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From the Archives: Untourists in Portugal & Spain on 9/11

Andalusia Portugal Spain

September 9, 2021 by Special Guest

Recently our colleague Joao, from Sintra, Portugal, was cleaning out some old paperwork and stumbled upon a thank you note from Untourists whom he had hosted during the tragic events of 9/11, back in 2001. Joao hosted the first iteration of our Sintra Untour back then (which was simply the Portugal Untour, as we had no Porto Untour), and he hosts our current Untour there now.

As he read the gratitude from guests who spent a week in Sintra and a week on the Andalusia Untour during that eventful September, Joao admits he teared up. He shared the letter with us, which was dated October 8, 2001.

We have returned from a wonderful trip to Portugal and Spain with UnTours. Our enthusiasm is such that we wished to personally thank you. In addition, we wished to tell you how profoundly grateful we are to our on-site guides during the troubled events that occurred during our stay in both countries.

We were impressed by the cleanliness, conveniences, and location of both places we stayed: Sintra, Portugal and La Subbetica in Spain. Your on-site staff, Joao and Maria, were absolutely wonderful, caring, and understanding people!

Joao demonstrated calm, competent, caring support during the week in Portugal when one of our traveling partners became ill and needed to make plans to return to the USA for heart surgery. He helped through the difficult situation of making arrangements for our friends in spite of the problems we know he must have been dealing with caused by the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center…

Sintra Untour host

…Joao and his wife Helga gave us many personal hours of time at all hours of day and night. His presence was calming, reassuring, and cheerfully given. You can be very proud of your Portuguese on-site staff person! He is a leader and made our stay in Portugal a positive one even when faced with more than one difficult circumstance.

In Spain, Maria provided us with news from the television concerning our country and relayed messages from Joao about our friends…. Her competent directions, superior guidance, and cheerful willingness to help us made our trip a great success in spite of parting with our friends and the situation in the USA. Directions about getting in and out of Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, and Madrid made what would have been harrowing driving experiences very easy. Maria’s idea to work with the landlords and on a paella feast was sensational! What a wonderful culinary experience in the Spanish countryside at Carmen and Joaquin’s house.

Here at home in preparing for this trip, the staff in Pennsylvania were an excellent help. They answered numerous questions, assured us in many ways, gave us their opinions when asked, planned our additional one week trip in Portugal, and made adjustments to our needs prior to our trip as well as after the crisis here at home. All was done with cheerful patience and competent expertise.

It may be worth noting that Joao remains our local staff person for the Sintra Untour, Dodge still coordinates our UnTours in Spain and Portugal as he did in 2001, and Maria is only just now stepping away from running our popular Andalusia Untour.

We all have personal memories of the 9/11 attacks, both sad ones and more hopeful ones, remembering the many kindnesses our guests experienced when they were abroad during the tragedy.