Portugal Features Food, Wine and Relaxation

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Ponte de Lima's Roman Bridge.


From north to south, and everywhere in between, Portugal has something for everyone. A scenic train ride through the port vineyards of the north will appeal to any wine connoisseur, while a flavorful trip to the 6th Annual International Gourmet Festival in Algarve could tickle the taste buds of even the pickiest eaters. We understand the country’s hotels to be pretty fantastic, too!

Jayme Simões, public relations partner with the Portuguese National Tourist Office, says, “What is bringing so many Americans is simple—we offer authenticity, diversity and great value. Portugal is easy to get to, and represents one of the best values in Western Europe for the American traveler.”

Explore by Train
Known for its many Port Wine-producing areas, the Douro Valley is a great place to visit for any wine enthusiast. A number of cities in the area, including tourist-friendly Porto, Alijo, Armamar and especially Pinhao are popular destinations that can provide an experience in wineries.

With more than 25 stops and connections to almost 10 additional cities, the rail system in the Douro Valley has long eased the transportation woes of old-time merchants and more recent visitors alike. Linking the eastern and western ends of the valley, steam and diesel locomotives will lead your clients along the Linha do Douro, providing spectacular scenery all along the way.

Culinary Delights
The Vila Joya Resort in Albufeira-Guia, Algarve will play host to several Michelin-starred chefs during Portugal’s 6th Annual International Gourmet Festival from Jan. 13-23, 2012. Starting on the resort’s 25th anniversary as a tribute to Claudia Jung, founder of Villa Joya, the festival now attracts award-winning chefs from around the world and features amenities including a Michelin-rated restaurant, the Joy Jung Spa and private golf courses with classes available.

Guests staying at the resort will have the opportunity to attend a luncheon at the Malhadinha Nova Vineyard, one of the most renowned vineyards in Portugal. Further, on-property guests can partake in daytime activities such as golf tournaments, wine and spirits tastings, workshops on Pata Negra and chocolate making. Room rates start at approximately $218 pp and include taxes and breakfast. Festival ticket rates start at approximately $475 pp and include pre-dinner cocktail, dinner menu, selected wine pairings and coffee.

For more information on available packages, visit internationalgourmetfestival.com/tickets. For more information on the Vila Joya Resort, visit vilajoya.com.

Another option is the Obidos Chocolate Festival taking place March 1-18, 2012. Streets are transformed to showcases of cakes and sweets. Younger visitors can see the “Kids Chocolate House,” offering recreational activities and the chance to create their own sugary masterpieces. Of course, culinary classes are available for adults as well. Professional pastry-makers will compete in a variety of competitions, and guests will have the chance to see true sculptures and works of art.

The Obidos Chocolate Festival is an excellent family outing. For more information, visit festivalchocolate.cm-obidos.pt.

Where to Hang
Your clients can experience true relaxation at the Vidago Palace in northeast Portugal. In any of the 70 guestrooms, guests will enjoy plasma-screen TVs and WiFi access, but they’ll be really impressed when they leave their rooms. Exploring the property, guests will find four restaurants, four bars, two pools, an 18-hole golf course and much more. Other amenities include chauffeur-driven limousine and babysitting.

For a more relaxing afternoon, guests can visit The Spa to partake in a detox program that will do as much for their bodies as it will their minds. Various combinations of massages and treatments, followed by personalized nutrition and fitness plans will gear your clients back toward rejuvenation and relaxation.

Daily rack rate starts at $328 through January. For more information about the Vidago Palace, visit vidagopalace.com.

The unspoiled nature and mild climate of the Azores Islands, meanwhile, are just a 4-hour flight from Boston, making it one of the closest and most affordable destinations in Europe. Travel plus hotel packages with Azores Express/SATA start at just $699 pp and include roundtrip airfare from Boston, 6-night hotel accomodations at your choice of 26 hotels spanning five islands, and daily breakfast. Flights can be upgraded to SATA Plus Business-Clss for just a few hundred dollars each way, and children under 6 stay free and pay a child’s reduced airfare.

For more information on hotels and availability, call (800) 762-9995 or visit sata.pt.

“Portugal is unique—it’s authentic—you won’t get a pre-fabricated experience you could have had in Vegas,” Simões says. “It’s as real and as fun as it gets.”

Visit the Portugal Official Tourism Website at visitportugal.com.