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Algarve in the fall, thoughts?

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Thinking of planning a last minute fall trip using frequent flyer miles for round trip to/from Lisbon. We've been to Lisbon and areas between there and Porto/Douro, but haven't been south or east.

We would rent a car. I was wondering what might be a good base in the Algarve area. We'd like to see some of the pretty beaches and other area sights, but since this isn't a beach trip, we don't have to stay on the beach. We like to be in an area where we can walk to restaurants, a town center, shops, and maybe some sights. We are walkers so very used to that.

Any recs for area in Algarve as a base for that region? We would also spend time staying in other towns (possibly Tomar, Evora, ??) separate from Algarve area.

Hotel recs also welcome. We generally prefer the small and charming kind of places (LOVED Guest House Douro in Porto, and some of the Pousadas we stayed in previously). Not as concerned with amenities as we are with location, character, charm and of course cleanliness.

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