Last fall, starting in September, I traveled and wrote a story about affordable European destinations for Condé Nast Traveler’s February issue. By October, with the economy tanking, it was clear that the piece would have even more relevance, and how all of us–magazine editors and travelers alike–were going to have to think increasingly about good value destinations. Luckily, the places that we chose–Valencia, Porto, Cornwall, and Cassis–were all exciting destinations that proved that under-the radar getaways can actually be more of an adventure than high-priced ones, especially in the off season.
In Cornwall, I especially enjoyed surfing outside St. Ives and my meal at Gurnard’s Head Inn‘s fantastic sustainable restaurant; in Cassis, the Calanques, a series of fjords that form natural harbors between the limestone cliffs, were spectacular (even my friends who spend considerable time in South of France hadn’t heard of them); in Porto, I loved the Duoro Valley, a short drive away, with its beautiful vineyards and up and coming wine–I would have loved to have spent the night at the family-owned Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo where I did a tasting; and in Valencia, I could have spent a whole day looking through the stalls at the Art Deco Mercado Central, a foodie’s dream.
Magazine space didn’t allow for printing all the places I loved. Read after the jump for my extra picks.
* In Cornwall, The Harbour in Port Isaac has fresh, local seafood and organic steak 
* Porto’s former stock exchange now houses O Comercial, which has a three-course, 10-euro lunch special and an excellent wine shop next door (Palacio da Bolsa, Rua Ferreira Borges; 351-22-332-2019) 
* In Valencia, stop at the Art Deco St Jaume bar that looks on to Avenue Caballeros, the neighborhood’s main drag. Try the Agua de Valencia, a potent local specialty of Cointreau mixed with Champagne and Valencian orange juice (Calle Caballeros, 51; 34-96-391-2401). The cozy, red-paneled Taverna Cavallers has reasonably priced wines by the glass and delicious pimientos (Calle Caballeros 23; 34-96-391-2516)
* Cassis’s Restaurant Le Bonaparte serves a famous version of bouillabaisse (14 Rue General Bonaparte; 33-4-42-01-80-84). You need to order this dish in advance, though, so be prepared!
Recession Special: Being based in Italy for part of the year has really opened up my eyes to the world of European budget airlines: some great ones are easyJet, Ryanair, Italy’s blu-express (I just saw a Rome to Palermo flight advertised for 15.99 euros), and Spain’s clickair. Reasonable tickets are especially easy to snag if you are willing to fly in shoulder or off-season periods. Sure, these flights tend to be in secondary airports and in-flight amenities are scarce, but I can handle the lack of legroom–or, in many cases, the lack of an assigned seat at all–for a few hours.
Further reading
* Read the full story, “Europe’s New Deal”, here
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide