn for partnering with next door neighbor, Sweetie Pies. The eggs and cheese breakfast sandwich and house made granola are tasty, but you’ll thank me when I say to order the AM Bun.

Sweetie Pies

Breakfast from Sweetie Pies is included at Napa River Inn

Pet-friendly Napa River Inn

Napa River Inn charges $25. per night, per pet. Dogs may not be left alone in the hotel room. If your dog likes to swim, tire her out by swimming in the Napa River.

Check-in time: 4:00 p.m.

Check-out time: 12:00 p.m.

 

Insider Tip

If you enjoy wine tasting (and who doesn’t?) don’t forget to ask for your complimentary wine tasting coupon, good at the nearby wine bar Bounty Hunter.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter. Napa River Inn is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

Napa River Inn bathroom

Relax in the claw footed tub at the Napa River Inn

If You Go

Napa River Inn (707) 251-8500

500 Main Street, Napa, California 94559

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Napa River Inn.

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