|Subject: Re: economical January vacation|
If you want a economical place like the Algarve to go, here in Portugal what I can suggest is that you travel to the North of Portugal, rent a car there and travel from village to village. At that time of year, you have lot's of festivals, specially gastronomy and wine festivals and religious festivals too. I usually have a great time doing so, going from festival to festival.
There's a lot you can do here. For example, in Porto, you can take a cruise along the Douro river. http://www.douroazul.com/Main/MainFS.asp?Language=EN
The sights there are breathtaking. You can travel by boat all the way to Spain and then return by train. I think there's a six days cruise as well. http://tinyurl.com/6wc9t
In Porto, you can visit the Port Wine Lodges, where you will lear about the history of Port and have the chance of trying some Vintages, or take the Port Wine Route( http://www.ivp.pt/uk/turismo/turismo1.shtm).
Places to visit include Guimarães, the birth town of Portugal, Braga, Chaves, Vila Real, Mirandela, where you can eat "alheiras", great sausages of jewish origin, Tua, Pinhão, Bragança, Miranda do Douro, Freixo de Espada à Cinta, Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, et caetera. The Peneda- Geres National Park is a must see too.
You can also take the "Historic Villages" route which comprises 9 villages that have been completely restored: Marialva, Castelo Rodrigo, Almeida, Castelo Mendo, Linhares, Sortelha, Monsanto, Castelo Novo, Idanha-A-Velha. You can also visit Piodão, that is just lovely in the winter all covered in snow, Belmonte, the oldest jewish community in Europe. These villages are located in the Region known as Beiras, near the Serra da Estrela Mountain.
Also in this area, you can take the "Historic Castles" route which comprises 20 Castles:Belmonte, Guarda, Ponte de Sequeiros, Sortelha, Sabugal, Alfaiates, Vilar Maior, Castelo Mendo, Castelo Bom, Almeida, Pinhel, Castelo Rodrigo, Trancoso, Celorico da Beira, Linhares, Avó, Castelo Novo, Monsanto, Penha Garcia and Penamacor. In the end, when you're completely worn out and hungry, go to Folgosinho, ask for Albertino's restaurant and be ready for a surprise.
I recommend the Vintage House in Pinhao http://www.hotelvintagehouse.com/ http://www.portugaltreasures.com/html/eng/entrada.htm and the Pestana Porto http://www.pestana.com/EN/Hoteis/LisboaPortoCascais/Porto/
You can also make some great tours like this in Spain. But that I'll leave to Covadonga. ;-)
Bye Rui from Lisbon